Bristol University to offer ‘Science of Happiness’ unit to improve student wellbeing


By Maggie Sawant, SU Correspondent

Tasks include sleeping, meditating and practising random acts of kindness and will count towards a student's degree.

From September, students will be able to choose a 12-week ‘Science of Happiness’ open unit, worth 20 credit points, which will explore the nature of happiness, as well as how happiness can be achieved.

Students will attend weekly one-hour lectures, which will address a number of topics, which include an examination of whether happiness is genetic, how our minds distort happiness, and the role culture plays in determining our happiness.

In addition to studying the theory of happiness, students will put what they have learned into practice. As part of the course, they will be asked to practise one of seven ‘happiness exercises’ for one week.

The exercises include sleeping more, meditating, expressing gratitude for people and things, and practising random acts of kindness. Students will then assess the effectiveness of the exercises at weekly ‘Happiness Hub’ meetings with their peers.

Freya Berlin-Selman, a first-year Childhood Studies student, told Epigram that while the unit is 'not going to completely combat the mental health crisis' she believes that it is a 'positive step', describing the open unit as 'a really good idea'.

She added: 'Giving people a greater understanding of the psychology behind happiness and wellbeing can potentially prevent people from reaching crisis point in the first place.’

‘It’s not going to fix everyone, but there are few things in life more important than wellbeing and it’s such a difficult issue to tackle all in one go now. This is a big step forward and has the potential to help people.’

Last year, over 400 students took part in a pilot ‘Science of Happiness’ 10-week optional course, that asked students to measure their own happiness levels.

This was inspired by Yale University’s ‘Psychology and Good Life’ course, to which 25% of its students enrolled, making it Yale’s most popular course in its history.

Valentina Garcia, a first-year Law student who took part in the trial, told Epigram that the unit was  'very disorganised’, and that ‘you were supposed to have a mentor and group meetings but my group never met.’

Miss Garcia also expressed concerns over the benefit of the unit on student wellbeing, saying that it appeared to be aimed at those 'interested in psychology, rather than those interested in improving their happiness’.

She added that despite being ‘interesting and engaging’, the unit would have been ‘hard to follow’ if she hadn't have had ‘a basic knowledge of psychology’.

However, Professor Bruce Hood, the Unit Coordinator, has expressed his belief in the wide ranging appeal of the unit, stating: ‘We’re anticipating hundreds of students taking it, right across the spectrum, from not just psychology but every area of interest – engineering, chemistry, medicine and so on.’

The course is a response to concerns surrounding the mental health of students. Recent figures showed a 73 per cent rise in students stating that they had a condition such as depression or anxiety before starting their courses.

Featured image:  Unsplash / Luca Upper

Will you be taking the Happiness Course as an open unit? Let us know below.

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