10-minute guided imagery meditation to help you stay grounded

Reading Time: 2 minutes Use this guided imagery meditation to find your happy place and cultivate inner stillness even in moments of change and uncertainty.

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Reading Time: 3 minutes Want to start a new habit that will help you be happier, healthier, or more productive? Here’s how.

Social support: The most overlooked self-care routine

Reading Time: 12 minutes As a society, we are more socially isolated than ever. Learn why building a social support system is the missing piece in your self-care puzzle.

Talk it out: The science behind therapy and how it can help you

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New class expectations, new living situations, and navigating newfound independence can give us all the feels—from super psyched to super stressed. Even if you’re loving your student life, dealing with all the stressors that come with college can be a lot to handle. According to experts, the best time to handle that stress is now. “If we don’t take care of our mental health, we may not be able to reach our goals, maintain good relationships, and function well in day-to-day situations,” says Dr. Chrissy Salley, a psychologist in New York who works with students of all ages. “Taking care of mental health is one of the best things someone can do.”

Now really is the time to start tuning into your mental health—the majority of mental health issues appear to begin between the ages of 14 and 24, according to a review of the World Health Organization World Mental Health surveys and other research (Current Opinion in Psychiatry, 2007). But help is available. Along with methods like mindfulness and meditation, talking to a therapist (such as a counselor, psychologist, or psychiatrist) can be a super-effective way to manage any mental health issue you may be facing or just a way to get extra support during times of stress, challenge, celebration, or change.

There’s a ton of research on how effective therapy really is—a 2015 meta-analysis of 15 studies of college students with depression found that outcomes were nearly 90 percent better for those who received therapeutic treatment than for those in control groups, most of whom received no treatment (Depression and Anxiety).

One of the most common and effective therapies is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), a short-term, goal-oriented therapy where a pro helps you find practical ways to deal with specific problems.

Girl with "believe in your dream" written on her hand

The goal of CBT is to help you change or reframe certain thought processes—the idea is that by changing your attitude about something, you can change your behaviors. For example, if you think something like, “I’m terrible at chemistry, so I know I’m going to fail this test—there’s no use studying,” you probably won’t ace your test. CBT can help you shift your thinking to something more like, “I know chemistry is really hard for me, but studying will help me do better.”

And it works. There’s strong evidence that this therapeutic technique can help you handle just about anything you might have going on, according to a 2012 analysis of over 200 studies on CBT published in Cognitive Therapy and Research. The researchers found that CBT was effective for people struggling with anxiety, bulimia, anger issues, stress, and a number of other mental health issues.

OK, so we know that therapy is an essential and effective tool for keeping your mental health at its peak, but making that first appointment can feel intimidating. It doesn’t have to be. Our experts break down the therapy basics so you can embrace whatever you need to feel your best. Here’s what the pros want you to know.

1 Seeing a therapist is totally common —more people are doing it than you think.

Surveys show it’s not out of the ordinary to see a therapist—55 percent of college students have used campus counseling services, according to a 2012 report from the National Alliance on Mental Illness. If you feel uncomfortable with the idea of going to see a therapist, you’re not alone—and that’s totally OK, says Zachary Alti, a licensed social worker, psychotherapist, and professor at the Fordham University Graduate School of Social Service in New York. “Few people look forward to therapy, but students should be aware that therapy exists to help them, not to judge them,” he says. The process might not always be comfortable, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth it. “I’d encourage students to keep an open mind and try it,” says Dr. Salley.

2 Therapy is more than talking through feelings— it’s about building skills and solving problems.

“Many [young people] tell me they’re reluctant to participate in therapy because they don’t want to talk about their feelings,” Dr. Salley says. Again, that’s totally normal. But going to therapy isn’t just about talking about how you feel; it’s also about walking away with real tools you can use in your life. “Therapy should also be action oriented—a time to learn new skills for coping and figuring out ways to solve problems,” Dr. Salley says.

3 Seeing a therapist is like going to the gym. For your brain.

“Therapy is like physical exercise,” says Alti. Just like hitting the gym is good for everyone’s physical health—not just those with diabetes or heart disease—seeing a therapist can benefit everyone’s mental health.

