The most popular course in Yale University‘s 317-year history is now available for free on Coursera. The course, titled Psychology and the Good Life, aims to teach students the secrets of happiness, Amy X. Wang writes for Quartz.
Courses on happiness are gaining popularity across the United States, as volatile politics and high-pressure work environments encroach on the mental health and overall well-being of people of all ages.
Students on Yale’s campus may be drawn to the subject because they have developed “harmful life habits” to succeed in highly competitive environments, speculates Laurie Santos, the psychology professor teaching the course. The overwhelming interest signals how students feel “anxious [and] stressed” on campus, adds Alanna Maynez, a first-year student enrolled in the course.
Students at Yale aren’t the only ones feeling the pressure. The share of undergraduates reporting “overwhelming anxiety” increased from 50% in 2011 to 62% in 2016. And anxiety has overtaken depression as the most common reason students seek counseling services.
Santos hopes her course will teach students that high grades and good-paying jobs may not actually increase their happiness, Santos says. And she encourages students to take her course on a pass-fail basis to avoid grade anxiety.
Santos’ course is unique in its combination of positive psychology and behavioral change. This combination may make it the “hardest class at Yale” because students have to hold themselves accountable to rewire their behavior, says Santos.
About 1,200 undergraduates have registered for Yale’s course, compelling the psychology department to hire 24 teaching fellows and move the lectures to Woolsey Hall, a space typically used for symphony performances.