Health

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

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.

Why College Students Need Yoga

Why College Students Need Yoga

Why do college students need yoga? When anyone thinks of yoga, they immediately picture people doing headstands and breathing. Some people might think what really can you learn from it? Since I was eight years old, my mother had brought me to her yoga sessions and I have been hooked since then. Yoga is not only about learning to control your breathing or becoming more flexible (although those two things will improve), it can improve balance, decrease stress and reduce risks of heart disease. Here are the reasons college students need yoga.

Yoga Reduces Stress

Why College Students Need Yoga

One of the big reasons I think college students should do yoga is the stress management. Students are constantly stressed from all the homework, the student loan debts, to being overworked at jobs. Yoga provides an outlet to dealing with that stress instead of turning to vices like smoking or drinking. It lets your body and mind relax, clear your head and help you find solutions to problems.

Student Performance

Why College Students Need Yoga

There have been several studies showing that yoga can allow people to become a better student by enhancing focus and concentration skills. It is a way to improve self-awareness and breathing control. Just like how yoga can help you handle stress, it can help how the overall performance as a student.

Improve Your Attitude

Why College Students Need Yoga

One thing that I never fully believed when I was younger was how yoga can change your overall attitude and personality. In its own way, yoga can change the way your brain thinks. Not only can it reduce anxiety but change how the brain responds to emotions like fear and depression. Letting yoga change your attitude can change how your mindset on how you see everything else.

Yoga can be useful for all the reasons  above but one of the biggest reasons I do yoga is purely the feeling of happiness I get after a session. So if you’re struggling with concentration, depression, anxiety, poor grades, etc. during college, give yoga a try. Whether you’re taking yoga through a class at the gym or at home on a laptop, let yoga change you physically and emotionally. What do you have to lose?

To Survive or to Thrive: College Edition

Children are unapologetic about what they love; they are passionate and even obsessive. My childhood obsession was with archaeology; I read about the sarcophagi in Egypt thrive - childhood dreamsand the ruins in Pompeii. I dreamt that ancient bones and artifacts were still buried under my feet, just waiting for me to uncover them. Unfortunately, the dreams we have as children often fall away and are replaced with the pessimistic, “adult” mindset deemed necessary for the “real world.”

My dream of becoming an archaeologist was set aside, and I spent my high school trying to live up to an arbitrary definition of success. Adults stress the importance of “success;” they do not explain–and may not even understand– that this term is relative. I was told I needed to get into a good college in order to get a good job, and thus I set aside my “silly” childhood dreams.

By the time I entered college, I was used to the system; I understood that if I wanted to be successful, I had to manage my busy schedule and dedicate myself to my studies. Although I was a hard-working student, I felt like I was losing something; I was slowly forgetting the passion that I once felt for learning. By the time students enter college, they resemble machines; they are programmed to manage their classwork, jobs, and social lives. Time for rest and reflection are rare. We are always busy, and thus we grow distanced from our thoughts and ourselves. Like many of my fellow students, I grew detached from my true passions; I lost sight of what I really wanted.

Many students handle their academic and social stresses by simply going through the motions; attending classes and social events because we think we are “supposed to.” I tried to follow the example set by my peers, but, by sophomore year, I could see it was not working for me. I learned that it was better to let something go than to pretend. Instead of taking a class I was  not interested in simply because it looked impressive, I began taking classes that my childhood self calls out for– the class that reminds me of forgotten dreams.  If you simply pretend and go through the motions during college, it is likely that you will continue this habit after graduation. If you decide not to major in what you love because you are told it won’t make you “successful,” you will grow distanced from yourself. One day, you may forget who you are and what you truly love.

If we drop some of the tasks we feel we are “supposed to” complete, we become closer to ourselves and learn to understand who we are. When we are faced with a stressor, it is the way we respond to it that brings us closer to our true selves. In turn, we learn to love ourselves rather obsess over what is temporary. What is temporary includes both academic and social stresses, as well as our bodies. If we maintain perspective, we see that many of our worries are not worth dwelling on.thrive - college routine

If we want to truly love ourselves and become happy, successful adults, we must practice moderation. In school, we are forced to navigate two extremes. We are told to stay committed and work hard in order to succeed and make money. A nagging voice is often in the back of our minds, telling us we have no time to lose. The other extreme is a voice that tells us we are powerless and inadequate; it tempts us to give up. Our childhood fantasies are looked back at as silly dreams. We must navigate these extremes if we want to nurture our souls and stay grounded. Conflict forces us to either go through the motions or to reflect. We must reflect and force ourselves into consciousness. This creates an intimacy and honesty within ourselves. If we want to find the career that makes us happy, we must both love and learn with our whole hearts. 

thrive - meditation

If we do not practice moderation, we often end up neglecting our mental and physical health. I use the app “Headspace” in order to check in with myself and stay focused on what truly matters. The app is described as “a gym membership for the mind.” Just like you train your body, you can train your mind. The app allows you ten days of free meditation. Using this app, I have slowly been learning how to clear my mind. By taking ten minutes each day to focus on my mental health, I have become more in touch with myself and what I really want. I have cut out activities that I was simply doing because I saw other students participating. I have learned that sometimes, the most productive thing I can do is to spend time alone and to not stretch myself too thin. My favorite meditation sessions focus on self-love. It is so easy to forget to congratulate yourself on what you have done, especially when you always have a new assignment or exam coming up. Being mindful of the present moment has allowed me to put things in perspective. During every meditation, I remind myself of all that I have to be grateful for and all that I have accomplished thus far.

Last weekend, I finally saw the ruins at Pompeii. During this experience, my heart was aching; I kept thinking about my childhood dreams and the love I had for archaeology. I let these dreams go because I believed they were unrealistic;  no one understood why I wanted to be an archeologist. I felt defeated. Through practicing both moderation and meditation, I have learned how to let things go; I have learned to focus on what I love and to disregard what others expect of me. Though I regret that I was defeated so easily by the pressures of adulthood, my experience in Pompeii reminded me that it is often the ideas and subjects you obsess over as a child that are the most true; the dreams we have as children never really die. The clean, “perfect” plan college students feel forced to follow is nothing but an act. If we keep on acting rather than living, we risk never truly understanding ourselves or what we want out of life. We must decide whether we will simply try to survive, or whether we will choose to thrive.