Ways to Stay Happy Amidst Stress in College

By Sarah Fielder
Staff Writer

With exams around every corner, homework assignments that seem to never end and readings out the wazoo, happiness is sometimes forgotten in the mayhem of college.

The word happy is defined as “feeling pleasure and enjoyment because of your life, situation, etc.” by the Merriam-Webster online dictionary. However, the definition provides little guidance on achieving this feeling.

“I think happiness is being able to make the most of any situation, no matter how hard it is,” said Sierrah Taylor, a junior elementary education major. “It’s being able to laugh and smile.”

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Photo by Soula Christou

Suggestions for finding happiness range from having an activity or goal, to discovering spiritual or religious engagement, according to an article from The Pursuit of Happiness website. Exercise and physical wellbeing are other key components, the article added.

“I prioritize time for myself; I balance responsibilities [and] what I love to do, and commit time to I’m passionate about,” said Catalina Mejia, a junior journalism major.

However, theories suggest that happiness can be influenced by a person’s genetics. A study by University of California, Los Angeles students said that the oxytocin receptor gene (OXTR) is a predictor of optimism and self-confidence, according to an article from the Huffington Post.

If a person is missing certain nucleotides, they are more likely to “see the glass half empty,” according to the article.

Portrait of tired young business woman with laptop computer

“It could be possible,” said Christian Oddsund, a freshman government and politics major. “Some mental health issues are genetic, like depression, so I suppose happiness could be genetic as well.”

However, other students do not think happiness is limited to genetics.

“Genetically speaking, I have mental illnesses, and I learned to overcome them without biology or genetics being taken into account,” said Taylor. “It was all me personally.”

In 2015, 85 percent of college students felt overwhelmed by everything they had to do within the year, according to the National College Health Assessment. Arguably, stress is one of the biggest preventers of happiness.

Students at the University of Maryland found happiness through getting involved in club sports, like dodge ball, finding supportive friends or seeking time alone to read or be outside.

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Sports are one way to find happiness. Photo courtesy of Maryland Volleyball

“Its important to make time for your self,” said Natalie Fecteau, a junior community health major. “To not forget to do things that make you happy. Even if it is just finding five minutes in a day.”

While genetics may play a role in a persons ability to be happy, it is far more likely that the time a person takes to recharge, either by being alone or surrounding themselves with people, is happiness.

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