Written by : Hannah Sentenac 

Happiness 101

You probably learned a number of useful things in school: reading, writing, arithmetic. But no matter how fantastic your teacher, it’s doubtful that “How to be happy” was included in the lesson plan.

Luckily, it’s never too late. September marks the inaugural run of The Science of Happiness, a free online class for happiness seekers worldwide.

Teaching happiness

This “massive open online course” (MOOC) is the first of its kind devoted exclusively to positive psychology. Instructors Dacher Keltner, Ph.D., and Emiliana Simon-Thomas, Ph.D., will teach students science-based skills for greater happiness and wellbeing.

“We’re going to dig into what we think are the most direct paths to happiness and health,” says Dacher, who is also the founding faculty director of University of California at Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center.

Connections, compassion, kindness

Dacher says the 10-week course will zero in on scientifically proven methods for greater happiness, from building strong social connections with friends and family to the power of compassion and kindness.

Students can also expect to learn a bit about their own brain, as well as practical applications for happiness. “We’re taking great care to have reflective practices that our students can engage in, like writing a gratitude diary, learning different techniques to be mindful, how to read people’s emotions more effectively—the tested practices that people can start to integrate,” Dacher says.

Visiting scholars

Joining in the discussions will be noted experts from the field of positive psychology, including neuropsychologist Rick Hanson, Ph.D.; The Myths of Happiness best-selling author Sonja Lyubomirsky, Ph.D.; and mindful meditation teacher Jon Kabat-Zinn, Ph.D.

So, can students really boost their happiness in just two months? Absolutely, Dacher says. “Even more important, [students will] have a sense of what they can work on to get happier. I think it’ll give them a little purpose—a little extra meaning in life.”

“The Science of Happiness” launches Sept. 9. Register at either GreaterGood.Berkeley.edu or EdX.org, or opt in at any time to audit the course. 

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