The Fit Student—Laugh Your Way to a Perfect GPA

A happy brain could make you a superstar student.  One Harvard study showed that “happiness is positively associated with GPA for students in grades 4-12.”  Another study “revealed a significant correlation between happiness and academic success.”  So, if happiness boosts GPA, why waste time being sad?

In the undergrad, depression dipped my grades.  Due to peer pressure, I cried every day for a year.  I could hardly focus on studies, often stumbling over concepts that once came easily.

At my grad ceremony—while on stage—a student shoved me while another knocked off my grad cap.  As I accepted my degree and shuffled off stage, stripped of confidence, a kind-hearted professor ran up to me and embraced me in a hug.  I hid my watering eyes in her shoulder.  Later, the professor said she appealed to have the two students disciplined.  But I never learned how it turned out.  And that professor has since passed away.  Bless her heart.

When I went into grad studies, the tide turned.  Some of my harassers were now my students.  (That is, until they dropped my class.)  I grew fit and healthy.   I won a scholarship for $24,000, which enabled me to buy a professional wardrobe.  I started a full-time job at a prestigious research lab while I worked on my thesis.  And I fell in love with my ultimate friend.

So, never give up.  Just hanging in there can turn your world around.  But here are six better ways to find happiness—and higher grades:

Do high intensity aerobics for high intensity happiness.

In other words, alternate between walking and running on the treadmill.  Or do sprints on an exercise bike.  Or do interval skipping where you skip hard for two minutes and then take a break—five rounds.  Or do sprints on a grass surface as grass is easy on the joints.  Flood your brain with feel-good chemicals.

Smile while you eat fruits and veggies—but eat ‘em raw.

According to a study done at the University of Atago, New Zealand, “people who ate more uncooked produce had lower levels of symptoms related to depression and other mental illnesses, compared to those who ate more cooked, canned, or processed varieties.”  An apple a day keeps sadness away; but apple pies make grandma cry.

Chow on food that boosts your mood.

Foods rich in tryptophan play roles in producing the “feel good” neurotransmitter serotonin; in fact, “the only way to increase serotonin is by ingesting tryptophan.”  Of tryptophan-rich foods, I eat nuts, salmon, beans, pumpkin seeds, and dairy (such as organic yogurt and kefir milk).  Chicken and turkey are great sources, too.   A turkey’s life may not be so bad, given its high levels of tryptophan.

Of fruits and veggies, eat bananas, which brim with tryptophan—and butternut squash, which “can increase your energy levels and mood if you consume it regularly.”  But also munch these feel good fruits and veggies: “carrots … apples, dark leafy greens … grapefruit, lettuce, citrus fruits, fresh berries, cucumber, and kiwifruit … celery, cabbage, red onion, tomato, and mushrooms.”    But eat whole foods.  After all, a Papa John’s veggie pizza works until it doesn’t.

And cut out caffeine: “In people with sensitivity, caffeine may exacerbate depression.”  But do sneak a taste of caffeine-rich dark chocolate: “dark chocolate stimulates the production of endorphins, chemicals in the brain that create feelings of pleasure.”  Dark chocolate is an angel of temptation.

And clean your happy home with citrus essential oil.

I use a mixture of forty drops of orange essential oil, half a cup of vinegar, and three cups water.  It not only cleans the home but gets me whistling while I shine.  And it polishes wood cupboards, too.  Plus, “while many people diffuse Wild Orange essential oil to purify the air, this oil can also help uplift mood and increase feelings of energy.”  So, sniff the citrus to twitch the smile.

Be the early bird with a smile.

I read that the body starts repairing itself by 10 pm:

At 10 p.m., your body goes through a transformation following the rise in melatonin production.  This … phase of sleep is associated with ….  the repair and restoration of your body ….  If you are awake past 10 p.m., this process of free radical removal becomes interrupted, and your body’s ability to remove the effects of free radicals is significantly impaired.

So, I now go to bed by 9 pm.  To my delight, I need one less hour of sleep to feel refreshed.

And meditate.

I replace that missed hour of sleep with a half hour meditation.  When I meditate, my headaches stop—and my moods skyrocket.  Good thoughts knock out bad.

In one study, participants learned a form of meditation known as loving kindness.  Loving kindness meditation is a ‘technique used to increase feelings of warmth and caring for self and others.’ Results showed that this meditation practice produced increases in … positive emotions, which in turn, produced increases in … personal resources (e.g., increased mindfulness, purpose in life, social support, decreased illness symptoms).

Show loving kindness to even your foes.   When you hold no ill will, you feel no ill will.

So, those are six hacks for honing happiness.  Now, turn your frown into a smile—and any C-minus into a perfect GPA.