A free online course to help the public find happiness during the pandemic has attracted 15,500 people.

'The Science of Health and Happiness' is a 10-week course run by the Royal College of Surgeons University of Medicine and Health Sciences.

Organisers said the large interest in the course reflects a need for people to find happiness after enduring over a year of negative impacts from the pandemic.

Professor Ciaran O’Boyle, Director of the RCSI Centre for Positive Psychology and Health, said the pandemic is "having such an impact on everybody. We are very interested in the idea that while adversity is difficult when we are going through it, adversity can also make us stronger.

"We are looking at what science has to tell us about increasing our happiness. The key idea here is to provide the scientific underpinning for thinking about our health and our happiness.

"There is a lot of misinformation out there, particularly on social media. We wanted to give people information that was authoritative and that they could rely on to improve their health and their well-being".

The course explores how the principles of positive psychology and lifestyle medicine can be used to improve health and optimise well-being.

It covers a range of topics including whole person health, strengths, mindfulness and meditation, and obstacles and paths to happiness. 

Dr Trudy Meehan, a clinical psychologist and lecturer on the course, said finding happiness is important.  

"There is a need out there. People are feeling a little bit lost," she said.

"Government, policy makers and society at large need to take account that there is a desire, need and an appetite out there if 14,000 people are willing to sit down pay attention and give their time. It means it is important to a lot of people," added Dr Meehan.  

Claire Whitty and Fiona Creedon, who are taking the course, said they have already found it helpful. 

"We are all going through a time at the moment with stress and anxiety. It is just such a weird time. I have learned some tips already in the lectures so far," said Ms Whitty.  

"I think this course is a good alternative for your head. You start thinking about happiness again and learning about strategies for working towards that," said Ms Creedon.

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