Students Discuss Their Rewirement Challenges
But also kind of overcoming the habits we have built up based on our old expectations about happiness like, you have to spend that time productively whereas we saw in the course, grades which is probably a lot of what you're working on, It's not going to help. But I think the fact that I fell asleep so quickly was a nice way to relax and it did feel like I was kind of sleeping more soundly after that so that's good. This was something that I emphasized to do perhaps shamefully, but if one can be ashamed of one's human nature, I'm the professor teaching this and I'm still having as much trouble putting these kinds of strategies into places as like you guys are taking the class.
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All right. So Raven and Marina, thank you guys for agreeing to come in and talk about how your wellness activities went. I picked you two in part because you guys were here for all the different Silliman lectures, and you both agreed to kind of participate in our little four-week challenge. But then the thing was that you guys picked different activities that you were going to focus on. And so I thought it’d be fun to talk about each activity in turn, kind of what worked and what didn’t. And as you know, I also did some of those activities too, some that you did Raven, and some that you did Marina. And so, we’ll sort of see how we both fare. So one of the activities that came up both for us and for some of the other students was to focus on exercise. So we talked a lot about building in healthy habits as the kind of thing that can promote mental health and happiness. And so Raven, you thought about doing exercise. So do you want to talk about why you picked exercise? I also planed to add in exercise for four weeks but, do you want to talk about why you picked that one? Well, yes. So I picked exercise for two reasons. One, so that I can get in shape. Yeah. Yeah. The other because like the research shows, that like increased happiness and productivity. Which is like I feel I’m always tired, so I thought exercising will help me feel more energized. So I did it for the same reasons. I was like what of all the habits to get in, that’s good for happiness but also for other things. I had planned I think in my response, I wrote that I would do yoga every morning, was my plan. And so, what did you claim you’re going to do? I think I also said I was going to do yoga a few times a week and then like Blogilates. Nice. So how did it go? I think the first week I was like really good. And I did it, and then after that, like no. Yes. We must have been on the same schedule, because I did the same thing. I think the first week I did I was probably about four times a week I did yoga, then it it was Yale’s spring break. And so there was some break in my habits and then doing a little bit but not as much. And so one question and one of the things we’re focused on thinking about these kinds of strategies. So why didn’t it - like you planned to do it, right?. I mean, I know I planned to do it. Why didn’t it work? What’s your sense of what went wrong? Well, I think kind of in the same way as I can procrastinate like schoolwork. I can do the same thing and I wake up in the morning and I’m like, I can just do it later on. And then, later on comes like, and I’m like oh I’ll just start tomorrow morning. And it’s just a cycle that continues and continues. Yeah. I mean, I do that too. And it’s like Monday morning it’s like, uh, I’ll just do it tomorrow morning - I was doing it four times a week, I’ll do it tomorrow morning. And then, yeah. Awesome. Cool. So that was exercise which is one that lots of folks did. Another one that several folks were talking about, which I actually didn’t put in but thought was a great idea was sort of committing to using your signature strengths. And that was what you tried out a little bit, right Marina? So, why did that one Seem like a good one to focus on? I think when you had mentioned it in lecture, I thought that’s an interesting way to increase your happiness, like play to your strengths. So right after that lecture for about that week or so, I tried it out and I realized, “Oh, it’s really nice to think. You’re good at this, default to this and you’ll be happier.”. What were your particular strengths? I remember the first one was honesty. And that helped a lot just because it’s a nice moral thing to be doing, to like default to being honest and to be upfront with people but also be upfront with yourself. So I thought that was just a general good thing to be practicing. And when I did practice, I realized I was much happier. Awesome. Were there particular ways you practiced it? Maybe just a general sense that you are being more true to yourself. Yeah. I think it was like in the back of my mind, thinking, be honest, be honest. So, it was little things like, you’re spending time with your friend, you’re like compliment your friend if you like what they’re wearing sort of thing, but also being, I think today, I need to exercise and then exercising. Yeah. Yeah. So was that sort of two different types of honesty and I think