If it were up to beloved Hollywood characters like Elle Woods, we would simply take a daily kickboxing class to boost our endorphins (which help make us happy, duh), and to, in turn, lessen the likelihood of day-to-day battles of toxicity, self-doubt, and unhappiness. But of course, it's not quite that simple. And admittedly, it is debilitatingly easy to become your own worst critic. However, that doesn't mean unhealthy thought patterns need, or even have the power, to become a static part of identity. Sure, it's virtually impossible to be happy 100% of the time, but with the right tools and sources of support, you can actually develop an effective skillset to help counteract a tendency to ruminate or succumb to a snowball effect of sadness, worry, or anxiety. And now, Yale is here to help you with that with its free online course. (Not Harvard, but we still think Elle Woods would approve.)
As reported by Bustle, Yale has now made one of its most popular and consistently overbooked classes—Happiness 101, Psychology and the Good Life—available to any and all who are interested. Based completely on the psychology of happiness, historically and currently, the course's enrollment numbers practically soar through the roof each and every year. (To give you an idea, this semester alone, roughly one-fourth of Yale's undergraduates are signed up, which makes it the largest reported enrollment for a single class in Yale's 317-year history.) A positive sign we're hopefully moving in the direction of more self-directed happiness, no?
And interestingly, according to a report by The New York Times, professor Laurie Santos (who teaches the course at the university) believes the class's popularity stems from the competitive nature of students who attend prestigious universities and have been trained to prioritize work and education over their sense of self and satisfaction.
"Students want to change, to be happier themselves, and to change the culture here on campus,” she told The New York Times. “With one in four students at Yale taking it, if we see good habits, things like students showing more gratitude, procrastinating less, increasing social connections, we’re actually seeding change in the school’s culture.”
Thus, we think it's a pretty brilliant move on Yale's part to offer the course to everyone and not just its exclusive student body. After all, Bustle also reported that at just Yale in particular, a 2013 report found that half of the undergraduate students sought help for issues related to their mental health. And in consideration of the ever-increasing demands continuously being placed on younger generations these days, we would surmise the demand is still very much the same if not significantly greater.
So how do you sign up for the online version of the class for free? By enrolling here for The Science of Well-Being on Cousera. And if you're curious to know more, the course description is as follows: "The first half of the course reveals misconceptions we have about happiness and the annoying features of the mind that lead us to think the way we do. The second half of the course focuses on activities that have been proven to increase happiness along with strategies to build better habits."
Of course, the class isn't completely free, as you will still need to purchase assignment and class materials, and there's a $49 fee if you'd like to purchase them. But the lectures themselves are free, which is pretty staggering when you consider Yale's tuition falls in at a tidy $51,400 per year.
One parting note: While helpful and a wonderful resource, this course isn't designed to act on or treat serious conditions of depression, anxiety, or mental illness, and if you or someone you know is struggling, it's important to seek professional help immediately.