5 Fun Ways to Celebrate Galentine’s Day in Orlando

My Instagram feed is starting to fill up with pink and red, which can only mean one thing: Valentine’s Day is almost hereAs someone who is currently single, I don’t have any major plans for next Thursday, aside from sneaking a chocolate or two. (Having said that: if anyone is platonically shopping for me, the heart-shaped Crunch candies are my favorite guilty pleasure this time of year!) However, as a fan of Parks & Recreation, I have always loved the idea of Galentine’s Day as a day to celebrate your friendships.

Here in Central Florida, there are a lot of fun ways to celebrate happy occasions with your friends, whether you’re hosting a Galentine’s Day, bridal shower, birthday, or simply a Tuesday. Check out my five suggestions for a fun Galentine’s Day or other group celebration in and around Orlando!

Note: Despite the title of my post, these activities can be shared with friends of all genders!

5 Ways to Celebrate Galentine's Day in Central Florida | Wellness & Wanderlust

1. Host a tea party at AntiquiTEAs.
Nestled in Winter Garden’s Plant Street Market, AntiquiTEAs is a local loose tea shop with more than 60 custom blends. With a little planning ahead of time, you can host your own tea party there! The owners set up tables out on the patio and can serve food and tea depending on your party’s needs. For my 27th birthday, I hosted a three-course tea party at AntiquiTEAs, complete with salads, hummus-based cucumber rounds, and delicious baked goods. We had vegans, vegetarians, and gluten-free ladies in the group, but the fine folks from AntiquiTEAs did an excellent job of ensuring that foods were available for all dietary restrictions. Plus, the teas are amazing!

*

2. Take a limo cycle tour in Sanford.
Bike around Downtown Sanford for a couple of hours with a group of 8-15 of your closest friends, and stop at the local bars along the way! My MBA class did a Limo Cycle Tour one weekend, and it was the perfect way to explore Sanford’s brewery scene while spending time with friends. (Disclaimer: Do not host a study group afterward.) Afterward, grab a bite to eat at Hollerbach’s Willow Tree for some German comfort food — and, if you’re brave enough, Das Boot. For 10% off your Limo Cycle private tour, use promo code WELLNESSANDWANDERLUST when booking the tour online.

*

5 Ways to Celebrate Galentine's Day in Central Florida | Wellness & Wanderlust3. Make a pound of chocolate at Farris & Foster’s.
Much like the rest of my family, my greatest weakness is chocolate. That’s why I was so excited to spend my department’s holiday team-building at Farris & Foster’s! Located in Baldwin Park, this chocolate factory offers parties perfect for families or groups of friends. You’ll learn about the various chocolate-making techniques, while sampling pre-made chocolates available for your group, and you get to come home with some delicious treats of your own making. If you’re worried about the calories, you can always walk a few laps around Lake Baldwin when you’re done. 😉

*

4. Go to a wine tasting at the Island Grove Winery at Formosa Gardens.
This winery, located in Kissimmee, offers a garden bistro and an array of fruit wines to choose from. Visit the winery for a tasting! For more info, you can read all about it on Courtney’s guest post here.

*

5. Take a goat yoga class at Goat Yoga DeLand.
Based at Patty’s Parrot Palace, Goat Yoga DeLand regularly offers goat yoga classes on their farm. If you haven’t taken a goat yoga class, I highly recommend it! For animal lovers, this is a therapeutic experience that really brings in the “aww” factor, and not only do they offer Sunday classes (check their event schedule here), but they also can offer private events that you can book ahead.

*

How are you celebrating Galentine’s Day this year? Sound off in the comments!

 

When “No” is a Complete Sentence

Around my 25th birthday, I embarked on my year of yes. Inspired by Shonda Rhimes (and probably Jim Carrey in Yes Man), I took on new adventures, made travel a priority, and stopped waiting to do the things I always hoped to do someday. For the first time in years, I was finally creating the life I wanted.

If I’ve gained nothing else from the past two years, I do know this: I believe in the power of yes.

However, as I approach my 27th birthday, I’m also becoming a firm believer in the power of no.

