Photograph: The Washington Post/Getty Images
What lessons can we learn from Laurie Santos, the Yale professor whose ‘happiness’ course became a global hit? And could the current health crisis lead to a wellbeing revolution?
In January 2018, a Yale University professor named Laurie Santos launched a course, Psychology and the Good Life, which quickly became the most popular class in the institution’s 319-year-history. After 13 years at Yale, in 2016, the 44-year-old had taken charge of one of the university’s residential colleges and had become alarmed by widespread mental illness and stress. She wanted to explain the paradox of why so many students were still suffering, having achieved their dreams of being admitted to Yale and having met society’s definition of success. Santos created the lecture series in a bid to teach her students what really mattered – to help them carve out lives of meaning and contentment.
Within a few days of the course’s launch, roughly a quarter of Yale’s entire undergraduate population had signed up.