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Course Report

Be Your Best You: 13 Free Online Courses To Kick Stress’s Ass!

MOOCs with a wide variety of approaches to improving mental health and wellbeing — there’s something here for everyone.

“Be Your Best You” is a new Class Central series that will help you flourish. This series does not focus on professional growth, but rather on personal growth; stay tuned for posts to help you thrive in matters like mental health, personal development, nutrition, and other similar topics.

What is mental health? According to the World Health Organization, mental health includes “subjective well-being, perceived self-efficacy, autonomy, competence, inter-generational dependence, and self-actualization of one’s intellectual and emotional potential, among others.”  

Umm … what?

Mental health is basically the level of someone’s wellbeing and happiness. In today’s day and age, people are having all sorts of mental health problems: anxiety, depression, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), substance abuse and addiction, eating disorders, personality disorders, and many more. What is the reason behind all this?

The root causes of mental illnesses are not known yet. Some say that there are biological causes like genetics, infections, and so on. You can’t control these factors, but there is one thing you can control: stress. Stress is playing a crucial role in the development of various mental illnesses, due to deadlines, work obligations, pressure from society, the need to win competitions, pressure to get good grades in exams, or having a dysfunctional family. And those are just some examples of agents that are causing stress.

You get only one life and one body, so it is necessary to take care of it. To combat stress, to have a better sense of wellbeing, and to achieve happiness and mindfulness, Class Central has made a list of some of the most popular stress-busting online courses, which are taught by some of the top universities in the world.

Bonus: all the courses are free! 

A Life of Happiness and Fulfillment

Indian School of Business, via Coursera.

A Life of Happiness and Fulfillment.

This course uses psychology, neuroscience, and behavioral decision theory to offer a tested and practical recipe for leading a life of happiness and fulfilment. This course is a Class Central top 50 MOOC of all time, and it was also the best online course in 2015.

Review of A Life of Happiness and Fulfillment from a learner:
“ … I learnt to define happiness (so simple but oh so not easy). I thought I knew, and was I surprised! … Move out of my comfort zone … I don’t face any major problems on a daily basis. Something which I’d taken for granted … 

Bookmark | ★★★★★ (234 ratings

Becoming a Resilient Person — The Science of Stress Management

University of Washington, via edX.

Becoming a Resilient Person — The Science of Stress Management.

This course gives you the permission to take care of yourself by learning the skills to manage stress and optimize wellbeing.

Bookmark | ★★★★☆ (8 ratings)

The Science of Happiness

University of California, Berkeley, via edX.

The Science of Happiness.

This MOOC explores the roots of a happy and meaningful life. It offers students practical strategies for tapping into and nurturing their own happiness, including trying several research-based activities that foster social and emotional wellbeing.

Review of The Science of Happiness from a learner:
“This course looks at positive qualities of human beings and the attributes that, if incorporated in one’s personality, would make them happier. Happiness comes from empathising with other’s needs, feeling and acknowledging gratitude, and being more socially open. A great course to take when you want to grow more in yourself and out in the world.”

Bookmark | ★★★★☆ (26 ratings)

Mindfulness for Wellbeing and Peak Performance

Monash University, via FutureLearn.

This one teaches the science behind mindfulness. It covers topics related to intentionally paying attention to each moment, and being fully engaged in whatever is happening around and within you. Incorporate mindfulness practices into your life to reduce stress, improve mental health, and enhance your personal and professional life.

Review of Mindfulness for Wellbeing and Peak Performance from a learner:
This was an amazing course. The theory to explain the science behind mindfulness was accessible and interesting, and the practical tasks consolidated the learning and showed students how to apply this to our lives. I feel so empowered by what I learned from this course. Wonderful to have two charismatic leading academics who are also practitioners lead the course. The feedback videos at the end of the week were very useful, addressing any questions learners had. Can’t say enough good things about this MOOC. It was extraordinary. Thank you to all involved.

Bookmark | ★★★★☆ (24 ratings)

De-Mystifying Mindfulness

Leiden University, via Coursera.

De-Mystifying Mindfullness
This innovative course combines conventional scholarly inquiry from multiple disciplines (ranging from psychology to philosophy and politics) with experiential learning (including specially designed “meditation labs,” in which you’ll get a chance to practice and analyze mindfulness on yourself). In the end, the course aims to provide a responsible, comprehensive, and inclusive education about (and in) mindfulness as a contemporary phenomenon.


