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The Science of Well-Being:
A Yale University course for greater happiness

It is the most popular course in the history of Yale University (USA) among students: The Science of Well-Being. Now professor Laurie Santos‘ course is available as a free online course.
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by Petra Bartoli y Eckert


To live a good life, to feel good and to be satisfied – that’s what many people strive for. Nevertheless, Dr. Laurie Santos, professor of psychology at Yale University, was probably surprised herself by the popularity of her course „Psychology and the Good Life,“ which she offered for the first time in 2018: almost a quarter of all Yale students from all disciplines opted for her course.

Over the years, the course has become the most popular course in Yale University history. That’s why it has been available to everyone for several years now: as an online course under the title „The Science of Well-Being.“ More than 4 million people from over 170 countries worldwide have now taken part.


On the trail of happiness

What makes us happy? And what can we do to achieve it and live a good life? As an author, I have already pursued these questions myself. In the truest sense of the word, because that’s what gave rise to the book „Zum Glück zu Fuß“ („On foot to happiness“). That’s why I was immediately attracted to „The Science of Well-Being“ – and signed up for the course without further ado.

My first impression: Dr. Laurie Santos conveys everything about well-being in a calm, humorous and likeable way. The first message that the professor conveys: Being happy can be learned!  And she says, „This is no ordinary course, but a journey that can change your life.“


Insights into things that make us happy

How does a psychology professor, who actually does research on primates to explore the evolutionary origins of human thought, become an expert on happiness? „We actually have a lot of insight in psychology into things that make us happier, that make us laugh, that make our lives more fulfilling.“ She ultimately decided to design the course, „The Science of Well-Being,“ because she felt that not only Yale students, but society as a whole, needed these insights. „And I myself need these insights as well!“

Those who sign up for Laurie Santos‘ course can opt for a free version or a paid certificate at the end. „The Science of Well-Being“ goes over several weeks – depending on your own learning pace. Ten modules talk about misconceptions of happiness, expectations that are too high, things that really make you happy, or strategies to adjust expectations.


Enjoyment, gratitude – all these things should be practiced

Knowledge is not enough, it takes practice!

In each module, Laurie Santos uses studies and statistics to show what science has found out about happiness and well-being. But it doesn’t stop there. The professor is convinced that knowing something and being able to put it into practice is a fallacy. Well-being cannot be taught. You have to practice it. You have to practice the things that do us good.

That’s why the course „The Science of Well-Being“ also includes weekly homework assignments. It’s about using your character strengths in everyday life, for example. Or consciously enjoying things and making notes about them. Anyone who decides to take the online course is also deciding to question habits and change them if necessary.


Happiness insights: Accessible to as many as possible

What else there is to say about „The Science of Well-Being“: All videos and scripts are in English. However, subtitles can be set for all short films in German, Spanish, French, Portuguese, Italian, Vietnamese, Ukrainian Russian, Arabic and Persian. This is to ensure that the online course is accessible to as many people as possible.

By the way: Since 2019, there is also a podcast by Laurie Santos: „The Happiness Lab“. There, the psychology professor looks at the latest scientific findings regarding well-being and happiness and tells inspiring stories that make you think.


To listen to „The Happiness Lab“ podcast, go here:

For all those interested in the course „The Science of Well-Being“: You can register via the course portal of Yale University at


This article is protected by copyright.


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