By: Sydney Callahan ’15, University of Maryland Health Center, Peer Educator
College is a confusing and stressful time for many students, but don’t let exams, papers, and meetings distract you from realizing what is really important – YOUR HAPPINESS!
The definition of happiness is different for everyone, but some common themes are: satisfaction with life, joy, feeling good about yourself, and optimism.
No matter what your definition of happiness is, it is important to remember that overall health and wellbeing is often tied back to happiness.
Here are 8 tips for how to work toward that important goal of staying happy while at UMD:
1. Re-think your reactions.
When something bad happens, it’s sometimes easy to see this negative event as permanent, having multiple consequences that affect the rest of our lives, and as something that is completely our own fault.
To increase your happiness, try to see a negative event as a temporary challenge – something that can be overcome, and that was caused by something external to yourself.
It is hard to change your way of thinking immediately, but over time this strategy will help you to become happier and more optimistic.
2. Put away your phone.
The first thing most of us do is pull out our phones when we start walking to class or while we are waiting outside a classroom before class starts.
Try walking to class without listening to music, texting someone, or checking your email and just notice everything that is happening around you. Our campus is beautiful, but few people notice how wonderful it is! Extensive evidence has shown that practicing mindfulness will lead to increased happiness, but can also improve your immune response, reduce stress and increase your sleep quality.
3. Discover your strengths and put them to good use.
The VIA Inventory of Strengths Survey is one of many tests that can help you find out what your strengths are. Once you know your unique set of strengths, brainstorm new ideas for how to use these strengths in daily life.
For example, if one of your strengths is leadership, try taking on a leadership role in a student organization you are involved with or on an upcoming group project in one of your classes.
Making good use of your strengths will lead to more happiness and greater satisfaction with life.
4. Get moving.
Active people are not only happier and less depressed, but they get better sleep and are less stressed than inactive people! In a recent study it was found that exercise as a treatment for Major Depressive Disorder is comparable to the effects of antidepressants.
Maybe check out a group fitness class, head over to Eppley or Ritchie for a workout session with a friend, or just simply take a walk around campus to clear your mind.
5. Join Project Hello Stranger or go to one of their events.
This new student organization at UMD is committed to “building a happier campus, one smile at a time” through random acts of kindness. The organization just started last year and they have held multiple events already – including a balloon giveaway and free hugs on Hornbake Plaza.
These events will help increase your happiness because scientists have found that performing an act of kindness “produces the single most reliable momentary increase in well-being of any exercise.”
6. Register for PSYC289D Living the Good Life: The Psychology of Happiness!
Learn more about the secrets to living a happy life and get three credits for it. Past assignments in this class have included creating a personal happiness plan and organizing a happiness intervention project on campus.
7. Be grateful.
Gratitude can be expressed in everyday actions such as smiling at the cashier in the dining hall or thanking someone for holding the door open for you. You can also simple say “thanks” to your family and friends for supporting you.
Focusing on the positives of your life will increase your happiness and help you cope with adversity.
8. Reach out when you need to.
Positive relationships are an important part of overall happiness. So, if you are having a bad day or having a hard time making an important decision, reach out to your friends and family for help. If you want to talk to someone more privately, you can also stop by the Counseling Center or make an appointment with Mental Health Services at the University Health Center.
Share your ideas! What should be tip #9?