The Power of Saying No

A chronic people pleaser, I’ve always hated the idea of saying no. Most of the time, I genuinely want to get involved in new things and spend time with others, but I also have the tendency to overcommit. I’ve said yes to social plans I’m not keen on. I’ve continued relationships past their expiration date simply because of my fear of hurting others. I’ve allowed people to talk down to me and treat me in ways I didn’t deserve in order to avoid confrontation and not upset anyone.

Ultimately, I’ve put myself last.

A lot of people fall into the same camp, hoping to make others happy and disappoint as few people as possible. But by saying yes to activities we honestly don’t enjoy or to negative behaviors from others, we are diminishing the value of our own time and self-worth. By putting energy toward the things that don’t nourish your soul, you are taking energy away from other areas of your life, and are less able to put forth the best version of yourself. It isn’t healthy for the relationships you do value or for your overall wellness.

66949567

Saying “no” can come in many forms, from a simple “I can’t go tonight,” to telling someone that you’re uncomfortable being spoken to in a certain way. It’s okay to take a night to yourself (fellow introverts, I’m looking at you!). It’s okay to block dramatic people from your newsfeed, ignore passive-aggressive comments from frenemies, and unmatch with rude people on dating apps. The world is yours to enjoy just as much as anyone else, and saying no doesn’t make you any less of a kind person.

In recent months, I’ve gotten a lot better at saying no, walking away from negative situations, and not backtracking to explain every last decision I make. I’m not sure where this newfound ability came from, but a psychic I visited in Cassadaga a few months back did tell me that I would find my voice around my birthday. Whether or not my new knack for “no” came from the psychic’s predictions, it has helped me lead a happier and even more fulfilling life, allowing me to become a better friend who has committed to her own self-care.

In short, let go of the optional things in life that make you unhappy. Be open to new people and experiences, but don’t be afraid to say no when you need to. Life is short — shouldn’t we get to choose how we spend it? 🙂

Be My Valentine: A Letter to My Younger Self

Strange and Unintentionally Funny Vintage Valentine's Day Cards  (1)February 14th lingers just around the corner, but for the first time in five years, I will be single on Valentine’s Day. For some, the thought of not being in a relationship at this time of the year can be downright depressing — and for a long time, this held true for me as well. After all, for melodramatic teenage Val, every year that a boy didn’t send a carnation to me in English class practically felt like a year wasted! It’s interesting to see how much our perspectives can change over the years. This post is a love letter to myself and to everyone else out there who is still searching. 🙂

*

Dear Younger Me,

I know that not having a boyfriend feels like the end of the world, especially at this time of the year. I also know that you won’t believe me when I tell you it’s not. You have a lot of exciting opportunities in your life already (and I wish I could tell you about all the adventures you are going to embark on in the not-so-distant future!), but you still base a large chunk of your self-worth on your relationship status. For that, I’m truly sorry.

Because of that, you aren’t particularly picky right now. In fact, you would likely allow someone to treat you poorly 80% of the time if you had their love and positive attention for 20% of the time. I know that sounds harsh, but over the next few years, you will ignore a lot of red flags and accept some pretty harmful behavior in order to avoid being alone. You will receive flowers and chocolates on Valentine’s Day, but the person who gave them to you won’t necessarily be that best friend and support system you need and deserve.

By getting into a relationship mainly for the sake of being in a relationship, you stop trusting your inner voice and start accepting things that you should know in your heart are not okay. By muddling through something that doesn’t make you happy, you end up breaking your own heart and putting a strain on other close relationships in your life.

I wish I could shield you from some of the bad decisions I know you’ll make over the next few years, but I truly believe that what you’ll learn from them will only make you stronger and more resilient. Still, that knowledge doesn’t make a toxic relationship any less toxic, and knowing what I know now doesn’t mean I can just turn back time.

