How to Be Happy in Grad School

This is it everyone. I finally found the secret to happiness in grad school. The secret is….don’t go to grad school ;P. I am just kidding of course. Grad school has all types of happiness that can be found. You just have to know where to look.

Grad school can be an extremely rough time for an individual. It usually occurs during a very interesting transition in your life. The transition from being a dependent to someone who is independent. You may think this is 18, but trust me, the kids these days aren’t independent until they graduate undergrad…if that even.

Why this blog?

I was watching Hector and the search for happiness last night, and it made me think about what makes me happy. Am I happy? What even is happiness? There were so many questions that I thought about and I sort of figure some stuff out. Of course, these are things that make me happy and make others happy. I think the movie did a good job of answering some questions on happiness, but it missed out on others that might be essential for grad school.

I love when people say that they just want happiness in their lives. Yes! we all do, but that is not how things work and I think this mind set is one reason why people can become so unhappy. People want so hard to experience happiness that any minor unhappiness discourages them. Happiness can come from literally every situation but you need to be open and willing to see the happiness there. I write about this quite often. There is usually something good that comes form every outcome, but people tend to focus on the negative instead of the positive. This is why grad school can make individuals feel so unhappy.

How to be Happy in Grad School

happiness in grad school

So how do we become happy in grad school? The key here is to understand that happiness is not a destination, it’s a travel guide on your journey to where you are going in life. If you are severely unhappy in a job, you go to the next. If you are unhappy in a relationship, you leave and start one until there is more happiness than before. In grad school, happiness can be a bit sparse. You may experience moments of hardship that lead you to some very dark places. Talking with other grad student, this seems to be the overwhelming consensus. But the happiness is still there.

The happiness comes when you look for the good in all that you do. You may have failed an experiment for the 100th time, but you may have learned how to master a technique during that same period. If you focus on the good that came from the bad, that is when you find happiness. That little bit of happiness helps to motivate you as well. So, instead of giving up, you find reason to try that experiment one more time.

If you find happiness in grad school, this may lead you in the direction of academia as a profession. For me, I am teetering on this idea of becoming a professor instead of going into industry. Research, finding out the unknown, playing with chemicals all excite me and they bring me a ton of joy. Yes, I have failed experiments so much that I have contemplated breaking all of my equipment just to be done with it.

But, I looked at those failures in a different way. I figured that maybe the data that I was getting, though it wasn’t what we were expecting, was actually significant. Maybe what I thought was a failure wasn’t actually one at all. This brought a great amount of happiness because I thought that maybe I had stumbled upon some amazing scientific theory that will change the world of water chemistry. Turns out, I was contaminating my samples, but hey, that still brought happiness because I solved a problem lol.

Some things that I focus on to get the most happiness from Grad School

What are some things that you place above all others to make you happy or to bring some happiness in your life? For me, there are a list of things that I value above all others that I think contribute to happiness that I find everyday. Here are a list of those things. See if they match up with what bring you happiness.

Man Standing Beside His Wife Teaching Their Child How to Ride Bicycle happiness in grad school

1) My family, friends, and relationships with others.

You will go through life and have very hard times. Some of the hardest moments in my life so far have been made better by the love and support I had from my family, friends, and others. I have gotten out of some dark places because of others and that’s why this is top of my list. I find happiness from the time spent creating these relationships with these individuals. Of course there will be some hardships here too, but those lead to wonderous moments of love and happiness later. BUild relationships with others and your happiness will increase exponentially.

Yellow and White Alarm Clock happiness in grad school

2) Understanding that everything in life is temporary.

This is kind of a sad realization but quite an important one. All hardships that you have had are temporary. Every moment is temporary and every feeling is temporary. You will have sadness but that will fade as time goes on. It’s important to know that, because things are temporary, you must try and enjoy or at least gain something from those moments. People will come and go in your life. Some may stay, but they won’t always be there for you so it is essential that you focus on enjoying the time you have with them. You will find quite a bit of happiness this way.

