The Science of Well-being

Spurred by a desire to understand her own decline in happiness and those around her, Yale professor Laurie Santos,  wanted to research and  develop a scientific way to measure and improve well-being. As a result of her work, Santos developed a class where students can first establish a ‘baseline happiness score’ and then learn specific ways to improve through what she calls ‘rewirement’ exercises. Santos’ class is currently  the most popular class ever taught at Yale and the course is now open to anyone for free, on the Coursera learning platform.

While I personally don’t think I’m unhappier than anyone else, I’ve always been intrigued by the possibility that I could do specific tasks that would improve my overall happiness. So, I signed up.

The course is laid out just like a regular class, with lectures, readings, homework, and quizzes. And while there are no ‘due dates,’ it’s expected that the class be completed within the 10-week period. You’re also expected to keep track of your ‘rewirement’ exercises with an app specifically designed for the class. At the end you receive a grade and see how much you’ve improved your baseline happiness score.

As I work through the class, I’ll give updates on my progress and maybe at the end reach self-actualization. 🙂 Santos doesn’t promise that, but she does say that, by the end of the class, students report a marked rise in their sense of happiness. So, can a person systematically improve their happiness? Maybe.

Week 1:

Coursera app                                                               ReWi app

Week one is fairly lightweight. There are several lectures to watch where Santos lays out  some background info. The reading mostly explains what’s expected and gives an overview of how the course was conceived. You also download the ReWI and Coursera apps and take one of two happiness assessments to determine your baseline happiness score. I’m sorry to report that I’m unhappier than I thought. I only received a 2.3 out of 5. Clearly I’ve got work to do. 🙁

After downloading the apps I started working on the ‘rewirement’ for the week. The ‘rewirement’ centers around tracking how often you perform eight happiness generating activities: meditation, gratitude, savoring, kindness, connections, exercise, sleep and goals. (Clearly, I now see why I’m at 2.3.) A short video explains each of these activities and you’re on your way to level 5 happiness. 😀

My current rewirement stats:

  • Meditation: 0
  • Gratitude: 0
  • Savoring: 0
  • Kindness: 1
  • Connections: 3
  • Exercise: 5
  • Sleep: 0
  • Goals: 5

Change in general happiness: Neutral

So, what do you think? Can you rewire yourself for happiness?

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