I’m writing to you at 25 now, and (spoiler alert!) we’re single again. Valentine’s Day is in just four days, and the beautiful flowers in my kitchen are not from a secret admirer; they were just a gift I bought myself a few days ago. I wouldn’t mind being in a relationship again, but now that I have a clearer picture of what I want, I’m not willing to settle for less than I deserve. I’m not spending Valentine’s Day alone — I’m spending the long weekend with loved ones, and I couldn’t be more excited. I do things because I want to do them, not to earn someone else’s approval. I spend more time creating fun memories with old friends and cultivating relationships with new ones.

I am technically alone on Valentine’s Day, but I’m not lonely. I know in my heart that another relationship will come along in the future, and in my quest for true happiness, that relationship is just one part of the equation. Besides, who knows what our future self will be writing to us in a few years? 🙂

For now, please be kind to yourself and remember that no situation is permanent. Enjoy your single time, learn from the rocky relationships, and appreciate the good times. Don’t let your friendships fall to the wayside. Remember that you deserve a lot better than you often allow yourself, and never allow fear to strand you in a harmful situation with no way out.

All my love,

Valerie

Link Love Wednesday: Rock Mafia and Haunted Houses

ridinghoodshoI can’t believe Halloween is already almost here! The month of October really flew by, and I’m still not really sure what my costume will entail this year — although there’s a good chance that I’ll break out the famous tiger ears again! 😉

What are your Halloween plans this year? Let me know what you’re up to in the comments section below. (I’m in need of some costume inspiration!) As always, enjoy this week’s Link Love.

Things I’m Loving Lately

  • The delicious handcrafted marshmallows at Wondermade, a local cafe in Sanford, FL. You can purchase their many flavors as gift packages online!
  • When The Emperor Was Divine by Julie Otsuka, about one family’s experience with the Japanese internment camps during World War II. A very moving read.
  • The Big Bang by Rock Mafia. It isn’t new to me, but I could listen to this song for hours on repeat.
  • My recent purchases made through Pop Your Pup. It’s an awesome place to make pop art T-shirts of your pets!
  • Julian Edelman, Wide Receiver for the New England Patriots. He’s been on my fantasy football team from the beginning, and what he lacked in points this week, he easily made up for in dashing good looks. 🙂

What’s your favorite link love this week? Share your latest findings in the comments section below!

The Weekend Five: Best Things About Having a Sister

bestthingsabouthavingasisterWhen I was two years old, I became a big sister. Growing up, we had the typical love-hate sibling-rivalry relationship, and although we were partners in crime, we also constantly fought. After I graduated from high school and moved three hours away, we grew a lot closer, and two years later, she joined me at my university. Over the last four years in the same area, we’ve had a lot of adventures and helped each other through the tough times as well. She is my best friend, and my only regret is not realizing that when we were little!

This weekend, we packed up my sister’s apartment for her big move to graduate school. The move was bittersweet — while I’m ecstatic for her to embark on this new chapter of her life, I’m sad that we won’t be living 30 minutes away from each other anymore. (I’ll also miss my adorable niece, Lucy the chihuahua mix!) Today’s Weekend Five is in honor of my amazing sister — and all sisters everywhere!

The Weekend Five: Best Things About Having a Sister

1. You have a best friend at birth.
A sister is basically a built-in best friend. If I get married someday, I have no idea who the groom will be — but I’ve known who my maid of honor will be for nearly 23 years. Raised by the same parents, you grow up in similar circumstances, often participating in the same activities and developing some of the same interests. Even if your personalities are completely different, you still have a similar upbringing and shared experiences that set you apart from everyone else.

*

11913243_10155900359350627_26340899_n2. You can empathize with each other over strange family dynamics.
My sister always joke that we bond the most over being annoyed with our parents. While this isn’t actually true, your siblings do understand (better than anyone else) the family dynamics, and can laugh or commiserate with you when a relative says something silly or offensive.

*

3. You can read each other’s minds.
I can make a face at my sister or say one word, and she knows exactly what I’m thinking. I love that we can burst out laughing about something that no one else understands, almost as if we have our own language. Telepathy is a superpower that not everyone is lucky enough to possess, but when you have a sibling, telepathy is a very real thing.

