COLUMN: Remembering the big picture helps you stay positive


Dan Hahn

Dan Hahn is a graduate student studying English and can be reached at 217-581-2812.

Dan Hahn, Columnist

Most college students are primarily concerned with their day-to-day obligations, to-do lists, and ever impending school deadlines. Whatever it is, we’re all about ourselves and there’s nothing wrong with that, especially at a stage in life where most are trying to improve their circumstances.

In my experience, I have noticed that too much self-centered thinking leads to unnecessary bouts of stress and negativity. In this circumstance, we put ourselves at the center of the universe and begin to take everything we do far too seriously. At times like this, an individual should make a regular habit of zooming out and looking at life from a larger perspective.

Disengaging regularly from self-centered thinking is a great way to recharge and recoup so that we’re functioning optimally for our tasks and our relationships.

One way to cultivate perspective and feelings of connectedness is to remember that we are a part of something larger. Some people accomplish this through their spiritual practice or religion. But, you do not need to be religious or spiritual to experience feelings of belonging to a larger whole.

For example, the seasons are changing, and while fall colors are not fully here yet, the days are shortening and soon autumn will be upon us. Getting outdoors in autumn, even for a simple stroll, can serve as a reminder that we are connected to this ever changing space rock called earth.

After all, it is hard to worry much about school deadlines considering that the seasons have changed countless times before any of us arrived here, and will continue to change long after we are gone.

Remaining grounded is an important part of being an adult. Thankfully, there are many creative ways to ground oneself in a mindset of belonging to something larger. Of course, volunteer work is a great option too, but time for volunteer work may not be compatible in the life of many college students.

However, a person can still make small contributions that will reinforce a mindset that we’re all connected. One of my favorite things to do while I’m out walking is to pick up litter and loose trash and throw it away. Who knows, someone may see me someday and start to do the same. If everyone pitches in just a little, we’ll not only clean up our communities, but we’ll feel better at the end of the day knowing that we did something to benefit everyone.

Another way to maintain positivity and a larger perspective is to cultivate a sense of awe. This is easy in modern times.

Simply point your internet-connected device to images taken from the James Webb space telescope. Modern, high definition images of the cosmos are truly awe-inspiring. What better way to maintain a sense perspective than to remember that we belong to an era of science and exploration?

If space isn’t your thing, then I’m sure you can find something in nature, history, or art that inspires similar feelings of awe. The trick is to disconnect, and that doesn’t necessarily mean putting your phone down if you are looking at something that reminds you of your connectedness to the world around you.

So, let this column be a reminder to take mental breaks, look at the big picture, go for walks, and get outside of yourself. It’s easy to integrate this mindset into your day, it’ll keep you from taking yourself too seriously, and lighten the burdens of day-to-day tasks.

Dan Hahn is a graduate English Composition/Rhetoric student. He can be reached at [email protected] or 217-581-2812.