Student perspective “Therapy should be considered as important as going to the doctor for a regular checkup. It is a way to get in touch with yourself and to be grounded enough to deal with issues that life presents before things feel like they’re too much to handle.” —First-year graduate student, Royal Holloway University of London

4 It’s smart to see a therapist before things feel totally overwhelming.

But really, any time is a good time to go. While anxiety and depression are still the most common reasons students seek counseling, according to a 2016 annual report from the Center for Collegiate Mental Health, you don’t have to be in the midst of a crisis or feel like you’re nearing a breakdown to see a pro—seeing a therapist can be helpful even when things are all good. “There are a lot of pink flags before you get to red ones,” says Dr. Dana Crawford, an individual and family therapist in New York. “Keeping things from becoming extreme is always better.” In other words, don’t wait for an emergency to take care of your mental health. “When bad things do happen, mental health will protect against the impact of these unfortunate events,” adds Alti.

Student perspective

“Being able to just have someone to really listen has promoted a lot of self-discovery. I trust my therapist with everything and I feel like he genuinely cares about what I have to say. He asks me questions that make me think about why I feel and do the things that I do. Once I know where something comes from, I can change it. It’s easier said than done, but it’s not something I think I could do on my own.”
—Second-year undergraduate student, University of Alabama

5 Therapists can help you handle change.

Real talk: College is full of huge life changes. “Even positive changes can be stressful,” says Dr. Salley. Luckily, therapists are particularly skilled at helping their clients deal with these transitions. “Having someone to talk to can be helpful, especially as you encounter new situations and people,” she says. While you’re dealing with a new set of responsibilities and expectations (everything from picking the right major to sorting through awkward roommate issues), a therapist can help you pinpoint how all the changes are impacting you and sort through the onslaught of emotions that everyone feels during this time.

6 Finding the right therapist is like finding the right pair of jeans.

Therapists aren’t one-size-fits-all—sometimes you have to try a few before you find the right fit. Don’t get turned off if your first therapy appointment isn’t super helpful—if something feels uncomfortable, listen to your gut, but don’t give up, says Dr. Crawford. “You would never go to the store, try on a pair of jeans, and say, ‘Oh, those don’t fit, I guess I won’t wear jeans.’ You would keep trying jeans until you found the right fit,” says Dr. Crawford. Same goes for therapists.

Finding that fit with a therapist is just as important for the outcome as the actual therapeutic technique, according to findings presented in Psychotherapy Relationships That Work (Oxford University Press, 2004). The research analysis found that three key things had a measurable positive impact on the outcome of individual therapy: 1) the strength of your collaborative relationship with your therapist—aka are you on the same page and making goals for your treatment together?; 2) your therapist’s ability to empathize or see where you’re coming from; and 3) the degree to which you and your therapist outline goals and reevaluate them together.

In other words, to get the most out of a therapy session, take the time to find someone you feel like you’re on the same page with, who gets you, and who’s willing to listen to your goals for therapy and help you develop them.

  • What types of therapy are you trained in?
  • What issues do you specialize in?
  • What populations do you specialize in? (While all therapists take on different types of clients, some specialize in specific groups such as working with LGBTQ+ people, people of color, or those who’ve been marginalized in some way.)
  • How do you invite all aspects of your client into the room? (It’s important to know how your therapist will address all aspects of your culture, says Dr. Crawford. “You want to know that you can talk to your therapist about all parts of who you are.”)
  • What are your beliefs about how people change?
  • What’s your goal for ending therapy? (Some therapists believe therapy is an ongoing thing that you never really graduate from, while others see it as a tool to resolve a specific challenge. Make sure their goals line up with yours, and if not, ask if you can redefine them together.)

To find a therapist, start on campus—most schools offer a certain number of free counseling sessions through their counseling or psychological services.

Check with your insurance provider to see whether you need a referral to see a psychologist or counselor. If so, you may need to make an appointment with your primary care provider or the student counseling center to ask for one. Once you have the referral (if needed), you can seek out a therapist in a number of ways:

  • Ask friends and family members if they have a therapist they recommend.
  • Find out if your school counseling center has a list of recommended providers.
  • Use the American Psychological Association’s online search tool.
  • Call your insurance company or use their online services to find a list of therapists who are covered by your plan. If you get a personal recommendation from someone, you’ll also need to check that they’re covered under your insurance plan.

