As midterm season begins, I can feel a wave of fatigue and melancholy wash over campus. I see people moping around between classes, exhausted after getting little to no sleep because they had to finish an essay or study for an exam. Students come out of classrooms with a disheartened attitude over their latest grade or the amount of homework they have. Too many people are complaining about how much they hate college recently. Yik-Yak and other social media sites are filled with messages criticizing the negatives of college but none mentioning the good things.
In my opinion, we all need to take a step back out of our depressed moods and remember to be happy. We need to remember that although exams and essays are important, we can’t jeopardize our mental and emotional health for them. We also need to realize that although at the moment college might be difficult, it can actually be quite enjoyable. Finally we need to lift our moods and calm our minds while still getting all our work done. To me, two of the easiest ways to do this are through smiling and cursing.
At this moment, most people are probably wondering what cursing and smiling could possibly have in common, but they have similarities. Despite what some people might think, being angry is not a bad thing. Actually, feeling anger and letting it out can be very beneficial to your health. Even cursing, something often taught from a young age to be taboo, can help manage and release pent up anger. One study from Kelee University in England found that when students were asked to expose their hands to cold temperatures for 40 seconds and were allowed to scream obscenities, they felt less pain and could endure the temperature longer than the group that couldn’t curse. The scientific term for this is the hypoalgesic effect of swearing. Cursing actually helps to lessen pain and release stress. Now this doesn’t mean you can go right up to your professor and drop an f-bomb, but it does mean that if you stub your toe or are stressed maybe yelling a few obscenities isn’t a bad thing after all.
Being happy and energetic is a challenge a lot of the time, especially after getting only four hours of sleep before a chemistry midterm. But that is exactly what we must do to get our work done and enjoy life. When you are feeling lethargic and depressed, it is hard to focus on work. It is hard to even gather the motivation to do it. It is also hard to have a socially and emotionally healthy day because you are only focusing on the negative aspects of your day. Those moments are when we need to smile the most. Even though it’s the last thing you would think to do when faced with a day of exams and studying, smiling is an easy way to make the day easier.
The act of smiling releases “good feeling” neurotransmitters in your brain, such as dopamine, endorphins and serotonin that can lower your heart rate and relax your body. The serotonin that is released acts as an antidepressant and mood lifter, while the endorphins act as a natural pain reliever. Smiling is one of the best natural mood lifters next to laughing, so pull up that funny YouTube video or text that one friend who can always make you smile. I know it sounds a little cliche but just one smile can make a bad day a little better.
Although smiling and cursing are two very different actions, it can be very beneficial to do more of both. Since college is at times a stressful environment we should all take time to care for our mental health. Whether it is watching a show that makes you smile, spending time with friends or repeating a few expletives to release stress, we need to take our mental wellbeing just as seriously as our physical health. If we take time to de-stress each day and smile at a stranger we pass on the way to class, we can improve the overall atmosphere on campus.