I Can’t Stop Recommending Yale’s Happiness Course…

So, it’s lockdown number 5,682,901, the world is really struggling, social media is bombarding our lives more than we usually allow, and perhaps there’s an existential crisis looming over your shoulder? Many of us are lucky to be able to work from home and stay safe. Of course – it’s a time to be thankful for our health and that of our family and friends. But it’s okay too, to accept that right now, the world sometimes feels just a bit bleak.

It’s completely understandable that our happiness might take a dip, as we order our 19th jigsaw puzzle on Amazon, and scroll back through photographs of a mask-less time filled with hugs, parties, and socialising. Well maybe it’s time to get a little bit of perspective and sign up for Yale’s favourite study session…

The Happiness Course

Okay, so it’s The Science of Well-being, but it’s more commonly known as ‘The Happiness Course’. Yale’s Laurie Santos provides amazing insight on her FREE course. (Available online at Coursera.) You might have ‘study something new online’ on your lockdown to-do list? Well, this might be the least stressful, and most beneficial class you ever signed up for!

During the first lockdown (so long ago now) I found this little gem online and was instantly hooked on Laurie’s talks and discussions on the science and psychology of wellbeing. She examines what we really need in order to be happy, and how those things differ from what we tend to believe will improve our happiness. When you think about what will make you happier, what do you think of? Perhaps it’s more money, a new job, a bigger house, a better car… the list is endless. But constantly wanting the next new and bigger thing doesn’t necessarily equal a happier life. And once we get more money, a bigger house, a better car… what then? Well, our brains are very good at adjusting to change. That salary you once thought was an unattainable dream, suddenly becomes your new normal, and now you want more.

With the help of a happiness test you take at the beginning of the course, and the app ReWi (used to record your progress) you can genuinely see at how your happiness level has increased. Sounds silly, huh? Well, maybe it’s not your actual happiness levels, but your perspective on what you truly need to live a happy and fulfilled life. The homework assignments along the way are less “write a ten-page paper on the subject of smiling” and more “focus on improving this aspect of your life and see if it does make you happy”.

So… What Will Make You Happier?

Have you ever noticed how much a good night’s sleep can improve your mood? Or how great you feel when you do a good deed or help a friend out? Laurie talks through how things like kindness, gratitude, and a little bit of exercise genuinely boost your mood and improve your overall happiness. Even if we already know about some of these smile-inducing things, seeing it in black and white really cements it all.

She backs everything up with real-life studies and actual tangible evidence; it’s not just all theory or a vague possibility. And believe me when I say that she is an incredibly talented teacher and speaker. She is great at engaging an audience; you’ll never be bored watching her lessons.

Take a measure of your happiness before the course (there is an actual way to measure this – see the course for more on that) and take comfort in your new perspective as you soak up Santos’ insightful talks and binge on all of the life-changing information she has to share. It was just what I needed at such a weird point in all our lives… and I truly hope it helps you too.

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