Students find ways to work on self-improvement

Illustration by Blake Fernandez

Self-improvement is defined in the Oxford Learner’s Dictionary as the improvement of one’s knowledge, status or character by one’s own efforts. Whether that be through meditation, skin care, trying to read more books or even cutting back on TikTok, many try something differently to help them improve their mood for the day or their mental health as a whole.

Outside of small tasks and good habits, one of the most popular forms of emotional self-care is therapy. According to Good Therapy, which exists to find therapists and mental health resources, therapy is the act of focusing on the positive psychology of making life worth living, and it creates a safe space with an objective outlook. 

Freshman Megan Vigarino explained she has used various self-improvement activities to better both her life and the lives of those around her, but there are multiple reasons she goes to therapy as well.

“You don’t have to have anything wrong with you [to go to therapy], it’s just nice to have somebody to vent to,” Vigarino said.

Mental Health First Aid, a national program to teach people the skills to respond to the signs of mental illness and substance abuse, reported 46.4% of adults in the United States will experience a mental illness at some point in their lifetime. Mental illness is a broad term and can cover anything from anxiety, depression, obsessive compulsive disorder, PTSD and many others. These mental illnesses can showcase themselves under a number of symptoms and will be different for everyone, which is what makes them difficult to diagnose.

After struggling with her own mental health issues, Vigarino said she has found a way to improve herself both mentally and physically.

“I did a lot of DBT, which is dialectical behavioral therapy,” Vigarino said. “I worked really hard on that to learn how to communicate better with people.”

Vigarino said learning how to properly communicate was key for her because it allowed her to go to treatment, get the medications she needed and use her new skills to help others going through their tough times.

“Honesty is important,” Vigarino said. “If you’re not being honest, you’re never going to get the help you need.”

According to Psychology Today, for both individuals with a mental health condition or without, one of the best things to bolster one’s mood is a compliment. Just the small act of praising someone on their work or stylistic choices for that day not only helps the recipient, but also the giver. Think of kindness as a boomerang — whatever is given can come back.

Vigarino said a simple compliment or a few kind words can drastically improve one’s outlook on their day, or even their week. She said she encourages people to be kind to one another, as no one can truly know what someone else might be going through. 

Junior Zyled Rodriguez Maldonado explained there is power in a compliment.

“I was talking to my biology lab tech coordinator, and we were talking about how I had to learn English because it is not my first language and she complimented me on my resilience,” Rodriguez Maldonado said. “That genuinely made the rest of my day and made me feel better about my capabilities as I had to teach myself.”

In between the commitment levels of therapy and complimenting a stranger exists one of the most common acts within the realm of self-improvement: self-care. It is a broad term, encompassing a variety of meanings. It looks different for everyone because everyone has different needs to be met. 

“As I don’t use makeup, doing my nails is my most effective self-care habit because it makes me feel feminine, beautiful and it allows me to express my creativity,” Rodriguez Maldonado said.

All in all, struggling with body image, feeling uneasy or just having a rough day are all extremely common, but are also manageable. Emotional, practical, physical, mental, social and spiritual self-improvement are some of the most common and effective ways to deal with stressors. People need to find the method that works best for them because everybody is different. 

Through out their life, both NAU students and members of the Flagstaff community are encouraged to practice self-care and get self-help in order to provide themselves with the best version of life. 

NAU’s counseling services are an available resource to students. Arizona’s suicide prevention hotline is 1-800-273-8255, and help is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.