University is a weird, but wonderful place. For many, it’s the first time they have independence. That can be an excitement for some, but also a shock for others, who may be used to home comforts like their mummy’s yummy homemade lasagne or cuddles from their scruffy Cockapoo, Mr Fluff. Having (just about) successfully completed my first year of Durham university, I decided to compile together a series of methods I use within my daily university routine. Here are 15 easy ways to stay happy, fit and healthy in the hope that they may be of use to other students (whom may or may not be missing Mr Fluff).
To Stay Fit
1. Sign up to the University/college gym
This is probably the most obvious and simple thing that one can do to keep fit! Finding a gym in a convenient location at an affordable price is the first step to becoming a fitter you. Luckily for me, Collingwood College’s gym was a 30 second walk from my uni room, so I had no excuse not to hit the gym in my free time.
If running on a treadmill for 20 minutes feels like torture, my biggest piece of advice is to check out some podcasts to listen to. I was recommended a series called ‘My Dad Wrote A Porno’ and I often found myself hiding giggles from the neighbouring treadmillest. For a more intellectual listen or for those of higher maturity levels than me, check out Radio 4’s ‘The Infinite Monkey Cage’.
2. Get involved in your local Parkrun
Parkrun is a timed 5km run that is not only good fun, but also entirely free! Every Saturday morning at 9am in almost every little corner of the country, a run takes place. One word of caution, know that the struggling middle-aged man with the sweaty headband and unfortunately tight lycra that you just sped past, may well be marking your essay you submitted last week!
3. Join a Uni/college sports team
Make sure you get involved in a team sport of some level. Whether you’re a competitive sports person or your agility and coordination resembles that of a llama with three legs playing lacrosse, there will always be a sports team keen to take you under their wing; even if it is the clandestine goings on of the uni quidditch team.
4. Workouts in your room
So you want to workout and stay fit, but you aren’t willing to spend a penny? Here I present you with an easy solution! Why not use your overpriced uni accommodation to workout?! My personal favourite is creating my own HIIT workouts and using an interval timer app on my phone. For those who don’t know HIIT, it stands for ‘high intensity interval training’ and can be completed in a mere 15 minutes.
Another option is Blogilates on YouTube, though this recommendation comes with the warning that you have to get over the fact the woman is intensely annoying. Besidies that, it is actually quite a good workout.
5. When you have the option, walk!
Walking is easy: you put one leg in front of the other at a mediocre pace and it takes you from A to B. As a form of exercise, walking is often massively underappreciated. Not only does it burn fat, but it is also great for toning your legs, bums and tums. So next time you’re about to spend money on a 10 minute taxi journey after a night out, consider putting those legs to use and walking back instead.
To Stay Healthy
6. Meal plan and prep
Although my spreadsheets are questionably a step too far, meal prepping and planning is a brilliant way to keep on top of what you’re eating at uni and can also help to keep your food spending down. Making a large batch of a simple chilli at the beginning of the week and then popping portion sized bags in the freezer is a great way to get started. Later in the week you can easily transform these into a burrito, topped nachos or even a bolognese type dish.
Quick easy breakfasts can also be made by cutting up fruit and freezing it in mixed bags, ready to be blended into a smoothie/shake. For anyone looking to make some serious gains, there is the added option to chuck in a scoop of your favourite protein powder (banana for me).
7. Ditch the takeaways
Ok, so yes we should all have a cheat day from time to time, but eating takeaways as part of your weekly schedule is something I would strongly advise against. Falling into the trap of post night out food is very easy at uni (particularly when your journey home passes these fine establishments). But before you walk in, THINK! Does your body really need the cheesy chips soaked in garlic mayo? Or is it simply a drunken craving that would be better ignored? Ditching the takeaways is one step closer to a healthier uni you!
8. Brekka Brekka Brekka
I don’t know what it is about uni that means breakfast suddenly becomes extinct, rarely appreciated meal. As a kid I had the phrase ‘breakfast is the most important meal of the day’ drilled into me. My morning still starts with a hearty breakfast (or what I like to call brekka). Not only does it give you energy for the day and keep you satisfied until lunch, but having breakfast means you’re awake earlier and you get a longer day.
