• The Impact of Movement on the Mind

    by Logan Collins

    A silhouetted figure is standing on a beach at sunrise.

    Mental health has been an increasing topic of conversation today, especially around the demographic of students. Mental health is impacted heavily through the amount of movement incorporated in our daily lives. For many college students, making movement a priority can be a challenge due to having to find a balance between their academics, career goals and personal life.

    With the direct influence that movement of the body has on the mind, making movement a priority can be essential in creating more balance in an individual’s life. Here are a few of the benefits that come from this and how to find ways to incorporate more movement in your life.

    Benefits to circulation, digestion, and stress level

    There are many benefits to health that occur as a result from movement, ranging from mental, physical, to emotional health.

    • Circulation: Circulation impacts the way we digest our food and process nutrients in our body. How does this improve our mental health? When we are digesting the proper nutrients our stress levels are easily manageable, allowing the brain to enhance the way it processes, retains, and remembers information.
    • Stress Management: Increased physical activity releases stress. This is one way to “blow off steam”. Stress has terrible effects on the body and the mind. The less stress we have, the better our mental and physical health will be. Manageable stress levels also have an influence on our sleep schedule. More sleep will also aid in digestion and memory. Posture, eating habits, and mood are also swayed by having a more active lifestyle. Check out this blog post to learn more ways to manage stress.

    Incorporate more movement in your life

    There are many ways to incorporate more habits that involve movement into one’s daily schedule. Find an exercise that works for your body, and you can see yourself wanting to do every day. This could be going to the gym, yoga, dance, or joining some sort of club sport. Or start with smaller movements. For example, setting a reminder to stand up and stretch and/or take a short 5-minute walk once an hour. Taking time to just breathe and walk helps refresh the brain. Even stretching for 5 minutes after waking up every day can make a huge difference.

    Listen to your body and find ways to start consistently incorporating more movement in your life and your mental health will benefit as well!

    Do you have a compelling story or student success tips you’d like to see published on the Pearson Students blog?  If you are a college student and interested in writing for us – click here to pitch your idea and get started! 

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  • Avoid the Trap of Comparing Yourself to Others on Social Media

    by Chris Simmons

    Blog author Chris Simmons is standing 3rd from the left in a row of seven male college students standing arm-in-arm.

    Dear Instagram,

    I am so frustrated with you right now. I would have never thought that you would be one of the leading causes to so many mental health problems for my generation. I remember when I first downloaded you in 7th grade. I used to spend 8 hours a day using your app. I used to feel like I had to post pictures every day to seek attention from others. I used to feel anxious about my life because I thought I wasn’t doing enough compared to what someone else was doing. Then as I got older, I realized that your app has been feeding people like me misconceptions about who they are and what their value is in life. This has led to a major identity crisis in this generation.

    Now that Instagram has made it possible to see pictures of what others are doing, it makes people feel like they aren’t doing enough with their life because they may not be posting the stacks of money in their hand, or the nice house and cars in their driveway. This has caused people to measure their level of success by comparing what they have to what someone else has.

    That’s one thing I started to notice about going onto Instagram nowadays. People are constantly showing off everything they possess to prove that their life is worth something: a house with double doors, a swimming pool, and three cars in the driveway. Many social media users have come to think that the person with all those material things is the standard of what being successful looks like, which is a misconception. Success is about how far YOU have come in your journey to get to where you want to be NOT by anyone else’s journey! Everybody starts from different places so don’t expect your path to be like someone else’s path.

    Instagram is also where people can develop misconceptions about the standard of beauty. The study covered in this USA Today article included teen social media users in the U.S. and the U.K. It found that “over 40% of Instagram users who reported feeling “unattractive” traced that feeling back to the platform.” It frustrates me when I hear people talk down about themselves because they don’t have the certain look as some other person they might see on there. I hear a lot of people say things like; I wish I had blonde hair like them, I wish I was as skinny as them, I wish I had their skin tone. It’s because when they’re looking at someone else’s page with the 1 million or 2 million followers and reading comments on their picture that have the heart eyes emoji, they are thinking to themselves, ‘this must be what I need to look like in order to be labeled as beautiful’. But I’m here to tell you that beauty is not defined by another person on Instagram. Beauty is defined by the way YOU see yourself. It’s about embracing who God created you to be and having the confidence to go out in the world and step toward your purpose!

    For those of you who are using Instagram, do not let other people on the app try and talk you out of being who you are. You are unique and talented in your own way, and you do not have to spend all your energy trying to prove that to anyone. The only person that can verify you is you!

    Do you have a compelling story or student success tips you’d like to see published on the Pearson Students blog?  If you are a college student and interested in writing for us – click here to pitch your idea and get started! 

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  • The Illusions of Social Media

    by Sadaf Nasiri

    An adult male with dark hair and beard is lying on his back with his head on a backpack. He is wearing headphones and looking at his mobile phone.

