Over 3 Million People Took This Course on Happiness. Here’s What Some Learned.

Over 3 Million People Took This Course on Happiness. Here’s What Some Learned.

via the NY Times by Molly Oswaks

The Yale happiness class, formally known as Psyc 157: Psychology and the Good Life, is one of the most popular classes to be offered in the university’s 320-year history.

The class was only ever taught in-person once, during the spring 2018 semester, as a 1,200-person lecture course in the largest space on campus.

That March, a free 10-week version made available to the public via Coursera, titled “the Science of Well-Being,” also became instantly popular, attracting hundreds of thousands of online learners. But when lockdowns began last March, two full years later, the enrollment numbers skyrocketed. To date, over 3.3 million people have signed up, according to the website.

“We octupled the number of people taking the class,” said Laurie Santos, a professor of psychology at Yale and the head of the university’s Silliman College, of its pandemic-era popularity.

“Everyone knows what they need to do to protect their physical health: wash your hands, and social distance, and wear a mask,” she added. “People were struggling with what to do to protect their mental health.”

The Coursera curriculum, adapted from the one Dr. Santos taught at Yale, asks students to, among other things, track their sleep patterns, keep a gratitude journal, perform random acts of kindness, and take note of whether, over time, these behaviors correlate with a positive change in their general mood.

Gretchen McIntire, 34, a home health aide in Massachusetts, is studying for her bachelor’s degree in psychology through an online program from Southern New Hampshire University. In her free time during lockdown in August, Ms. McIntire took the class. She called it “life-changing.”

The practical aspect of the Coursera curriculum appealed to Ms. McIntire, who learned she had Asperger’s syndrome at 23. A night owl, she had struggled with sleep and enforcing her own time boundaries…

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