How-to-be-Happy Curriculum

Psyc 157: Psychology and the Good Life is reported to be the most popular course ever offered at Yale University. Within a week of registration being open, nearly one third of Yale undergraduates had signed up for the twice-weekly lectures. What is the course all about?

Basically about teaching college students how to be happy! In an age where “getting there as quickly as you can” and “excelling” are seen to be the key indicators to success, it is sad that young people who are just about entering one of the best phases of their lives—with so many journeys of exploration and discovery ahead of them, need to take a course that teaches them how to lead less stressful, more satisfying lives. Such is the irony of the times we live in.

I think back to my undergraduate days as the most enriching, exciting, and yes, some of happiest years of my life. Ok, so I did not go into the ‘pressure cooker’ of an IIT or a medical college (I was “one of those Arts types”) but I did get into an Indian equivalent of an ‘Ivy League’ college. For someone who had never enjoyed her school years as much as many seemed to have done, stepping into college, was from day one, a joyous journey that lasted three years. It was indeed a time of the opening up of the mind, not just in terms of the curricular, but more so in the extra-curricular. It was the Film Club that opened windows to different ways of seeing; the Hiking Club that opened up unforgettable vistas of nature; it was the invaluable exposure to music and dance and theatre, all of which we always had time for.

Even more precious it was the making of friends that have remained so for almost fifty years! This was the gang for hanging out with in the canteen, with laughs and giggles, and the pouring out of woes. It was the bunking of classes to go see the morning show, or catching a bus to go all the way to centre of town just have a lassi between classes, and the book fairs at which entire wholly satisfying, and oh-so-happy days were to be spent.

College was indeed the cradle for what was later to be described as the “all round development” of the personality, for which today there are Life Coaches and Grooming Gurus (not forgetting the ultimate go-to-Guru Google!).

Sadly college life today sounds different—unhealthy competition; the pressure of justifying the sky-high fees that parents are shelling out; the continuous looking at how to ‘plan’ one’s future career; and the dangerous encroachment of politics into campuses….and news that young people are ‘burning out’ at an age when they should be blossoming into vibrant human beings…What a tragedy indeed!

To top it all we need a Yale Professor to remind us that feelings of happiness are fostered through socialization, exercise, meditation and plenty of sleep! How sad is that?

PS: I am proud to be an LSRite!   (And yes, intercollege rivalry was healthy and produced excellence rather than antagonism).