    "Social media isn't real life!"

    This is a common phrase we hear in our everyday lives as people critique the false reality of social media. Like other social media platforms, Instagram pushes forward this "perfect" reality of others around us. While it is nice to see what our favorite celebrities or influencers are up to, is it worth the cost of it ruining our perspectives of our own lives and directions?

    Be On Your Guard

    To be frank, I find myself also getting lost in the continuous scrolling process. It is nice to connect with those we know from the past or present and possibly connect to new people in the future, but we all have to play some form of devil's advocate when it comes to social media and how it can impact our lives. Social media has the power to distract us with even the smallest thing such as an ad or a picture. The control that social media has obtained over the years is quite frightening, but who can we blame for this?

    Increased Pressure

    It is so hard to pinpoint the villain in this narrative when we all contributed to the rise of social media in this day and age. The pressures of being suitable for society’s norms are already high enough, but social media just increases this pressure as it pushes people to believe that they must be the best or at least present themselves as the best.

    False Reality

    Other technologies, like photoshop, filters, and other editing tools help create the illusion of perfection and attainability of society’s high standards. A good portion of people use these every day or on social media. I can say that I do too because it is so common now to use one of these tools. However, at the end of the day, we need to realize that all these things aren’t 100% true as they seem. We need a reality check to make sure we aren’t consumed by the high standards and pressures presented through social media and society.

    We are human beings who were designed to be ourselves and be authentic to that. Keep that in mind the next time you’re scrolling through social media and see an influencer’s post that makes you ever doubt yourself. Because deep down, we all struggle with the illusions of social media and the impacts they have on us.

    Do you have a compelling story or student success tips you’d like to see published on the Pearson Students blog?  If you are a college student and interested in writing for us – click here to pitch your idea and get started! 

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  • Take a Break and Get Outside

    by Carl Conley

    A panoramic view of a large brown, hilly area for 4-wheeling at sunset.

    Nearing the end of the semester, students will be faced with the most difficult time of year... finals. Final exams are what most students dread every year right before leaving for break. Studying for hours can be exhausting and take a toll on students’ physical and mental health. Here are three activities that have helped me stay focused and determined while studying for those big exams.

    Put Down the Phone

    There have been many times while I was studying that I would pick up my phone to text one person back. What do you know?: 30 minutes later I would still be on my phone scrolling mindlessly through social media while accomplishing no work. Then I would stop looking at my phone screen and look right back onto my computer or iPad screen. This turned into hours of staring at nothing but screens, leading to headaches and sore eyes. I can easily say that the best decision I have ever made is to leave my phone in another room or my backpack while studying and not right next to me on the table.

    Fresh Air is Essential

    Sitting inside for hours on end is an easy way to lose motivation. On average, a person can stay focused for about 45 minutes at one time before their mind starts to wander. This may not seem like a long time to study for some people, but it can vary from person to person. What I have figured out works best for me is setting a timer for 45 minutes. As soon as those 45 minutes are up, I stop working, close my computer and take a 15-minute break. The best way to take a break is to get outside and enjoy a new environment, some sunshine, and fresh air.

    Fresh oxygen can lead to keeping your eyes and brain running in the best shape possible. As referenced in this article on how fresh air affects children’s’ learning, “allowing in fresh air cleans the lungs and gets rid of impurities and allows more oxygen into the body. The brain uses 20% of the body’s oxygen supply – therefore keeping the air fresh is a sure way of keeping (your brain) working at top capacity to help in learning” [1]. Where going on your phone for 15 minutes will do nothing but strain your eyes, stepping outside and breathing the fresh air will immediately help your entire mental state.

    Get Moving

    Physical activity is a perfect way to take your mind off the stress of school. Some of my favorite activities to do outside include going for a run or bike ride, playing spike ball with friends, or going for a hike/walk to relax and enjoy the outdoors while letting my mind take a break. Not only does regular physical activity help ensure you will stay in shape throughout the school year but, according to Heidi Godman at Harvard Health Publishing [2], “exercise changes the brain in ways that protect memory and thinking skills”.

    I can personally say that ever since I changed my study habits and stuck to the basics of putting my phone away, taking scheduled breaks outside, and getting regular exercise, I have seen a drastic change in the efficiency of studying. It now takes me less time to go through the material because the 15-minute breaks of fresh air or exercise help me stay much more focused during the 45 minutes of work.

    With finals coming up, don’t make the same mistakes I once did of staring at screens for hours on end. Ironically, taking a break from studying every now and then may be your best chance to study effectively!

    References:

    Fireco. (n.d.) How Fresh Air Creates Happier Classroom. Fireco.uk. https://www.fireco.uk/how-fresh-air-creates-happier-classrooms/#:~:text=Allowing%20in%20fresh%20air%20cleans,capacity%20to%20help%20their%20learning.

