If there’s one thing you pick up on in college life, it’s that no two days are exactly the same. Each day brings a host of challenges to navigate, whether they be social, academic, mental or physical.
Most of us live for the weekends and long for the excitement of having new experiences and meeting new people. We love feeling truly independent.
Then, Sunday rolls around and we’re faced with an overwhelming workload, a messy room, a dire need to do a load of laundry and a mental fog.
Over time, we become accustomed to these constant changes. We expect our Saturdays to be epic and our Sundays to be dreadful. As my friends and I like to say: by the end of the week, we crave a return to homeostasis.
Through my own introspection, coupled with an academic focus on the psychology of everyday life, I have learned there are some things we can do to balance our highs and lows.
I am a firm believer that the happiest people in life are the ones who strategically curate their own reality through their expectations and temperament.
There is a way we can look at our day-to-day lives and find beauty in the mundane. We can create a blanket of contentment.
Perhaps nothing exquisite happened that day, but nothing negative happened either. Even in those lulls, we can still feel fulfilled.
Society teaches us to seek pleasure constantly and to do anything possible to get a dopamine boost. While some methods are healthier than others, we are biologically driven towards those behaviors.
I’ve always been interested in what truly makes us happy, but the messages society sends us are so mixed. All constructs are shattered when we hear that people can be rich, talented, publicly praised and physically beautiful, all while still being miserable.
So what does it take? In exploring this, I came across the Annual World Happiness Report, and as I looked at its findings, I realized that there truly isn’t much to it.
This report includes data based on how people around the world evaluate their own lives. The rankings are based on facets like gross domestic product per capita, social support, life expectancy, freedom to make life choices, generosity and perception of corruption.
The countries that were the happiest came out on top for reasons I didn’t quite expect.
In my opinion, it seems like social comparison is our downfall.
When we compare ourselves with those around us and see that others are better off than we are, it triggers feelings of deprivation, frustration, and jealousy — all emotions that dissolve feelings of happiness.
Avoiding social comparison in its entirety is impossible, especially in a time of incessant online interaction and connection. I think we all struggle to navigate this, and sometimes it’s just a matter of returning to the here and now. As TikTok has told us, we need to romanticize our own lives.
So enjoy your walk to class, enjoy your coffee run and enjoy that long drive. Be mindful of what you’re doing and how you’re feeling. We can truly take any dull aspect of our lives and create a positive association.
When we look back on our college years, we will miss the times we just sat on the couch watching a movie with our friends. We will wish we could relive simple moments in our dorms. We will miss the autumn walks through campus and our go-to Johnny’s order.
If we can look back on our lives with rosy retrospection, there’s no reason why life can’t be rosy in real time.
You don’t always need a reason to wake up and be in a good mood. When it happens, run with it. And even when you’re not feeling it, just the act of smiling can cause the emotional effect it symbolizes.
Life throws some tough stuff at us, especially in its transitional phases. Go easy on yourself and know that you have more control than you realize.