Breakfast often gets a false reputation as a boring meal, but why not jazz yours up with some smashed avo on toast with poached eggs or some pre-prepared overnight oats? (Check out @maddyrunsandeats on Instagram for more breakfast suggestions)
9. 8 hours sleep
From my first year university experience, I think it’s safe to say there are two main types of sleepers at uni. You either have the up all night studying, barely sleeps, stressed student or the sloth student who only appears from their room once a day to either finally attend a lecture or grab something to eat (if they appear at all). Neither of these I would deem healthy and it’s important to try and find a middle ground. One method I use is restricting myself to only lie in once a week. On other mornings I have an 8:10am alarm, waking me up for breakfast. A good night’s sleep is vital!
10. Don’t be afraid of the doctors
For many, going to the GP is something they have never done without a parent and at university they are often nervous/hesitant to go. Your health is very important. I have had friends with a toe oozing a slightly green liquid, a never-ending cough and I myself have had my skin grow over a cartilage piercing. In all these situations, the person in question was hesitant to go to the local doctors.
My one big piece of advice here is enlist a friend and GO! You don’t want to end up sitting in A&E on an antibiotic drip like I did, after having a doctor cut out something from the top of your ear that could have easily been a lot less painful and dramatic if I had just gone to my doctors. On the note of health, sexual health is also important at university! So if you’re a ‘top shagger’ in the words of one of my friends, make sure you get yourself checked regularly.
To Stay Happy
11. ‘Me time’
One thing I have learnt from my university experience is that so called ‘me time’ is something that is necessary in a daily routine. At uni, you spend hours in the company of others and I often found myself spending days on end without ever really being alone. Although at the time I thought I was happy (being extroverted I buzzed off the energy of others), when finally left alone after these long periods of company I would often find myself down and feeling low.
I have since discovered some simple ways to add ‘me time’ into the day. Simply taking a pause and enjoying a cup of peppermint tea, coffee or whatever your preference of hot beverage is, can be an easy way to start. I personally also really enjoy a good walk; normally at night with my headphones in listening to a playlist of my favourite tunes. Other ‘me time’ tactics to name a few include: reading, yoga, meditating, colouring, crosswords and running.
12. Check your outlook
Your outlook on yourself and life is something that is important when it comes to being happy. I started university with the view that others’ opinions about me mattered; my actions were affected by my peers and I wasn’t sure of myself or what I wanted to achieve in my life. A year down the line and my outlook has changed massively.
I have become less caring of friendships where the other person makes little or no effort; because in my opinion if somebody is worth your time/friendship then they should be equally invested. I am more aware of my long-term goals and spend my time in ways that will help me to reach these.
13. Keep in contact
Many people go to university far away from their family and friends. Some students struggle with homesickness and a desire to travel home whenever possible. My advice for those far away from loved ones is to keep in contact, but to not let your ties to an old home hold you back from fully experiencing uni life (and yes that includes doing your own washing).
Some students never actually achieve true independence at university. They travel home most weekends and spend hours on the phone updating their family/friends about their new uni life, without ever actually fully living it. My advice is to limit trips and calls home, but to stay in contact.
14. Surround yourself with positive people
At university there are so many different people to meet. Whether it’s in your halls, in your course or on a sports team, there are new people everywhere. One way you can really help maintain your happiness at university is to surround yourself with positive people. Friends that make you laugh, happy and bring out your true self are the friendships you should seek to form and keep. When tough times hit, it’s the positive people who will be there to lift you up. I was very lucky to have found a strong support network of positive friends within my first term of uni.
15. Be resilient
Sometimes in life we are unlucky and experience sadness or pain. To stay happy in these difficult times, the best quality we can possess is resilience; the ability to keep fighting and get back on our feet. The thing I have taken most from my first year experience is the importance of resilience. In tough situations it is often the easy option to become a victim and wallow in self-pity. To stay happy we must learn to be resilient and find a positive outcome to any situation.
Do you have any other ways to stay happy and healthy at university!? Share in the comments below!
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I'm a sporty Natural Sciences student at Durham University. I am 19 years old and grew up in London where I have been cooking for myself and my family on and off for 7 years. I'm a keen fitness fanatic and my Fitbit is my pride and joy. Although my main sport is volleyball, I dabble in a variety of other sports: mainly for my college, Collingwood.