The Heart of Haas: Strategies To Cultivate Peace & Wellness During Your College Years

What is peace? 

Do you feel it when you stare at a fading sunset or into the eyes of someone who makes you comfortable?

Is peace spontaneous, or can it be pursued?

Can peace be…created?

These core questions strongly relate to the concept of inner contentment that often evades us as a society. In college, a chaotic microcosm of growth and stimulation, peace is especially hard to find…

For me, finding calm while making the most of my time at university has been the ultimate balancing act. I have been through seasons of chaos and mental confusion. Through these layered experiences, I have tried and tested instrumental peace-promoting practices. Peace feels like nothing else; once mastered, it is a source of consistency and positive inevitability. The goal is whatever your external environment throws at you and whatever life offers you. In pursuing this goal, you remain grounded. The state of peace is a home where you return.

I did some research into creating a content lifestyle and an inner environment filled with joy and resounding inner stability. This research revealed key implementable practices, which are both approachable and effective.

Here we go! These are two tips to achieve peace that are backed by Neuroscience and Behavioral Psychology. Yes, there is a science behind the madness. (PS: These tips are actionable and you can start today.)

Courtyard at Haas School of Business, where Ayushi Bhardwaj will be a senior next fall

1. MINDFUL MEDITATION  

I am positive you have heard about this practice, time-and-time again, from those who are “wiser”. Just by logic, some assume that if something is strongly publicized, either it’s a function of some advertising strategy or it just truly works. I’d say it’s the latter.

In 2015, the National Library of Medicine published a comprehensive meta-analysis of MRI studies on “The Meditative Mind”. This research used neuroimaging techniques such as MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) and revealed how regular mindfulness meditation can lead to structural changes in the brain, particularly in areas associated with attention, emotional regulation, and self-awareness.

Here is a quick walk through:

  1. Find a Quiet Space: Sit comfortably with your back straight.
  2. Set a Timer: Choose a duration and set a timer. Start with 5 minutes!
  3. Close Your Eyes (or Soften Your Gaze).
  4. Focus on Your Breath: Notice the sensation of breathing.
  5. Be Present: Gently return focus to breath when mind wanders.
  6. Body Scan (Optional): Scan body for tension, breathe into it.
  7. Cultivate Acceptance and Compassion: Accept thoughts and feelings without judgment. Let them float by…
  8. End Mindfully: Acknowledge the end, take deep breaths, and transition back.

I say, give it a shot. It’s just five minutes long, which means watching a couple less Tiktoks. If it truly brings improvement in your life (which many research articles and humans alike claim it will), your five minutes is pretty much worth it.

My personal experience with meditation has been a non-linear yet beautiful journey. First introduced to it by my earnest father, I found meditation hard to consistently implement. It is when I viewed it in a more approachable manner (starting with just 5 minutes a day), I truly integrated into my lifestyle. Meditation helps me experience control over my life, and makes me feel as if life is in my very hands.

2. GRATITUDE JOURNALING 

Half empty or half full? That about sums it up. Look, I understand that life is rarely easy, never perfect. However, we are dealt our cards and we make a commitment to life every day. So we might as well be positive, right?

This poem comes to mind…

Little tan moth
with your spotted wings
quietly clinging
to my screen
Thank you
for reminding me
that quiet
small
and brown
can be
as pretty
as a sunset
or a lion
or a maple tree.
Amy Ludwig VanDerwater 

Princeton Health finds that gratitude journaling can stimulate neuroplasticity, the brain’s ability to reorganize itself by forming new neural connections. When we regularly focus on gratitude, it strengthens neural pathways associated with positive thinking and emotions, making it easier for our brains to default to a positive mindset. Gratitude journaling can also help dampen the amygdala’s response to negative stimuli. This leads to reduced stress and anxiety levels, and separately, a surge in dopamine production.

Ayushi Bhardwaj

Here is a quick routine you can implement:

1. Reflect: Take a moment to reflect on your day and identify three things for which you’re grateful.

2. Write: In your journal, write down these three things, being specific and descriptive. Connect with the emotions associated with each one.

3. Repeat Daily: Make gratitude journaling a daily habit by setting aside a few minutes each day to reflect and write. Over time, you’ll notice a positive shift in your mindset and outlook on life.

Such journaling has helped me maintain a positive lens on my life. I find myself collecting all that is good and beautiful, and this makes me experience a sense of luck and good fortune. Just yesterday, I wrote about my deep gratitude for my kind-hearted, fun-loving, oasis of a family. This sentiment for my family, which feels subconscious and obvious most days, was made gracefully explicit. It made me smile.

How about we start with these two practices and stick to them for one month. Remember that the benefits will evolve over time; some you may experience immediately and others are a product of long-term, fundamental dedication.

On this note, I want to emphasize the importance of routines and habit stacking. We are busy college students; to ensure you reap the rewards of various practices, it is imperative that you create a sustainable routine and integrate intentionally. For example, you can take 5 minutes before sleeping to write in your gratitude journal, and place the journal right by your bed for ease and mental accessibility. Essentially, make space in your lifestyle for these practices.

The impacts of contentment are highly evident in the professional world, whether it comes to confidence when networking, having the determination and stamina to fulfill your career goals, or simply exceeding expectations in your extracurricular activities. The start of it all is a peaceful mind.

And, who knows, maybe one day peace will be chasing you?

Bio:

Ayushi Bhardwaj is an incoming senior at the University of California, Berkeley (fondly known as “Cal”), where she is studying Business Administration with a Global Concentration, along with Cognitive Science. She is interested in consumer psychology and marketing, and aims to work in consulting on an international scale. Ayushi dreams to fuse empathy and strategy in her life trajectory, uplifting the world with intentionality.

You can often find her editing articles for the Haas Undergraduate Blog, jotting down the random entrepreneurial ideas in her mind, snacking on quirky Trader Joe’s delicacies, or scrolling through way too many photos of her dog, Joey. 

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