Happiness, they say, is infectious. Perhaps that is why the most popular course ever to be taught at Yale University—this semester enrolling 1,200 students, or a quarter of the undergraduate student body—is one titled “Psychology and the Good Life.”
PSYC 157, or “Laurie Santos’ happiness class” as it is affectionately known on Yale’s campus, teaches practical advice such as how to pick a meaningful career and how to separate satisfying pursuits from hollow ones. And now, an expanded version of the class, filmed in Santos’ own house, is available for free on Coursera as part of a seminar-style series on “the science of well-being.”
As Quartz’s Jenny Anderson noted in January, courses on happiness are cropping up everywhere across the US. The factors—like the country’s political upheaval and the burgeoning discourse on mental health in high-pressure settings like elite universities—are not hard to discern. Santos says the message behind her course resonates with students (and perhaps people of all ages, in general) who are striving to reconcile academic and professional rigor with social connectedness and life satisfaction.
“I think students are looking for meaning,” Yale president Peter Salovey, himself a pioneer in emotional-intelligence research, told Quartz at the World Economic Forum in Davos this year.
The numbers would certainly suggest this is the case. “Psychology and the Good Life” is currently the most popular class in Yale’s 317-year history, displacing the previous record-holder “Psychology and the Law,” which drew about 1,050 students.