I am UIC: Teaching happiness

With more than 1,100 students enrolled, “Psychology and the Good Life” has become Yale’s most popular course offered in the university’s 316-year existence. The course, taught by psychology professor Lauri Santos, had to be moved to the hall in which events like symphony performances take place in order to accommodate the entire class.

The fact that students are becoming increasingly interested in learning about happiness means that they are having increasing difficulty understanding what it is, or, perhaps more accurately, they are finding that the things they believed would amount to their happiness are not having the desired effects. Those things can include anything from maintaining high grades to getting a prestigious job. Despite being considered very honorable life goals, these achievements are often accompanied by a path filled with high levels of stress and anxiety that deprioritizes happiness in exchange for success.

Santos teaches her students how behavioral changes, such as performing acts of kindness and expressing gratitude, can have a great impact on overall happiness. Although many students may see the course as an easy A, Santos said in an interview that she sees it as the hardest course at Yale because students need to hold themselves accountable in order to see meaningful change. With about one-quarter of undergraduates enrolled, Santos hopes that the course will change Yale’s campus culture by promoting good habits.

Professor Santos is providing an opportunity for students outside of Yale to learn about the good life through a free online course called “The Science of Well-Being.” The course includes a mobile app that helps participants track everyday practices that science has proven to increase happiness. Registration for the course is currently open at Coursera.


Hoda Fakhari is a senior studying biochemistry and English with a concentration in media, rhetoric and cultural studies. She is interested in making connections between subject areas that appear uncomplimentary in order to arrive at more diverse and relevant ways of understanding people and society.

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