Once you have a name or a list of names and you’ve checked that the providers are covered by your insurance plan, call each therapist and leave a message to ask if they’re accepting new patients and to call you back with their available hours. When you hear back from the therapist, you may want to discuss what you’re looking to get out of treatment, what days and times you’re available to meet, and what their fees are—confirm that they take your insurance (it never hurts to double check this)—and ask about their training and make sure they’re licensed. Sometimes it can take a few tries to find someone whose schedule works with yours, but don’t let that deter you.

7 A therapist can help you identify—and crush—your goals.

“Therapy can be useful by helping people acquire a better understanding of themselves and develop healthy habits,” says Dr. Salley. For example, if you have trouble getting up in time to make that optional early-morning lecture, but then you beat yourself up about missing it, a therapist can help you identify what you really value and then help you make decisions based on that. “It can be helpful to talk to someone who’s objective and not a friend to bounce your experiences and feelings off of,” says Dr. Crawford. “A therapist’s only investment is for you to be your best self.”

Once you’ve identified what’s really important to you, a therapist can help give you the tools to make your value-driven goals a reality. “Problems that are unaddressed remain problems,” says Dr. Crawford. “When you’re ready for something different in your life, it can change. Therapy can help you create the future you want.”

Student perspective: “The part of the therapy that was magical was that my psychologist didn’t provide me the solutions to the issues that I had, but she made me see things very clearly so that I can find solutions myself. This way, I’m able to make good decisions and have a balanced everyday life.” —Second-year graduate student, Saint Louis University

8 What happens in therapy stays in therapy.

You may be worried that all that talking might get out or that your therapist might tell your advisor or RA about what you’re struggling with. “A therapist isn’t allowed to do this unless the student poses a threat to themselves or others,” says Alti. “A therapist’s effectiveness is dependent on maintaining trust.” Bottom line: Unless they believe you’re in imminent danger (e.g., at risk of being seriously harmed or harming yourself or others), they can’t share what you say.

In short, everyone can benefit from talking to a therapist. “In the same way that everyone can benefit from going to the dentist, sometimes therapy is just a routine cleaning,” says Dr. Crawford. “Sometimes it’s just a time to reflect on where you are and where you want to go.” Whether you’re wrestling with anxiety and depression or mildly stressed about finding a summer internship, seeing a therapist can help—even if it’s just for a few sessions. (According to the CCMH report, the average student who uses campus psychology services attends between four and five sessions.)

Student perspective

“Therapy was a good way to talk through anything weighing on my mind. My therapist was very understanding, kind, and, of course, confidential. I’d recommend going to counseling services to everyone.”
—Third-year undergraduate student, Elizabethtown College, Pennsylvania

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Article sources

Zachary Alti, LMSW, clinical professor, Fordham University Graduate School of Social Service; psychotherapist in New York City.

Dana Crawford, PhD, individual and family therapist, New York.

Chrissy Salley, PhD, pediatric psychologist, New York.

American Psychological Association. (2017). How to find help through seeing a psychologist. Retrieved from https://www.apa.org/helpcenter/therapy.aspx

American Psychological Association. (n.d.). Protecting your privacy: Understanding confidentiality. Retrieved from https://www.apa.org/helpcenter/confidentiality.aspx

APA Practice Organization. (2017). Psychologist locator. Retrieved from https://locator.apa.org/

Brown, H. (2013, March 25). Looking for evidence that therapy works. New York Times. Retrieved from https://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/03/25/looking-for-evidence-that-therapy-works/

Center for Collegiate Mental Health. (2017, January). 2016 Annual Report. (Publication No. STA 17-74). Retrieved from https://sites.psu.edu/ccmh/files/2017/01/2016-Annual-Report-FINAL_2016_01_09-1gc2hj6.pdf

Cuijpers, P., Cristea, I. A., Ebert, D. D., Koot, H. M., et al. (2016). Psychological treatment of depression in college students: A meta-analysis. Depression and Anxiety33(5), 400–414. doi: 10.1002/da.22461

Hofmann, S. G., Asnaani, A., Vonk, I. J. J., Sawyer, A. T., et al. (2012). The efficacy of cognitive behavioral therapy: A review of meta-analyses. Cognitive Therapy and Research36(5), 427–440. doi: 10.1007/s10608-012-9476-1

Kessler, R. C., Amminger, G. P., Aguilar-Gaxiola, S., Alonso, J. et al. (2007). Age of onset of mental disorders: A review of recent literature. Current Opinions in Psychiatry, 20(4), 359–364. doi: 10.1097/YCO.0b013e32816ebc8c