*

4. Your sister won’t judge you, because she has to love you.
While this can be a stretch for some sibling relationships, I am fortunate to have a sister who doubles as my support system. I’m a perfectionist who always tries to be on, especially in a very people-driven career, but with my sister, I don’t have to be perfect — I can confide in her about mistakes I’ve made and decisions I struggle with, and she listens and gives helpful feedback. She knows she can always do the same with me. We are not trying to impress or compete with one another.

*

5. You have someone who can be a total weirdo with you.
My sister and I have the goofiest conversations that — as evidenced by #3 on this list — only we understand. No topic is ever off limits, and we can act like complete dorks together without worrying about how we are perceived. I love having so many crazy inside jokes with one person!

*

Best of luck in grad school, Julie! Readers, what do you love most about your siblings?

From A to Z: Everything You Need to Know For a Successful Freshman Year

From A to Z: Everything You Need to Know for a Successful Freshman YearIt’s hard to believe that just six years ago, I was packing up my childhood bedroom and moving to Orlando for college. At times, I still picture myself as that awkward 18-year-old girl who was so excited to take those first few steps toward adulthood. In many ways, mine was the traditional college experience: four years of changing majors, making friends, hosting theme parties, interning around town, cramming for finals, dating the wrong guys and joining more clubs than a sane person should. My undergraduate years still hold some of my favorite memories, and taught me more about myself than I ever cared to know.

For many of you, those first few days of freshman year are just around the corner, and you’re probably having a lot of mixed feelings. Whether you’re nervous, enthusiastic or somewhere in between, this blog will guide you through some of the most important aspects of your college experience, from A to Z.

A – Appearance
As superficial as it may sound, it’s important to put an effort into your appearance! Your university’s dress code may technically allow you to roll into your lecture hall in pajamas… but that doesn’t mean you should. The way you dress plays a big role in the first impression you give off in class, among new friends and in front of professors and potential employers.

*

From A to Z: Everything You Need to Know for a Successful Freshman YearB – Books
Unless your professor requires some special edition that isn’t offered elsewhere, don’t buy your books at the school bookstore. Rent them through third-party vendors, visit local used bookstores or buy your books online. It will save you a ton of money in the long run!

*

C – Choosing a Major
Don’t worry if you don’t have it figured out right now. Take some time to enjoy your general education classes and to take an introductory course that interests you. For more tips on how to choose the right major for you, click here.

*

D – Dorm Life
This may be your first time sharing a bedroom or bathroom with someone, so make sure you talk to your new roommate(s) about your expectations and responsibilities. A new dorm room is also the perfect excuse to decorate, so have fun personalizing your new home!

*

E – Extra Credit
If your professor offers extra credit, always do it. You might not think you need it, but when your grade is dangling at an 89 at the end of the semester and you need that extra point, you’ll thank yourself.

*

From A to Z: Everything You Need to Know for a Successful Freshman YearF – Friends
Open yourself up to the possibility, and you might meet your best friend in college. Get involved, talk to people in your classes and in the dorms, say yes to social outings and don’t be afraid to step out of your bubble.

*

G – Greek Life
Rushing a fraternity or a sorority can be a great way to make an overwhelmingly big university a whole lot smaller. If the idea of Greek sounds interesting, talk to older friends who have gone through the process and decide if it’s right for you!

*

H – Health
Above all, you must prioritize your health. Avoid the typical Freshman 15 weight gain with these helpful pointers, and remember to take care of yourself when illness strikes. Utilize the gym, health center, counseling facilities and other campus resources to maintain your physical and mental health. Because college can be a stressful time for many, staying healthy and happy is often at the bottom of our lists.

*

I – Independence
If you are living in a dorm room or away from home, college is a great opportunity to test out your newfound independence. It will be fun to make more of your own decisions and to not have a curfew, but it will also teach you the importance of finding a balance.

*

From A to Z: Everything You Need to Know for a Successful Freshman YearJ – Joining Clubs
Joining clubs on campus will allow you to meet likeminded people, have a good time and possibly even develop yourself professionally. It’s a great way to connect with your university and find leadership opportunities early on. Find organizations that interest you and attend the info sessions – you have nothing to lose!

