Students take Zumba class on The Green during Welcome Days

5 Healthy Habits for College Students

April 30, 2024 Written by Gregory Cooper | Photo by Kathy F. Atkinson

Center for Counseling and Student Development (CCSD) Associate Director of Psychiatric & Addiction Services Gregory D. Cooper, APRN-BC, shares his five top tips for college students to stay healthy and successful.

As a psychiatric prescriber, this is what I tell all college students I work with that has nothing to do with medication and is foolproof advice for increasing resiliency and happiness in college—and in life.

Get enough sleep

Sleep at least eight hours every night! Interestingly, the key to a great night’s sleep is waking up well. Try to wake up at the same time each day, don’t hit snooze and—most importantly—prioritize turning your face toward the sun as soon as possible after you wake.  Sunlight in the eyes is the key to re-setting your circadian rhythm and facilitates falling asleep easier and a higher quality sleep. Also, just like warming up for a sporting event, you must warm up (or settle down) for a good night’s sleep. That means no big meals, no excitement, no bright lights, no alcohol or drugs, and no caffeine before bed. In fact, no caffeine 10 hours before you want to sleep is ideal. You should be as intentional in preparing to sleep as you would be preparing for an exam or a sporting event.

Exercise more

Prioritize moving your body as early as you can in the daytime, beyond just walking to class.  This could be anything from going to the gym for 90 minutes to five minutes of intentional moving in your dorm before you leave for the day. The intentional movement increases dopamine and neuronal stimulation that increases focus, attention and drive. Consistency beats any individual workout or workout plan.

Eat real food and stay hydrated

Real food means food that is not manufactured. Real food is food that is close to the earth, either originating from the earth or having been in contact with the earth. Real food contains essential nutrients necessary for biological processes to happen in the body, like maintaining a strong immune system and having consistent energy. No one is going to be perfect, so making consistent healthy choices when possible will make a significant difference. And drink water—your body needs it. It is the best energy drink on the market!

Manage stress

Turn devices and screens off and go outside. Spend time with people who you care about and who care about you, without devices on. Spend time in non-sleep rest. This is a time where you let your mind wander, not worry. Plan your schedule for the next day and week. Assign times to complete your tasks for the week so you are not constantly thinking about it. It doesn’t have to be perfect, and you can change it.  Limit alcohol—over drinking today leads to anxiety tomorrow. 

Practice gratitude

If you are someone who struggles with negative thoughts, fear or worry, then practice gratitude. Gratitude is like chicken soup for the mind, heart and spirit. Practice recognizing the things you feel thankful for in your life and practice being thankful. Gratitude has a unique way of driving out negativity and orienting us toward a more favorable future. You are what you think! 

If you begin to engage in even some of these habits, you will be more resilient and improve your college experience. 

For questions or more information, reach out to Gregory Cooper at To make an appointment with CCSD, call 302-831-2141.

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