Silhouette Photo of Woman Against during Golden Hour happiness in grad school

3) Focusing on the “free” stuff

This is a money section. Money can buy some happiness. Of course it can, it got me a scooter and it can buy McDonalds lol. But the free things in life are what truly bring joy. For me, walking in the morning and watching the animals brings me so much happiness and one other thing, peace. Being able to spend time with my friends and just talk about life brings me happiness, and it costs $0. Meditation has brought on so much happiness and peace and it was freeeeeee. We tend to think that the best things in life come with money but in fact they are the free things we take advantage of each day. I try and focus on all that is free to me and really appreciate those things.

Person in Yellow Hoodie Standing on Seashore

4) Being Myself

In undergrad, I used to work out 6 to 7 days a week, sometimes twice a day. All through high school, under senior year, I was chubby. I wasn’t necessarily fat, but I was not happy with how I was. So, in undergrad, I worked out and ate right so I could get lean and get girls. That was pretty much a huge focus. I cared so much what people thought about me that I started to change my character to fit the crowd I was in.

Unfortunately, I would be a totally different person around others just so they would like me. I was never myself because I was so concerned about what others thought about me and not about how I felt about me. You can see that this can bring a ton of unhappiness. I see this way too often in grad students. They try so hard to please others and change for others that they forget to be happy with who they are.

I realized later that, yes being myself may lead to fewer friends, but the friends I did get are ones that will be there with me for the rest of my life. I chose quality over quantity and man did that really help.

happiness in grad school

5) Not comparing myself to others

This is a new thing that I had to learn in grad school to stay sane. Anyone who has been in school knows of that individual who just has everything going for them. They are good looking, rich, smart, popular, everything good happens, etc. It’s annoying but that’s life. Have you ever compared your life to those people’s? I know I sure have and that made me feel like crap. First off, comparing your life to anyone else’s is going to cause problems. You are only speculating based on what you have seen so that’s pretty shallow. You don’t know what kind of life that person has or how hard they work to be where they are. Stop comparing and start doing stuff to benefit yourself.

Grad school is definitively all about comparing yourself. You will have people that work constantly and you see yourself not working as much. Boom! you start comparing your work habits to theirs. You see a person that just published their third manuscript and you haven’t even written one. Boom! you think you are doomed to fail in this. Comparing yourself to others accomplishments leads to torment. Focus on yourself and what you accomplish. Say congrats to others and then get back to work to obtain your goals. Also, stay off social media because that’s just one big pool of comparing yourself to others.

happiness in grad school

6) Finding the honey

I wrote a blog at the very beginning of my blogging journey where I talked about a monk being chased by a tiger. It’s a great story and I suggest you read about it here. Pretty much, the story is about finding the good in every situation. SO the monk found the “honey” in a very bad situation involving a snake, some mice, and a hungry tiger. This is what brings be true happiness, finding the good in bad situations.

Have you ever had a person talk to you and just complain about how hard their day is. They had to write emails, talk to Janice down the hall about her expense report, eat a lunch that wasn’t that good, etc. They make it seem like every situation that they have is the equivalent of getting their teeth pulled. See, don’t be like them because this individual only looks at the negative things in every situation and not the positive ones such as having a job, being able to eat, and literally just being alive. If you find the “honey” in bad situations, they stop being so bad. I guess a good way to say this is to look on the bright side of life.

I hope you find it

Remember that happiness is not a destination. You may get to a happy point in life but it is far from being the end. There will always be good and bad days, but the bad days will really make you appreciate the good days even more. This will bring about more happiness. I hope you find happiness in your grad school experience. It can be quite difficult but it is attainable. Some days will be hard to see happiness and other days will only be joyous. Enjoy the ride, you only get to go on it once.

**If you or someone you know is suffering from mental health issues, I highly recommend that they seek help. Online-Therapy.com or TalkSpace.com are great ways to reach out to a licensed therapist and get the help needed. Therapy has 100% helped me and I know it can help you.

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