Welcome everybody to this class on psychology and the good life. We're going to be talking about all strategies that you all can use to feel better. I wanted to start with a little bit of an introduction to why I decided to teach this class for high school students today, starting with a little bit of a history of the class and to give you a sense of why I think it's so important. To get started, I wanted to do a little bit of audience participation. I want to ask the question, do you think students in your school are happy? You can just yell out answers. How many people think students are happy? Yes, no, maybe. Some. Yes, maybe a little bit. Yeah. A mixed bag. This was a question that I was really interested in as a professor at Yale. I was really curious about whether or not my students were happy. In my role as a head of college, I saw some students who were happy, obviously enjoying what they were doing, but I was also seeing a real mental health crisis among the students I was teaching. I was seeing students who were incredibly anxious and depressed, who just really stressed out about life, who were fast-forwarding their time at Yale. I'd ask, how are things going, they be like, oh, if I could only get through midterms, if I could only get to spring break. I felt like they had this precious time at college and they were moving through it really quickly. I did a little bit of a survey of the students in my residential college about you. Do you think students at Yale are happy? I got the same answer that I got from you. It was like, yeah, but there's a little bit of pressure that we really need to acknowledge. Just so you can get a sense of what this was like, here's one of the answers I got that was very eloquent as a literary answer. The student's notes that there's this Yale pressure cooker that they even put a trademark on. There's this Yale pressure cooker of expectations, failures, deprecation, anxiety. This pressure cooker wrecks havoc on the mental lives of every single one of us so that at the end of the year, we leave mentally battered and exhausted semester after semester. I'm not sure if that's exactly the thing that you all are seeing in your schools, but when I hear from high school students and when I look at the statistics, I do see some of the seeds of this stressed out lifestyle in the students I talked to. Just so you can get a sense of how bad it can be for high-school students, I wanted to show you what the national statistics look like for teens in terms of teen mental health. I will warn you that these are some pretty awful statistics. These come from a recent Center for Disease Control survey about teen mental health. This is what teens right now are facing. If you serve teens nationally, what you find is around 37 percent of them report having some form of poor mental health. This means that they self-report having anxiety, having depression. This is pretty bad. This is more than a third of teens are facing a true mental health issue. Beyond that, a lot of teens are saying that they're not experiencing lots of positive emotions. A lot of teens say that they experience persistent sadness and hopelessness. They're persistently experiencing these emotions that aren't very good that we might want to think about how we can figure out. This manifests in some pretty nasty behaviors, like the fact that over 20 percent of teens right now report that at some point in the last year, they've seriously considered suicide, which is pretty awful. Even more awful is the fact that around nine percent of teens say that they actually have attempted suicide. This is almost 1 in 10. When I see these statistics, I realize these statistics are really bad. This is not what your high school life is supposed to be like. This is not okay. One of the reasons I wanted to teach the class is that I wanted to do something to address this. That was why I decided to teach the class. Reason number one was that I don't want high school students around the country to feel stressed and anxious and depressed and experience suicidality. I want everyone to feel happier. I want you all to flourish and enjoy high school and enjoy these young years of your life. That was reason number one for teaching the class. But reason number two is that I actually believe the class can help. I think that science can really give us some strategies that we can all use to feel better. Why do I know that? Well, science is just awesome. Science has helped us fix all kinds of things. We're having this session today in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, and we all hopefully have vaccinations and we are using science to feel better, but like science can help us out a lot. The science of psychology can really help us when we're dealing with mental health crises. The particular science that we're going to focus on in the lectures today is a science that's known as positive psychology. We're going to define it today as the branch of psychology that studies human flourishing and happiness. It's literally an entire branch of psychology that's devoted to this question of, what can we do to feel happier? Now you might ask the question like, how do you take a scientific approach to how you can feel happier? How does this approach even work? What the researchers do is they go out and they find happy people. They're out there in the world, here in New Haven, Yale where we're talking about this. There're happy people all over the world. What these researchers do is they say, these folks are happy, but what are they doing? How are they behaving? What jobs do they have? How do they regulate their emotions? What are they doing? Then you can take what they do and then ask, well, what if you get people who are not so happy to try out those behaviors? To try out those thought patterns. Do they actually get happier? The answer often is, yes. If you use the right behaviors and thought patterns, you will get happier. But what's amazing is we have three decades worth of work in the field of positive psychology that's done this. We actually have some real answers about how we can study these things well over time. The upshot is that we can learn about what happy people are doing. We can copy what happy people are doing. Hopefully if we do that, we ourselves can feel happier. This was the approach that I took when I became really worried about mental health on campus at Yale. I said, how can I get my Yale students to understand what the happy people are doing and then copy it. I decided to teach a whole class on this. I gave a credit bearing Yale class that I christened psychology and the good life. It was all filled with all these strategies that students could use to feel happier. When I first taught the class, it was a new class on campus, which is a new psychology class. I thought a third year or so students would show up because it was a new class. I was surprised to find that a few more than 30 students showed up. When I taught the class, the classroom looked like this. There was actually over 1,000 students