that would mean a lot. Awesome. And so, we were hoping to kind of do these activities for a full four weeks. You mentioned you started in earnest the first week. Did it kind of keep up or how did it go? It didn’t go very far past the first week. I think mainly because, right when I’d committed to that right after that, my classes started getting especially stressful. Yeah. Because we were ramping up into midterms. And that involved all of my assignments crashing in at the same time. Yup. So, I wasn’t really thinking about myself. I’m just thinking about doing things on time and handling them in. Yeah. So, I wasn’t really sleeping that much, and also-. Yeah. Another one of our [inaudible] what we talked about. Yeah. Yeah. I mean, I’m hearing a couple of things there. One is we talked a lot about the fact that, because these kinds of strategies are new, unless you do them for a while, they don’t become habit, so they don’t stick. It doesn’t become like brushing your teeth where you just naturally do it at the time you would normally do it during the day. It’s the kind of thing you have to like work hard at. It feels like it’s intentional. It feels like it requires work at least in the beginning. And when your life is stressful for other reasons, you don’t feel like putting work into the things that feel like work. You kind of go back to the easiest mode of being. And it sounds like that was kind of what was happening there. Another thing is that, stressful periods and exam periods are times when your attention has to be elsewhere. You kind of shift your focus of attention to something else. And that’s the kind of thing with these strategies, unless you’re like even remember it, Yeah. I was was suppose to do that. You kind of miss it. And then you don’t get it. You don’t wind up doing the strategies as much. So it fits with what the science would say about what went wrong. But when you were practicing it, you were feeling - Yeah. And I was feeling really good. And that was actually a huge motivator for me to keep doing that. But then, it wasn’t so much like, “Oh, I’ll save that for later.” But it was more of just like, “I can’t be thinking about that right now.” Yeah. Like it has to take your backseat, which is sad because part of the backseat is I mean, again, we all do this, right? Which is why so many of these things are misconceptions. It’s like you’re taking a backseat to focus on your grades, and we know what your grades aren’t going to make you happy so - Again, these things are so strong. Okay. So then another strategy that a lot of the students focused on was trying to increase their gratitude. Kind of have moments where you experience gratitude. This was another one of the ones that I tried to do. I mean Raven, you also tried to increase gratitude. So why did you pick gratitude? I picked gratitude because that’s something that like going into the year I thought I wanted to do. And I started to do, but I wasn’t really sure about like how to go about that. Then after lecture, like I had better idea of how I wanted to do it. That’s why I picked it. And how were you actually doing? Were you like writing? Like physically writing it down? Yeah. So I keep like a bullet journal, so like within my weekly planner, I have like a spot for gratitude. Write down what I’m grateful for every day. Awesome. And so did that one work? Is that habit you stuck with? Oh good. Yeah. And so why did you get a sense that that one was different? Like why was it easier to do that one? Well, because I use my bullet journal every day. And so every week when I make my weekly spread, I have a little part for gratitude. So it’s like already there and I see it every single day. So I was constantly being reminded of the fact that that was something I was supposed to do. Yeah. So you’re using a habit that you already have, which is using this journal, that you nicely built up the habit of. And you have it set up, where it’s really obvious how it slots in. So I hear a couple of things there. One is, you harnessed it to a habit that you already had. You made it really easy for yourself because like you’re already in your journal. Yeah. And you were able to capture your attention with it. There’s this spot in your journal where you’re supposed to do it, and it is useful because you just saw that, and it reminded you so. Yeah. Cool. So I had a similar thing. I had not had a good habit of gratitude before this and decided in part because the class, I was going to do like daily gratitude, write down five things I’m grateful for every day. And so I downloaded an app. The one I use was called Mojo. It’s like cute little guy. And the app itself would ping me at night like, “Hey, do your gratitude things.” And because of that, that was the one that I actually did pretty well in part, because it was easy. It was just on my phone, and the phone bugged me. So when my phone buzzed, I was like, “Oh, I’m supposed to do it, right? “ Gratitude. And then you could just do it really quickly. So part of it was feeling like, didn’t take a lot of work. It was really quick. And I had this kind of external reminder to kind of bug me and get in my