    Godman, Heidi (2014, April 9). Regular exercise changes the brain to improve memory, thinking skills. Harvard Health Publishing. https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/regular-exercise-changes-brain-improve-memory-thinking-skills-201404097110

    Do you have a compelling story or student success tips you’d like to see published on the Pearson Students blog?  If you are a college student and interested in writing for us – click here to pitch your idea and get started! 

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  • Graduating and Missing a Loved One

    by Michelle Gomez

    Blog author Michelle Gomez stands on a park bridge, surrounded by her father, mother, and two younger sisters holding a portrait of her late sister.

    For any graduating senior who has lost somebody special to them, there's nothing you want more than for that person to be there for when you graduate college. Dealing with the death of a loved one can be particularly difficult for college students – trust me, I know. My sister died during my sophomore year of college. I felt like I was not grieving properly because of the overwhelming energy grief requires on top of the demands of being a student. But I learned that there is no right or wrong way to grieve, and I found healthy ways to cope that, in time, renewed me and permitted me to live again with a hole in my heart.

    Milestones can be painful

    Fast forward to 2021 and I’ll be graduating in a few short weeks. Graduating is a HUGE milestone. Whether you’re graduating from middle school, high school, or college - you’ve made it. However, milestones like birthdays and graduation can be painful after someone you love dies. As I graduate from college on May 15th, I am thinking about whether my sister is proud of me and imagining how big her smile would be on my graduation day.

    As this bittersweet chapter of my life ends, the only thing monopolizing my thoughts is knowing that she won’t be there to hug me and say congratulations as I receive my college diploma. It absolutely kills me inside knowing that no matter how much I cry and plea, she isn’t coming back. The worst part is that there's nothing I can do to change that.

    Celebrate with their memory in mind

    Learning how to include my sister when big moments arrive has helped me both celebrate my accomplishments and remember her. I incorporate my sister into my daily life by wearing a bracelet with a charm with her name on it. I wear it every day and whenever I feel sad, I hold it and remember that she is always with me.

    Instead of dwelling about how sad and awful it is without her there, I think of all the happiness graduating brings to me and of all the people that have been there for me. There's nothing I wouldn't do to have my sister there at the end of this journey. But I know in my heart, she has been there every single step. I also know how proud she is of me for everything I've accomplished. I know that she’s truly been my guardian angel and made sure I got to this point. She also left me in great hands because I am loved incredibly by my family and my friends. From my incredible mother and grandmother to my little sisters and best friends, finally to all the people I call my family and friends, I am so blessed.

    Graduating college isn't just for me, it's for them and it's for her.

    Mairim, I love you so much.

    Do you have a compelling story or student success tips you’d like to see published on the Pearson Students blog? If you are a college student and interested in writing for us – click here to pitch your idea and get started!

     

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  • College Students Can Try Yoga to Relieve Stress and Anxiety

    by Aathira Balu

    A woman sitting at the top of stairs, back to the camera, legs crossed and arms overhead in a yoga pose.

    Stress and anxiety are something everyone has to deal with at some point, whether it be social matters, academics, change, or just everyday life. Stress tends to run especially high with students balancing class, work, clubs, friends, family, and more. Finding a way to cope and minimize stress is imperative for a healthy life. I have found the best way for me to cope is through the practice of yoga.

    Why Start Yoga?

    Yoga is a practice of both the physical and mental minds and is a great way to integrate a healthful approach to your day-to-day routines. Yoga not only has great health benefits, but can also help reduce stress and anxiety. The practice of yoga can even help reduce the risk of chronic health conditions such as high blood pressure and heart disease. It also helps with increasing one’s flexibility, strength, and breathing capacity. Even though yoga is considered very safe, if you have any ongoing health conditions (such as arthritis, balancing issues, etc.), make sure to consult a doctor before beginning.

    Here are some things to keep in mind when getting started!

    On-line vs. In-Person

    There are many different types of yoga courses and classes that you can attend either online or in person and both have their benefits. For example, online practices can be low cost or free, plus they can be available on-demand for whatever fits into your schedule. In-person classes offer more personalized interaction with the teacher and may lead you through a more structured work out.

    Whether you select online, in-person, or a combination of both types of classes, plan out your week and find times that you know will be best for you to take a break and relax with some yoga. As a beginner, try and aim for 30-45 minutes as a full practice. As you get more advanced, 30 minutes can eventually become 90 minutes.

    Equipment

    Along with creating your own practice schedule, there are certain equipment/materials that people use when practicing, including things like yoga mats, blocks, straps, yoga wheels, etc. If you are a beginner, you can use what you have around your house such as the carpet instead of a mat, pillows to substitute as blocks, and a belt or long strap of some kind to serve as a yoga strap.