*

K – Kindness
This should go without saying, but remember to treat others with kindness. You’ll meet people whose lifestyles, beliefs and upbringings are radically different from yours, so it is important to be openminded and still respect others regardless of your differences.

*

L – Learning For Learning’s Sake
You’ll get so wrapped up in prerequisites and major classes that you might forget that college is, among other things, a place to learn. Take a few elective classes in areas that interest you regardless of what requirements they fulfill. Enjoy the act of learning.

*

M – Mentors
Find an older student, a community member or a professor who inspires you, and turn to that person as a mentor. This is a great way to start building your network, and you’ll also have someone to ask for advice on classes, internships and more. If you don’t know where to start, see if your school offers any organized mentorship programs to pair you with someone!

*

From A to Z: Everything You Need to Know for a Successful Freshman YearN – Networking
I cannot stress the importance of networking enough! It may sound terrifying, but it doesn’t have to be. Get to know people every chance you get. You never know who will be able to help you out in the future — or whom you’ll be able to help. Networking helped me land a job right out of college! Read more about my experience here.

*

O – Office Hours
Your professors are required to hold office hours, so attend them. They can be a great resource when the class material just isn’t clicking, and it’s always an added bonus for the professor to put a face to your name.

*

P – Partying
Enjoy having a social life, but learn to do so responsibly. Remember why you came to college in the first place.

*

Q – Quiet Space
Find your quiet space on campus for when you need to study or simply get away. Whether it’s the top floor of the library or a secluded corner of a campus garden, find that quiet space and use it when you need it.

*

From A to Z: Everything You Need to Know for a Successful Freshman YearR – Romance
Unless you’re one of the lucky ones who meets your soulmate on the quad that first week of school, you’ll probably have your share of good and bad relationships in college, and that’s okayFrom every “failed” relationship, you’ll learn something – or at the very least, you’ll have a good story to tell. (My exes had better beware of my memoir! 🙂 ) Enjoy the ride.

*

S – School Spirit
Soak it up! Wear your university colors, attend sporting events and be proud of the institution you attend. Don’t pretend you’re “too cool” for it. The time will eventually pass and you’ll wish you’d enjoyed yourself more.

*

T – Time Management
Find an organizational style that fits you, and use it. Having strong time management skills will allow you to balance classwork, extracurriculars, work and a social life. The more you hone these skills now, the better prepared you will be for the future!

*

U – Unique Opportunities
In college, the world is your oyster. If an opportunity sounds too good to pass up, take it! Study abroad for a semester. Volunteer in another city for an alternative spring break. Run for student government. Take advantage of these opportunities while you’re still in school, as they might never come back around once you graduate.

*

V – Values
Be true to yourself. Know what is important to you, and keep that close to your heart as you make decisions in college. Don’t let others push you into something that makes you uncomfortable or puts you in danger.

*

From A to Z: Everything You Need to Know for a Successful Freshman YearW – Wallet
Learn how to budget and take care of your finances. Learn to live within your means. Your money habits now will shape the way you spend and save long after you graduate.

*

X – eXams
The dreaded exams will pop up every semester at least once, so it’s important to prepare for them. For more on how to survive your final exams, check out my article on Career Camel.

*

Y – You Time
Take time for yourself. College can be a very social environment, and I encourage you to take advantage of that, but it’s always good to spend some time alone without worrying about others. “Treat yo self” to a night in every now and then, or focus on putting together that DIY Pinterest project you’ve had your eye on. Making time for yourself will help you maintain your sanity when life gets stressful.

*

Z – Zero Tolerance
Love yourself enough not to tolerate negative treatment. Have zero tolerance for the people or situations that make you feel lesser than. If a friendship or relationship is making you miserable, leave. If you dread being part of a certain organization, quit. Life is too short to waste on people who treat you like crap.

*

Best of luck to all of those starting college this fall! Readers, what are your tips for incoming freshmen?

Link Love Wednesday: Disney Princes and Venus Retrograde

Well hello there, Prince Charming…

Happy August, readers! I graduated from college two years ago, but I still get that same lump in my throat when August rolls around… It’s almost back-to-school time! Thankfully, I won’t be juggling work and classes this time around (although next August may be another story!), but this time of the year is still a hectic one for me. I’m happy to have a few more slightly relaxing weeks before things get crazy here!

