BC1088: The Science of Living Well | Columbia University

Table of Contents

Course Description

What does it mean to live a life well lived? Can science inform how you can live your own best life? The main mission of this course is to provide an up-to-date understanding of theoretical, empirical, and applied advances in the science of well-being and self-actualization. Consideration will be given to conflicting viewpoints and their respective empirical support, including the benefits of embracing both comfortable and uncomfortable emotions, the measurement and development of different models of well-being, and the latest science of attempts to increase well-being. The course is grounded in the core principles of humanistic psychology, and will cover essential human needs, including health, security, growth, mindfulness, self-esteem, connection, love, creativity, resiliency, purpose, flow, gratitude, awe, and other forms of transcendence. We will also cover the implications of the latest science for cultivating healthy institutions— spanning education, work environments, healthy families, humane leadership, and the development of civic virtues— that are growth-fostering and bring out the best in everyone. Throughout the course we will engage in experiential learning and practical exercises to further help you nurture what’s best within you— and become a whole person— which will inform our theoretical and empirical understanding of the latest scientific findings. My hope is that in addition to enhancing your appreciation of how the scientific method can inform the good life, the activities and information in this course will also help you in your own personal journey to realize your greatest strengths and become more fully human— accepting and becoming flexible with the totality of who you are, so that you can become the person you most want to become.

Learning Objectives

The mission of this course is to provide an up-to-date understanding of theoretical and empirical advances in the science of well-being and self-actualization. More generally, my hope is that this course enhances your appreciation of how the scientific method can improve human flourishing, and advance our understanding of the human condition.

By the end of this course, you should be able to:

  • Understand and articulate key concepts, findings, and controversies in the emerging science of well-being and self-actualization,
  • Understand the research methods (including measures, interventions, and research paradigms) used to assess well-being and self-actualization,
  • Evaluate evidence for the validity, both internal and external, of empirical claims in contemporary scientific research on well-being and self-actualization,
  • Articulate from first-hand experience with activities a perspective on how the science of well-being and self-actualization is (or is not) relevant to your life, and can help you realize your greatest strengths.

Course Requirements

  1. Attendance (10%)
  2. Brief Reflection Papers (30%)
  3. Exams (50%)
  4. Meta-Reflection Paper (10%)