Health

Read blogs in our health category for information and advice on how to keep a healthy mind and body during college.

Mindful Meditation: A Cheap and Effective Stress Reliever

Mind over Matter

Part of being a college student is constantly dealing with an influx of stress. Unfortunately, this influx is rarely paired with helpful coping mechanisms for overcoming it. I’ve yet to have a professor hold an instructional yoga class before an upcoming exam. In most situations, we’re forced to find our own methods for stress relief.  When you’re already experiencing stress and anxiety, finding a solution in the moment to overcome it is a challenge. However, I recommend one mechanism currently showing great promise: Achieving mindfulness.

Mind over matter. We’re often confronted with this mantra when our will power is in question. When we’re studying for a chemistry exam but expecting to fail, mind over matter. When we’re tempted to stray from our diet, mind OVER matter. When you have a cold on race day after foolishly signing up for a second year of cross country despite knowing you struggle with running… mind. over. matter.

What does mind over matter really mean? To break it down, matter is the situation you are confronted with; the cross country race, the exam. The mind is yourself, or your thoughts and feelings. Ashumans, we’re constantly thinking and assessing everything happening in the spectrum of our existence. Mind over matter is the notion that if we can get a grasp on our minds, then we can overcome the matter in front of us. If I will myself torun and finish the cross country race, then I can.

mindful meditation

The Research BehindMindful Meditation

Mindfulness is a growing interest in the field of psychology. Where tactics like psychoanalysis and cognitive behavioral therapy once reigned, mindfulness now conquers. In psychology, mindful meditation is a practice intended to combat the negative effects associated with disorders such as depression, anxiety, and post traumatic stress disorder. Hopelessness, stress, and neurotic feelings are some of the many negative effects it can help reduce.  In contrast, cognition, awareness, and attention can increase when one practices mindful meditation. 

Mindful meditation is a means to achieving mindfulness. Physiologist are sewing meditation into the foreground for treating psychological disorders such as depression and anxiety. A meta-analysis conducted by Eberth & Sedlmeier in 2012 compiled 39 previous studies on mindful meditation and analysed the results. The individual studies focused on how mindful meditation affects a person’s well-being, including their ability to concentrate on their thoughts. In this analysis, mindful meditation referred to the Buddhist practices Vipassana and Zen/Chan. The results of the analysis showed that both mindful meditation, and even general meditation, led to positive increases in attention,mood and well being, and a reduction in anxiety.

mindful meditation

Effective Ways to Meditate

To employ the practices featured in the meta-analysis for achieving mindfulness, one must work towards self-awareness and focus the mind on present experiences.  Concentrate on becoming open, curious, and accepting.  Luckily, you can practice mindful meditation anywhere you find comfortable.  You can chose to meditate in your dorm room, in the park, or in a quiet space on campus. This means mindful meditation accessible to everyone.

There is no limitation to how you can meditate; we’re all very different.  You can meditate in bed, while sitting down on a park bench, or even through exercise. Personally, I enjoy meditating while on a long run since I’m naturally fidgety. However, I acknowledge that most people tend to despise running. How you successfully practice mindful meditation will depend on your personality. Simply by setting aside time to focus on your thoughts and reflect, you too can achieve mindfulness.

Are you new to meditation? There are quite a few online resources for those who haven’t meditated before. UCLA’s Mindful Awareness Research Center provides a variety of free exercises that provide instructions via audio guides. Additionally, Youtube  has a great selection of meditation guides that are tailored to a variety of specific needs such as anxiety relief and help with sleeplessness.

mindful meditation

Why You Should Try Meditation

Stress from school is never pleasant. It also limits our ability to concentrate and work efficiently. Students who feel stressed or overworked may even turn to destructive behaviors such as binge drinking or illegal drugs, both of which are harmful to the mind and body. Mindful meditation provides easy access to stress relief in a safe and effective way. It’s also free!  The next time assignments feel like they’re a bit too out of hand, take time to relax and focus your thoughts. Try practicing mindful meditation to gain control over your situation. You’ll quickly discover the benefits are endless!

Cleaning Guide for Dorm Rooms

Living in a dorm is a wonderful experience. Having meals prepared for you is a luxury every college student misses when they move out of the dorms and into their own apartment. However, just because dorms are meant to be low maintenance living does not mean you can get away with doing nothing. It is important to clean and care for your dorm room so that you don’t lose your security deposit. Having a clean room also keeps you and your roommates healthier and creates a more positive atmosphere. Here is cleaning guide to help you keep your dorm room in top shape!

