How to Stay Happy and Healthy in College

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Sometimes college makes me feel like I’m being shot out of a party popper, completely unorganized with 10 seconds before I hit the ground. The weight of my agenda hits me and all of a sudden I have to be in two places at once, I have 100 emails to reply to and I can’t remember the last time I did my laundry. I’ll admit that I’m no expert on health and happiness, but I use these tips to guide me through those times I feel like confetti, and maybe you can use them, too.

Get outdoors

Living in a tech-savvy generation, it’s important that we get away from the constant alerts in our everyday lives. I’m not saying you have to go on a soul-searching hiking trip, but try to break out of your campus bubble. Don’t let your college schedule drag you into such a set routine that you feel robotic. Find a state park near you, holla’ at your roommates, pack yourself a picnic and spend the day exploring.

Inspire yourself

Writing out your short and long-term goals can help add more direction and purpose to your life. That said, planners are very underrated. Make sure you have one to organize your academics and important dates. As for long-term goals, I like to write them on post-it notes and stick them by my desk as a constant reminder of what I’m working towards. And if you ever need a little external inspiration, watch the documentary Happy on Netflix.

Move yo body

The gym, the weight room, the stair stepper: these are intimidating, but working out doesn’t have to be. Whether it’s yoga or badminton, your niche is out there. It may be a miracle just to beat your snooze button, but try to exercise in the morning. You may find yourself too exhausted, busy or stressed by the afternoon. Take advantage of those affordable fitness classes offered by most universities. Even cheaper, all hail free YouTube fitness videos. I recommend virtually working out with fitness-entrepreneur Cassey Ho. And if you’re like me and dream about cake, sign up for a fun 5k like the Hot Chocolate Run. Chocolate?! See, working out doesn’t have to be so scary after all.

Always appreciate

If you’re reading this, you’re most likely a college student. Do you know how lucky we all are? To receive an education is a blessing in itself, but we also get to live with our friends in cities with thousands of other college-aged kids; we are incredibly fortunate. Try to incorporate gratitude into your mindset by focusing on all that you have and not what you lack. According to the Mayo Clinic, practicing gratitude can actually affect the way our neurons work and promote positive states of mind. Send letters to your loved ones letting them know you’re thankful for them. Write lists of the things you appreciate, and never forget to be grateful.

Embrace Weirdness

Have random dance parties with your roomies, watch an episode of Friends or rent a bouncy house. Do anything that will make you laugh. Laughing relieves stress, and we certainly all need a good laugh now that classes have started. Smile at random people, be goofy and cultivate happiness. Just laugh a lot, it’s that simple.

Think about what you eat

You don’t have to contemplate your nutrition, but be mindful about it. I’m definitely not a health-devotee. It’s not unusual for me to eat Pizza Hut for dinner and start the next day making chocolate chip pancakes. Regardless, I usually try to follow some health rules. Try to reach your daily five: five total servings of fruits and veggies everyday. Save soda and sugary coffee drinks for special occasions. Eat breakfast, eat whole foods and don’t grocery shop when you’re hungry.

BEWARE: Illness

The last thing you want at college is to get sick. Unlike high school, your professors really don’t care if you have the flu. Sometimes it’s best to take a night off to recoup rather than going out. Your Nalgene should be like your trustee sidekick, ensuring you always drink lots of water. A few days a week, swap out your morning coffee for green tea. Its nutrients and antioxidants can even reduce your risk of cancer. Also, do the little things to take precaution against germs. Obviously, wash your hands, and even wash the handles (door, drawer, microwave handles, etc.) in your apartment or dorm room to prevent germs from spreading.

Be a money-master

Don’t let money stress you out. Even though it might make you feel like a real adult (yikes), it’s time to plan out your budget. Thank goodness there are all sorts of apps to help you out. Mint tracks your money, Hooked lists all the current deals at restaurants in your area and Cartwheel is Target’s grand coupon app. Coupons aren’t just for grannies anymore; use them, and thank these apps for saving you money.

Take time to reflect

Break that people-pleasing habit, and recognize that you can’t say “yes” to every request. Instead, allow yourself time to get in touch with your thoughts daily. Andy Puddicombe describes the importance of experiencing the present moment in his Ted Talk entitled “All it takes is 10 mindful minutes.” I dare you to sit and do nothing but enjoy the moment for 10 minutes today. You can thank yourself after.

Jackie is a junior studying journalism and international studies at UW-Madison. She loves all things outdoors, naps, donuts and cheeseburgers.

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