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5 Ways to Have a Happier and More Successful Semester



One of my favorite times of the year is right before fall semester begins. I’m excited about seeing my friends again, I get to drop some cash on swanky school and study supplies, and this year, I get to move into a cute new apartment. And if you’re anything like me, you have all these goals and ideas about what this semester will bring. It’s like New Year’s Resolutions for college girls!

Everyone knows the truth about New Year’s Resolutions, though – they rarely last. In fact, a University of Scranton study reveals only 8% of people will achieve their goals. That’s pretty sad, actually, if you consider the fact that these resolutions are designed to make us better, happier people.

Since I like to think of the new semester like a new year, I believe it’s important to enable yourself to have the best chance of success. The reason I don’t believe that resolutions work is because people slap a bunch of things on a list without actually thinking about how they will obtain results.

In this article, I wanted to cover easy and obtainable activities and ideas that will guide you in creating a happier, healthier semester. I’m actually getting some of these ideas from a cute little list in my journal. The list was written in honor of the fact that I’m turning 19 in just six days (eek!). I posted a picture above, so you guys can see a few other suggestions I have and get more inspiration.

Using my journal as inspiration, here are five ways to make this your happiest and most successful semester yet:

1. Journal, Paint, or Find Another Creative Outlet

Woman doing creative things
Photo Credit: ELLE

As the semester kicks off, you’ll probably find yourself committed to a bunch of school-related activities and organizations. While many of these are enjoyable, there are times when you’ll be burdened down by tasks for a class or job that you don’t find meaningful.

To combat this, I suggest finding some way to air out your stress without letting it affect your work. Some people manage stress better than others, and while I hope you’re one of these lucky people, I find that it’s easy to lose your spirit.

Last semester, I started my trusty journal and wrote down fun quotes, doodled silly pictures, and made collages from magazines. Other people are artsy and might DIY to keep themselves sane. Find something you love, then do it in your spare time so you have breathing room.

2. Plan Ahead

Photo Credit

I’m not saying you need to have your life completely mapped out, but you can really help manage stress by knowing your semester schedule beforehand and working around it.

For example, I had a day last semester where I was scheduled to take four exams. Four! People asked me how the day went afterwards and I calmly responded with “it wasn’t that bad!”. The reason it wasn’t terrible? I knew about this multi-exam situation months ahead of time. I tend to be a procrastinator and wait until the last moment to study, but having that information marked on my calendar let me prepare ahead of time.

Get a planner, sticky notes, or even use your phone to note significant events, like tests, work events, or project due dates. It’ll allow you to better manage your time and avoid buying concert tickets for the evening of your psychology midterm.

3. Get Moving

Woman running outside
Photo Credit: ELLE

I’m the worst about exercise – I hate gyms. Especially the gym at UT where I feel overwhelmed by equipment and people. However, last spring I decided to take up outdoor running on some trails near campus. While it was difficult to get up every morning to run (who doesn’t want to sleep in?) I found myself feeling energized and alert each morning.

I also started taking some yoga and dance classes at a local studio, and the idea of heading there after classes kept me exited throughout the day. Whether you run, swim, cheer, or even stretch – it’s all about movement. It’s good for your body and your mood!

4. Light Up the Room

Well lit room
Photo Credit: ELLE

No, literally, light up your room! Better lighting is the key to better progress, according to several lighting experts. While I know how tempting it is to shut your blinds and watch Netflix in bed, many of my friends forget to turn the lights back on. I actually have a few friends who say they prefer the dark ambiance that a room lit by a single lamp gives.

However, this can be counter-intuitive to your work. Dark rooms are more likely to make you sleepy and depressed, and can cause unnecessary headaches and strain. Rooms lit by natural light will provide more vitamin D  (which helps strengthen your immune system). So rather than work in the shadows, try to open your windows to allow for natural light when you study.

If natural light is too big a step for you, install a good desk lamp or simply turn on the main lights in your house. You’ll avoid the eyestrain and headaches accompanied by being in the dark.

5. Enjoy the Outdoors

Outdoor woman meditating
Photo Credit: ELLE

I would definitely say that I’m a city girl – I love tall buildings, hanging out in coffee shops, and dream of an apartment in NYC. That said, sometimes I feel the need to get out. As much as I hate bugs and suck at hiking, whenever I go to the local park or hang out on the capitol lawn I feel a sense of peace. I think it’s the fresh air and the escape from the mass of college students.

Staying indoors all the time will eventually drag down your mood, and will also make you forget about all the beauty in the world! So, find an activity you enjoy doing outdoors – it can be Frisbee, if that’s what you’re into – and grab some friends. Try to explore outdoorsy locations away from campus; you’ll appreciative the change of scenery.

What do you think?

Are you excited to try any of these ideas out? Do you have any other ways you plan to stay motivated throughout the semester? Let me know in the comments!

Posted on on August 2, 2014 / Filed Under: College Life / Tags: , , , , , ,

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8 Responses to “5 Ways to Have a Happier and More Successful Semester”

  1. 1
    August 3rd, 2014 at 2:04 am

    Love this post! I will definitely try to start a journal this semester :)

    I wanted to clarify though- higher levels of cortisol aren’t a good thing! Cortisol is a stress hormone, but we tend to have high levels of it almost all the time, and it’s actually pretty detrimental to our health. Regardless, good lighting is important for Vitamin D and various other health benefits. A “light box” meant to simulate sunlight is the main treatment for seasonal depression, for example.

  2. 2
    August 3rd, 2014 at 12:15 pm

    Hi Rachel, thanks so much for mentioning that! You’re absolutely right–cortisol is the hormone released in stressful situations to help you adapt to the “fight or flight” reflex. Not sure why I didn’t catch that mistake, but I updated the article to reflect the actual benefits of natural lighting! I’m glad you’re thinking about journaling, too, as it can be a fun way to release your thoughts :)

  3. 3
    August 7th, 2014 at 10:32 am

    These are some fantastic tips! Definitely need to do all this from next month.

  4. 4
    August 8th, 2014 at 12:57 pm

    Loved this post. I say this every year but I really want to focus on my mental health this semester. It’s so easy to make exercising and taking care of yourself the first things to go when you get stressed with school, but I’m actually so much more productive and happy as a whole when I prioritize maintaining my creative outlets and staying active and organized. Thanks for the reminder! :)

  5. 5
    August 9th, 2014 at 12:59 am

    When is your birthday? I think we might have the same one.

  6. 6
    August 13th, 2014 at 10:56 am

    I also find that doing work outside is really relaxing! In Chicago there’s a bunch of parks downtown and one really beautiful garden next to the Art Institute and although the buildings rise above your head it’s still calming! I find that it’s the perfect mix of nature and loudness/people around that I actually get work done!

  7. 7
    August 18th, 2014 at 8:58 am

    Great post! I used to keep a journal but stopped. Now you make me feel I should keep a journal again!
    I totally agree that planning ahead helps manage the stress. Beside letting me keep track of all the deadlines and tests, it also helps to keep me motivated to work hard. I slacked off quite a bit last semester and got quite stressed as I didn’t bother much with planning. These tips will definitely come in handy when my semester starts again!

  8. 8
    October 8th, 2014 at 5:13 am

    These are wonderful suggestions! What actually caught my attention was the featured image since it was so bright and looked like quite a fun DIY project to work on. :) Today was definitely a day I needed reminding that a world exists outside of my little academic bubble. My university being on the semester system is in full midterm season and I’m feeling a little overwhelmed and stressed about everything I have to do. Your post have motivated me to look at the positive side of things, so thank you!

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