If you are a student, you understand what it means to be stressed. With the never-ending load of schoolwork, debt, and expectations, sometimes we forget to take care of our mental health. How do students keep up with happiness while under all this stress?

Students at Yale University might have the answer.

Psychology and the Good Life is a new course offered at Yale University, with happiness as the main focus of study.

Course code PSYC 157 enrols Yale students in a twice-a-week lecture on how to lead a happier and more satisfying life.

According to the New York Times, 1,182 students have enrolled in the course, which is roughly 25 per cent of undergraduate students at Yale. This makes PSYC 157 the most popular class in the Ivy League school’s history.

The course focuses on positive psychology, behavioural change, and how to live by these lessons in real life. Just like every other class, students will be required to take quizzes, complete a midterm exam and a final assessment, which is a personal self-improvement project.

“I would love a class where we can talk about something so simple yet so hard to achieve for some people today,” said Aman Saimbhee, fourth-year human resource student at Ryerson.
“I would definitely enrol in a course like that because as kids, we never learn about happiness. Instead, happiness was more focused on achieving academic goals.”

According to Michelle Dionne, department chair of psychology, there is a similar course called personal growth and positive psychology at Ryerson. It is offered as a liberal studies course aimed at non-psychology students.

“Psychology has so much to say on these topics that we have not just one course, but several,” said Dionne. “In addition to our positive psychology course, we have courses on adjustment, stress and coping; death, dying and bereavement; behaviour modification, and a course all about sleep.”

Dionne said these courses are quite popular at Ryerson as well.

Why the classes intrigue students is something to question. Does the high enrolment mean students are seeking more help? Or does it mean less, with these students just needing a less serious class to balance out their schedule?

A 2013 report by the Yale College Council found that more than half of undergraduates sought mental health care from the university during their time there.

Similarly, Ontario Canada Reference Group did a survey to measure Ontario college and university students’ mental health.

The survey found that 65 per cent of students experience anxiety, 49 per cent are depressed, and 13 per cent have considered suicide.

On top of the courses offered at Ryerson, student affairs introduced a program, ThriveRU, in 2017. This program approaches student wellness by focusing on the balance between academic success and a healthy lifestyle.

“I do think that credit courses that focus on well-being and happiness are very popular and provide a wonderful context for students to build essential skill sets that they need to thrive as students and beyond,” said Diana Brecher, scholar-in-residence for ThriveRU.

ThriveRU has about 4,000 students that are a part of this training program, which has four one-hour sessions spread out over four weeks.

“The ThriveRU program is a non-credit course, in contrast (to Yale), and are completely voluntary on the part of students,” said Brecher. ThriveRU is not considered an elective for any program yet.

Infographic by Adriana Parente.

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