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University teaches students how to be happy

The course was developed in response to growing concerns around the mental health of students

The course was developed in response to growing concerns around the mental health of students

The University of Bristol is offering a ‘science of happiness’ course designed to teach students a set of science-based strategies for living a happier and more fulfilling life.

Following a successful pilot in 2018, the course draws on the latest research in psychology and neuroscience to teach what happiness is and how to achieve it, including tangible practices to apply every day. The 12-week course has been offered since October 2019 to all new students, and so far about 400 have enrolled.

The course was developed amid growing concerns for the mental health and wellbeing of students. According to the Institute for Public Policy Research, 94 per cent of UK universities have seen a sharp increase in students trying to access support services since 2013. It is believed that 13 students studying at the University of Bristol have died by suspected suicide since 2016.

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Bruce Hood, professor of developmental psychology in society, has designed and is teaching the course. He said he hopes to raise awareness and reduce stigma of mental health problems, “as well as empower students with knowledge and activities to raise or sustain their own levels of mental wellbeing”. He added that the feedback so far has been “extremely positive”.

“There is plenty of evidence that the activities we recommend improve mental wellbeing. The really interesting and important question is whether these benefits are sustained in the long term.”

The course follows Yale University’s successful ‘science of happiness and good life’ course. Other universities have expressed interest in replicating the University of Bristol’s programme and a pilot also started in the city’s schools in the autumn.

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