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The Science of Wellbeing

Recently, I came across a link to The Science of Wellbeing, a course offered by Yale University via Coursera. I signed up for it because I was interested in the science, not really expecting it to have a big impact on my own wellbeing. I was, after all, pretty happy.

Laurie Santos, creator of ‘The Science of Wellbeing’ course, Photograph: The Washington Post/Getty Images

What I discovered:

The science is interesting. Things that are intuitive have been researched and confirmed. For example, hedonic adaptation theory tells us to do the tedious tasks to completion first time to minimise pain. Conversely, don’t binge on your favourite show – go back to it for repeated delight. There is also a lot of material on the human urge to compare ourselves to those around us and how toxic reality television really is. Avoid mindless scrolling; do not avoid connecting with strangers.

How it changed me:

I did this course as a significant relationship imploded and, of course, COVID-19 turned my life upside down. This course – and the ongoing changes it inspired in my life – made those things easier to manage. I have started keeping a gratitude journal (today’s entry: winter sun; new babies; shifting grief), exercising more and taking time to really immerse myself in incidental pleasures. 

My overall well-being increased by 24% and my sense of engagement by 46%, even with my opportunities to actually engage severely curtailed. My relationship joy went down by only 1%, despite being mid-crisis. 

I know of two people who have been inspired by my experience to undertake the course and I’m hoping they are similarly rewarded. It took 12 weeks to complete, which was a nice pace and allowed lots of time to bed down new habits.


For more information on the course – read this article on Laurie Santos and the Yale course

Details of the course can be found at Coursera

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