Yale’s most popular class can help you be happier, even during a pandemic

New Haven

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — With everything going on in the world right now, you might not be feeling very happy these days. Yale University has a happiness expert on its faculty, and she says you can improve your mood with some scientifically proven methods.

When Yale psychology professor Laurie Santos started teaching a class on happiness three years ago, it quickly became the most popular class in University history. Students crammed into a concert hall for lectures. At least they did up until about 10 months ago. So how does a happiness expert sum up the pandemic?

“If I had two words, I might use dumpster fire,” Santos said in a Zoom interview. “I mean, 2020 wasn’t the year any of us wanted.”

That does not mean we have to be unhappy, however. As Santos tells her Yale students, there is a science behind happiness. For one thing, happy people are social. The trouble is, most places to be social have been closed for months. Santos says, try to be more social with the few people you can see.

“Instead of being on your phone checking social media, connect with the real people in your life,” said Santos. “We can take opportunities to do socially distanced walks with friends, get together safely outside.”

Plus, talking over Zoom is, at least, better than nothing. You might be tempted to complain to those folks about your problems, but Santos says, try a different approach.

“Which is expressing and thinking about what you’re grateful for, you know, the simple act of counting your blessings.”

Be grateful for what you have, and try to make things better for others.

“Happier people tend to be more other-oriented, meaning they tend to be focused on and want to do nice things for others,” Santos explained.

Santos says, don’t forget to exercise. Half an hour of cardio can improve your mood just as well as some anti-depressants.

“We forget that our mind is connected to our bodies, so doing nice things for our bodies can actually help our mental health,” said Santos.

And eight hours of sleep can also make you happier. If you’re a parent, keep in mind that, for kids, routines are really important.

“Even if your child is studying remotely, get a specific spot in the house where they can ‘walk to school’ in the morning and have ‘school lunch at the same time,” Santos said.

And Moms and Dads – take care of yourself because mood is infectious.

“If you’re feeling anxious, if you’re feeling stressed, if you’re frustrated, slamming things around, that’s going to transmit to the kids,” Santos warned.

Her class on happiness was so popular, Yale put a version online for free. At the height of the pandemic, 3,000,000 people signed up.

She also has a podcast called The Happiness Lab where anyone can hear proven ways to be happier.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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