Supplies

Dorm rooms are typically not very big. You don’t need a whole arsenal of cleaning supplies to get a proper clean. A few staples that are good to have on hand include:

  • Disinfecting wipes
  • All purpose cleaning spray
  • Duster
  • Dish soap
  • Old towels designated for cleaning
  • Air freshener spray (make sure to check with your roommates first to make sure they are okay with the use of air fresheners)

You will also need a vacuum or mop depending on the type of floor in your dorm room. However, most dorms will have these available for check-out at the front desk.

Cleaning

Cleaning is not a very fun or exciting activity, but it is necessary. Taking the time once a month to thoroughly clean everything in your dorm room will keep your place neat and save you time in the long run. A thorough cleaning includes:

  • Dusting all decoration items and knick-knacks
  • Using disinfecting wipes to clean surfaces such as desks, side tables, and cabinets
  • Washing the bedding including sheets and pillow cases
  • Using all purpose spray to clean heavily used or dirty items such as sinks and door handles
  • Vacuuming or mopping the floor depending on the floor type your room has

Other Things to Consider

A once a month clean up is the best way to keep your dorm room in shape. With help from your roommates it can be completed fairly quickly. You should stay proactive between cleanups to keep your room fresh for as long as possible. Wash dishes immediately after you use them. Take out the trash and do laundry as needed to keep piles of dirty objects from building up in your room. Clean up any spills or messes immediately.

With a little work you can keep your dorm room clean and fresh all year long. Have any tips for keeping a dorm room clean? Leave them in the comment section below!

How to be Environmentally Friendly for the Holidays

environmentally friendly Christmas

The holidays are a time for cheer, happiness and everything bright! We’re always on the search for gifts for our friends and relatives while surrounded by decorations and lights. For many of us, it becomes easy to lose focus on things like school, work and even our finances. Gifting isn’t always cheap! One important thing that often gets overlooked during this joyful time of year by many is something that affects us all equally: the environment! Unfortunately, the holidays, with the lights and the gifts, is particularly non environmentally friendly. This year, however, if we all pitch in and pay a little extra attention, we can make some positive efforts towards preserving the Earth we all inhabit and love. Here are some tips on how to be environmentally friendly this holiday season:

Be Christmas Light Savvy

What are the holidays without Christmas lights? Boring? Dull? Anyways, as pretty as the twinkling bulbs all over your home are, they do tend to waste a lot of energy when not tended to. With the entire United States population of holiday lights combined, that’s a terrible amount of both air pollution from the carbon dioxide released when generating electricity and light pollution. There are several ways in which this could be reduced. One way is by adding a timer to your lights, causing them to shut off at a certain time. Another way would be to purchase energy efficient lights, including those of LED lights, which are much more energy efficient compared to incandescent lights. Christmas lights are necessary, but don’t have to be destructive.

Wrap Gifts Better

I’ll be the first to admit that I’d be upset if someone handed me a sweater without any wrapping. Year after year, we receive and wrap gifts in beautiful paper that we quickly rip off and throw away. The amount of waste from this process is exorbitant and it’s far from environmentally friendly. Compared to any other time of the year, there is a significantly higher amount of trash thrown away during the holidays.  It is estimated that there is enough wrapping paper used every year to cover 5,787 NFL football fields. I’m no running back, but I could tell that that’s terrifying. My suggestion is to find new ways to wrap your gifts. This can include old newspapers, paper shopping bags (Trader Joes?!) and old magazines. Paint them or add glitter for some extra pizzazz and you’ve got a gift whose wrapper kept on giving!

Shop Smarter

If I counted the miles I drove trying to find the perfect gift the in past few years, I’d have enough to circumnavigate the globe. Multiply my own inability to reasonably shop by everyone else in the same situation and that’s a lot of driving. Fortunately, the internet does exist. But for those that like to shop in actual stores, be strategic. Make lists ahead of time including a gift idea for everyone. Also make sure to add a backup idea if you can’t find what you need. Also, find people who also need to shop and carpool. By shopping in groups or pairs, not only are you being environmentally conscious by saving on gas, but you also have a group to give you advice when shopping. It’s a win-win.

