Happiness can be learned. That’s the central idea behind Yale’s most popular class ever. Professor Laurie Santos has collected all the psychological science out there and come up with a step-by-step process for boosting your own happiness.
The 10-week course online through Coursera is free. It’s officially called The Science of Well-Being, and it has already been taken by more than 225,000 students online. One in four students at Yale has taken it since it was first offered.
Santos has designed the course for three reasons: to synthesize what psychologists have learned about making our lives better, to help undergrads overcome stress and unhappiness on campus, and “to live a better life myself.”
Seminars with structured homework centered on daily exercises that are geared toward changing your habits — by identifying and dropping the bad ones while new habits are developed.
Focus on your Strengths
This first homework was all about identifying your signature strengths and refocusing on them each day. I took the “VIA Survey” online (anyone can take this test free here), which revealed my 24 greatest strengths. My top four: love of learning, appreciation of beauty and excellence, leadership, and fairness. If you’re pretty self-aware, the results won’t be a big surprise. The key, though, is to identify them and find situations to use your strengths every day. That’ll lead you down the path to flourishing. Studies show happiness increases and depression decreases when a person uses his or her signature strengths regularly. In my case, Look for simple ways to use fairness, humor, and love of learning throughout the day.
Invest in Experiences
Try spending money on experiences such as live music, vacations, and meals instead of new toys. Going for a walk or traveling to a new place are much better investments in terms of happiness than buying material things.
The Path to Happiness
Remember to also do the things you probably already know are proven to boost your well-being, such as exercising daily and getting as much sleep as possible.
But the key here is to pick up a new positive habit – or habits – that will lead you to feeling happier.
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