Looking for actionable steps to be happy while in college? Wondering how to be happy in college?
Whether you’re setting off to college in the fall or already a student looking to feel a bit better, here’s your guide on how to be happy in college.
The transition from high school and living at home can be challenging. Leaving all you’ve known and suddenly finding yourself on your own is not easy.
Some people will get to college and immediately feel happy and at ease, while others may need to work a bit hard to feel content and find happiness.
Don’t worry too much if you get to college and don’t immediately feel euphoric; it can take a while to build a community and a life that you love.
This post will cover a series of actionable steps that you can take today to feel happy while at college, regardless of how long you’ve been on campus.
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How to be Happy in College
In many ways, learning how to be happy in college is similar to learning how to be happy in other phases of your life. Most people thrive and are happiest when they have a sense of purpose, community, and fulfillment. Some students find these things immediately when they arrive at school, and others have to actively seek them out.
#1. Make Friends
People are happiest when they feel connected to a sense of community. If you don’t yet have friends in college, set out to find people who inspire you and make you feel a sense of warmth.
Even if your friendships “just happened” when you were in high school, you may find that it takes more effort to build relationships as an adult.
Don’t be afraid to invite people out for a coffee, to join a new club, or to put yourself out there in college. It might not work every time, but if you keep at it you’re likely to see results.
#2. Don’t Try to Fit in with the Wrong People
On the other hand, if you have friends in college but being with them makes you feel more alone, it might be worth branching out.
Start making plans with people from your classes or clubs that make you feel good about yourself. It’s OK to slowly and compassionately back away from friendships that aren’t serving you. You have to surround yourself with people who are positive!
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#3. Join Clubs that Interest You
Joining a club is a great way to learn new skills, make new friends, and build up your resume. College is the perfect time to learn to juggle, start rock climbing, or hone your debate skills.
You can always start your own club if you don’t like the options at your school! As a bonus, most schools have some funding set aside to help clubs run smoothly.
You never know what skills you learn how will help you to get a job after graduation.
#4. Study Abroad
For many people, college is your first chance to try living abroad and experiencing a new culture. If you choose to live with a host family, you’ll get even more insight into the culture and language of the country. As a bonus, you’ll have a chance to practice your language skills and build up your resume.
From a social perspective, studying abroad is a great way to get off campus and try out a new context for a semester. You’ll have a chance to make a new group of friends, which can be very helpful if your social circle at college is leaving you a little unfulfilled.
#5. Choose the Right Major for You
There is a lot of advice out there about choosing a major. Whatever major you choose, make sure that it’s a subject that at least interests you. Figuring out how to be happy in college is much easier when you’re not fighting an uphill battle against your chosen major.
You’ll be sitting in hours of lectures, writing dozens of papers, and reading hundreds of pages from textbooks about the subject(s) you choose. College will be much more challenging if you’re not genuinely interested in what you’re learning, so don’t compromise too much on your area of study.
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#6. Learn to Meditate
Meditation helps you to become aware of your thoughts, which can be useful when trying to shift your perspective. Specifically, try some “loving-kindness” meditations, which will help you to let go of anger and some feelings of resentment.
Cultivating a meditation practice can help you to tame your thought patterns and quiet your mind. Plus, if you’re struggling to sleep properly, it can help.
#7. Keep a Gratitude Journal
How to be happy in college? A positive mindset!
If you’re going through a rough time, keeping a gratitude journal can help you gradually shift your perspective. There’s no single way to keep a gratitude journal, but you can start by simply listing three things you feel grateful for each day.
Some things you might feel grateful for could include the sunshine, a morning cup of coffee, or a good dream.
You might not notice a change right away. Over time, a gratitude journal can help you to shift your thoughts to be more positive.
#8. Get Plenty of Exercises
Movement is a great way to start feeling better if you’re in a rut. Go for a walk, pick up a new sport, or join a gym class if you don’t already have an exercise routine. The type of exercise that you do is much less important than the regularity with which you do it.
#9. Eat Healthy Food and Drink Enough Water
Eating healthy, nutritious food and drinking enough water are essentials for wellness no matter the stage of life you’re in. Mental health and physical health are closely connected, so you can boost your mood and your performance by eating plenty of fruits, veggies, and whole grains.
If you’re having a hard time affording healthy foods, check to see if you might qualify for food stamps. Many students in the US suffer without enough food to eat, so see if there might be resources in your area or at your school that can help.
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#10. Spend Time in Nature
Looking for a free, easy, and actionable answer to the question, “How to be happy in college?” Spend some time in nature. You can find happiness in nature, step outside.
Try to incorporate some time in nature into your schedule as a college student because it can ease stress and anxiety. It can be as simple as going for a walk in the park or sitting under a tree, but even a few minutes outside can do wonders for your mood and stress levels.
Avoid wearing headphones or looking at your phone for maximum effect. Research shows that time in nature is good for you and your mental health! Maybe it’s time to become more outdoorsy!
#11. Try Something Courageous
Sometimes the feeling that is holding you back from feeling happy is fear. Combat it head-on by trying something courageous this week. Whether it’s asking someone out on a date or booking your first trip abroad, you’ll know best what feels authentic and courageous to you.
If you’re still not sure what to try, read the book Rejection Proof by Jia Jiang. He set out to conquer his fear of rejection by trying to get strangers to reject him for 100 days. You can search within yourself to find and face your own fears.
#12. Do Something that Makes You Laugh
Laughter is a powerful tool. Try to incorporate activities in your college life that make you laugh. Whether it’s going to a comedy show, spending time with your friends, or talking to your sister, laughter can help to brighten your perspective and help you feel joy when you’re down.
