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Finding Happiness Amidst the Chaos of our Lives

By Rhea Z on February 26, 2024

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Life can be tough, especially for high school students, who have to juggle their course load, SATs APs, and social life. It is inevitable that things can get overwhelming at times. So the question we need to try to answer together is this “How do we find balance when we find ourselves in these stressful and overwhelming situations?” In other words, how can we find happiness amidst the chaos of our lives?

Before we get into it, it is important to note that while reading this blog post, you might start questioning “Will this actually make me happier?” And that's perfectly understandable! Many of these techniques may seem very simple - no fancy potion-making or anything—almost too simple. That’s why each section of this post also delves into the science behind the tool and any relevant studies that support it.

Practice Gratitude

In 2017, UC Berkeley wanted to explore whether gratitude was a factor in a person’s quality of life. To do this, they gathered university students seeking mental health counseling and divided them into three groups. In Group 1, students wrote and sent letters of gratitude to a loved one for twelve weeks. In Group 2, students consistently wrote their negative experiences; and Group 3 served as the control parameter, where the students didn’t engage in any specific activity. The psychologists discovered that the students in Group 1—the ones who wrote letters of gratitude experienced a significantly greater increase in happiness over the course of those three months compared to the other groups.

So, how can you incorporate gratitude into your life? For many of us, writing one letter a week might be too time-consuming. One common technique to embrace gratitude is to keep a mini “gratitude journal” and write down five distinct things you are grateful for each day. This practice should take around 5-10 minutes. By reflecting on your life, you can effectively express thanks for all the blessings you have.

Embrace Social Connections

Another tool to boost your happiness is to embrace social connections and foster friendly relationships. This could involve taking 10 minutes out of your day to reconnect with a friend you haven’t talked to in years, to taking your parents out for a coffee. It could even be as simple as saying “good morning” to five people you see on your way to your first class.

Harvard psychologists once conducted a study on adult development, specifically aiming to understand how numerous factors contributed to different trends in mental and physical health. After years of data collection and analysis, they found that people’s relationships positively affected their health. Ultimately, embracing social connections in the long term leads to fewer health problems and a higher chance of living longer.

Of course, taking the first step to invite a person you haven’t talked to in a very long time can be challenging, to say the least. However, forming and sustaining relationships might be easier than you think! Start by just messaging one person in your contacts list with “It’s been so long since we talked! How are you?” or asking “How are you?” to a neighbor. You might be surprised to see how much you’ll open up and be willing to do from there.

Be Kind to Others and Yourself!

One of the most well-known psychological strategies for increasing your happiness is to spread kindness, not only towards others but also to yourself. Neurological studies have shown that kindness can actually change your brain! By elevating serotonin and dopamine levels - neurotransmitters in your brain related to satisfaction and happiness - scientific evidence supports the notion that you experience more joy when you treat others and yourself with kindness. Other studies have also shown that the positive effects of kindness can manifest in as little as seven days.

Intuitively, acts of kindness elevate your self-esteem and self-worth. By spreading kindness to those around you, you foster a more positive self-identity, ultimately making a positive impact on others' lives.

There are many opportunities awaiting you to spread random acts of kindness within both your local community and the wider world. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Volunteering in your neighborhood and for local organizations
  • Caring for your mental health
  • Telling your friends what you love about them
  • Inviting others to join you for lunch
  • Becoming more aware of the world around you and listening to others
  • Catching up with your parents and grandparents
  • Opening doors for people behind you

Click Here for a longer, more comprehensive list.

Embrace Nature

Lastly, another way you can boost your happiness is to immerse yourself in nature. Whether this means taking a daily 10-minute stroll in a nearby park with a friend or going on a solitary hike up a trail every month, engaging with nature is a great way to alleviate anxiety.

Spending more time outside might lead to a reduction in worry and stress hormones. A study by Ulrich, Kim, and Cervinka found that spending more time in natural landscapes creates a better, more positive mood and state of mind. More detailed insights about the benefits of nature can be read here.


No matter where you are or what you are juggling, it is crucial to take time out of your day to care for your mental health and prioritize your happiness. This blog post only covers some of the techniques to hopefully make you feel better, but feel free to explore more on your own. Trying something new with different techniques can be challenging sometimes, but remember that together, we can make a happier, more positive community of learners and tutors.

Thank you Sharon V for editing this article! peer tutoring, for free.


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