Right now, nearly one-fourth of Yale's undergraduate student body is enrolled in a single psychology course. The class, Psyc 157, or "Psychology and the Good Life," quickly became the university's most popular class ever in its history. Soon after registration opened on January 12, approximately 300 students had signed up for the course that teaches students how to lead happier, more satisfying lives. A few days later, that number had more than doubled, and just a few days after that, 1200 students were enrolled. The class had to move to the university's concert venue to accommodate interest.
"Students want to change, to be happier themselves, and to change the culture here on campus," Laurie Santos, PhD, the psychology professor who teaches the class in twice-weekly lectures, told The New York Times. "With one in four students at Yale taking it, if we see good habits, things like students showing more gratitude, procrastinating less, increasing social connections, we're actually seeding change in the school's culture."
Santos speculates that the popularity of the class is due to the fact that in high school, students deprioritized their happiness to be more competitive in the admissions process. "In reality, a lot of us are anxious, stressed, unhappy, numb," admits Alannah Maynez, a freshman taking the course. "The fact that a class like this has such large interest speaks to how tired students are of numbing their emotions—both positive and negative—so they can focus on their work, the next step, the next accomplishment."
Wellness and self-care have become buzzwords in recent years, and yet they aren't always compatible with real-life demands and societal expectations in practice. Instilling these values—of prioritizing positivity and taking care of oneself—at a time when individuals are in a brand-new environment and under tremendous stress can be a healthful approach to teach individuals how to be (and how to give themselves permission to be) happy.