This article was submitted by Rita Duzzo Grohs, a student in Environmental Engineering.
Happiness can be very personal and subtle. But happiness can also be common sense: to be surrounded by those that we love, to feel safe and relaxed, our bellies full. As PhD students, we don’t have much time to do the things we love, but we have to find space for that, because life is always busy; there will always be something ‘more important’ to do rather than chase happiness.
In my routine, I try to find happiness in small things, the little details of life. Some days I don’t wake up in a good mood, but then – on my way to uni, listening to music – I hear a song that reminds me of a crazy holiday that I spent travelling with my best friends. Or a baby smiles at me on the train. Or a cute dog crosses my way. Those things make me smile, and bring me a brief moment of happiness that I can try to carry for the rest of the day.
Sure to brighten anyone’s day.
There are also more concrete things that make me happy. Talking to my friends and family, telling them my agonies, chit chat, asking about their life… Getting away from my PhD worries for a while, and feeling loved. A good call (or, much better, a face-to-face talk) can really make me feel lighter and happier. During our PhD, we don’t have that much time to do what we love, so we learn to enjoy our free time at its fullest. I think it’s important to know yourself and, consequently, what makes you feel happy.
Each day, I find it essential to exercise, because I feel that I have too much energy. To spend all day in front of a computer is quite a challenge for me, so I choose to exercise at the end of the day, to sweat and make my heart beat faster. At the end, I feel so good and refreshed for another day of work.
My favourite sport is surfing; it really makes me feel happy, relaxed and complete. Although a PhD is has flexible hours, I leave surfing for the weekend. Some people can surf early in the morning and feel more energised for a whole day of work, but I feel a bit tired. I also prefer to go surfing without worrying about when I have to get out of the water. So again, I believe that knowing yourself and how you work helps a lot to do the things that really make you happy.
Hard day at the office.
I try to practice yoga every day, as it really relaxes me. I try to slow down my mind and to focus on my respiration. It helps me to become less anxious. I do it at night time, to go to bed more relaxed and thus sleep better.
I feel happy when I get home with that feeling that I worked well during the day, that I finished my tasks. It makes me feel so satisfied, so proud of myself. But I like even more when I can deal with my frustrations. It’s not every day that I’ll be productive, that I’ll finish what I have planned for that day. For me, to be happy as a PhD student is to learn how to be gentle with yourself. In the end, you will probably be the one more rigid to yourself, the one with the highest expectations.
When I’m really stressed, I try to remind myself that everything passes – that this is just one more moment of my life that will end sooner or later. Sometimes I look at old pictures of my good times, where I’m having a beer with my friends, travelling or spending time with my family. This helps me to see the moment that I’m living from a different perspective. To be on the PhD journey is to be really submerged in our work; things are so intense that we can lose the notion of time, so I find it important to step back sometimes and calm down.