Yale’s Most Popular Class Ever Teaches You How to Be Happy

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I just enrolled in one of Yale’s classes. It was difficult to get in, but not because Yale only takes 6.3% of its applicants. It’s because I’m working remotely and my internet is spotty.

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The class is called “The Science of Well-Being,” and, according to the New York Times, it’s Yale’s most popular class ever. The curriculum is about how to be happy, and, happily enough, it’s now offered online for free.

The course is delivered via a video series of lectures by Laurie Santos, psychology professor and the head of one of Yale’s residential colleges.

Video #1 starts the course by telling us that the things we think will make us happy, actually do not. We have a tendency to “mis-predict” what brings us enjoyment.

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I’m not going to lie. I think about what it would be like to be so rich I could buy whatever I want or travel wherever I want a la a Kardashian. Wouldn’t that make me happy?

Dr. Santos tells me, “Uh, no.”

I counter with the famous saying by French playwright, Francois Sagan: “Money may not buy you happiness, but I would rather cry in a Jaguar than on a bus.”

Dr. Santos, however, told CNBC, “Money doesn’t increase happiness in the way that we think. Our minds are lying to us about how much of an impact extra cash will have on our happiness.” She credits meditation, gratitude and social connections with having the biggest effect on our levels of joy.

Luckily, they are also way more doable than making millions.

Dr. Santos also touches on how experiences are more important than money for long-term well-being. So, if spending money is part of that experience, then we should be mindful of that and look for ways in which the money positively impacted our lives.

Instead of thinking of money as an end in itself, we should look at it as an investment in our happiness. Buying the latest fads until we’re broke won’t cut it.

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I’m looking forward to the rest of the curriculum. I’m not particularly unhappy, but I could always use a new mindset. Money or no money, a positive attitude is always good to have in the back-pocket (of my pricey jeans which bring me joy because they make me look thinner).