Psychological First Aid

Johns Hopkins University, via Coursera.

Learn to provide psychological first aid to people in an emergency by employing the RAPID model: Reflective listening, Assessment of needs, Prioritization, Intervention, and Disposition.

Review of Psycological First Aid from a learner:
A nice and concise introduction to psychological first aid, a course which I took purely out of interest (having 0 background in the field) and I really enjoyed the experience. George Everly Jr takes a lot of care to explain all of the concepts very thoroughly, and his passion in helping others through psychological first aid really shows through.

Bookmark | ★★★★☆ (19 ratings)

Buddhism and Modern Psychology

Princeton University, via Coursera.


This course will examine how Buddhism is faring under modern scrutiny. Are neuroscientists starting to understand how meditation “works”? Would such an understanding validate meditation — or might physical explanations of meditation undermine the spiritual significance attributed to it?

Review of Buddhism and Modern Psychology from a learner:
“I really liked this course. Prof. Robert Wright is very likeable and somehow manages to discuss issues that are both complex and vague in a very clear way. The course looks into evolutionary psychology and Buddhist philosophy, and how this relates to daily life. Although this may sound rather heavy-handed, the course remains light-hearted, academic (you do not have to fear any kind of preaching), and very interesting.”

Bookmark | ★★★★☆ (14 ratings)

Positive Psychology

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, via Coursera.

Positive Psychology teaches practical applications of positive psychology that you can put to use immediately to help you live a full and meaningful life.

Review of Positive Psychology from a learner:
I found the course to offer a very realistic view of positive psychology. It was interesting to watch the videos each week and to get different perspectives. I just finished getting my Master’s in general psychology but have a passion for positive psychology. I liked the positivity ratio and how we can open our eyes and heart to see micro-moments of positivity. Positive psychology is not about being happy all the time, but learning to build resilience to grow stronger through life’s challenges. When you build resilience you can appreciate the small joys in life that surround you.

Bookmark | ★★★★☆ (17 ratings

Literature and Mental Health: Reading for Wellbeing

The University of Warwick, via FutureLearn.

Find out how poems, plays, and novels can help us understand and cope with deep emotional strain.

Bookmark | ★★★★★ (2 ratings

The Addicted Brain

Emory University, via Coursera.

This is a course about addiction to drugs, and other addiction-based behaviors. It describes what happens in the brain, and how this information helps us deal with and overcome addiction.

Review of The Addicted Brain from a learner:
I place a high value on this class for knowing how the brain works on a reward level and the complexities of the changes in the brain brought about by addicting substances. I postulate then that the neuroplastic brain through proper stimulation physically can improve as well, and this motivates me to upgrade the quality of my food and mental intake. I want to be brimming with the dopamine brought on by healthy choices. The professor is superior in every way. I want to thank him very much for his invaluable work in the development of the PET scan and his clear and compelling presentation of his knowledge in this tightly organized course. Best to you! Lynn Delaney.

Bookmark | ★★★★☆ (13 ratings

Tibetan Buddhist Meditation and the Modern World: Lesser Vehicle

University of Virginia, via Coursera.

Tibetan Buddhist Meditation and the Modern World explores the immense variety of meditation practices, both past and present. The course looks at these practices’ present forms, histories, philosophical underpinnings, and transformations in the modern global world. The lecturers give you a chance to reflect upon meditation practices through secular contemplations designed just for this course.

Review of Tibetan Buddhist Meditation and the Modern World: Lesser Vehicle from a learner:
The course takes a scientific look at Buddhist practices to analyse how mindfulness can help create a more accurate picture of reality and benefit us. I very much enjoyed the professor and his talks, be sure to watch the office hours for corrections and analysis from different perspectives.

Bookmark | ★★★☆☆ (21 ratings

Psychology and Mental Health: Beyond Nature and Nurture

University of Liverpool, via FutureLearn.

Learn how a psychological understanding of our emotions and behavior gives us new ways to improve mental health and wellbeing.

Bookmark | ★★★★☆ (6 ratings)

The Mind is Flat: the Shocking Shallowness of Human Psychology

The University of Warwick, via FutureLearn.

Make better personal and professional decisions, considering the psychological dimension to choices.

Bookmark | ★★☆☆☆ (5 ratings

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