#13. Create Balance In College Life
In order to live a happy life as a student, you’ll want to seek a sense of balance. Ensure that you have a schedule with activities that help you feel a sense of purpose, fulfillment, and community. College is the perfect time to branch out and try new hobbies, clubs, and social circles, so don’t be afraid to try new things.
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How To Enjoy College Life
The key to enjoying college life is to tailor your experience to meet your needs. Figure out which classes, experiences, friendships, and activities will help you to feel happiest, then go about adding them to your schedule.
Try to find the balance between coursework, having a social life, and keeping up with your wellness routine – but don’t be surprised if that is a challenging feat to pull off.
What to Do if You’re Not Happy in College
If you’re not feeling happy in college, start working to resolve the issue now. You don’t get extra points for suffering in college, so start making life better for yourself as soon as possible.
Sometimes the causes of unhappiness in college are so big that you need to transfer or take a break, but often small changes like making a few new friends or joining a club can offer the shift you need.
#14. Keep in Touch with Friends from Home
As humans, we need connections to help us feel happy and fulfilled. If you find yourself hating college and struggling to cope, it can really help to spend some time talking to people you love. It’s OK if you don’t talk about college, just connecting with friends you care about can make you feel less isolated.
#15. Seek Help
If you just don’t know how to be happy in college and you’re not sure what to do, seek help. Your college might have student resources like counseling services or other mental health support that you can leverage.
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#16. Consider Changing Your Major
Sometimes a particular major or even a particular college is just not the right fit for you. Do some journaling and talk to friends or loved ones to see if you can determine the biggest challenges to feeling happy in college. You might decide that you need to make some big changes in order to feel happier, and that’s OK.
If you think you might need to change majors, talk to your school counselor or academic advisor right away. They’ll know the process at your school and the possible implications that changing your major could have on your graduation timeline.
Remember that overcoming the challenges you face now in college, will help you after you graduate college.
#17. Think About Transfering Schools
Likewise, if you want to transfer, start looking at other schools and their admissions policies immediately, even if you don’t actually end up applying.
In both cases, there’s no benefit to waiting to get the information you need. Knowing if you’ll be delaying graduation or incurring additional costs can help you to make the right decision for your situation. Once you have all of the information you need, you can make a final decision about what’s right for you.
#18. Figure Out What Exactly You Hate and Change It
If you’re dedicated to finishing college but find yourself really hating it, there are a few things you can do to try to shift your perspective and feel better. Start by trying to determine what, exactly, you hate about college life.
If you dislike living on campus with other college students, consider getting an apartment nearby or moving home, depending on your situation.
#18. Focus on Your Strengths
For problems that are a bit more nebulous or if you’re just not sure what’s not working, start to lean into your strengths. If you’re enjoying the social aspects of college, but not so much your classes, try to study in a more social way.
You could create study groups and connect one-on-one with your professors and other students.
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#19. Branch Out More
If you’re enjoying your classes but having a hard time finding your people, branch out. Start making coffee dates with people in your classes, people you meet on Bumble BFF, or from clubs you attend. Sometimes you’ll find that people you’d previously written off were actually great friend material the whole time.
Yes independence is important, and you can be happy alone, but in college, you need people!
#20. Create a Vision Board
What would you like college to be like? Do you remember what you hoped it would be? Taking time out to go back to the dreams and goals you had for yourself is a wonderful way to get clarity. It’s hard to be happy if you don’t consciously know what your happiness looks like.
If you want to stick it out at this college, then use this as an opportunity to create a vision board that helps you to feel happy when you look at it.
#21. Spend Time Away from Campus
Sometimes to appreciate and care for something or a place you need to step away. Go home for the weekend or visit a nearby town for a mini-trip. Invite some friends and get outside of the college bubble for a bit. That breath of fresh air can change your perspective and give you clarity on how to find your happiness.
FAQs: How to be Happy in College
Here are the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about how to be happy in college.
#1. Is It Normal to Feel Unhappy in College?
It’s normal to feel ups and downs when you’re in college, as with anything else in life. Don’t worry if you’re having a bad day or even a bad week; it can happen to anyone and is completely normal. However, if you’re experiencing significantly more downs than ups, or if you’re generally unhappy, it’s a sign that you probably need to change something.
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#2. How Do I Stop Being Sad in College?
If you’re feeling really sad in college, it might be time to seek professional help. You can always ask your college if they have mental health resources available, like free or reduced counseling. There may be deeper issues that are keeping you from feeling happy in college, and a counselor can help to create a treatment plan for you.
Consider getting a Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) lamp to combat the winter blues. These lamps use light therapy to mimic sunshine, which can help you to feel a bit lighter and happier during the short winter days.
#3. Are you Supposed to be Happy in College?
College should be a time of exploration, growth, and change in your life. It’s perfectly OK if you have days that do not feel particularly light or easy. Like in other parts of life, people experience ups and downs while in college.
Ready to feel happier at college? Get your FREE 20 Printable Positive Affirmations to help you start thinking and living more positively today. Take it one affirmation, one thought at a time.
That said, college shouldn’t feel like a horrible drudgery, either. If you feel miserable in college or university, start taking steps today to feel better.
The steps and tips included in this post can be helpful, but you should always seek help from a mental health professional if needed.Looking for ways to stay positive in college? Click here for the actionable steps on how to be happy in college. #StayPositive #MentalHealth #CollegeKids #HowToBeHappy
How do you feel happy at college?
Amber Haggerty runs Amber Everywhere, a site dedicated to encouraging others to travel. The mission of Amber Everywhere is to help people feel the sort of belonging, purpose, empathy, and expansiveness that travel can offer, especially if approached with the right mindset. Amber is originally from Colorado, but now she now lives in Europe and writes about her experiences traveling and living abroad.
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