Ben Hayward March 24th
2021

A study has found that students taking part in a pioneering ‘happiness’ course at  the University of Bristol are, well, happier!

Students who have been completed the ‘science of happiness’ have been found to be more upbeat than counterparts who have not taken it, reports the Guardian

The first of its kind to run in the UK, the three-month long course teaches participants about the psychology and neuroscience of happiness and requires them to carry out practical tasks such as performing an act of kindness, chatting to a stranger, taking time to savour an experience, exercising, sleeping well, even writing a thank you letter.

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Those on the course are also asked to think about the impact of social media on happiness, how loneliness can impact on immune systems and how optimism can increase life expectancy, with students also expected to maintain a weekly journal to help them reflect on their mental wellbeing.

Students who complete the course receive 20 academic credits which go towards passing their first year, however many of the 1,000 students who have participated so far say they feel happier.

Course leader, Professor Bruce Hood, said: “I knew the students would enjoy the lectures as the content is so fascinating, but I was truly astounded to discover the positive impact on their mental wellbeing.”

The course, which is based on a similar one run at Yale in the US, was launched in response to a worrying increase in student mental health problems across the UK and specifically at Bristol, which has sadly seen a number of students take their own lives in recent years. 

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Sarah Purdy, the University of Bristol’s pro vice-chancellor for student experience, said: “Offering students a course that was not examined or graded was a new approach for us. 

“It was a recognition that equipping students with the skills they need to stay mentally resilient is at least as important as giving them the knowledge they need for their future careers.”

An academic study has found that the first cohort, who sat the course in 2019, had significantly higher mental wellbeing than a control group while a second cohort, who were on the course during the early part of the pandemic, did not report feeling happier, but were judged to be ‘more resilient’ than a control group. 

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Participants on the third course, which had to be run online due to lockdown restrictions also reported that their sense of wellbeing had increased.

Lara Czernecki, a first year film and television student, said the course had helped her to feel more content and that she is continuing to use the meditation techniques she learned.

Lara said: “It’s made me feel more conscious of my happiness. I’ve thought a lot about success and happiness. Lots of people think they will be happy if they are successful. We can turn it around – if we are happy we are more likely to be successful.”

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