Martin, B. (2016, May 17). In-depth: Cognitive behavioral therapy. Psych Central. Retrieved from https://psychcentral.com/lib/in-depth-cognitive-behavioral-therapy/

National Alliance on Mental Illness. (2012). College students speak: A survey report on mental health. Retrieved from https://www.nami.org/About-NAMI/Publications-Reports/Survey-Reports/College-Students-Speak_A-Survey-Report-on-Mental-H.pdf

National Alliance on Mental Illness. (n.d.). Mental health facts: Children and teens. Retrieved from https://www.nami.org/getattachment/Learn-More/Mental-Health-by-the-Numbers/childrenmhfacts.pdf

Norcross, J. C., & Hill, C. E. (2004). Empirically supported therapy relationships. Psychotherapy Relationships That Work, 57(3), 19–23.

UC Davis. (n.d.). Community referrals. Retrieved from https://shcs.ucdavis.edu/services/community-referrals

Ask the counselor: “How do I survive in a racist community?”

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—Gala C., Dordt College, Iowa

It’s not easy being in a community that you feel has hatred toward others because of their race. It’s stressful to hear negative comments or see discrimination and feel like there isn’t much you can do to stop it. Racism is also bad for your health. Research has shown that the everyday stress of racism can harm your mental and physical health, according to a study published in the American Journal of Public Health.

You might find you become filled with hate toward those who are racist. But don’t match hate with hate; meet it with heart.

Heart is reminding yourself that those people’s beliefs and actions aren’t based in reality. Racism and other forms of hatred often come from lack of information and understanding about others. They’ve been taught something that’s untrue. Over time, with exposure to new ideas or to people from other groups, it’s possible that they can gain more acceptance. Heart is understanding that there’s a better way to live, and even things as horrible as racism can be overcome.

If you do plan to talk to people about their actions or beliefs surrounding racism, here are some tips:

  • Take time to discuss with them your positive experiences with people of other races.
  • Remind them of the great contributions different races have made.
  • Appeal to the good parts of their personality when they want to instinctively react with hate. For example, remind someone of their religious values (e.g., being a person of peace) or recall how much they suffered through a bullying experience as a way to create empathy toward the individuals who are being attacked.
  • Pick times for these discussions when things are neutral and everyone is calm.

Don’t try to argue and lash out; that probably won’t end well. Remember: Hate will lead to hate. Help them relearn a better way.

Group of friends on lawn with backs turned

Becoming an agent for change

As for yourself, another way to deal with racism is to become a person of positive change. For example, join an organization in your community or an online organization that works toward unity, or start your own. This way, you’re around like-minded people of other races who can support you.

You can also educate yourself about what racism is, learn the history of efforts to overcome racism, and look up resources to help address racial equity. A great place to start is the Racial Equality Resource Guide, which offers tool kits, a list of organizations across the country, and other resources to help you in your effort to effect change.

Stay calm

When you’ve confronted something that has you seething and you need to calm down now, practice relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, exercise, and engaging in activities that bring you joy.

When is it time to go?

If you feel physically in danger, consider leaving the community. Sometimes the best efforts to make a change take time and distance. If you’re still living at home or aren’t financially able to leave just yet, you can still make a plan. Start to identify the places that you can live or spend time in where diversity is valued.

How you can change the sexual culture on your campus—and why that matters

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We all want campuses without sexual violence, but it can be hard to know where to start. In-the-moment strategies like bystander intervention are powerful tools to make our communities safer, but how can we proactively build cultures in which everyone feels safe and respected?

Sexual violence doesn’t come out of nowhere: It emerges from everyday patterns of disrespect and pressure. In any culture that normalizes low-level disrespect, it’s harder to spot coercion and force. What’s low-level disrespect? It’s when your female classmate is objectified because of the length of her skirt. Or that time your roommate hooked up with someone he wasn’t really into because “that’s what guys are supposed to do.” It’s every time someone makes a rape joke—and every time someone laughs. It contributes to a culture of disrespect, and a culture of disrespect provides camouflage for violence. It functions as “the cultural scaffolding” of sexual assault, wrote Dr. Nicola Gavey, professor of psychology at the University of Auckland, in New Zealand, in her book Just Sex? The Cultural Scaffolding of Rape (Routledge, 2005).

