Top 8 Mini Goals For Psychology Students in 2017
New Year's resolutions are for suckers and are designed to disappoint. We spoke to 100 psychology graduates from all over the globe and asked them to share with us their most achievable habits, which helped to make their time at university more enjoyable and successful. Here's what the hive mind had to say...
1. Get A Hobby
But how?! When?! Dissertation! Finals! We hear you, but it's massively beneficial for our wellbeing as humans to have something we enjoy that doesn't involve a computer or a trip down to the pub. According to Reference.com, "(b)esides improving creativity and generating good moods, hobbies enhance the ability to focus and concentrate." Many of the graduates we polled said they took up knitting or crocheting. These simple activities can be extra satisfying, as not only do they give you something to do with your hands, which will also focus your frazzled mind, but the fruits of your labours could be little miracles like these!
LOOK at these teeny treasures! You can buy the patterns on Etsy to create these cuddly creatures yourself. Squeeeee!
2. Clean Weekly
We can hear your collective sighs from here. But seriously, you know what they say about a cluttered house... According to Psychology Today, "researchers at Princeton University found clutter can actually make it more difficult to focus on a particular task. Specifically, they found that the visual cortex can be overwhelmed by task-irrelevant objects, making it harder to allocate attention and complete tasks efficiently." This lack of concentration can undermine even your best efforts when cramming for an exam. If you live with friends set up a rota where you each clean one room per week.
Much better! Your momma would be proud!
3. Volunteer More
Whether at the elderly care home down the road, at the hospital on a Saturday morning, or taking calls on your university's crisis line, this mini goal won't just benefit you. If you're studying psychology you'll want to clock up those volunteer hours anywhere you can. The University of St. Andrews notes that, "(f)or all [psychology] specialisms it is important to start building up a portfolio of work experience as early as possible." Psychology, in a nutshell, is the science of people, so spend your time volunteering with as many different people and client groups as you can to improve your interpersonal skills, social skills and to help you become epically empathetic. There's no such thing as volunteering too much.
You can always look for psychology-specific opportunities like SLV.Global if you want your CV to really stand out.
4. Do A Group Activity
So many of the graduates we polled cited this as something they wish they'd initiated during their time at university. Whether starting an improv troupe, joining a choir, or learning to play an instrument in a group environment, collective activities help you feel connected to others and improve your ability to work in a team, which is beneficial not only throughout your studies, but also your future career in psychology. As researched by the Royal College of Music, London, "a 10-week programme of group drumming can improve social resilience by 23% and mental wellbeing by 16%." Spoiler alert: University is stressful. Being part of a group, any group, can help.
Look how much fun these guys are having!
5. Cut The Caffeine
Say what? I know, I know. Coffee is life, but it can also lead to increased anxiety and stress amongst university students and who needs a side order of panic attacks? Not you! An article published by the American Psychological Association finds that "Caffeine does have its cognitive perks — including boosting alertness, energy and feelings of well-being — but overuse can cause a range of unpleasant side effects, including troubled sleep, jitters, irritability and gastric distress." We're not suggesting you give it up all together, but slow down on those triple shot Frappucinos. You'll be more focused and your nerves will thank you!
This is not the answer...
6. Travel More
While this may seem like the ultimate luxury to anyone who's staring down the barrel of their dissertation and final exams, it is possible! Although the likely dream during these difficult times is to get horizontal on a beach, you don't need to board a plane to get away. PsychCentral.com's blog notes that "Visiting another location is not only an eye-opener into interesting history and culture, but it also serves as a reprieve for the mind." Little breaks to the park at lunchtime or to a neighbouring city for the weekend can do wonders for your mental health and your productivity.
Looking for more of a challenge? Why not spend your summer or time post-graduation sharing your skills with communities abroad? This experience allows you to fully immerse yourself in your subject at the same time as gaining valuable cross-cultural experience that can increase future employment and education prospects. As written about in USA Today, "Going to a foreign country for a volunteer experience is a huge boost on a resume. Employers love to see a person that can think outside the box and work past their comfort zone." Check out SLV.Global, who run Mental Health Placements for psychology students year round and your university may even help you with funding!
Choosing between getting experience or seeing the world is tough...so don't.
7. Move Your Body
If you're like us, then your idea of exercise might be bending over to pick up a bottle of wine or running for the bus once and a while. However, even just a little exercise can do wonders for your mind and overall wellbeing to help you perform your best academically. A paper published by the Online Journal of Health and Allied Sciences regarding the effects of physical activities on the academic performance of Melaka Manipal Medical College students reported that, "(r)egular physical activity not only reduces the stress level but also has beneficial effect on body as well as mind." Creating a small amount of time in your weekly schedule to run around, do some yoga or play a game of football can do wonders for your concentration and memory and retention. Because science.
If you need inspiration, these guys have plenty for you.
8. Enjoy The Moment
Self care is important and we should all make the time to look out for ourselves. If you have a spare five minutes try just being still. As psychology students you know all about the power and benefits of mindfulness, but do you practice it yourself? Mindfulness is so effective at combating university-induced stress and anxiety that the University of Cambridge is due to start offering free courses to their students to help them perform their best. Now, we can't all go to Cambridge, but there are plenty of resources out there to help you get started on your journey to zen.
This little spirit animal
9. Be Kind To Yourself
BONUS!! Really we shouldn't have left this until last, as quite often that's where we place ourselves in our own lives and we should try and prioritise our own needs more. Remember, if you achieve all or none of these mini goals you're doing a great job. You are enough and you are important.
Everyday, treat yourself as if you were this dog in a blanket.