Fortunately, yes, because science is revealing the specific habits that increase feelings of well-being.

AS HEAD OF SILLIMAN College at Yale University, Laurie Santos interacts closely with students. Over the past few years, she's grown more concerned about their mental health. “I came to realize that college students were more depressed, anxious and overwhelmed than students realize,” says Santos, who is also a professor of psychology. “I was really worried about what I was seeing.” So she designed a new class, called the Science of Well-Being, that teaches students, in essence, how to be happier.

Launched in January, the class has quickly become one of the most popular courses at the college. It covers what psychological research says about the things that makes us happy and, more important, how to put specific strategies into practice. More and more, mental health providers are learning that happiness can, in fact, be taught and learned.

The Greater Good Science Center at the University of California—Berkeley offers an online course called the Science of Happiness. It is co-taught by Emiliana R. Simon-Thomas, the center’s science director. While this course has been offered for more than a decade, it was started for much the same reason as Yale’s course. “People’s lives are more stressful and difficult than we would expect, given the degree of comfort and privilege most of us enjoy in American middle class society,” Simon-Thomas says.