Darius Jiang

Silliman will soon be home to the Good Life Center, a new wellness space dedicated to teaching and practicing living the good life.

The center, which is slated to open on Sept. 17, will be located on the fourth floor of Byers Hall, above the Silliman dining hall. Aimed at undergraduates but open to graduate and professional students as well, the center will offer programming and events to promote mental health education and student well-being. The development of the center has been spearheaded by Laurie Santos — the head of Silliman and professor who taught “Psychology and the Good Life,” a course about living happily in which a fifth of the undergraduate population enrolled, last semester.

“Students need more than just a class about how to live a good life,” Santos said. “I wanted to create a place where students could take a break and shut down and think about things that are important to them, where they could have difficult conversations about student wellness and mental health.”

The Good Life Center will be a space where students can relax and unwind, Santos explained. It will offer both classes and activities. A weekly series led by the psychology clinic at Yale will introduce students to different methods to improve their mental health, including cognitive behavioral therapy and resilience training. Another class will teach mindfulness techniques.

The center sprawls across the top floor of Silliman’s Byers Hall, directly across from the Acorn, a student-run coffee shop.

One room, lined with wood paneling, will serve as the main programming space, designed for mindfulness and yoga sessions. A gratitude tree — composed of letters of gratitude written by students — will stand in one corner of the room. In another room, a now-empty pit will serve as a sandbox. Marks on the wall indicate where a fountain will be installed.

“We took inspiration from a Zen garden,” Santos explained. “Students will have to check in their phones at the door before entering a quiet space where they can take time to reflect.”

Though Santos helped launch the center, Tracy George SPH ’15, the new director of the Yale Well initiative, is charged with directing it. George has been involved in wellness on campus for over five years — first during her time at the School of Public Health and later at Yale Health, where she helped provide programming in stress management, nutrition and sexual health.

“Many of our peer institutions have wellness centers,” George said. “It’s exciting to finally have a dedicated wellness space on campus.”

Student groups will play a vital role in setting up and running the center, George explained. Students will sit on an advisory board that will work on creating guidelines for the center. And student groups will have the opportunity to partner with the center to offer programming.

Sunnie Liu ’21, co-president of Mental Health Educators, said she is optimistic about the creation of the new center and the opportunity to work there.

“We are planning to partner with the Good Life Center to host workshops that de-stigmatize discussion about mental health,” Liu told the News. “By providing a safe space for more open conversations about mental health, the new Good Life Center will hopefully help create a more positive campus mental health climate.”

Of 17 students interviewed by the News, 13 said that they would consider stopping by the center, and 10 said they would consider attending a class. All 17 said they thought the Yale community would benefit from the addition of a wellness center on campus.

But the center is not meant to replace mental health counseling or therapy, Santos emphasized. Instead, the programming is designed to give students additional skills and resources to help cope with mental health issues they may face during their time at Yale.

The Good Life Center will “provide a refuge from the daily grind,” the mission statement reads.

“Psychology and the Good Life” was the most popular course in Yale history.

Lorenzo Arvanitis | lorenzo.arvanitis@yale.edu