Pope Francis presented a relatively spot-on 10-point plan for happiness during a lengthy interview with an Argentinian journalist. It started making me think — what is my definition of happiness, and how do I pursue it? As college students, we live extremely hectic lives and rarely have time to focus on our personal health. However, I consider these five steps that result in my personal happiness are applicable for others as well.

MINIMIZE STRESSORS
Let’s face it, college is a stressful place. We walk to class with an IV drip filled with black coffee just to make it through the day. According to the American Institute of Stress, 1-in-5 Americans suffer from exreme stress. The first step to achieving happiness comes from clearing blocks of time out of your day to focus on nothing but yourself. After restless hours of sitting in front of a computer screen, I find laying in bed and staring at the ceiling with headphones in is the best method of clearing the mind.

LIBERATE YOURSELF
Sometimes you just want to be alone, and that’s OK. Others will not know what makes you happy, only you will. Weekly schedules can become habitual, a seemingly inescapable pattern. It’s important to break these daily rituals by switching it up a little bit. Actions such as taking a different route to class or treating yourself to a nice off-campus meal can make the greatest difference.

GO OUTSIDE
Don’t be satisfied with the fresh air you get walking to class. Instead, find a time you’re free during a weekend and go on a hike. The leaves are in full peak, so take advantage of the breathtaking views the Adirondacks provide. If you don’t have a car, go explore the areas of Plattsburgh you and your friends aren’t familiar with. Take my word for it, there’s much more to do here than you think.

GET LOST IN MUSIC
Bob Marley once said, “One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain.” Music presents opportunities for self-reflection, creativity and adventure. Making a Spotify playlist of songs that make you happy is a good way of evoking positive vibes in your dorm room. And if you find yourself on the verge of crazily dancing on top of your bed, go for it.

For commuters, listening to music on the go has never been easier. If you’re feeling down at any point during the day, ear buds are surely no farther than an arm’s reach away.

Music is an escape from reality, an opportunity to ride the sound waves dancing in your eardrums. A brief 10-minute music session can make all the difference in the world when your day is going south.

VALUE FAMILY TIME
Seeing my family is the most anticipated event I look forward to as a break from classes nears. After weeks of demanding classes, a trip back home is exactly what the doctor prescribes. Many of us went to college to escape our parents, but it always seems that, after awhile, we begin to miss them. After all, they are the source of an incredibly delicious home-cooked meal. That beats Subway every day of the week.

And then there’s the furniture. Sleeping in your bed or lying on that big, comfy couch back home sure beats the Flintstones-like furnishings we live with on campus.

You are the maker of your own happiness. Only you will know what makes you happy.

Sure, for some, studying and spending hours on hours in a cooped up classroom might make them happy, knowing that will pay off in the long-run. But for somebody like me, who deals with an overwhelming amount of stress from school, I use this list to take my mind off of my responsibilities for just a short period of time.

I’m happy because I make time in my busy schedule to focus on my happiness. Otherwise, I’m a miserable jerk who makes those around me miserable, and I hate when that happens.

Email Chris Burek at opinions@cardinalpointsonline.com.

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