In contrast, when we expect respect and mutuality, it’s much easier to spot behaviors that don’t fit that norm. By challenging casual disrespect when we see it—and setting up conversations so that disrespect doesn’t happen in the first place—we can build communities where everyone expects to be treated well.

This means that even small actions can have a big impact in building a safe, supportive campus culture. By ensuring that all of our conversations about romance, sex, and social life are respectful, we can help to dismantle “the cultural scaffolding” of assault. And that starts with you—your friends and your conversations. Here’s how to make sure those convos are building the community you want.

Ask better questions

Two girls walking and talking

Too often, our casual conversations set the expectation that everyone is doing the same things when it comes to romance and sex. If your crew gets together for brunch on Sunday, is everyone expected to share stories about hookups the night before? Conversations like this create “ambient pressure”: a feeling that you must act a certain way in order to fit in. Ambient pressure is a problem in its own right, and also makes interpersonal pressure easier by suggesting that people’s desires aren’t important.

If your friends regularly have conversations like this, you can help shift them in a more positive direction. Start by asking better questions.

Two-column, four-row chart displaying alternative options for discussing evening plans with friends. Left column includes four questions students might ask in casual conversations with friends labeled “instead of this.” Right column includes four different ways to ask those questions that make less assumptions labeled “try this.” Row 1: Instead of “Did you hook up?” Try “How was your night?” Row 2: Instead of “How far did you get?” Try “Did you enjoy hanging out with her?” Row 3: Instead of “Are you going out tonight?” Try “What are your plans later?” Row 4: Instead of “Is he hot?” Try “What do you like about him?”

These questions reduce ambient pressure by removing some of the assumptions about what people are doing and how they’re talking about it. Bonus points for making your conversations more interesting and less rom com.   

Tell different stories

Try sharing stories of times when things went well in unexpected or nontraditional ways, like when you met someone at a party and ended the night talking Shakespeare sonnets and downing pizza instead of hooking up. There are a number of dangerous myths about campus sexual culture, such as the false belief that everyone wants to be having more sex than they’re currently having, that no one wants to get into anything serious because everyone is looking for hookups, that “casual” sexual encounters can’t be intimate, and so on.

Sharing diverse experiences and stories is a powerful way of disrupting these myths and offering more positive alternatives. If you had a great Saturday night binge-watching House of Cards with your roommate, then say so!

Positive change involves people inspiring each other—and that starts with telling different stories. In a study, college students who reported drinking heavily received info on how much their peers were actually drinking, and spoiler alert, it was less than they thought. Six weeks later, the heavy drinkers were consuming less alcohol and drinking less often, according to The Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology (2000). This is an example of how social norms work: Expectations about how we should act actually affect how we do act. Once we realize that others are doing things differently, we adjust ourselves accordingly. This can work in your favor when it comes to convos about hookups: By demonstrating that there are many positive, respectful ways to be social, you can challenge social norms that give rise to pressure.

Figure out what matters to you—and live it

Several hands raised up together

In order to build a culture that reflects your values, you first need to figure out what those are. “Communities feel more connected and supportive when the people in them have a clear idea of what they want their culture to be like and are actively working toward that ideal,” wrote Chip Heath of Stanford University and Dan Heath of Duke University in Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard (Broadway Business, 2010), which examines individual, organizational, and social transformations.

Ask your communities (i.e., the clubs you’re in, the groups you belong to, and the friends you spend your time with) what they see as their shared goals. This doesn’t have to be scary or even formal; having an awesome group of people to lean on is a legit goal. When we’re all focused on a positive value—like genuine friendship, interdependence, or mutual trust—it’s easier to ensure that everyone is treated well. “Identifying shared community values is a critical step in building safe, supportive communities in which everyone can thrive,” says Dr. Melanie Boyd, assistant dean of student affairs and lecturer in women’s, gender, and sexuality studies at Yale University in Connecticut.

Think about what you want from your interactions

It also helps to think about what you want from any given interaction, whether it’s meeting up with a couple of friends at your place or hosting a party. When we’re actively thinking about what we want out of our social events, we can ensure that they reflect and support what matters to us.

  • Why are you hosting this event or going to this hangout? What do you want from it?
  • What are you hoping to get out of it? What are you hoping others will get out of it? Do you want to meet new friends, to relax with a small group, or to try something new?
  • What vibe do you want? Intimate, classy, chill, or something else?
  • Now that the big stuff is sorted, how will you make sure your goals are met? Think about everything from the theme to the space, music, food and drinks, invites, etc.
  • What options are there? What choices do you or others have about what to wear, drink, and do?

