Abu Dhabi: Students at Abu Dhabi University (ADU) are learning about the power of positivity after the institution became the first university in the country to offer a Happiness Course as part of its official curriculum.

The course — Introduction to Happiness and Positive Psychology — provides students with an in-depth understanding about the psychological nature of being happy and how they can develop positive relationship skills that will benefit them after they graduate.

“The main objective of this course is to provide an understanding of advances in positive psychology, well-being and happiness in order to enable students to understand how positive psychology strategies can enable individuals to reach their highest potential,” said Dr Deena Al Sori, chair, Department of Applied Sciences and Mathematics.

“The course is largely experiential and will include several classroom activities, interaction, group activities and practical homework. It will present practical ways of using strengths, positive emotion, engagement, relationships, meaning and accomplishment in promoting and maintaining well being and happiness, she added.

Al Sori highlighted the importance of offering such new courses, explaining the need for universities to provide students with real life skills that they can use everyday.

“Universities have an instrumental role in educating young minds and providing students with the knowledge, skills, and values that enable them to thrive, reach their potential and contribute to society.

“Traditionally schools and universities have focused on academic success, knowledge acquisition and preparing students for the world of work, rather than developing individuals as a whole. There is a lot of theory that is taught in classes and not enough on enhancing the soft skills of students to bring the best out of them. These skills that they learn stay with them forever, it’s not simply about working to reach a certain grade and to pass an exam that they will forget about when it’s over,” she added.

“This course takes a more rounded approach to acquiring knowledge by demonstrating the influence and impact of psychological well-being to successful learning and focusing on the skills that cultivate the love of learning such as accomplishment and positive social interactions,” she said.

Al Sori also spoke on the approval the university received from the Ministry of Education (MoE), which, she said proves the subject’s relevance for students.

“We were actually preparing to start the course in September, but the MoE approved our course in less than a week and so we started running the course in February. The ministry wouldn’t have approved the subject if they didn’t think it was important, they gave us the green light and didn’t ask for changes in the syllabus.”

Student comments

Khalid Omran Jaroor, 21, Emirati

“Since I enrolled into the subject I have learnt a lot of new things about the psychology of happiness, how it differs between people, and how to better communicate with others. It’s been a new experience for me. It’s not like other courses you normally study at university, the classes are very engaging with a lot of interaction with both the teacher and other students. I definitely believe that what I’m learning through the course is going to benefit me a lot in both a professional and personal capacity. These are real skills that are going to come in very handy in a work environment, and even for day-to-day issues with family and friends. The more you understand people the better you are able to communicate with them.”

Safa Abdullah, 24, Yemeni

“I was very interested in joining the course because I was excited to learn something new. I feel that I have improved on things like my personality and interacting with other people. The course has taught me to better understand people, to better understand what they need and to listen to them. I am a shy person as well, so being able to interact in the class has been good for me and my communication skills, which I feel will help me a lot once I complete the course and eventually graduate.”

Kamel Saleh, 23, Syrian

“Happiness is key to being successful in life, and so I was intrigued to enrol in a subject devoted to this topic. The course has taught me how to better control my emotions and stress, and also how to better motivate myself to achieve a positive state of mind. All of what I have learnt is going to help me once I graduate, so while the subject might be different than what we’re used to in an academic setting, it’s still providing real day-to-day skills that you’re going to need for your whole life.”

Ahmad Hisham Jallad, 28, Jordanian

“It’s been a very enjoyable course. I am learning to be true to myself and to share with others about how I feel instead of keeping all my emotions blocked out. It’s also been interesting to learn about the history behind positive psychology and the people who came up with this concept.”