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How to Be Happier According to a Psychology Class

Donetta is a freelance writer. She's had her poems published in Ink & Voices, The Mystic Blue Review, The Reverie, and Spillwords.


What Does a Class Teach About Being Happier

Let's face it, happiness has been a huge topic since the pandemic. People everywhere have heard of self-care. Life in general can cause disharmony within people. It's absolutely ridiculous to believe mankind should be completely happy at all times and think positively.

Most people aren't going to feel happiness when someone they know passes away or a pet dies. It is completely normal to feel sadness and any other range of emotions.

For the ones who are seeking ways to feel happier on their own, an article from CNET described a class that was launched at the University of California, Berkeley that would teach students in 8 weeks how to be happier in their day to day lives.

Breakdown of "How to Be Happy."

In 2014, psychologist at the University of California, Berkeley launched a class for one purpose: To teach students how to be happy within 8 weeks. The Science of Happiness (which is still free to audit on edX, a provider of open online courses) had thousands of students that enrolled to learned about the science of connection, compassion, gratitude and mindfulness. Perhaps more importantly, they also completed a series of simple activities that research suggests increase happiness. Surprisingly, it seemed to work.

There's a misconception that happiness is built-in and that we can't change it," says Laurie Santos, a professor of psychology at Yale University who teaches a free Coursera class called The Science of Well-Being.

Student Assignments

Here's what the class was taught could improve a persons happiness in 8 weeks.

  1. Enhance your social connections.
  2. Engage in random acts of kindness
  3. Express gratitude
  4. Practice Mindfulness
  5. Practice self compassion

What Each Assignment Means

At the heart of it all, people are not designed to be happy all the time. That's why some people have disagreed with the results of the class. You can read the CNET article (at the end of this) for more information. Those that question the results state that the class didn't take into factor other things that can cause less or more happiness such as our DNA, mental stability, our environment or race.

With that aside, it's been scientifically proven that our positive social connections can make us happier because human beings tend to feel better when surrounded by people we share the same ideas with. Which this also means that we have to work on improving our connections.

Happiness has also been linked to random acts of kindness. I know I have been the recipient of a stranger's kindness and it made my entire day better. I am sure I've helped someone with something small to me but huge to them at the time.

Practicing gratitude is a genuine way to appreciate the small or big things happening in our lives. Journaling has become a hot topic and surrounding the uncertainty during the pandemic more people began practicing writing down things they are grateful for. For this class, students were ask to write 3 things down at the end of each day they were grateful for and why. An example could be something like this: I am grateful I passed the exam because I studied harder than I normally do.

Mindfulness for this assignment was done through meditation. The purpose of mindfulness is to be present in the moment. Practicing meditation has been scientifically proven to help people not to feel so anxious, breathe in and out to calm ourselves, and to make people feel better.

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The last one, practicing self- compassion was one of the harder assignments according to the article. A lot of people do not realize that their simple thoughts can have huge impacts in their overall confidence. That's because people generally are harder on themselves than they are with loved ones. So the goal is to think more kindly of oneself and not let that critical voice become harsher than it should be.

Is happiness something that can be learned?

The study showed improvement in the students happiness and that happiness lasted an extended period when the class ended. Life can be difficult with any numerous amount of things that cause people to be unhappy. Loved ones die, bills fall behind, injuries occur, couples break-up and everyday life can cause people to be unhappy.

There are also mental illness and physical disabilities that also can cause unhappiness. However, those times are expected to cause discord in people's lives but by maintaining positive connections, being grateful, using mindfulness and practicing self compassion can all benefit people. No one should experience negativity while doing a random act of kindness.

Again, this article is not meant to portray that I'm an expert on happiness and mental health. For further reading, I've provided links below.

Boosting Happiness

This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.

© 2022 Donetta Sifford

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