How are you spending your last few weeks of summer? I’d love to hear about it in the comments! In the meantime, check out the latest batch of Link Love, and feel free to share your own favorites. 🙂

What are your favorite links from the last week? Share yours in the comments section below!

What I Really Mean When I Say “I’m Fine”

I-Want-Someone-To-Look-Me-In-The-Eyes-300x270We’ve all seen those Tumblr images about the girl who says she’s “fine.” You know the ones I’m talking about, the ones that say things like “When I say ‘I’m fine,’ I want someone to hold me close and tell me, ‘No you’re not.’” The ones that confess that any time we tell others we are okay, we are clearly lying, because how can we ever truly be okay?

I’ve never been a fan of these quotes because they’ve really popularized a culture of not saying what we mean. In the past, when I have told others I am “fine” after a stressful event, it genuinely meant “I’m fine” – or, at the very worst, “I’d rather not talk about it, so let’s leave it alone.” It has never meant “I am hanging on by a single thread and I am dying for you to probe for more information.” And yet, it seems that whenever I say something is “fine” or “okay,” people interpret it as a walking Tumblr meme, with the faceless girl crying into her eclectic sweater.

This extends into those viral dating articles about “what she really means when she says ____.” In today’s culture, I would expect these sweeping generalizations from a men’s magazine (no offense, guys!), but women’s magazines and lifestyle websites are just as guilty of these articles. Whenever I’ve made the mistake of using the word “fine,” guys I’ve dated have even said, “I know you’re not fine, because no girl ever actually says that and means it.” How depressing is that? Forget all of the other overanalyzing that both sexes do when it comes to decoding the other one’s text messages. (Having said that, if anyone ever types “K.” in a text message, you know that person is pissed off.)

tumblr_m954r2KFeZ1qfqg3uo1_500It’s true that all of us have a lot going on underneath the surface. There are plenty of things we don’t know about other people and their struggles, insecurities and relationships. Because of this, we should treat everyone with the kindness and understanding we would wish to receive from others. If we suspect that a friend is going through something difficult (even though she claims to be fine), we can say, “If you need to talk about anything, I’m here,” but we shouldn’t immediately jump to the conclusion that everyone who doesn’t say “I FEEL AWESOME!” is crying on the inside.

Tone is an important thing to consider when conversing with friends. Obviously, there are instances where the person sounds sarcastic or truly dejected, but please take those instances on a case-by-case basis and don’t automatically assume that everyone is feeling completely awful or that everyone wants to talk about their emotions. For once, let’s take what others say at face value, and assume they are not lying to us about their innermost feelings. Many times, they are not.

The Weekend Five: Facebook Friends We Wish We Didn’t Have

bad_facebook_friend_tshirt-r9e77664892704bb584c6af29b37fa0bd_804gs_512In the age of social media, we find ourselves rubbing virtual shoulders with people we like and people we don’t like. Despite the fact that we choose the “friends” we follow, we still run into a few bad apples who slipped through our newsfeeds or timelines (which, sadly, look mostly like this).

Comb through your social media profiles, and I guarantee you will find at least one (if not all) of the five friends/followers that we all sort of want to de-friend.

The Weekend Five: Facebook Friends We Wish We Didn’t Have

1. The Rabid Politician.
Okay, I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a little biased… for me, this definitely applies more toward the opposing political party than my own. It’s natural for a lot of us to feel exceptionally annoyed toward those who are vocal about something we disagree with. However, there are many times when even my fellow members of the Whig Party start to get on my nerves, when the only thing they post about is their political outrage. I don’t mind a few political posts now and then (I’m guilty of a few myself!), and I obviously think it’s important to care about your country’s affairs. But when your timeline reads like a political attack ad, it’s time to put down the (probably partisan) newspaper and go enjoy some fresh air.

esc_010WiestFerrell2. The Salesman.
No, I do not want to buy your makeup product or nutritional** cure-all pill, thank you very much! I have become much more jaded thanks to people like this, so whenever I receive a message from someone “out of the blue,” I am instantly suspicious. These relationships are often one-sided and unless you are offering something I truly need, I don’t want our first conversation since kindergarten to boil down to you asking me for money.

