NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — Yale psychology professor Dr. Laurie Santos expected about 40 students to sign up for her in-person class in 2018 called Psychology and the Good Life. Over one thousand students signed up, which meant one in every four Yale students had enrolled.
She was humbled to know that it had become the most popular class in the University’s history.
A free online version called The Science of Well Being was then released, which quickly attracted one million participants.
During the pandemic, more people signed up. Dr. Santos says a lot of people are interested in how they could flourish a little bit more and also protect their mental health in these times.
“Just during the time of COVID, we’ve had a huge increase in the number of people who’ve signed up, so over two million people have signed up, just in the last couple months,” says Dr. Santos.
She says those millions are in more than 200 countries. Results have shown the class has an impact on the happiness level of its participants.
“We have preliminary data that on a ten-point happiness scale people go up about a whole point when they take the class, and that’s amazing that we’re making millions of people just a little bit happier,” she says.
Dr. Santos says the classes are short videos of herself and some Yale students. She says many people think that their circumstances promote happiness, but she says the data shows something different. People can re-wire their brains by taking simple actions.
“It’s really our own behaviors. It’s our own mindsets things that we can control that really do improve our well being. Things like increasing social connections, doing nice things for others, prioritizing healthy habits like exercise and sleep,” says Dr. Santos.
The course can be taken at your own pace. There is homework, but it does not involve essays. It is taking practical action such as making a new social connection, doing a random act of kindness, or during a meal to be present and savor what you are enjoying.