Happiness: You're Probably Doing It Wrong

Yale's most popular course is all about learning to practice it
By Newser Editors,  Newser Staff
Posted May 29, 2018 10:15 AM CDT
Updated Jun 3, 2018 10:38 AM CDT
Turn that frown upside down.   (Getty/Siphotography)

(Newser) – It's called "PSYC 157: Psychology and the Good Life," and the course taught by Laurie Santos just happens to be the most popular one ever offered at Yale, writes Adam Sternbergh at the Cut. Its aim is to teach students to be happier. Sternbergh took the course himself and found it useful, and he suggests that it might better be called "What Is Happiness, Why Aren't You Happy, and What Can You Do to Change That?" That's because Santos delves into not just the science of happiness, but the practice of it. Think of it as exercise. "The thing that makes this course different is that we also focus on what I call 'behavior change'—the science of how you move your behavior around," Santos tells her students. All students must start with this survey to help determine their baseline happiness. Then comes the process in which students essentially "rewire" their brains.

"Throughout the class, students use a ReWi app specially developed for the course to alter their behavior and enhance their well-being," writes Sternbergh. "They aren't tests per se but exercises designed for self-betterment: Keep a daily gratitude journal for seven days; take a survey to determine your signature strengths; get at least seven hours of sleep for three days in a row." The story digs into how the course shows that most people overvalue money and undervalue time. One day, for example, Santos has the students show up to class, only to learn that it's been canceled. The catch is that they must spend spend the free hour not catching up on work but doing something unexpected for pleasure. One time-crunched student began to cry at the news. Click for the full story, which includes a quiz and a reading list.

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