Medical Student Perspective: 10 Tips on How to Be Happy in Medical School

Medical Student Perspective: 10 Tips on How to Be Happy in Medical School

To some fellow medical students, happiness may be shrugged off as a weak emotion or a last priority. Other medical students would say that happiness is the key to making the medical school experience memorable and positive. I believe that to be happy is a wonderful feeling, and when I am happy, I am more efficient, productive, and enthusiastic.

During my first year of medical school, I often heard things like, "You are always cheerful," "There's your signature smile again," and "You have such a great energy about you." Some classmates have asked me why I am so happy. To them I respond with, "Why not?" I have much to be happy for. Here are my ten tips for how to stay happy in medical school, despite the ups and downs:

1) Smile and think positive thoughts. I smile when walking to class, in lab, the cafeteria, the gym, hospital, etc. It is easy to have a blank or emotionless face, but it is just as easy to have a soft smile, even if it seems to be forced at first. Try smiling more often. It will put you in a better mood. Your smile is a part of your attire, so don't leave home without it. You just might make your day and someone else's.

2) Surround yourself with happy and positive people. When other people around me are in good spirits and have good intentions, then it is a better environment for me. Try to find good people who you feel great hanging around.

3) Write down motivational quotes. I have sticky notes of positive quotes in my room and other quotes on my phone. I also decorated my notebook cover with a positive message. On exams, I write short positive phrases on my scratch paper like, "You can do it!", "Think things through", and "You're gonna rock!" Put motivating quotes in places you visit often, like your computer, your notebook, the mirror in your bathroom, your doors, the kitchen, the fridge. Spread positivity in your home and in your life.

4) Set one small goal every day. Some examples are putting a smile on someone's face, saying "Thank you" and "My pleasure," complimenting someone on a sharp look or insightful contribution, doing a kind deed like opening a door for someone, reading two chapters for anatomy, or reviewing five lectures. Think about goals you would like to check off for that day, and make it a point to reach them.

5) Laugh. Laughter is indeed the best medicine. During some of my study breaks, I look up comedy clips like ones from Key and Peele. Find something or someone who makes you laugh and enjoy it.

6) Make time for your hobbies. Hobbies are a way to relax and take your mind off school. I work out, dance, sing, and draw, among other things. Continue an activity or hobby or try a new one.

7) Take time for self-reflection. I meditate and reflect often. If faith is a part of your life, make time for it.

8) Start and end the day with positive thoughts. In the morning, I say three different positive things about myself ranging from feeling confident without wearing make-up, having the courage to speak up when something is not right, and being able to anticipate the needs of others. Before bed, I say three things I am grateful for. It puts things in perspective and allows me to go to bed with positive thoughts. If you believe that you have valuable qualities, give yourself credit and share them with others in your daily interactions. Also, observe and acknowledge things in your life that you are thankful for.

9) Integrate unique positive words in conversations. I greet people with "Aloha" and "Hola" and wish people on their way with "Keep on smiling!" When asked, "How are you?" I usually say, "I feel lucky", "I feel grateful today," or "I am fantabulous!" I also text smiley faces at the end of messages. Explore different phrases, see what fits you, and be genuine when talking to others.

10) Be yourself. Find out what makes you happy and do it.

There are many ways to be happy, and it takes time and practice at first, but I have found it worthwhile. In the meantime, I wish you success and more smiles in the future. Cheers to your happiness!

Tracey Isidro
University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston School of Medicine
Class of 2017

Back to September 2014 Issue of IMpact

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