Now that the majority of people are working from home and practicing social distancing to flatten the curve of the COVID-19 pandemic, there is a high risk that social isolation will begin to have a negative effect on our mental health.
"Going on calmly with our lives doesn’t seem particularly dramatic, or heroic, but it is the most effective way to combat this panic pandemic," says psychologist Mary McNaughton-Cassill, PhD. But for many, that's easier said and done. Being physically disconnected from other people heightens our risks of inflammation and exacerbates existing psychological issues such as anxiety and depression, making easy access to mental health and wellness resources more important than ever over the coming weeks.
An online version of a class taught at Yale University in 2018 has just been made available for free online, for anyone who might be struggling. Conceived by psych professor Laurie Santos and originally entitled 'Psychology and the Good Life', the class brought together elements of positive psychology and behavioral science to help students get to grips with what really makes people happy.
The class ended up becoming the most popular course taught in the university's history, with one in four students choosing to enroll. Its popularity boomed to the point that the Psychology department had to recruit research fellows from Yale's Law School and School of Public Health to help staff sessions.
There was such high demand for the class, in fact, that Santos designed an e-learning alternative on Coursera entitled 'The Science of Well-Being', which non-students can take for free. The aim of the course (consisting of video lectures, optional reading material, and daily "rewirement" exercises to help you build better habits) is to tackle misconceptions surrounding happiness, question our own high expectations, overcome biases, and deploy actionable strategies to be happier in our own day-to-day lives.
There's no required reading on the course, and there's no grade assigned at the end, so students can take as little or as much from the experience as they like. But with all this free time to fill while in quarantine, there could be worse ways to pass it than by thinking long and hard about what we really want out of life.
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