face about it so. Cool. Another one of the things that a lot of folks talked about was they were trying to promote social connections, and kind of increasing, we saw in the context of the course, that even though we don’t think, spending time to talk to people, kind of increases our time. We kind of feel like it just kind of takes away from our time it ends up allowing us to really feel more connected. It increases mental health and well-being and stuff. And so Raven, you were trying to do more activities to promote social connection? How did you decide on that one? I was like, wow that sounds good - connecting more to people. And it sounds so simple but in practice, you have to do these strategies to do it. I think I said I was going to reach out to someone I don’t normally see, like once a week. Nice. But again, that was like difficult. I was going to say, how did that one go? It only worked once. Like I ran into Marina in the dinning hall. We had brunch then after that it was like not something that I thought about because I’m used to just eating by myself to have productive meals and do work and got caught up doing that. So it’s hard to talk to other people while I’m busy doing work. Yeah. So sounds like a couple of things there. One is, forgetting like, “Oh, that was supposed to be my habit. I was supposed to do that.” But also kind of overcoming the habits we have built up based on our old expectations about happiness like, you have to spend that time productively whereas we saw in the course, grades which is probably a lot of what you’re working on, It’s not going to help. But even things like time affluence, like filling your time with all these productive things we saw wasn’t as effective as we thought, so. But again, hard to kind of snap out of that, which is funny. A final thing that we talked a lot about, right? Another thing we talked a lot about, and this was something that I tried out too was strategies for kind of controlling and regulating your mind. We talked about the meditation and how powerful it was in reducing mind wandering and how I had all these like positive mental health and health outcomes. So that was one that I sort of committed to. I had never meditated before but decided this was a good time to do that. And Raven, you had done a little bit of meditation before, but also added some more in, is that right? Yeah. So talk a little bit about what you’d planned to do as part of meditation? If I remember correctly, I think I was going to meditate like every morning. Mine was that I was going to meditate every night before bed or do a sleep meditation before bed to try to at least have some time before then. And how did yours go? So like I feel morning wise, it did not work. Because I was busy during the day and then at night, I’m like it’s so late, when I go to bed and I wake up and I could meditate for like 30 minutes or I can sleep for 30 minutes and sleep always wins. Well that is - you know as we saw sleep is also important, so for that trade-off maybe you’re making a decisive - I did like meditate occasionally and in lab meetings on Fridays we meditate. So I got some meditation in there. I was like - it’s hard to devote time to doing something that doesn’t seem productive even though we learned that it is. When I plan out what I’m going to do for the day, it’s hard to say, I’m going to spend 30 minutes, like not doing homework. And I think a couple of things in there that are really good points. One is, I’m hearing the need to schedule it really specifically, right? Like if you just kind of wait for the moment like “it feels like a really good time to take a half hour meditate” like that’s probably not going to happen, right? But also just like the tension that so many of our habits and our in-the-day motivations of what we do are built of these things that we think are going to make us happy, they’re super hard to shut off. So just kind of just knowing that like meditation is a good thing to do doesn’t immediately let you put it into place. Even though after you do it you’re like wait that was great. For my sleep meditation, I found a good app. The App that you recommend is Inside Timer app that has a lot of sleep meditations on it. And that actually worked pretty well for me. I would put headphones in and listen. I was already in bed anyway, so it was like it didn’t take an extra commitment. And I would like to say that I did the whole meditation through but mostly I just fell asleep. But I think the fact that I fell asleep so quickly was a nice way to relax and it did feel like I was kind of sleeping more soundly after that so that’s good. The final thing that lots of students wanted to try out isn’t necessarily a strategy to be happier, but it’s a method for putting the strategies in place that we talked about working really well which is this WOOP method which is where you think about your wish, what outcomes you get from that wish, what obstacles there are, and then you kinda make this if then plan for putting your wish into action. This was also something I had planned to do. I was going to try to pick a particular strategy I wanted to do with it and use