    When creating your own yoga workout, practice moves and positions that are most comfortable for you. Explore more simple starting poses to help you become more comfortable with the positioning, like child’s pose, bridge pose, plank pose, tree pose, etc. Modify them depending on your comfort, skill level, and/or any health conditions you may have.

    Benefits of Yoga

    The world of yoga is an amazing one that includes meditation, vibration, and devotion and is something that everyone should try out. Just as with learning any new skill, beginning a yoga practice requires a lot of patience. Start slow and be willing to learn and try new things; it takes time to become comfortable with this way of life. Good luck on all of your yoga journeys and always remember to stay calm and work hard.  

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  • Transitioning to a Plant-Based Diet

    by Logan Collins

    A collection of a wide variety of colorful fruits and vegetables.

    When becoming independent and going off to college you are faced with a lot of choices, especially ones involving nutrition. Nutritional choices include things like calorie intake and the type of foods and nutrients you are putting into your body. These decisions can have a big impact on things like the amount of energy we have or our mood. Recently I made the decision to transition to a plant-based diet. Here’s my experience with changing my diet and effects it has had on my everyday life. 

    Uncovering the Benefits of a Plant-Based Diet

    Last semester, I took a class called Plant-Based Living. By the middle of the semester, the class had fully convinced me to transition my diet to plant based. The key motivator that made me want to make this change was how plant-based diets can help improve mental health disorders and stress.

    During my studies, I learned that the majority animal products contain arachidonic acid, which can cause general inflammation in the brain. There is a direct link to inflammation in the brain and chemical imbalances of neurotransmitters causing depression and anxiety.

    Plants and vegetables contain antioxidants and phytochemicals which can repair damage and decrease inflammation in brain cells, while also restoring balance to neurotransmitters. Phytochemicals are known as a natural antidepressant that increases levels of serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain. 

    Making the Change

    After all the research I had done I decided to change my diet to see if I noticed a difference. The transition to vegetarian hasn’t been very hard since there are a lot of plants you can get protein from to replace meat. For example, I have been eating more tofu, chickpeas, and seitan. Plus, the protein you get from plants is better for you than the protein made by animals. After just a month of eating a vegetarian diet I felt improvement in my energy level and my overall mood. 

    Examining the Results

    Going vegetarian has helped push me outside of my comfort zone in terms of cooking and meal prep. Using social apps like TikTok has been a great resource for me to find quick and easy vegetarian recipes to try. One of my new favorite dishes is “ratatouille.” This is made completely from vegetables like eggplant, peppers, tomato, and squash. If you’ve seen the movie by the same name, the reaction the food critic has when tasting the dish is spot-on!

    Overall, my plant-based diet has had an overwhelmingly positive impact on my physical and mental health. They aren’t wrong when they say “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” so make sure you’re eating plenty of fruits and vegetables! 

     

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  • Let's Talk About It: Find mental health support through campus resources

    by Rachel Riley

    blog image alt text

    Sometimes college life gets overwhelming. As the end of the semester draws near, many of us are not only in over our heads in homework assignments, we are also coping with wrapping up our coursework and finals online. Did you know that most colleges offer free mental health counseling? However, only 10-15% of college students actually seek help from these sources. Currently most campuses are not able to provide in-person counseling sessions, but many have found a way to provide tele-mental health counseling via phone consultations and face-to-face video conferencing to their currently enrolled students. 

    Turn to an unbiased source

    There are no requirements for seeking help and the point of these resources is to keep you sane, balanced, and healthy. As college students, we tend to turn to our friends for guidance, though speaking to an unbiased person who is not involved with your day to day activities might be a refreshing way to deal with your stressors. Finding ways of de-stressing and reaching out for help can be scary, but let’s talk about it!

    Understand your options

    When you are stressed, it can be difficult to find ways to relax. Some people tend to lean towards activities such as yoga, exercise, or meditation. These are all active ways to calm your mind and focus for a period of time. But what happens to us when we feel the weight of the world on our shoulders? It happens to everyone once in a while, but it is essential to understand the options and resources available to you. 

    Get help in person or virtually

    A high percentage of four-year universities offer free mental health counseling directly on campus. These services are likely to be little to no cost to any student seeking someone to talk to. The counselors in these facilities are licensed, professionals ready to help you every step of the way on the journey to mental recovery. However, you do not have to be in crisis to seek help. If these services are provided on campus – whether in person or virtually – they are available to every student attending and the counselors are eager to provide help with any circumstance brought to their attention.

    While mental health can seemingly be a scary topic to talk about, especially your own, it is important to know that you are not alone. College can be a hard time for some students, and universities are actively helping to make the transition and hardships easier. Take advantage of your university’s resources to help yourself become the best version of you. It can be startling at first, but go talk about it!

     

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