Over 2.2 million students enrolled in this free Yale class on how to be happier – here’s what it’s actually like to take

If you buy through our links, we may earn money from affiliate partners. Learn more.

Yale Popular Happiness Course Science of Well Being 4x3
  • Yale’s most popular class in history teaches you how to become happier using science.
  • Through Coursera, Professor Laurie Santos created a free version of the course, The Science of Well-Being. It blew up in popularity during the pandemic.
  • I enrolled and was surprised by how helpful and fun it was. It made an abstract topic feel concrete and useful in everyday life. 

The Science of Well-Being (medium)

How do we live a more meaningful? Answering this abstract life question in a tangible, actionable way can be tough.

But Yale professor Laurie Santos aimed to do just that, and in the spring of 2018, she unwittingly launched “Psychology and the Good Life,” the most popular class in Yale’s 319-year history. Eventually, one in four Yale students were reportedly enrolled, with the university even pulling fellows from the School of Public Health and its Law School to help staff it.

Santos designed the course to bust myths about what makes us happy (like the luxury Mercedes-Benz status symbol) and replace them with research-backed habits for building a happy life. In doing this, Santos gave students what many of us never stop craving: direction towards a more fulfilled life, and the reassurance that our path towards happiness won’t lead us astray. 

Yale’s campus was primed for Santos’ course. “Psychology and the Good Life” debuted in the US – home to supposedly only the 18th-happiest population in the world, according to the 2020 World Happiness Report – and at one of the nation’s most high-pressure colleges

Given its popularity, it was soon clear that this course could be relevant to those outside an Ivy League campus. To increase accessibility to the materials, Santos created a free online version of the same principles: “The Science of Well-Being.” And in 2020, the world was primed for it. During the isolation brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, a whopping 2.2 million people enrolled in the course online.

You can take the course for $0 here, which takes an estimated 10 weeks (19 hours total) to complete. Or, keep reading for an overview of what to expect and a firsthand review of the online course. 

What to expect from the class:

Screen Shot 2021 03 04 at 5.35.08 PM
The course intentionally feels warm, casual, and inviting. It was shot in Santos’ home with a handful of students.

The format: 

  • Misconceptions about happiness
  • Why our expectations are so bad
  • How we can overcome our biases
  • Stuff that really makes us happy
  • Putting strategies into practice

Each section includes video lectures, optional readings, and “rewirement” activities to do each day to build happier habits. Research suggests that if you do these rewirements as prescribed, you should get a boost in your mood and overall well-being. After completing the five weeks above, students should commit to practicing one rewirement exercise for at least a month. 

What the course is like:

To make the class warm and inviting, the lectures are shot in Santos’ own home, with a handful of Yale students in the audience. It feels intimate, and Santos’s tone is friendly and conversational. And, because some of the most contemporary research was conceptualized and coined by Santos herself, it feels like what it is: a great, in-depth exploration of the topic with an expert.

Thankfully, for the busiest among us (who ironically may benefit the most from this course), there’s absolutely no required reading or grade penalty for a missed assignment deadline – so you don’t need to stress about suggested deadlines if you can’t meet them. All the information you need to know is summarized within the lecture. If you want to dive deeper, Santos provides links to complementary readings. 

In other words, this class is about well-being – and it aims to practice what it preaches. You can sign up here for free, or keep reading to learn about my experience.

My experience taking the class:

Screen Shot 2021 03 04 at 5.30.55 PM
Weekly “rewirement” activities help build habits that make us scientifically happier: savoring, practicing gratitude, meditating, and acts of kindness among them.

I should disclose that I enjoy online classes. In the character-strengths test that you’re invited to take at the course’s outset, “curiosity” was my most dominant trait out of the 20 possibilities.

But despite being a candidate of least resistance, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed a few weeks in the course. It felt immediately and concretely useful – most of the class legwork is completing daily “rewiring” tasks designed to build those research-backed happiness habits into your life even after the course ends.

Here’s what I liked:

  1. You can verify whether you’re actually getting happier. In the beginning, you’re invited to respond to questionnaires that measure your baseline happiness. By the end of the course, you take them again to see whether your score increased. (Hopefully, your numbers rise!) To me, a before-and-after metric lent concreteness to a typically abstract topic.
  2. There are unexpected benefits. Surprisingly, I found the baseline happiness survey helpful for an unexpected reason: I was feeling fatigued, and the questions it posed helped me locate an overlooked source of dissatisfaction – I was continually rating one part of my life much lower than the others. It became clear what was wrong, and within the first lecture, I was able to use the framework to see my life more clearly. 
  3. The online format is low-pressure. You can easily rewind and rewatch lectures without asking Santos to repeat herself. Plus, there’s no pressure to ask or answer questions!
  4. It doesn’t feel like homework. Santos’ lectures make for easy watching. Once I sat down to play a lecture, I wanted to continue. I never felt like I was forcing myself to complete a task – I was satisfying my curiosity.