WOOP. I decided in the shower in the morning I would think through all those parts, make my plan and so on. But, Marina, you also thought about using WOOP for two things that I thought was cool. Yeah. One of the things I was thinking about was social media usage. And just because I knew I would use that as a study break that ends up just being mindless scrolling. I also had read outside that when you’re sleep deprived, you tend to keep scrolling. So I decided to try to think about social media as kind of like the way I treat my e-mail account which is only check on it during working hours. Nice. So that early in the morning that wouldn’t be the first thing I saw and right before I was going to bed or should be sleeping, that wouldn’t be something that I would be seeing. So I tried to use WOOP to control that habit. Awesome. And so how did that go? It went pretty well, I would say, I ended up like setting alarms on my phone that were labeled that said like log out off social media or like you can log in now. And that was part of your plan. It was kind of like; if I’m on social media and the alarm goes off, then stop. Yeah. So, that definitely helped. And even if I did wind up using social media early in the morning, later at night, I already had in my head like, “Okay you have to just get off.” And it helped a lot. Yeah. And that’s sort of the power of that approach as we heard in class, right? Is that, if you practice like the obstacles are going to be “I’m on it, I want to keep going”, and my plan is like, say, “Stop.” Just give yourself this feedback because you practice it in advance. When you’re in the situation it makes it easier to use it. Cool. And then you also talked about using WOOP maybe for a more long term thing like kind of some goals about writing more? Yeah. So one of the things. I always liked writing but I never submitted my writing outside of campus. I wanted to purposefully like, let myself take that leap. So I was using WOOP to think of those goals. My goal was by the time we had this meeting to like have said, “Okay, I sent three of my pieces to a lot of places.” Set a pretty big goal. It was a pretty big goal but I thought even making that kind of far reaching goal was pretty nice because it forced me to talk to my professors about how to do that. Now I have. I was taking notes from what the professor was telling me and Now I have actual instructions and I have that in the back of my backpack and I know I’m ready to go. That’s great. And that’s nice because I think one of the reasons WOOP is really useful, is that when you make your if-then plan, it’s not just like, “And then I’ll”, you submit three papers. You break that action down into these smaller steps that you need. You realized like, “Oh, first I actually have to talk to my professor. First I have to do these”. And so even if you only get to the first couple steps, those steps are like real concrete steps that you’re taking and you sort of have forced yourself to break it down into the correct bite sized parts. So that sounds awesome. That sounds like a success of some of the goal setting approaches. Cool. One of the nice things about this conversation is that it reveals a couple of things. One is, we’re all in the same boat together. This was something that I emphasized to do perhaps shamefully, but if one can be ashamed of one’s human nature, I’m the professor teaching this and I’m still having as much trouble putting these kinds of strategies into places as like you guys are taking the class. And I think one of the things we’ve seen is first the power of those misconceptions that we have in the beginning. We know grades, and like working these hours instead of prioritizing our time and prioritizing social connections. We know the data suggests that that’s bad, but all of us have done that like instead of doing these strategies that we know would help. We know the importance of setting up the situation to be easy. So making sure it’s easy to do your gratitude app or that you’re reminded of the goals you set for yourself. But actually making that situation in advance is sometimes tricky, and we saw the importance of goal setting that the more we break it down into bite-sized parts the better. But even I did that when I set my plan up like, “I’ll just exercise every morning.” But I didn’t really put into, like, what will happen if I’m like really sleepy and I don’t want to do it. And so that even shows the importance of thinking about how much we need to be very explicit in advance about setting these things up, how much they’re not going to be second nature until we put these things into place for a while. So thank you for sharing and being really real about both your successes and your failures. I think all the folks who are listening will be able to resonate if they tried it out and if they’re honest about things - they will be able to resonate. I think in our next video, we’ll talk a little bit more about what are some of the ways we can overcome some of the problems that all three of us faced as we tried to put these strategies into place. So thank you guys.
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