I hope you can have a very merry environmentally friendly holidays using these simple and easy suggestions! Have some other tips? Drop them in the comments below!

Why December Shouldn’t Be Stressful

December student

It’s that time of year again where things begin to get hectic. If you’re a college student, December means assignments and finals are creeping up on us and exhaustion is setting in. The end of the semester is officially coming to a close. As we begin to feel stressed out and anxious, we also tend to forget about the amazing things that surround us. If you’re going through a tough time, and I’m sure many of us are, then please hear me out.

Take Time to Breathe

First off, I’d like to point out that stress, like anything, is only okay in moderation. Secondly, stress isn’t something to be proud of. Staying up all night, piling on extra assignments last minute and working until misery isn’t acceptable. We live in a world where overworking ourselves is praiseworthy. The more work, the better. Right? Wrong. It’s appreciable that you’re working hard, but it’s important to know that our society’s definition of hard work isn’t actually normal. As a student, you shouldn’t feel inadequate if you’re not pushing yourself over the edge.

Luckily, these busy and haphazardly spent days rushing between class, the library and back home for food and sleep intersect with the most wonderful time of year: the holidays! As you continue to prepare for the end of the semester (remember, don’t push yourself too hard), make sure to take in some of the joy and cheer that will be accumulating on every corner. Although it’s already December and most of the leaves have changed and perhaps fallen, the beauty of the transition from fall to winter doesn’t cease to be amazing.

Explore the Outdoors

Take some time this year to go outside and not just a five minute walk to a new building. Regardless of the cold, sweaters and gloves were invented for a reason. You should go outdoors! Research suggests that spending extra hours in the outdoors can lead to health benefits. For example, the sun is a great source of vitamin D. but remember sunscreen! Additionally, nature and the outdoors is thought to lead to an elevated mood and decreased stress levels. If your school is in nowhere land, take this opportunity to find the area with the post picturesque sunset; if you’re studying in a city, explore the city parks! Make sure to take photos. Oftentimes cold weather leads to the loveliest photos. 

Make Time for Family and Friends

You should take time to appreciate family and friends in December. With having just did this at Thanksgiving and the subsequent holidays coming shortly after, we can become even more stressed. However, the holidays aren’t meant to be stressful. Sure, cooking, cleaning, and having to embarrassingly describe to your relatives that you ‘just don’t quite know yet’ what you’re doing with your live isn’t quite fun, but the moments around that deserve to be cherished. So go ahead and plan a Friendsgiving, wear your matching pajamas with your siblings and escape your older relatives with your cousins. It’s worth it!

Enjoy Being a Student

Lastly, these last few years of college are really the only moments left before we’re catapulted into the real world. Embrace your youth as you experience these times while still being a student. Don’t let classes and assignments get in the way of feeling that holiday cheer that comes every year at this time. Drink lots of hot chocolate, take in the crisp fall air and over wear your favorite sweater. Regardless of how stressful we’re feeling, I can guarantee that these tough times will feel way better.

I hope that these suggestions help you have a successful and enjoyable December and end of fall semester. Have any other tips that have helped you? Leave them in the comment section below!

Lessons from Buddhist Poets Issa & Ryokan

When I went to college for the first time, I was completely overwhelmed. I felt like I was being forced to let go of my childhood. All the students seemed happy; they gathered in circles, instinctively picking out peers to befriend. As college went by, I found myself comparing memories. I compared my childhood with my young adulthood. I wondered why I had found so much love at home and so little at college. My memories became dangerous; they trapped me in anger and kept me attached to my ego. I became angry at myself for holding onto my childhood; why couldn’t I enjoy my “adulthood?” I was in danger of becoming bitter; I felt as though I was pitted against the world.

Our memories are sometimes dangerous, but they also have the potential of being extremely liberating. If we learn to see the world in all its complexity, we can look at our memories with detachment and honesty. The ancient Buddhist poets Issa and Ryokan both experienced the sadness and isolation we sometimes feel in college. Yet, instead of becoming bitter and self-pitying, they learned from their pain. Both men learned how to “become children” again; they learned how to live in the present. Childhood is not something that is lost suddenly; it fades away, and at moments, it shines through. Issa and Ryokan taught me this. I have learned how to cultivate the freedom and appreciation children feel for every moment and keep this vivacity alive throughout college and on into adulthood. It is only pain that threatens to destroy the passion we all have for life. Here are the important lessons I have learned from them to help put college into perspective. 

