what i learned from taking a course on happiness
Yes, you heard it right, there is a course out there that explores the science of well-being and how we can build habits to positively impact our overall happiness. This course was first introduced in 2018 by Professor Laurie Santos, and soon became the most popular class at Yale University. The response was so great, Dr. Santos transferred her knowledge into an online course for anyone to benefit from, and I tried it.
In my opinion, the success of this course comes down to pure curiosity as to whether it is possible to make ourselves happier in a world dominated by the constant need to out-perform. For many, school is about getting into a good university, at university our focus is finding a good job, and from there it always is about the next step, the next accomplishment, the quest for success never ends. And whilst setting ourselves goals and being ambitious is extremely valuable, deprioritizing our happiness in the process won’t get us where we want to go. Now more than ever, taking the time to recognize achievements or thank the positive influences in our lives can enhance our well-being and this course can, in some way, alter the way you think about happiness.
The structure is simple, watch the online lectures and every week introduce a research-based intentional action or “rewirement” into your daily schedule. Some of these rewirements include: seven acts of kindness, 30 minutes of exercise a day or writing down what you are grateful for. In my case, finding different things to be grateful for while sticking to a very basic routine at home was a struggle, but soon I realized how simple things such as nailing my coffee in the morning could turn a good day into a great day. However, it wasn’t my amateur coffee-making skills but savoring that moment that truly made the difference for me. For that reason, my biggest takeaways were acknowledging the importance of being present and verbalizing my gratitude.
Before starting this course I considered myself a pretty happy person: I am healthy, I have some great and inspiring people around me and I am hopeful about the future. After this experience, all these factors are still very much present in my life, but I have gained valuable insights on the impact that mindful and intentional actions can have on our well-being - for that reason, I am happier. Although we are living in a time of uncertainty I believe there is an exciting future ahead sometimes, we just need to start by celebrating the little victories!