By mindfully planning and attending events that reflect our values, we can create and support spaces without ambient pressure, and where interpersonal pressure stands out. Well-planned events with lots of options also mean more fun for the people coming and less stress for the people planning. That’s a win.

The power of small change

It all comes down to this—a culture in which respect is the norm is our most effective protection against sexual assault. And respect starts small. By making subtle changes to our everyday conversations and in our everyday interactions, we can work together to build a community where everyone can thrive. So let’s do that.

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Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard: Chip Heath & Dan Heath
Broadway Business, 2010

Sexual empowerment webinars & info: Amy Jo Goddard

What You Really Really Want: The Smart Girl’s Shame-Free Guide to Sex and Safety: Jaclyn Friedman
Seal Press, 2011

Step Up! intervention program: University of Arizona

Communication and Consent Educators program: Yale University

Find local services and other resources: NotAlone.gov

[survey_plugin] Article sources

Melanie Boyd, PhD, assistant dean of student affairs; lecturer in women’s, gender, and sexuality studies, Yale University, Connecticut.

Armstrong, E. A., Hamilton, L., & England, P. (2010). Is hooking up bad for young women? Contexts, 9(3), 22–27.

Borsari, B., & Carey, K. B. (2000). Effects of a brief motivational intervention with college student drinkers. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 68(4), 728–733.

Carmody, M. (2005). Ethical erotics: Reconceptualizing anti-rape education. Sexualities, 8(4), 465–480.

Gavey, N. (2005). Just Sex? The Cultural Scaffolding of Rape. London and New York: Routledge.

Gavey, N., & Senn, C. Y. (2014). Sexuality and sexual violence. In D. L. Tolman & L. M. Diamond (Eds.) APA Handbook on Sexuality and Psychology: Vol. 1. Person-Based Approaches (pp. 339–382). Washington, DC: APA Press.

Heath, C., & Heath, D. (2010). Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard. New York: Broadway Books.

Strang, E., & Peterson, Z. D. (2013). The relationships among perceived peer acceptance of sexual aggression, punishment certainty, and sexually aggressive behavior. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 28(18), 3369–3385.

Wade, L., & Heldman, C. (2012). Hooking up and opting out. In L. Carpenter & J. DeLamater (Eds.) Sex for Life: From Virginity to Viagra, How Sexuality Changes Throughout Our Lives, (pp. 129–145). New York: NYU Press.

Wetherill, R. R., Neal, D. J., & Fromme, K. (2010). Parents, peers, and sexual values influence sexual behavior during the transition to college. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 39(3), 682–694.

Bliss out, don’t miss out: The joy and solace of sleep

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Students adore and crave sleep. When we asked hundreds of you what you’d love to be doing right now, sleeping ranked second—behind only “being with someone I love,” and ahead of eating delicious food, having sex, and other pleasures. In a recent survey by SH101, 91 percent of respondents said they “look forward to and relish” their sleep.

And no wonder. Every time we sleep, we’re taking a luxury nano-vacation. “Each night we leave ourselves and enter a dreamworld…What a gift to spend a third of our lives in rejuvenation,” says Alyssa Rocco, a graphic artist based in Massachusetts (quoted online).

Which sleepy moments do you relish the most?

Getting into bed after a long day
The warmth and security of being in bed
Waking up refreshed
Reading or watching TV in bed
Waking up and remembering a good dream
The drowsy transition between being awake and asleep
Eating or drinking in bed

Source: Student Health 101 survey. 920 students answered this question.

Four ways to honor sleep as the hedonistic pleasure that it is:

1  Make your bed every day

Think of your bed as a gift to yourself. You’ll peel back the duvet and blankets (unwrap the gift) before you turn in.

Making our bed daily gives us a sense of control and is a surprisingly effective happiness fix, according to Gretchen Rubin of The Happiness Project.

2  Reframe your thinking

“Sleep isn’t something we have to do; it’s something we get to do. It’s a luxury. We do it because it feels good, not because we’re afraid of consequences,” said Heather Turgeon, a psychotherapist (to the New York Times). In our survey, four out of five respondents (81 percent) described sleep as “one of life’s greatest pleasures.”

3  Think “don’t,” not “can’t”

Here’s a mind trick that helps with desirable behaviors, like relishing bedtime: Frame your self-talk so it’s empowering, not punitive.

