Returning from abroad can be emotionally and physically challenging. I went from going to class one day a week and traveling six days out of the week to being back on a 15 hour per day work schedule. Many of my friends warned me of post-abroad depression.
Fortunately, I haven’t fallen into too far of a slump. Of course, I miss the sporadic trips, new friends and delicious British accent, but that fairytale had to end eventually. I decided to take preventative measures to make sure I stayed excited about my life everyday. I started with the most basic aspects of myself: my diet, exercise routine and social life.
Surprisingly, I lacked these three things the most during my first two years of college. I made excuses for working out, let everyday become cheat day, opted to stay in most weekends to study and took on more internships than I could handle.
So what changed and how did I do it?
I began tagging along with friends to the gym. Doing 30 minutes of cardio and endless sets of abs can be tremendously easier when your friends are next to you making you laugh and—most importantly—correcting your form. I realized how much my friends that cared about their overall well-being motivated me to live healthier.
Instead of retreating back to my room after the gym and eating the first thing I see, we go to the dining hall together and fill our plates with protein and vegetables. We all wish we could eat a bowl of Nutella, pizza and fries. But instead of actually eating it, we fight the urge together. I never appreciated the concept of a support group until this semester.
Apart from working out and eating healthier, I began saying yes to more opportunities. Instead of studying by myself, I planned to study with friends in the library or take part in watching The Bachelor on Mondays. I started taking 10 minutes out of my day to have a conversation with someone in the coffee shop. Those conversations are the moments I know I’ll want back in just one quick year after graduation. In retrospect, those conversations have helped me maintain stronger relationships that boost my confidence and overall happiness. As a people person, I crave meaningful relationships that challenge me to think about my purpose.
A lot of my co-workers, classmates and close friends began asking me what motivated me to start this life change in the first place. Some assumed it was for a guy or for spring break plans. It got me thinking how much social pressure people are under to look good for someone else. In today’s world, there has to be a reason for you to want to live a healthy life. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that my well-being was the driving force behind all of these changes. That might sound pretentious and self-centered. But I’m okay with that.
Look at a Cosmopolitan magazine cover and I guarantee one of the featured headlines will be something about “getting a sexier body for him.” We’re all obsessed with doing things to make others jealous. I’m not denying that I don’t thrive off of social recognition like anyone else in the 21st century, but I can say that I’m trying my very best to focus my life changes on myself and my personal benefit. I’m not working toward a pant size or weight goal. Instead, I’m solely working to be healthy. The healthier you are, the better you perform at work.
With spring break approaching and summer only a few months away, I encourage you to make life changes for your benefit. Pay no mind to your friend’s weight, how many calories they eat per day or how many social activities they attend. You’ll end up spending your energy comparing rather than actually making a positive change in your life.
Putting mind over matter is quite possibly the most difficult challenge I’ve faced so far. I’ve continually found myself wanting to give up my commitments. I’ve found the biggest motivation to be my friends and my end result. Find little pieces of motivation along the way and don’t forget why you started in the first place. Channel that sudden burst of motivation you had the minute you decided to change something. Keep that energy going and use it to propel you to even loftier goals, like landing a killer summer internship, planning a trip or getting a job offer.
The next time someone asks you why you’ve decided to make life changes…the answer should be simple: “For me.”