Valentine’s Day: The holiday connotes heart-shaped chocolates, awkward dinner dates, and making love—all events that occur between people. Yet “love” is a feeling, a state of mind that isn’t constricted to solely between a lover and a beloved. Don’t worry, we at Spectrum aren’t here to remind you of Lit Hum or Foundations. Instead, we just want to remind you that love takes on many forms besides those reflected in conventional Valentine’s Day celebrations. One of these is self-love.
Set aside time to meditate
Though from the outside meditation may seem like “doing nothing,” it is precisely this complete directing of consciousness toward the breath that makes everything else melt away—that paper you need to write, that person you met at a party who ghosted you, that “friend” that’s pissing you off right now... Indeed, meditation has been scientifically found to melt away stress and anxiety, boost immune function, and even increase the volume of areas of the brain related to positive emotions and self-control. But that’s not all: Meditation also increases ability to focus and find “flow”—that rare combination of energized focus and full enjoyment in an activity—in everyday tasks. To get started, begin with these free iOS and Android apps.
Drop in on a yoga class
Level up the previous suggestion by adding in some exercise. If you have a mat and enough floor space to lie it flat, you can get started with this beginner routine right from the comfort of your living space. And if you want a bit more guidance, classes can be found right on campus at Dodge through this link. If you’re looking for a vibe a bit more conducive to self-reflection, also consider checking out the Harlem Yoga Studio, at 44 West 125th St., and Unity Yoga, at 350 Saint Nicholas Ave., which are both walking distance from campus.
Begin a bullet journal
You know those super pretty journals with all the different sections that people post on Pinterest all the time? Well, they’re called “bullet journals,” (also affectionately known as “BuJo” by those who swear by the habit) and they’re a great way to self-reflect, plan out your day, and express your inner artist and calligrapher all at once. If you’re one of those people with chicken scratch or nonexistent drawing skills, don’t worry. This minimalistic and functional system created by original bullet journal inventor Ryder Carroll is ultra-simple and the perfect way to get started!
Go on a run
There’s something about running—that perfect combination of lactic acid burn, gulps of cool air, and nature—that makes it so calming and rejuvenating. That amazing runner’s high is scientifically proven: Studies have shown that running lifts mood, boosts working memory and focus, and improves resilience to stress. So the next time you have one of those odd two-hour gaps between classes or just feel like there’s some unshakable tension stuck in your chest, lace up your sneakers and head over to Riverside. Bonus points for bringing a friend or preparing a killer playlist beforehand!
Plan a fun night with friends
We are the average of the five people we spend the most time with. Take some quality time then, to appreciate those people who you lean on for support, Netflix marathons, and lecture notes. Make Valentine’s Day Galentine’s Day. Additionally, if you have access to a kitchen and don’t mind getting your hands a bit dirty, find some recipes online, trek over to MoWillie’s or Westside Market, and roll up your sleeves to get cookin’!
We up here in MoHi are often way too agreeable—we often feel pressured to agree to commitments even when we know our schedules are already full.
“Mind reading over my paper?”
“Of course not!”
“Want to attend XYZ professional development session on Wednesday?”
“Sounds like a great opportunity.”
“Want to go out tomorrow night?”
And so on and so forth.
Although these requests might initially seem insignificant, they add up: An hour here and an hour there causes us to become overextended, sleep-deprived, and left with a to-do list that keeps on getting bigger.
Time is money—in the city that doesn’t sleep, it’s worth even more than money. You wouldn’t give a friend a $20 bill every time they asked, would you? In the same way, you shouldn’t freely give your time. Factor your own schedule and emotions about the task into the equation. Think: Do I have time for this? Will it bring me joy? If the answer to both questions is “no,” then politely but firmly decline. Remember that it’s perfectly acceptable to say no, and that there’s no need to hide behind a fake excuse. “I’m sorry, but that won’t fit into my schedule at this time,” or a smile and shake of the head should get the message across.
Don’t set an alarm
Columbia is number one in tuition cost, food… and sleep deprivation. According to a survey conducted last semester, the average Columbia student gets about six and a half hours of sleep—way less than the recommended seven to nine hours per night for college students. Since sleep is critical for maintaining both physical and mental health, this Valentine’s Day weekend, reset your internal clock by making sure to go to bed at a reasonable time (6 a.m. definitely doesn’t count) and waking whenever you naturally do.
Take a spontaneous day
New York is the epitome of relentlessness—everyone’s always running from one place to another, coming somewhere, going someplace. And perhaps even more so than most New Yorkers, Columbia students are especially busy. Between classes, clubs, pre-professional commitments, work, and time with friends, we often schedule our lives down to the minute. Somewhere between A and B, we lose ourselves: We become so ingrained in the going that we are reduced to movement itself.
So take a deep breath and clear that Google Calendar. Rip up that to-do list. Go ahead; it’ll be okay. Your physics problem set and that hot Russian guy on Tinder will still be waiting for you when you come back. Wander: Get lost in the city that never sleeps. Lose track of time in a thrift shop in Brooklyn. Stop at a little bohemian café in SoHo to binge-watch Riverdale. Bring a stack of postcards and connect with old friends from a bench in Central Park. Wish them well; our potential is, after all, limited by our support systems. And after it’s all said and done, walk back to your dorm in the late winter drizzle, take a hot shower, drink chamomile tea, and reflect on all that you’ve given and all that you’ve gotten in return.
Staff writer Michelle Zhuang can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.