  • “I don’t use gadgets after 11 p.m.”
  • “I don’t stay up after 12:30 a.m.”
  • “I don’t deny myself sleep.”

When we remind ourselves “I don’t,” we are more successful than when we tell ourselves “I can’t,” studies show.

4  Pamper yourself

Try…

  • Changing the sheets: Fresh sheets mean better sleep, said 7 out of 10 people in a National Sleep Foundation survey. In our survey, only 1 in 10 students said they change their sheets weekly.
  • Lavender: It’s relaxing. Drop some aromatherapy oil on your pillowcase.
  • Memory foam pillows: They conform to the curves of your neck, head, and shoulders.

How do students rank life’s greatest pleasures?

Being with someone I love
Sleep
Good food
Being in nature
Sex (or fantasy)
Music, literature, arts

Source: Student Health 101 survey. 800 students answered the question: Which of these would you relish most right now?

[survey_plugin] Article sources

Historical and cultural perspectives of sleep. (2008, January 2). Healthy Sleep, Division of Sleep Medicine, Harvard University. Retrieved from https://healthysleep.med.harvard.edu/healthy/matters/history

National Sleep Foundation. (2014). Inside your bedroom. Retrieved from https://sleepfoundation.org/bedroom/

National Sleep Foundation. (2014). Touch. Retrieved from https://sleepfoundation.org/bedroom/touch.php

Patrick, V. M., & Hagtvedt, H. (2012). Empowerment refusal motivates goal-directed behavior. Journal of Consumer Research, 39(2), 371–381.

Rubin, G. (2009, August 28). Make your bed. The Happiness Project. Retrieved from https://www.gretchenrubin.com/happiness_project/2009/08/make-your-bed/

Sleep and pleasure. (2013, September 5). SleepCultures.com. Retrieved from https://www.sleepcultures.com/news-and-notes/sleep-and-pleasure

Student Health 101 survey, November 2016.

Mind your mind: Choosing change

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As the semester ends—and especially if your program is coming to an end—you can be sure that lots of changes are coming your way. When we ask students about changes they’re anticipating, they sometimes say, “I hope my friends and family never change” or “I’m worried about what might come next.”

It’s natural to fear change, especially if we are pretty comfortable with the status quo. Change leads to the unknown, and the unknown makes our minds uneasy. But during your time as a student and the years following graduation, you will likely experience more change than at any other time in your life.

Over the next few years, you will likely experience more change than at any other time in your life. You may change degree programs, careers, living situations, and romantic partners. These changes will drive other changes too—in your interests, talents, relationships, priorities, and values. That’s what growth is. Life is change.

How to get more comfortable with change

Instead of fearing change, practice opening yourself up to it.

  1. Don’t fight it. Change happens. If you resist change (“Why is this happening?” “What if I don’t like this?” “You said you would never change!”), you waste time and energy that could better be used managing what you are facing.
  2. Stay in the moment. Worrying excessively about what might or might not happen throws fuel on the fear fire. Keeping your attention in the present keeps you ready to do whatever is needed.
  3. Trust that you got this. You are more resilient then you think. You have the inner resources to take on whatever change brings your way, especially if you can settle into taking each day as it comes.

+ Headspace app: Train your mind to work with you

+ Build lifelong skills with Koru Mindfulness

Change can be destabilizing—and also exciting and fun. To stay anchored in the present so you can maximize your resilience in the face of change, practice mindfulness for just 10 minutes a day. This way, you’ll be ready. The Headspace app is a good way to get started.

Students’ mixed feelings about what’s coming next:

“I’m looking forward to graduating and then finding a job, which could lead to a potential move. The unknown future scares me, but I keep trusting that everything will work out.”
—Chelsea B., third-year graduate student, University of Texas at Tyler

“I will be graduating this spring, so I am looking forward to having my free time back. I work and take classes online part-time. I will be revisiting hobbies that I have not had time for in recent years. It has taken me five years to complete my program.”
—Sonja M., second-year student, Nova Scotia Community College

“I’ll be taking a break from school and focusing more on my family, which is just as busy but a different type.”
—Jennifer W., first-year student, Wake Technical Community College, North Carolina

“I’m starting a PhD program at a new university in a new city. I expect to feel significant anxiety, but I’ll handle it.”
—Barry F., third-year graduate student, Portland State University, Oregon