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Peer Advice: Happiness Project - Graduate Student Edition

Motivational sign on the wall
  1. Self Care, Self Love
  2. Say yes, adventure is out there
  3. Pause
  4. Celebrate the little wins
  5. It’s okay not to be okay

Have you ever read or heard of the book, “The Happiness Project,” written by Gretchen Rubin? It was my first time hearing of the book’s existence in the summer of 2021. That summer, a few friends and I decided to spice up our FaceTime calls and start a book club. First, I would not call myself a bookworm or a casual reader. The extent of my “pleasure” reading came from textbooks and movie subtitles. Luckily, my dear friends chose this light-hearted, self-discovery book to start us on this new hobby. (Unfortunately, this hobby only lasted for one book).

By all means, the book is not a one-way guide on what you need to be happy. You can take no easy shortcuts during your self-discovery journey, which we call life. This book aimed to encourage readers to create happiness projects catered to them.

In the book, Gretchen constructed a social experiment based on sources she gathered from philosophers, psychologists, religious figures, and important figures about their investigations on happiness. She created 12 resolutions or 12 things she wants to work on monthly. Each month focused on a new resolution and built upon the previous resolutions. This way, you are not over-exerting your limits by attempting something new, and you can gradually turn your resolutions into daily habits. You put it all together during the last month and try to follow your resolutions. Gretchen mentions in her book that everyone will have unique resolutions based on who you are and what you want to get out of it. The most important first step is understanding your limits, areas of improvement, and sources of happiness. You can formulate ideas and topics you want to explore within 12 months based on your findings. The best resolutions are more specific, with a substantial/ plausible plan to work on specific actions, behaviors, and habits you might want to improve and embrace (practice more).

Maybe it was the book's title or the idea of practicing accountability. Whatever it was, I was drawn to this project and wanted to implement it into our challenging graduate program schedule. If you are looking for an easy, light-hearted, perfect study break read, I suggest reading the book yourself. Otherwise, I would love to share 5 out of the 12 resolutions from my Happiness Project: Graduate Student Edition.

One of the first things I wanted to work on was…

  1. Self Care and Self Love

As it sounds, this resolution focused on embracing the importance of mental and physical health. As cliché as it sounds, you must love yourself and care for your body and mind. At first, I thought it sounded selfish and self-centered to “love yourself.” But, if the years of isolation taught me anything, it was the importance of self-care and love. For me, this sometimes just included drinking enough water throughout the day. I realized that taking care of yourself means you can be your best self for others. As a future healthcare provider, I think it is essential to establish a self-care routine to refresh and re-energize. For the benefit of yourself and, most importantly, your future patient, you want to be at your best for your patient. Ultimately, this resolution was the foundation for the happiness project.

The following resolution was…

  1. Say yes, adventure is out there!

Say yes… I understand this sounds misleading. Say yes means stepping outside your comfort zone to test the waters. I like to call these calculated risks. It would be best to say yes to things that will challenge you and expand your comfort zone. This was a perfect resolution to work on during the first month of grad school. Because everything is new and different, sometimes you must try things outside your comfort zone by saying yes to discover things about yourself. It goes along with the saying, “You never know until you try it.” How do you think you learned to love the things in your life now? You had to say yes. Yes, today could mean a whole new adventure tomorrow.

After the initial excitement of starting a graduate program, the days fly by quickly until you find yourself already four weeks into the quarter. The third resolution was designed to accompany the after-effects of the first month of a graduate program.

  1. Pause

Sometimes I find myself with a billion tabs open on my computer, my phone blowing up with 10+ Outlook emails, and an overwhelming, unfinished to-do list that never seems to end. First, pause and take a couple of deep breaths (3 breaths), inhaling and exhaling air slowly. When things flooded my mind, I tried taking a second to concentrate on my breathing and soak in the moment. Not only would this calm me, but it helped me recognize the blessings in life. Sometimes a minute was enough to re-center and be present in that moment.

The following resolution was designed for practicing amid stressful times…

  1. Celebrate the little wins

Seeing the word, fail, makes your whole body and heart sink. But instead of wrapping up your entire experience based on the ending result as a failure, evaluating and re-assessing the progression of events, you can identify gaps and “little wins.” A collection of little wins you had to learn, and experience are the building blocks toward success stories.

The last resolution I wanted to talk about is…

  1. It’s okay not to be okay

Sometimes the most positive, motivating, inspirational things will not turn frowns upside down. And THAT’S OKAY! The word easy is not something you use when you describe graduate programs. You will experience every emotion by itself or simultaneously. Something you will most likely experience is stress and feeling overwhelmed. Like some, I tried to contain feelings until I broke down and was out of commission for a day. With this resolution, I tried embracing and accepting the feelings I had. After accepting those feelings, you can fully evaluate the things that antagonize or trigger these feelings. You can’t always prevent your feelings or even get rid of them. The best remedy is seeking a listening ear from family, friends, and professionals.

I hope this post served as an introduction to your own happiness projects. I am very excited for you to start this new chapter in life. Wishing you all the best in your graduate programs and your future endeavors. Thank you for reading!


Group of SCCO students on campus