Reach for Happiness

Lessons Learned from Buddhist Poets Issa & Ryokan

Issa has profound insight into the nature of the world. He believes we “walk on the roof of hell/gazing at flowers.” Most humans only “gaze” and hope for happiness, instead of reaching for it. We look backwards and forwards in time, waiting for the next “flower,” instead of appreciating the moment, whether the moment is painful or pleasurable. We look forward to college weekends, instead of enjoying the day in front of us. It is often difficult to see that time is not linear; we are not trapped on Earth, waiting to reach something greater. We are simply living every day as it comes, attempting to be present in every moment. It is natural that some of these moments will be painful and some will be joyous. Though college can be extremely stressful, that does not mean we should avoid these painful moments.

Remain in the Present Moment

Lessons Learned from Buddhist Poets Issa & Ryokan

Issa uses his memories as fuel to help him understand how to live a meaningful life. Even in a poem Issa wrote about his deceased daughter, there is a simplicity and a sense of peace. Issa recalls the “scarlet flowers/she liked to pick.” He gives no reflection; he simply remembers his daughter and her love of flowers. He seems to learn from the simplicity of his daughter; it is important to love the flowers and to be happy in the moment. Issa reflects on the past, but he does not get stuck in it. Issa seems to understand that being “here” is all you can be. The snow will fall and life will always continue. If you are a part of this world, you have a duty to be fully “here;” if you are not, you are missing out on life.

Learn From Children

Lessons Learned from Buddhist Poets Issa & Ryokan

In their self-healing, both Issa and Ryokan come back to images of children and the relationship between parent and child. This sacred relationship captures the complex nature of the world. The past is always disappearing, making room for the present. Yet, remnants of the past always remain. In modern society, we often see a clear separation between “child” and “adult”. We assume that, as we enter college, we abandon the immature child inside of us and become mature adults. However, as we age and move away from home, we are continuously tempted by the world; college tempts us to see ourselves as independent and egocentric.

Like flowers, children bloom. The world is always unfolding and bringing new things in and out of being. Ryokan refers to the “three thousand worlds,” or the multiplicity of the world we so often see as singular and linear. There is no objective world; we all have our own lives, and our lives are intertwined with the lives of everything around us. Ryokan appears to understand that there is no “winning” or “losing;” life does not pit the ego against the rest of the world. Likewise, we are not competing with our fellow students; it is not us versus them.

Ryokan knows that “if we gain something, it was there from the beginning” and that if we “lose anything, it is hidden nearby.” This mantra applies to perfectly to college life. If we experience joy, we must appreciate this joy, yet we must be careful not grow attached to it. We must love the feelings and experiences of the current moment just as children do. When we lose something, we must accept this and not curse the world for taking something away from us. Time is not linear; things that are lost will eventually be found. Perhaps we will recover what is lost in a different form, just as Ryokan did. As Ryokan aged, he seemed to grow closer to his youth. He spent his time with children, laughing and thinking about how time passes and how people change. We are all capable of recovering the innocence of our childhood and the joy we had as children.

Live Passionately

Lessons Learned from Buddhist Poets Issa & Ryokan

Both Issa and Ryokan warn us that we must not let our memories consume us. We must not live in the past or in the future; there is only the present moment. As we go through college, we cannot look back; we can reflect on our past, but we must always remain present. In our moments of sadness, we must follow Issa and Ryokan’s lead: we must use our pain to create something beautiful. These poets found a way to honor the beauty of the world and accept the pain. Issa believed that “this world is like a rope, flailed with strands of joy and anger, pain and pleasure. All that meets will part.” Many call Issa a cynic, but truly, he is a realist; the world is filled with unbelievable happiness and unbearable pain. Sadness is an essential part of life; it reminds us that we must cherish every moment. We must live by Issa’s example and use our “cynicism” to make our lives honest and beautiful. We must also follow Ryokan’s lessons and learn to love every moment for what it is. Childhood is not something that must be forgotten as you grow up. Childhood may fade away, but, at moments, it shines through us all. We must cultivate the freedom we enjoyed as children and the passion children have for every moment of life.