Discover How the ‘Science of Happiness’ Course Significantly Increases People’s Happiness Levels

Posted by

When you run a university course that boosts student joy, all wanna know your secret. What’re your hints? Got a top ten list? These queries pop up like there’s some magic, instant route to bliss.

Related posts

The hitch is, no shock life-changers exist, ’cause the good stuff’s been yapped about before. Catching up with pals, staying mindful, penning thank-you notes, doing nice things, nature walks, sleep clean-up, cutting down on social feeds. These are a few of the 80-ish psych methods proven to up our happiness (more or less).

Yet if we’re clued in on what’s effective, why the endless ask for happiness hacks?

Stats show students and the youth today are less chipper, with surveys spotting the lowest cheer among the young in the UK and US, versus other age brackets.

That’s why in 2019, we kicked off our science of happiness course at Bristol Uni – to flip some glum trends. In it, we dish out positive psychology and give students chances to practice what they learn.

We hand out credits for getting stuck in – ’cause that’s key in learning and life – not just for passing tests. Wouldn’t it be weird to fret over performance stress and student perfectionism and then throw a graded test their way?

No tests for course credit? Sounds easy, right? But lots of students find showing up on time to most classes, keeping a weekly journal, and nailing a final group project tougher than they thought.

About 5% don’t make the course grade each year and gotta do a summer redo. Building solid, upbeat routines amid life’s other calls ain’t a breeze.

Still, the happiness science course is a hit. It seems to work, too. Every year, we see a 10-15% bump in student mental wellness by the end, over those just waiting.

But our latest study, eyeing students one to two years post-course, pre-grad, shows their happy scores mostly slipped back to start points.

We’re not bummed, though. The course covers hedonic adaptation: we adjust to highs and lows. With brains wired to sweat the small stuff, no shocker students’ wellbeing boost faded as everyday niggles crept back.

Yet not all students slid back. About half kept up with things they learned, like thankfulness or mindfulness, long post-course.

Those who dropped the practices slid back to their happy baseline, but the keepers? They kept their wellbeing highs for up to two years on.

Like body health, mind health ain’t a one-gym-visit wonder. We get that lasting fitness means no shortcuts, just sticking it out.

So with happiness. Stop working it, and the boost won’t stick. If we had to pick just one tip, it’d be: use psych tricks to build lasting, better habits. Think tiny, steady tweaks, not a full life flip.

One ponder: is the self-care biz off-track, selling the idea happiness is just about feeling good? Bruce Hood, in his new book, argues true, lasting joy ain’t so self-focused – it’s more about others.

Sure, self-care has its quick perks, but making others’ lives richer may fend off happiness fade longer.

In the end, no matter the method or activity for better wellbeing, let’s not forget: happiness is always under construction.

Sarah Jelbert, Psychology Lecturer, University of Bristol and Bruce Hood, Professor of Developmental Psychology in Society, University of Bristol

Share this:
Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments