UC Berkeley students demonstrate a distinct ambition and competitive drive that only a small fraction of others in this world possess. While ambition is a valuable quality, it also comes with its negative repercussions. After two years in this pressurized environment called UC Berkeley, I have experienced and seen the detriment that being overly ambitious and constantly competitive can bring – a depressed attitude, a sense of meaninglessness in all of this productivity and neglect of one’s needs and desires. As some may say, UC Berkeley students can really be on one. And at times, this behavior traps our minds and dampens our young attitudes. To counter this pressurized culture, I have provided a list of eight things to do in order to harness a positive attitude and to free our minds from this structure. Let’s strive for a psyched mindset in the things we do!
Take some time away from technology
Whether for an hour a day, or a day out of the week, taking time away from personal technology (i.e. laptops or phones) is a practice that promotes perspective and presence in our day-to-day lives. Instead of being overly absorbed with our use of technology, we are forced to see and be in the space of our immediate physical surroundings. While necessary in contemporary life, our use of technology has reached levels of toxicity and has demonstrated a level of a immense dependence — from phone withdrawal and toxic comparisons to others, to endless advertisements and steady distraction. Taking a break from technology allows us to really see what is going on: to free ourselves from the control technology often imposes on our lives. We are granted the opportunity to better check in with ourselves (plus, it’s a fun excuse to people watch on Sproul Plaza.)
Do or create something that brings you joy. This can be as simple as doodling in your notebook during a study break, or spending a weekend working on a canvas. Try not to think too hard about what your ultimate goal is, instead follow your impulse and instinct. This allows you to act instead of overanalyzing what you are doing. Trust yourself.
Get in the practice of doing nothing. In doing nothing, you are allowing your body, brain and essence to fully relax and restore itself. You are chilling and quieting your thoughts. While it is a difficult task, especially for students at a prestigious institution that is always “productive,” taking time to revitalize yourself increases your stamina to get work done and feel good while you’re doing it. Personally, the practice of doing nothing has improved my attitude and outlook on things in my “productive” school life.
Remember to smile and laugh (it’s free)
If you are looking to enhance your attitude and free your spirit, remember to smile and laugh. Sure, school is serious, work is serious, life is serious; but often, we take these things seriously too much of the time, especially as students! Do what needs to be done (like that essay you’ve been procrastinating on for a week) and try to have a good time while you are doing it. Laugh at your mistakes and smile when you feel like it. If you are looking to feel and be less uptight, this is a task for you.
Go outside and look around
Take some time out of your busy schedules to just be outside. Do work outside, take a walk outside, lay outside, BE outside. You do not have to be an outdoorsy person in the slightest (literally, go sit on Memorial Glade) but spending time outside is a great way to ground yourself! This frees us from the structure of the institution. Part of freeing the mind is freeing yourself from physical boundaries that restrict us. We must see space to create space in our minds — also, the sun is good for you.
Internalize the notion that health is your No. 1 priority
Prioritize a good night’s rest, a balanced diet (my deepest sympathies if you still have to eat at the dining halls), some time alone and keeping your physical health up. We all have one body and one life. Not taking care of our one body and one life is not an option. Internalize respecting your health and yourself. Allow yourself to feel your emotions and to put those emotions in perspective. We are all able to do better when we are feeling better. Good things come from feeling good!
Take some time to reflect on your actions, needs, wants, goals and any big questions you have. Do not limit yourself to the ways that you feel and think. Erase the binary of “right and wrong” and allow yourself to be as reflective as you can be. Challenge your ideas and think outside of the conventional boxes that shape this campus (and society in general.) For instance, it may be beneficial to ask yourself about some of the things that you truly desire and why. Take this time as seriously as you would if you were in the middle of taking a midterm or final.
Practice these eight things and I swear on Oski, life at UC Berkeley — and life in general — will feel more happy and free for both you and me!