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As we are now a month into the new year, it may feel like time is already running out for you to put your resolutions into action, but that is far from the case. There is no time better than now to formulate things that you want to place more emphasis on and value this year. I would say “it’s better late than never”, but it’s not even late! A new year opens the door of opportunity for creating new routines and habits that you know will not only benefit you, but challenge you to be a more healthy, content version of yourself. Only you are going to know what that’s going to look like for you, but I wanted to encourage you to think (if you haven’t already) about what you want to do more of this year by sharing some of my own goals that might be relevant to your own visions or aspirations for your year.

1. Less Phone Use

It goes without saying that our phones take up a lot of our time. We may not even necessarily be conscious of how much they are stealing our attention from other things, but one look at your screen time stats can be a big heads up just to how much they are. We’ve all grown up in a digital age, and it’s both a good and bad thing. I’ve found that my reliance on my phone, and the necessity to reach for it throughout the day, has become a little too unhealthy, and I want to break that habit of dependence.

Ideally, I would like to start and end the day without looking at my phone. I set morning alarms on my phone, so that’s the only exception, but I want to get better at turning those alarms off and just getting up out of bed before I even consider looking at who texted, what news notifications I have, and my calendar for the day. A study from IDC Research found that 80% of smartphone users check their devices within 15 minutes of waking up each morning. That is obviously not a very encouraging statistic. Even for nighttime, there are several studies regarding how excessive blue light can affect your circadian rhythm, which is the sleep-wake cycle. Blue light restrains production of melatonin, which is critical for this process to occur regularly and with ease. The science stands for limiting phone usage in the morning and evening, and I am more than here to stand behind it.

I just turned 20 in January, and I am already feeling like I’m using my phone too much, so now is better than ever to build a discipline into my routine, so when I’m 30, 40, and 50 I can feel less dependence on my phone and urge to check it in the morning and before bed. That’s my motivation. If the science already is saying it’s bad for me to be using my phone as much as I am, who knows what the unknown long term effects are, and what studies will be coming out in ten years about those impacts.

2. Exercising to Feel Good

In the past, I haven’t been too kind to my body to put it simply. Exercising has always been inherently an enjoyable habit, but the way I’ve incorporated it into my routine hasn’t been healthy at times. Getting back into a routine, and habit, of exercising not only consistently, but with the right mindset is important, and something that I want to get better at this year. Most importantly, I’m not doing it for anyone but myself. At the end of the day, we’ve only got ourselves, so that’s how I’m thinking about exercise.

As students, we’re often busy and can feel crunched for time to go to the gym. However, once you start going there, it’s easy to see that it’s really not that much time out of your day to get a decent workout in. For me, I find it quite refreshing and a way to disconnect from the stress of the day. That’s what working out should be – making you feel good.

I’m sure as the year goes on I’ll build more critical goals for myself, but at the moment, my outlook on fitness is doing what feels good for my body. Not overworking myself. Not thinking about what others are thinking of me (because they’re not!). Eradicating my mind of bad mindsets and just focusing on what I feel in the moment. With building any habit, there’s an opportunity to learn and grow. I have some things I know I like to do consistently, but there are other exercises I want to try and ways I see myself switching up my routine from time to time.

There are so many ways to move your body and feel good, and you can do it on your own or with other people, which makes it so much more of an incentive. Limiting the negative mindsets and just viewing exercise as something for you, that makes you feel good, really is life changing and so beneficial.

If you don’t have any concrete goals, just go with that. You feel good, so it’s something good to do for your body and mind. Starting simple is better than anything; don’t pressure yourself, take it step by step, and day by day.

3. Inner Reflection

I had a professor say, on the second day of class, how important it is at our young ages getting into our early twenties to be reflecting on life and checking in with ourselves from time to time. Turning 20 was definitely a wake up call to this, but at any age or stage in life, it is a necessary thing. Mentally knowing where you are, and carrying yourself through hard times, but understanding and sitting with feelings and difficult moments is on you a lot of times. A number of things I like to do that are “reflection” type exercises with myself are detailed below.

Journaling

The biggest hesitation most people have with starting to journal is the mindset that they don’t have anything interesting going on in their life. That they don’t know what to write about. I find it hard to give advice on what to write in a journal, because I’ve been doing it regularly for so long, it comes quite naturally. However, flipping through the pages of my most recent journal, I can tell you that I don’t write every day. And when I do write, it can be short or very long. I don’t personally write a minute by minute analysis of every moment of a day, but usually start with something that’s on my mind. A positive or negative interaction, a thought that I can’t quite let go, or a person I’m thinking about.

