In my ongoing pursuit to become super human, I enrolled in a free, online class on Coursera called “The Science of Well-Being.” The course, which is set for ten weeks but self-paced, is modeled after a class, Psychology and the Good Life. It was the most popular course ever taught at Yale. It was offered my senior year and didn’t fit into my schedule, but I discovered the Coursera offering and decided to try it out. Who doesn’t want to be a little happier? I like to think I’m pretty happy, especially compared to where I was in high school, but what could I learn along the way? Let’s take a look, and maybe you’ll decide to work on being a little happier too. 

The basis of the course is that there are things we believe make us happy and then there are things that actually make us happy, and according to science, it’s not really a venn diagram. Winning the lottery won’t make you happier long term, for example. Then, the course offers some “rewirements” to help you fight the biases of our minds and become happier. 

The course begins by having you measure your own happiness across a few levels using some online surveys, but you can also just score yourself on a scale of 1-5. I took the PERMA test and found I was hovering around a 7.5 out of 10 on the happiness scale, which seemed right to me. I felt very fulfilled in my career, alright about my health, kinda lonely, and good about my own achievements. Then, the real learning began. 

I won’t give away all the tips and tricks and studies of the course, but there are a lot. You’ll learn from the real scientists about what does and doesn’t make us happy–about why bronze medalists are often happier than silver medalists. About how we mispredict intensity and duration of events–leaving us better than expected after a root canal, but not over the moon about a year old car. 

As a millenial who is on the edge of Gen Z and definitely aware of social pressures, I really appreciated the research on sharing events with others, taking photos of events, and using social media. Spoiler alert: using social media leads to unrealistic comparisons that hurt our happiness. But you can learn so much more about it in this class!

Half of this class is about learning what our mind is lying to us about, and the other half is about utilizing techniques to combat those biases. This includes the WOOP method (Google it, I promise), negative visualization, and my favorite: situational support. If you don’t want to scroll through Instagram and feel sad about your body, delete the app off your phone. If you want to eat healthier, put fruit on the counter instead of brownies. Tell your friends what you’re doing. Utilize your character strengths (I do this everyday!) and social connections, express gratitude, and oh yeah–get enough sleep and exercise. 

This class isn’t going to cure your manic depression, but it just might make you a little happier by teaching you about what the science says and doesn’t say and by providing you an outlet to think about your own happiness concretely. I loved doing the rewirement challenge because goal setting is my jam. I committed to exercise for a month–specifically yoga–and now I’m addicted. Seriously, it’s increased my happiness scores all around and I’m probably a lot healthier. By the end of the class, when I did my peer reviewed assignment, I found that my PERMA levels had improved in every category. 

Did I mention that the professor, Dr. Laurie Santos, also has a podcast– The Happiness Lab–that you can listen to on its own or in conjunction with the course?

So, will you commit to being happier? Do you want to learn about what will actually make you happy according to research and science rather than some hippy dippy instagram account? Do you want to find a new commitment that will stretch you as a person and improve your life? Then enroll in The Science of Well-Being, it’ll do you a world of good. 

Aryssa D
FFL Cabinet Member