The only thing to note is that, while you can take the class at your own pace, you’re encouraged to implement the rewiring techniques on a weekly schedule. Research finds that improving your well-being takes daily, intentional effort over long periods – meaning this 10-week class is a great opportunity.

In a follow-up interview that I conducted with Professor Santos to discuss happiness in quarantine, this point – the importance of building these habits every day – remained paramount. 

Should you get a certificate? What does it include?

Maybe, but most likely not. You’ll have access to all the course materials and forums for this class without paying. But, if you want a certificate of completion or graded homework assignments, you can pay $49. You can also always upgrade any time during the course or afterward, so it’s probably worth it to test it out for free before committing to payment. 

If you can’t afford the $49, apply for the course’s financial aid. Click on the “financial aid” link beneath the “enroll” button on the left. You’ll be prompted to complete an application and will be notified if you’re approved; applications take at least 15 days to be reviewed.

The Science of Well-Being (medium)

More online classes:

Read the original article on Business Insider

Skillshare offers thousands of short online video courses from professionals in their fields, and can be especially great if you’re interested in art or design

When you buy through our links, we may earn money from our affiliate partners. Learn more.

Skillshare Review 4x3
  • Skillshare is a platform that provides access to more than 25,000 online video courses – many taught by well-known experts.
  • If you’re a new user, you can start with a free 14-day trial. Premium costs $13.99 or $32 a month, depending on the plan. There are also discounts for teams, students, and creative service members.
  • The courses range in topics from art and design to finance and productivity. I took a writing class taught by one of my favorite authors, Roxane Gay. You can read about the experience below.

As college tuitions skyrocket to the most expensive they’ve ever been, online learning resources are popping up to fill a widening chasm.

Whether you want to pick up a new skill to catch a hiring manager’s eye or tap into your creativity, online platforms are helping democratize higher learning for a fraction of the cost required to enroll in universities. 

Of those many online resources, Skillshare is one of the most popular. 

Like ClassPass for e-learning, a Skillshare membership gives you unlimited access to over 25,000 adult learning courses across thousands of disciplines – which is convenient whether your objective is advancing your career or learning new hobbies. Classes range from beginner to expert and fall into categories like design, illustration, business, technology, photo, film, entrepreneurship, and writing – and you can sign up for multiple without any extra charge. 

Classes are comprised of short, digestible lessons and a hands-on project, which you can share with your class to get feedback from peers or collaborate with the community. 

10 popular Skillshare classes:

How much does Skillshare cost?

The basic membership is free for 14 days.

After the trial, Premium is $32 billed monthly, or $167.88 upfront for the year ($13.99 per month).

There are also volume discounts for teams that sign up together; discounts for members of creative services like Squarespace and Adobe; and, in line with the mission of making learning accessible, current students can get two free months free with a valid .edu email address. 

What is using Skillshare like?

I started my own Skillshare membership because one of my all-time favorite authors, Roxane Gay (best known for “Bad Feminist” and “Hunger“), publicized that she was hosting a Personal Essays with Impact class on the site.

Screen Shot 2019 04 02 at 5.12.05 PM
I took a creative writing class with one of my favorite authors on Skillshare.

Skillshare itself makes ongoing, high-level learning easier with affordable access, quality materials, and lots of variety. But, unexpectedly, the trial process also helped me figure out if, post-grad, I actually wanted to commit to longer writing courses again. In theory, it sounded great. But, I wasn’t certain of it being put into practice until I tried it with the free trial, focused on a subject I was truly interested in. 

The downsides to Skillshare to note are that, unlike pay-per-class learning communities like Udemy, you won’t have lifetime access to the courses you take while you’re a member. Once you cancel your membership, you lose access to your class videos and any downloadable material provided by teachers at the end of your current pay period. That means you have to make the most of the time you do plan to pay for the service.

The bottom line

All in all, it’s a good tool for lifelong learners who want variety, expertise, and flexibility, as well as professionals looking for an affordable way to sharpen their career skills or hone their craft – or a blend of the two. For $13.99 or $32 per month, or $139.99 per year (or less if you qualify for a discount), you can take multiple classes across thousands of disciplines. It cuts out the fees and time restrictions of finding and enrolling in a community college course and gives you more variety than most pay-per-class online learning platforms. If that sounds appealing, I recommend trying it free for the first 14 days to see if you can fit it into your lifestyle, too. 

Browse Skillshare classes here.

Sign up for two months of Skillshare here for $1.

Read the original article on Business Insider