I was listening to a TED radio hour last week for my social motivation course that was all about the secret of happiness. And since I’m a college blogger, while listening I naturally thought about how to be happy in college.
The TED talks gave all sorts of different theories, and all of them made sense. Some of them included having fewer items, being present in the moment, cognitive reframing, and slowing down the speed at which we live.
It can be hard to know how to be happy in college. To have happy times, sure, that’s easy. But to actually be happy as a general disposition? That can be pretty tough when you feel bombarded by five different papers and three midterms and the volunteer work you’re doing so your CV looks better for grad school all while trying to keep in contact with friends from back home and figure out how to live on your own and eat healthy and do laundry and the list is endless.
Maybe it’s just me, but I really find school overwhelming at times. And that can manifest itself in stress, depression, anxiety, and general burnout.
But that’s not enough for me. I’m not content with being sad all of the time, or feeling overwhelmed by every deadline that comes my way. There comes a point where we need to decide that enough is enough and start to foster joy and happiness in our lives again.
So what’s the secret to happiness? In one word, gratefulness. The final ted talk I listened to was all about how practicing gratefulness in our daily lives allows us to see the value in what has been given to us. It gives us a grasp of the amazing gifts we are given in every moment–even the air we breathe, the days we have to live, are gifts. Gratefulness changes our frame of reference from a scarcity mindset that focuses on what we do not have to an abundance mindset where our eyes are open to what we truly have.
Here’s why I think gratefulness is the real key to how to be happy in college. Let’s look at all of the other theories that were given in the ted talks. Having fewer items requires seeing the value in the limited amount of things that we decide to keep. Being present in the moment and slowing down the speed of our lives means that we choose to engage in what is happening now instead of focusing on what we could be doing or might have if we chose to engage elsewhere, showing gratefulness for the here and now. Cognitive reframing is the most obvious one, since it requires literally changing the way you see things to focus on the positives rather than the negatives, forcing us to search for things to be grateful for. The one things these all have in common is that they foster a grateful attitude, albeit in different ways.
Gratefulness is a quintessential tool that we too often forget about when we focus on our mental health. As college students, it can seem so hard to be grateful when all we’re faced with is how much we still have left to do. But as I firmly believe that gratefulness is the key to how to be happy in college, I want to give you a few tips to help you foster gratitude to just see where it takes you.
1. Every morning, write down three things you are grateful for.
Whenever I have a really stressful week ahead of me, I make sure that every morning I take out a piece of paper and write down three things that are good. (I should probably do it on weeks that I’m not too stressed, too, but hey! Slow progress is still progress.)
I love the immediate response that this gives–I posted a challenge on instagram the other day to do just this and I loved the comments I got with all of these wonderful things people were grateful for!
(And if you look directly above, you can see a shameless instagram promo)
I challenge you to try this every weekday this week, and see what it does for your mood and your outlook on life! I swear this is one of the easiest, quickest way to foster gratitude I know.
2. Choose your friends carefully
Who we hang out with has a huge impact on our emotional health. Look at your friendships–are they uplifting and positive, or do you mainly all just rant about how horrible life is when you get together? There is definitely a time for ranting, but as with everything else, it needs to be kept in balance. Make sure that when you get together with others there is a healthy mix of sharing good and bad events so that you aren’t living in a scarcity mindset, which is the opposite of gratitude!
The Sunflower Project was started by Sara from Sara Laughed (an excellent blog that I cannot recommend enough) to help promote positivity, balance, and self-care in college. And those are definitely things that we all need help with. College life is hard, so Sara has decided to start the Sunflower Project to help spread happiness and healthy habits through blog posts, the Facebook group called the Sunflower Circle, and instagram challenges.
Instagram challenges. Sara is hosting a great one over these next two weeks, which provides an excellent opportunity to get involved with the group! How it works is for the next two-weeks (STARTING today, so you’re not late!) we’re taking pictures of something we are grateful for, using daily one-word prompts that are listed in this picture:
The facebook group. The Sunflower Circle is a group with themed discussion threads that help encourage self-reflection and positive mindsets among the members through great, uplifting discussions. Seriously, this has got to be the first facebook group I’ve been a part of that hasn’t become a place full of negativity or passive-aggressive comment fighting. It’s a rarity.
In all seriousness, the Sunflower Project and the Sunflower Circle in particular are such great tools to foster gratitude in your daily life. And since gratefulness is one of the secrets to how to be happy in college, I highly suggest you try it out!
I can’t wait to see you there!
What are some ways you foster gratitude in your daily life? What do you think the secret of happiness is? Let me know in the comments!
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