who took the class. It became the largest class every year. A quarter of the entire student body showed up. That taught me a few things. That taught me students vote with their feel. College students don't like this crisis of feeling stressed and anxious. They really wanted to do something about it. But more it taught me that these kinds of strategies and learning about these tips that we can use to feel better, it's actually a process that works. I got anecdote after anecdote about students who were reporting sleeping better, feeling less stressed, making decisions that they thought were improving their thought patterns and so on. It was so successful that we actually decided to give it out to the world of adults and college students for free. We put together a class on coursera.org called The Science of Well-Being that we plop there, and said anybody in the world who wants can take this for free. A bunch of people showed up. We now have over four million learners, which is incredible. But having this bigger sample size allowed us to do what we really wanted to do, which is not just to give this stuff away, but to test whether or not this kind of approach and learning about these strategies and putting them into practice, whether it really works. What we found out was luckily it does actually work. How did we know this? Well, we teamed up with the scientist David Yaden, who studies the effectiveness of different well-being practices and tried to see whether or not the students who took that online class felt happier afterwards. We brought the students who were taking that online class on the science of well-being, my class, and we compared it to how they did before and after the class in terms of their well-being to students who are taking another Coursera class. It was just like an intro to psych class. There's another psychology class and other Yale class online, but it wasn't teaching all these tips about how to be happier. What I'm going to show you, we're going to nerd out as we do this class. You're going to see some graphs, and I'll walk you through them. But like we're really nerdy so you can see the data. But what I'm going to show you now is student's well-being who took the class across these two different classes. The white bars are going to be the students in the science of well-being class. Here's what happened from before the class to afterwards. What's cool is that all students who took either class got happier. That just means you take a good class in psychology, you're probably going to get happier from before to after, which is great. But the cool thing is that we saw an extra added benefit for the students who took the science of well-being class. If you look at this in terms of students well-being scores, what we found was that students increase their well-being from before to after the class from about a one point on a 10-point happiness scale. That means if you're feeling like a 6.5 out of 10 on a happiness scale, you go up to about a 7.5, which isn't an enormous jump but it's a significant and important one, especially if we could get people around the world to do it. The cool thing is that this really works. Science really can help us find the answer. That gets to reason Number 3 that I wanted to do this in class is that science can help us find the answer. The reason Number 3 is that I want the answer too. I also need this stuff. This is where I come up with an admission where it's like it'd be nice if I was this happy, enormously joyful person in the midst of a lot of people who are going through some mental health stuff, but sadly, not really true. This is where I have a little bit of an expose because I think often my students will say, wait a minute, how are you even teaching this stuff if you're not happy yourself? I thought you were supposed to be some sort of happiness guru. You're up here pretending you know this stuff like what's going on. What's going on is one of the first kinds of biases I want to tell you about in this class. It's a bias that's known as the GI Joe fallacy. The GI Joe fallacy is this mistaken idea that knowing something is half the battle. Have anybody heard of GI Joe, the cartoon? Anybody? Some nods. You all are from a younger generation, so I'm going to walk you through what GI Joe is in case you missed it. The GI Joe was a television show back when I was a kid. It was a show about army people who did army things. I don't think anybody really remembers the show, but it became famous because at the end of every cartoon episode, they had this little public service announcement where they taught kids things like don't talk to strangers and look both ways when you cross the street. It had this famous phrase at the end that everybody remembers. I'll show you a quick video of it for those who haven't seen it. Remember it's better to tell the truth. That's no lie. Now we know. Knowing is half the battle. GI Joe. Kids love to play. This was such a thing in the '80s. People were like GI Joe. But there was this phrase, knowing is half the battle. If you know what to do, you should be done. I think this is what we all think. We think if we learn something in school, if we know the kinds of things we should be doing to protect our mental health, then we are good. We're done. It turns out that's a fallacy. Knowing is not enough. Knowing helps you. It gets you pretty far. But it's not the whole way. You actually have to put this stuff into practice. Just to give another analogy, imagine, instead of being worried about students' happiness at Yale and high-school students happiness. I was really worried about high-school students fitness. I wanted to teach a whole class on the science of exercise. So instead of telling you all about happiness, I would talk to you about how many reps to do at the gym and how to do the best bicep curls. I'm way less qualified to teach this class, but it's okay, but imagine I'm teaching it. Imagine I taught you all this whole class and you knew everything about how muscles worked and so on but you never went to the gym or you never went for a run. Nothing would change in terms of your actual fitness level. The same thing for better or for worse is true of happiness. You can quote all the studies I'm going to tell you over the next couple of lectures but unless you find ways to put this stuff into practice in your own life, nothing's really going to change.That's one of the reasons that we really want you to learn to practice this stuff. It's one of the reasons that part of what we're going to tell you about in this class is what I'm going to refer to as psych pro tips. These are specific practical ways that you can all put this stuff into action. I hope you take this really seriously because really the class doesn't start as you're listening to these lectures now for you all in this room or those of you who are listening online, it really is going to start when you put this stuff into practice after you leave this room or after you close the video. That's what's going to be most important for your happiness.