health

Miss Teen USA Makes a Positive Change

Miss Teen USA

The Miss Teen USA pageant will no longer include the swimsuit portion. Instead, the contestants will be judged in a brand-new athletic wear competition. Over the past few years, the well-known pageant has been evolving and the stereotypical contestant has begun to fade. Miss Missouri Erin O’Flaherty will compete as America’s first openly homosexual contestant this year. The first hearing impaired contestant, Miss Pennsylvania Elena LaQuatra, will also be competing this year.

In order to justify the swimsuit category in the past, pageant officials have said it was to show off the athletic side of the contestants. However, that portion of the competition, for many young viewers, has instead focused purely on physical appearance. Young girls and teens in today’s generation have a high expectation for what their bodies should look like and the competition only adds fuel to the fire. According to the National Eating Disorders website, half a million teens struggle with eating disorders or disordered eating.

So far, the response to the new change has been overwhelmingly positive. Katherine Haik, the reigning Miss Teen USA told USA News: “This new direction for Miss Teen USA is a great way to celebrate the active lives that so many young women lead and set a strong example for our peers.”

Miss Universe president Paula Shugart shared in a memo that this shift is meant to “celebrate women’s strength, confidence and beauty” in a more positive way. “This decision reflects an important cultural shift we’re all celebrating that empowers women who lead active, purposeful lives and encourage those in their communities to do the same,” she wrote. Our hope is that this decision will help all of Miss Teen USA’s fans recognize these young women for the strong, inspiring individuals they are.”

It’s possible that the pageant will see an influx of competitors as parents may now be more open to the idea of their daughters competing. The change is also a smart business move. Former Miss Virginia Nancy Redd said: “Teens are spending .1 percent of their life in a bathing suit and 50 percent in athleisure. The pageant is following the trend of who can sponsor them.”

It’s nice to see the competition changing to focus more on who the girl is rather than what her body looks like. It’s time that women embrace their physical abilities rather than physical appearance and it also sends a positive message to young teens.

The 2016 Miss Teen USA pageant will be held in Las Vegas on July 30.

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.

Simple Ways to Live a Healthier Life!

We all want to be healthier but not all of us want to make big sacrifices to reach this goal. I may be able to help you out. Read these simple ways to live a healthier life!

1. Switch to Whole Grains.

healthier life 1

Everyone loves carbs, but a lot of the ones many of us eat everyday are not great for you. Instead of white bread, go for whole wheat or multigrain bread. Instead of white rice, go for brown rice, quinoa, or wild rice. Whole grains have much more nutritional value and have tons of health benefits including heart health, reduced risk of cardiovascular and heart diseases, and slower digestion (which is good for lessening blood sugar spikes!) It’s actually quite easy to just substitute whole grains where you would normally eat refined grains without a massive change in your meals.

2. Go Carb-Free for One Meal a Day.

healthier life 2

This is typically easiest to do at breakfast. Go for things low in fat and high in protein, such as fat free yogurt or eggs. If you’re worried about the cholesterol in eggs, use one regular egg and the rest egg whites. You’ll still get the protein benefits with less of the cholesterol that comes with the yolk. For the yogurt option, you can go for a fat-free yogurt or low calorie Greek yogurt and then add fresh fruit and some chia seeds. Chia seeds are a super food with lots of protein, Omega-3s, and soluble fiber. They don’t really have a flavor so you can add them to lots of things for added nutrients! You can also incorporate the yogurt option into a smoothie with frozen fruit.

3.Eat More Soluble Fibers.

healthier life 3

Soluble fiber is better for you than insoluble fiber because it dissolves into the water in your body to create a viscous liquid/gel that prevents some of the fat and sugar in your food from absorbing, which can help reduce cholesterol or maintain healthy levels of cholesterol. It also helps to prevent your risk of diabetes. You can find soluble fiber in foods such as apples, oat bran, chia seeds, beans, barley, and sweet potatoes.

 4. Incorporate Regular Exercise into Your Routine.

healthier life 4

Take advantage of the gyms you have on campus. Try to go 3-4 times a week and find a fitness routine that you like and can manage. Do a mixture of cardio and weight training. Maybe get on the elliptical for a half hour and then head over to the free weights and resistance bands. If the gym isn’t your thing, try doing outdoor activities like jogging, hiking, biking, etc. You can even find guided workouts on YouTube if you’d rather exercise in your room! Just find something that works for you and stick with it. Eventually you’ll see results and you’ll be able to work up to more intense workouts. Go at your own pace, be safe, and don’t do more than you can handle. You’ll get to where you want to be eventually, so take it slow and build from there!