3. The Purge Enthusiast.
This is the girl who threatens to purge all of her contacts except for her “true friends.” (Let’s face it, in my experience, this has always been a girl.) Every few weeks, she complains that “no one is reading this” and that she will be deleting everyone who hasn’t “been there” for her. Sometimes she even provides a call-to-action (“if you still want to be my friend, message me” or “comment with three things you like about me” or “go to the farthest mountain and bring back the final ingredient to the potion I am brewing”), which – more often than not – I refuse to participate in. Sometimes I am unaware of the purge that has taken place, only to wake up to a status that says something along the lines of: “If you’re reading this, you fulfilled the unrealistic requirements I have been imposing on my casual acquaintances.” Sometimes I do not pass this test, but instead receive a friend request from the person under a new name a few weeks later. And the cycle continues.

1344315965956_40575544. The Perpetual Smart-Ass.
This person does not have one nice thing to say. Instead, he (occasionally a she, but usually a he) copes with his insecurities by trolling our social media profiles. Did you just post the most beautiful profile picture you’ve ever posted in your life? Well, The Perpetual Smart-Ass will be sure to comment… not to compliment you for how you look in the photo, but to poke fun at something very miniscule in the background. Did you write a particularly clever status? The Perpetual Smart-Ass will attempt to one-up you with something they believe to be even wittier. I’ve even had my grammar incorrectly corrected by this person! In fact, there are a few people whose notifications I dread receiving, because nothing they write is genuine and everything is underscored by their secret longing to be the smartest, most interesting person in the room. (This is the same person who regularly quotes Internet memes in real life conversations.)

5. Who’s That?
I can’t remember where we met or how we know each other. I’m sorry, are you a mutual friend of So & So? Did we do a group project together in middle school? I want to know who you are but I became too embarrassed to ask after you Facebook-poked me the other day. I’m not sure if this is related to some inside joke we had, or if you’re just creepy. Actually, I’m not sure if we know each other at all! It looks like we have no mutual friends, your profile pictures are all images of Jim Carrey in his various movie roles, and all of the comments on your wall say something along the lines of, “Who is this?”

Who are some of your most dreaded social media contacts? Any you’d like to add to the list?

** – Not approved by the FDA. May cause horrific disfigurement. Use with caution.

The Freshman 15: Finding Happiness in College

findinghappinessincollegeFor those who attend my alma mater (and many other universities throughout the world), today is the first day of school! Growing up, I always loved this time of the year, as I stocked up on fresh school supplies, spruced up my wardrobe and hoped that a cute new boy would move to town and be in all of my classes. Now in my second year out of school, it still feels crazy for me not to experience that “first day” excitement, as my inner nerd aches to read through a new syllabus and crack open a new textbook.

Many of you are starting college today (or next week, or early next month) for the first time ever. I congratulate you! College can be overwhelming, exhausting and, at times, heartbreaking. Completing your undergraduate degree is no laughing matter. But when I look back on the past 23 (almost 24) years of my life, I remember that many of the happiest moments took place during my university years.

Over the years, several of my readers have asked, “How can I find happiness in college?” Today, as you embark on this new and exciting adventure that is your undergraduate career, I’d like to share 15 of my own tips for truly living your college experience in a positive way.

The Freshman 15: Finding Happiness in College

1. Get involved on campus.
You will get out of your college experience what you put into it. What you do in the classroom is one key to your success, but keep in mind that it isn’t the only key. By joining a club or committee that interests you, you will not only gain valuable experience that you can’t obtain from a textbook, but you will also meet new people and challenge yourself in new ways. For tips on how to get involved on campus, check out my handy guide here.

*

13589981289522. Smile.
Did you know that the first Friday of October is World Smile Day? 🙂 Sometimes even a simple smile can brighten your day and turn your mood around. People respond better to you when you look happier, but people are less likely to approach you with a scowl on your face. It’s simple: Smile more, and happy things will follow.

