Whether you are starting college or returning, we all know there are numerous health threats waiting for you at the front gate; coffee binges, stressful deadlines and late night study sessions, an exercise-proof schedule, cheap burgers and expensive salad. September brings with it the fresh breeze and nostalgic butterflies of a new start and good intentions. Unfortunately, habits sabotage our intentions every time, habits laugh at our intentions. The only thing close to habits when it comes to influencing our attempts at healthy living is our environment. Sure we have easy access to a gym, a river side run, cycle or walking route, and the Atlantic Ocean. But let’s not forget the draw of our new friends, afternoon drinks, 99’s on a sunny day, 80’s night in the GPO (What?! Carbon who?).
So what, if anything, can we do?! The New Economics Foundation has very kindly synthesised research on the factors that contribute to well-being and happiness, so here are some evidence-based sign posts to help you plan a healthy semester 1, and beyond!
Connect: Get to know new people, say hi to familiar faces, text a friend, call home, or reconnect with an old friend! There are lots of ways to jump start this goal in NUIG. Why not join a club or society and go along to their next meeting or event? No one to go with? Nothing quite beats the buzz of rocking up solo and leaving 2 hours later than you planned with a new bunch of friends. Say hi to the person who sits beside you at lectures and tutorials, and try sitting in different places each time. A friendly chat might be exactly what that person needed too!
Give: Now this is something NUIG and Galway in general does really well. Whether you give your time to a club or society, by volunteering through ALIVE or with the help of the Galway Volunteer Centre, help out at home, or give time to a friend who needs it, giving to others feels great!
Keep learning: Lucky we’re in the right place for learning! But learning isn’t just about hitting the books. Are there are some other skills or interests, new or old, that you could take on? Engaging our minds in different and new ways can help to de-stress, provide opportunities to meet new people or even enhance your CV.
Be active: Although we need to be clocking up a certain amount of exercise hours each week, activity isn’t just about lacing up the Nikes. Being active by taking regular short walks throughout a day with lots of sitting (aka college life), getting your groceries in a basket rather than a trolley, staying on top of the household chores, and foregoing the taxi from the college bar to Buskers, all count.
Notice: It’s hard not to notice the blue skies, the classic Galway sun sets and first few crunchy Autumn leaves these days! It might seem a bit ‘Galway’, but taking a second to consciously notice these things, and anything that catches your eye or your imagination in any given moment, can be very powerful. We can walk around on auto pilot with 10 thoughts chasing each other around our heads. So, hitting the pause button and noticing our surroundings can help us to reset and to get a new perspective on things.
Last thing is to make a plan! Stop those pesky habits in their tracks by having your running gear ready the night before, or signing up to that art class you want to try. Get the most out of your year by thinking about what you want to get out of it, and making it happen!