No one’s going to be looking in your journal except you. You don’t have to explain anything to anyone, except yourself. Write about things you know and feel, and if you don’t know something, then that’s an opportunity to work through it. Sometimes writing out a frustrating factor of your day can illuminate the solution or another central problem you are having that is elevating this frustration.

The act of keeping a journal is a personal, private process. You do what feels comfortable for you, and that can be entirely daunting if you’ve never done so before, but go in with an open mind. It’s easy to set a timer for 5-10 minutes as a starter, turn off your phone, and just write what comes to mind. Let yourself flow onto a page, openly and without worrying about grammar, sentence structure, all that jazz.

Reading

I have been an avid reader my whole life. College put a stake in that habit, unfortunately, since I am often so occupied with class readings that I don’t have time to pick up that book I’ve been wanting to read for fun. I do find time though, when I can, and that has often been before I go to bed or in between classes. A little bit is often better than nothing.

Reading can be fun, if you let it. Some people have certain genres they lean toward and for varying reasons. I like non fiction occasionally, to learn and open my mind about a new topic. I generally go with fiction, so that I can immerse myself in a classic or story that really captivates me and teaches me something about life in a new way. Fantasy, science fiction, and essays are all other very nice genres to dive into when you just need something fresh to engage your mind with.

If you’re not an active reader, maybe you want to be this year. It’s easier than you think to begin. Look in a bookstore, or online, and see what titles capture your attention. Read the synopsis. If you find something interesting, try not to focus on what reviews say. It got your attention, so see what you think!

3. Spending Time with Others

Making time to get lunch, grab coffee, or hit the gym with a friend is a really easy habit to foster this year. A little bit of social interaction is healthy, and I am trying to better that in my own life. Even on the days you don’t feel like it, spending time with someone you know, or want to get to know, for a few minutes is really beneficial for your mental health. It’s also really nice to disengage from your own reality for a bit, and listen to another person talk about theirs for a bit.

I’m an introvert, and with the past years of the pandemic, my natural inclination socially is to be by myself a lot of the time. However, I’m trying to push my comfortability and reach out to people more often and make a habit of not doing everything on my own. That may sound foreign to some of you that are already ambitious in this nature, I know, but I would like to really not only spend more time with people I know, but get to know interesting people in my classes or that I work with on assignments. This campus is full of thoughtful, hilarious, and really wonderful people, and the years are already flying by so fast. Taking time to soak in all that wonder socially now is a great way to spend time.

This not only can apply to people here on campus you interact with, but people in your life back home. Stay in touch with them; reach out to them more regularly. Be daring and contact that person you have wanted to reconnect with for years. Life is too short to pass by on connections with people who you value, and that you want to get to know.

4. Not Sacrificing Sleep

Going to start by saying it flat out: all-nighters are not healthy. A study done by Texas A&M University on sleep habits stated that, “Sleep deprivation’s effect on working memory is staggering. Your brain loses efficiency with each hour of sleep deprivation.” I probably haven’t pulled an all-nighter since high school, which even then I shouldn’t have been doing at all, but I know that it’s still a common thing for people in college to do. Even if it’s not an all-nighter, I find myself leaving the library incredibly late or sitting up on my phone late, only to wake back up in 5 or 6 hours to do another day all over again.

Bodies deserve and need rest. Sleep is good for you.

I know what it feels like to say to yourself “oh, I can get this done in the next hour, it’ll be fine,” but believe me, it is better to just set things aside at a certain point and jump into bed. Don’t push yourself to the point where you are lessening your sleep time for academics. I need to get better at that for sure.

Weekends are often an exception in my book to this, but even then, find the courage to know when your body needs rest, and you need to call it a night. Prioritizing yourself when it comes to a body’s natural rest cycle is not a bad thing. It’s a thing everyone should do more of. Longer, more regular amounts of sleep benefit us emotionally, mentally, and physically in both short and long term ways.

Let’s learn to enjoy and genuinely value our sleep time.

5. Embracing Boldness

Who’s to say we have to wait until we’re out of college to be the person we want to be and do the things we want to do? Life is busy, but I’m certainly not going to let it pass me by. This year, and this new decade of age, I want to be more firm with myself about what I want and how I’m going to soar there and to new heights. I can start small, but I can begin to envision a future that’s bright and more ideal to what I want it to be.

Do the things you’re afraid of doing, because life’s too short. And yes, this is just one year in your life, but do you want to be sitting in December 2022 feeling like you didn’t do enough of the things you wanted to do, but thought were trivial or weren’t going to work out? I doubt you do. I don’t want to.

Less fear this year, and more opportunity for creativity, prosperity, and positivity to blossom. Goals, big or small, this year for yourself can make a tremendous difference. Let’s make it a good year.

Emily Mackin

Lafayette '24

an admirer of all things that make life beautiful
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