As students, our mental states are constantly fluctuating as we’re learning how to balance our social, school, and work lives. Lucky for us, Student Affairs has created a ThriveRU workbook, underpinned by the concepts of Authentic Happiness and Flourishing and designed for students to cultivate their optimism in the best possible way. Since the start of Winter term I’ve been using the workbook, and along the way I’ve noticed that a few particular tasks had an effect on my friendships, mindset, and overall outlook on life.
Making New Friends and Strengthening Your Connections with Old Friends
Exercise: Write about ways in which I could enhance my connections with my friends.
My two closest friends are friends that I see only a handful times a year, but I feel just as close to them as when I used to see them everyday. Since living away from home it’s become crucial for me to put in extra effort into maintaining my connections, and luckily in the 21st century constant communication is made easy with endless apps such as Snapchat and Messenger. Despite this, I find it just as important to show my friends that I truly care about them by putting in a little extra effort, and sometimes texting and snapping is just too easy. One of my best friends has been travelling constantly for the past 10 years and our main point of communication is through handwritten letters, small packages and postcards that we send each other. It’s so much more personal and special when you receive something that someone put effort and thought into, and it can be as simple as sending a photograph of something that made you smile with a note written on the back. Sometimes we send things back and forth constantly and sometimes there are weeks when we’re both just too busy, but these little acts make me cherish my friendship with her more because of the effort we put in to show one another we care no matter how much distance is between us or how much time passes.
When I was filling in my Thrive RU workbook, I thought about how I could strengthen my friendships in Toronto even more and decided to implement some of that same effort I put into my long distance friendships. I’ve found that simple things like not having your phone out at the dinner table and making eye contact when someone is talking can go such a long way and allow for more genuine and meaningful conversations.
Exercise: Take 20 minutes, while sitting quietly, and imagine your best possible self; think about what you would like your life to be.
I contemplated a lot over this one, and over the span of 20 minutes I wrote some of my thoughts down. This task definitely made me feel lighter in a sense, because I contemplated my fears and anxieties for the future but I also found solutions for them by sub-categorizing my goals into smaller ones. Getting “healthy” is a vague and far-off notion to me that could take a long time to achieve, but I broke it down into small activities that could also cultivate optimism in other areas of my life. For example, when I wrote small goals I would do in order to achieve a healthier lifestyle, I implemented goals that benefitted my social life too by including friends and family. Visualizing my goals like this also made them seem so much more attainable, and it was like journalling in a sense that I was pouring out my thoughts on every important area of my life such as ‘love’, where I allowed my thoughts to unravel on what that word means to me and what I want out of it in the future.
Thinking about the future can be overwhelming, but breaking it down step by step and making long term goals into smaller activities definitely cleared my anxiety and gave me a healthier outlook on the future.
Exercise: Keep a gratitude journal—every Sunday evening, think about 3 good things that happened during the week, your role in making them happen (if any), and what it means to you and/or your future that these events or interactions happened.
This was my favourite exercise in the workbook. Especially at this time of the year it’s so easy to get stressed, and so it’s always good to reevaluate what’s important in life. At the end of each week I would write out a few things I’m grateful for which varied from big and small things, and arranged them into a diagram. Looking at my “Gratitude Diagram” instantly gives me positivity because it changes my outlook on so many things. For instance when I’m homesick I’ll see that I wrote “the opportunity to travel” as something I’m grateful for, and when I’m stressed from schoolwork I’ll see that I wrote the chance to have an education as something I should cherish. This outcome really resembles the power of the workbook as a whole, as it enables you to reevaluate your priorities and change your perspective on several aspects of life, and these tasks in particular gave me a stronger sense of self and a much better mindset.