*

3. Eat a more nutritious diet, and cut out the chemicals.
Seriously. This was always something my dad preached in our house, and I never wanted to believe it, but it’s true. I find that when I eat a diet rich in whole foods (as opposed to raiding the vending machine at work and binging on fast food), I’m a lot more even-tempered and less likely to overreact to minor things. If you can’t pronounce it, don’t eat it. Not only will this make you happier in the long run, but it will make your waistline happier, too.

*

4. Talk to your friends…
We all need somebody to lean on. You’ll make friends as you adjust to your new environment, and as you grow closer, you will likely turn to each other for support. This is a good thing, because it will allow you to grow closer and form more meaningful relationships.

*

thcaaxvjkd5. … But don’t lean on one person too much.
When you rely on one person too heavily, you may wind up putting too much pressure on him or her to solve your problems and be that shoulder to lean on. You don’t want to be that one negative friend that people dread talking to, so be sure to keep that in check when confiding in others.

*

6. Utilize the university counseling center if necessary.
If you’re having trouble adjusting to college life or are having some emotional difficulties, a good resource to take advantage of is the school’s counseling center. Chances are, your tuition and student activity fees actually pay for counseling services anyway, so it is a free resource that you might as well use. This can help you find new ways to cope with your problems and talk to someone who isn’t as close to the situation as your friends are.

*

7. Whenever you start to doubt yourself, listen to an emergency compliment.
I love this site, Emergency Compliment, because it’s exactly what it sounds like. The page generates a new “emergency compliment” every time you refresh, and the compliments will definitely make you smile. Similarly, you can write down all of the positive things people have said about you, and read them on the tougher days to remind yourself of how great you really are.

*

free+time18. Get organized.
Make checklists and keep a calendar to stay on task with your school work, extracurriculars and social obligations. This will ensure that you don’t forget anything important and therefore cause yourself even more stress and anxiety than you were already facing from those two papers and three midterms. For tips on managing your time effectively in college, visit my guide here.

*

9. Take each day one at a time.
Don’t try to solve all of the world’s problems at once. When you try to do too much, you stop doing any of it very well. Be careful not to spread yourself too thin!

*

10. Go outside.
Enjoy the fresh air and beauty of nature, even if you are inundated with schoolwork and group projects. As a student, I often brought my books outside when the weather was nice, and I found that this had a major impact on my overall mood. If you can, try to study or meet for lunch with friends outside once in a while… the change in scenery will (quite literally) brighten your day.

*

endorphins11. Move around.
Does your university have a free gym for students? Use it! The endorphins will boost your mood and help relieve some of the stress you’re facing. Plus, it’s a very healthy way to get your mind off of some of the things that may be bothering you!

*

12. Find a major you really love, and stick to it.
If you enjoy what you’re doing and have an end goal in sight, it will make it that much easier for you to push past your challenges. You may hate that organic chemistry class you’re taking, but if you are passionate about your other pre-med classes and excited about the idea of becoming a doctor someday, you’ll have an easier time forcing yourself to study. Don’t pursue a major just to impress others or check it off your list — instead, find something you’re passionate about. For tips on how to choose the right major, click here.

*

13. Volunteer.
Helping others, instead of focusing on the things that have gone wrong in your life, will cheer you up and allow you to give back to the community. Join a volunteer organization at your university, or look for a local non-profit whose mission speaks to you.

*

-114. Develop some school spirit!
If you take pride in your school, you will be less homesick and have an easier time adjusting to the challenges you face on campus. Attend a few athletic events and wear your university’s colors proudly! This also helps you to connect with others on campus and you may even make friends at the games.

*

15. If you expect wonderful things to happen, they will.
My friend Nicole always says this, and I completely agree! Good things will come when you have a positive attitude and expect them to. When you’re going through a rough adjustment, keep your chin up and hope for the best. Positive thoughts can attract positive outcomes.

*

What are some of your tips for finding happiness in college? Freshmen, what topics would you like to see on The Freshman 15?