1/4 million people have taken this Yale professor's course on happiness — here's what they learned

Korin Miller
Writer

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When Laurie Santos, PhD, decided to create a class on the science of happiness for Yale University, the response was overwhelming. (Photo: Getty Images)

Want to be happy? There's an online course for that — and it's just $49.

The course is called The Science of Well-Being, and it was created by Laurie Santos, PhD, a professor of psychology at Yale University. Oh, and it's been hugely popular with nearly 1/4 million people signing up.

The course is taken on Coursera over four weeks, and includes videos, readings and quizzes that overview what psychological science says about happiness. The goal of the course is to help people learn what psychological research says about what makes people happy, as well as how to actually put those skills into action.

Laurie Santoe, PhD, is a professor of psychology at Yale University. (Photo: Yale University School of Medicine)

Santos tells Yahoo Lifestyle that the online course started as a class at Yale that was geared toward teaching college students about the science of happiness.

“Recent statistics show that college students are way more depressed and anxious than ever before. I thought hearing what the science said about how to do better could help my students,” she says. Ultimately, more than 1,000 students enrolled in the class.

“People can expect a fun crash course on the science of well-being.” (Photo: Getty Images)

“We got a lot of national press about the class, which made me realize that this is a problem that goes beyond Yale students—lots of people feel like they're not flourishing as much as they could be,” Santos says.

The course delves into things people often get wrong about happiness, plus aspects of your mind that make you think the way you do. Then, it goes into methods that have been scientifically proven to make you more happy.

That includes doing things like taking time to make social connections, taking a timeout for gratitude, becoming more mindful, and exercising and sleeping more, Santos says. It also offers up strategies to help you build new, happier habits—and how to actually meet your goals.

With the class, “people can expect a fun crash course on the science of well-being,” Santos continues. “But more importantly, learners can expect actionable tips that they can put into effect in their own lives immediately. These are all tips for improving your well-being that are backed by science,” she adds.

"Learners can expect actionable tips that they can put into effect in their own lives immediately," says Santos. (Photo: Getty Images)

According to Coursera, 36 percent of people who took the course started a new career afterward, and 38 percent said they got tangible career benefit from it. The reviews for the course are also pretty amazing.

“I learned so much about happiness and what happiness doesn’t mean," one reviewer wrote. “It's like hitting the refresh button when living an over-scheduled life, hour-by-hour,” another said.

Santos says she's thrilled with the positive reception and hopes that people get a lot out of the course. “I hope people learn that their minds are often lying to them about what will make them happy,” she says. “I also hope that people come away with some strategies they can use to feel better.”

The fact that the course has been hugely popular online definitely says a lot. “It's both totally humbling and awesome,” Santos says. “Every day I get emails from people telling me how much the class has changed their lives. That feels amazing.”

Shop it: The Science of Well-Being, $49, coursera.org. Users can sign up any time.

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