The Science of Well-Being at Yale

Over the past few weeks I have been enrolled in a Yale Course for free through a platform called Coursera. It is a course taught by Laurie Santos who also taught Psychology and the Good Life, which became the most popular course at Yale. As a person who studied mostly math, economics and business topics it is super interesting to learn a bit more about how we are wired as people and what truly boosts our happiness. 

Here is the link to the course for anyone who is looking to enroll, I would highly recommend it! 

I will not be spoiling all of Professor Santos’ tips and tricks because I truly think you would benefit from taking the course but I will share a few things that stuck with me through the course.

Weeks 1, 2 and 3 of the course focus on things that we think are going to make us happy but they just do not make us any happier than we think and in some cases it actually makes us less happy. Of course, the initial one we might guess is money and you are right, Professor Santos explains that after an annual income of about $75,000 we do not get any true happiness benefit from earning more money. The one that stuck with me is actually performance, humans think that by succeeding greatly in our jobs or in school that we will feel really good and happy. This is true, success does make us feel good but not nearly as much as we think it would and not for nearly as long. Additionally, we would expect that failure makes us feel really unhappy and we have this huge fear of failure but really, failure doesn’t impact us nearly as much as we would think in terms of happiness. 

Weeks 4, 5, and 6 dive into studies about what actually DOES make us happy and how we can incorporate it into our day-to-day to make us happy. My favorite one is social interaction. In the course, Santos walks through studies that show just by talking to a stranger for 5 minutes we can immensely boost our happiness scores. 

All of the items I learned about in the class are things that I feel I can practice in my daily life but they are against my natural instincts. Here are some of the practices I have taken home with me after studying the Science of Well-Being with Yale:

  • Meditation
  • Extreme Gratitude
  • Healthy Sleep
  • Invest in Experiences not Stuff
  • Savoring
  • Chasing my Passions in my Career over Money
  • Interacting with Strangers

I highly highly recommend this course for anyone who is looking for small ways to change their mood. I am working on restructuring my habits but have already seen impacts on my happiness from what I learned in this course!

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