Jessie Cheung, Staff Photographer
On Sept. 18, 2018, the Good Life Center opened its doors to the Yale community as a place designed to teach practices of “the good life” and aid students in implementing these practices into their own lives.
The Center opened in Silliman College across from the student-run coffee shop, the Acorn. The Center is a product of Silliman Head of College Laurie Santos who drew inspiration from her class “Psychology and the Good Life,” which 1,200 undergraduate students enrolled in during the fall of 2017, making it Yale College’s most popular class ever.
“Students need more than just a class about how to live a good life,” Santos told the News in a September 2018 article. “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 Center’s launch went off without a hitch, drawing compliments from many students across the College. Yalies praised its ability to help students not stress about grades, its benefits to students studying and relaxation and how it exposes students to new means of mindfulness, such as meditation.
In addition to educating students about mindfulness, the Center also featured a series of workshops during its launch led by the Yale psychology clinic that focused on teaching students about goal setting, improving mental health, reducing anxiety and more.
“I feel like self-care is always the first thing to go for Yale students,” Cami Arboles ’20, a peer wellness champion who was trained to have conversations regarding wellness with other students, told the News in a September 2018 article. “Students here are very ambitious and dedicated and constantly putting other people’s needs before their own, often to their own detriment. This is a space that reinforces that you need to sometimes put your own health and wellness first in order to make the other parts of your life more abundant.”
For the 2020-21 school year, the Center planned events with a focus on “Compassion and Action,” which led the Center to partner with the cultural centers at Yale to provide training in regarding issues surrounding race and inclusivity.
The Center also teamed up with many other groups to provide a range of different online programs for students. With the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, or SAAC, the Center hosted a series of workshops in the fall specifically designed to help student-athletes improve their mental health as a part of the YUMatter series.
“We definitely wanted to tailor all of the workshops’ subject matters to things that are relevant to student-athletes right now,” SAAC President Hannah Johns ’23 told the News for a September 2020 article. “We really wanted to target this moment in time and how difficult it is for student-athletes and put out something as quickly as possible to help as many people as possible.”
In addition to its normal programming of meditation, yoga and wellness talks, the Center integrated drawing and storytelling into art-inspired exercises for its “Being Present With Art” series.
At the beginning of the spring 2020 semester, the Yale College Council published a report on student utilization of and thoughts on the Center. Through a survey, the report found that 48.58 percent of respondents had made use of the Good Life Center, with most of them coming from colleges in close proximity to the Center. However, 88.79 percent of the students who visited the center noted that they visited to “simply hang out in the space compared to utilizing other services.”
“I think it’s fantastic that in barely over a year, we’ve had almost 50 percent of students surveyed report that they’ve visited and used the Good Life Center,” Santos told the News for a February 2020 article. “This is an incredible success for a new resource on campus and speaks to the fact that students want more resources related to mental health and well-being.”
The Yale College Council also announced in November 2018, an initiative to have a vending machine installed in the Center that would provide Plan B and other over the counter drugs, but after struggles with policy and “the set-up … needed for the vending machine (an Ethernet port and power port),” the machine found its home in Bass Library.”
With the opening of the Schwarzman Center in fall 2021, the Good Life Center will open a second location, with the one located within the new arts and community hub serving as the center’s main site.
“Like the Good Life Center in Silliman College, our Schwarzman space will serve as an inclusive, restorative, and energizing environment for community, belonging, and well-being,” Woodbridge Fellow for the Good Life Center Alexa Vaghenas ’20 wrote in an email to the News for an October 2020 article. “It will be a place where students can learn evidence-based tools for effectively coping with negative emotions, as well as evidence-based tools for thriving.”
The Good Life Center’s original location is found at 505 College St.