Meditating Away With Yoga

It’s that time in the semester where midterms and exams are starting to take place. Along with that may come stress, anxiety, and other mental health issues on the rise. Students may look for ways to calm their nerves and have their mind at peace during a heavy workload. An article from Syracuse.com shares how in the midst of mental awareness week at Syracuse University, students are embarking on yoga to help them meditate and find peace within themselves. This yoga event was a way for students to come together and escape from their chaotic schedule of school, work, etc.

While being in college, yoga is a great way to not only exercise but also to free your mind, de-stress, and stay grounded during tough times. Students can set aside anywhere from 20 to 30 minutes to an hour of their day to practice yoga at their own convenience (in their dorm rooms or any quiet open space).

As I’ve listed how reading can help improve your mental health, so can yoga. Not only are you able to get a workout in, but you’re also finding ways to alleviate your mind from any negative thoughts or problems you may be dwelling on in the time being. Yoga Journal and Power Yoga looks at the impact that yoga has on mental health. It can help ease symptoms of mental health conditions, while providing benefits to our overall well-being. It provides a deeper connection between the mind to body through the different yoga techniques. Some ways that yoga has been shown to improve and benefit mental health are by:

1. Reducing depression and anxiety: Through yoga, self-awareness is developed where we are able to focus on the emotions and moods that we are feeling such as negativity, dwelling, etc. One that is experiencing anxiety may have tightness in their chest and sweaty palms, all which can be reduced during yoga by focusing on our breathing. Yoga works to slow the heart rate and lower blood pressure while increasing brain activity.

2.  Building self-awareness: As mentioned earlier, yoga can help one become more centered and focused on themselves. It allows people to get to learn more about themselves, in and out while appreciating the qualities that they have to offer. By practicing this, you are able to build upon your confidence, which can build self-trust.

3.  Improving romantic relationships: When you’re more comfortable and centered with yourself, your energy will be transferred to others around you – this creating a positive affect. By practicing peace and being centered through yoga, you learn to be compassionate with your partner. Your mood and outlook will reflect onto them.

4.  Reducing stress:  Our stress is “tamed” and calmed down through using different yoga techniques, which helps out with our nervous system. The reduction of stress is set in place, as our cortisol (stress hormone) levels are decreased.

5. Conquering trauma: Through traumatic experiences, our mind can lead to fear, which can ultimately lead to a complete shutdown. Yoga instills individuals who have experienced  trauma to relearn how to manage thoughts of fear through the mind and body to a more healthier mindset.

Yoga With Adriene on YouTube demonstrates a 15 minute practice of  “Yoga For Depression” on how to manage, balance, and ease the body through different yoga techniques. Check it out here below!

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How Can Reading Improve Mental Health?

As we all know, mental health is very important to maintain and keep an eye on in our everyday lives, especially being in school. According to an article from Bustle, schools in New York will now teach about mental health in health education classes. This is a huge start to helping combat and learn about mental health, as it is an ongoing issue that keeps growing. Hopefully, this movement will influence other schools across the nation to implement teaching mental health.

Many universities do offer their own health center (such as my school – Towson University), that provide a great team of counselors, peer mental health support groups, and other resources that will help students according to their needs. While my school and other schools do provide services as such, unfortunately not all do – yet. This may then lead students to having to find their own outlets to help with managing mental health issues.

That leads me to ask, how do you cope with mental health? In my previous blog posts, I’ve listed multiple options and ways that can help students and others in general that are dealing with mental health issues. One that I have not delved into thoroughly though, is reading books. While reading may be a hobby for some, it can actually help with mental health issues.

Yes, you may be surprised but reading books can be beneficial and improve your mental health. Articles from Reading Partners and Book Riot states how doctors have even prescribed using bibliotherapy (or reading books) for patients with mental health conditions. It is proven that reading has been an effective method in helping individuals cope with mental health issues.

These articles list and explain how reading can:

  • Reduce stress:  It is proven that reading can reduce stress and increase relaxation. A study from the University of Sussex conducted an experiment where the participants heart rates and stress levels were raised. They found that reading helped the best to de-stress them in this experiment. Reading helps us get lost in the imagination of the words and can stimulate our creativity while having us relaxed. Don’t feel afraid to set aside time to having a reading break.

 

  • Sleep better: It is said according to Mayo Clinic that reading before bed can help you sleep better. As a college student, I as well as many others can testify for having trouble with falling and staying asleep. Some nights, my anxiety will be so bad that I’ll end up only getting 2-3 hours of sleep. While it may be easy to just grab your phone and read, it is recommended to read your paper books instead. The screen on your phone or a tablet can have an effect on your brain, which may keep you up even longer. As I’ve mentioned before in my previous blogs, keeping up on your sleep hygiene is very important as it can effect your mental health. So if you can, find some time in your schedule before bed and read for a little.

 

  • Help prevent memory loss and dementia:  As some of us may not be worried about old age now, reading books will have you thanking yourself later. Studies have shown evidence of how reading can help prevent forms of dementia and memory loss, while keeping your brain strong over time. It is found that those who read regularly during their lifespan showed increased mental capacity as they aged, while those who didn’t read as much during their lifetime experienced a mental decline rate.

 

  • Increases empathy: Last but not least, reading can help increase empathy as well as self-awareness for an individual. As readers become attached to a storyline, they have to understand the characters feelings, emotions, and motives. This can then transcend to the reader being able to practice understanding others behaviors and emotions in real life, which can benefit and improve on the relationships around them. 

    Emma, a.k.a. “emmmabooks” on YouTube lists her book recommendations on mental health illness along with links to each of those books. Check it out! 

 

Do you have any book recommendations that you read that helps with your mental health? If so, I would love for you to comment down below. In the meantime, put down the phone, take a break, and pick up a book to read!

The Importance of Self-love

What do you prioritize the most? Within the hustle of a struggling, young adult who is just trying to graduate, some may say their grades, jobs, deadlines, making time for friends and/or significant others is their main priorities – which can sometimes lead us to putting ourselves last. With everything piling up, where do we find the time to put ourselves first?

We try to make time for everything but ourselves, which can be daunting to our mental health.  An article from The Wittenberg Torch states how an Ohio State student had committed suicide by throwing themselves off of a parking garage, only several weeks into this year’s school semester. This would then initiate a movement and outrage of prioritizing mental health on campuses.

As we focus on what we should prioritize and focus on, that brings up the topic “self-love.” Why is it so important? As you may know self-love goes hand-in-hand with our self-esteem. The National Alliance on Mental Illnesses explains why self-esteem is so important for mental health. Low self-esteem can be linked to mental health issues and affect us in ways that we may not even recognize such as poor relationships, addiction, and depression and anxiety.

I (as well as I’m sure of many others) can testify that when I’m not feeling my best self or 100% confident, my whole world seems to slowly catch onto the negative energy, which then seems to bring everything else down around me. Like how J.Cole says,  “love yours,” it is important to do just that in reference to appreciating what you have, even when times are rough and you’re feeling down. Know that you are enough and worth it.

Talkspace as well as Heart and Moxies provides ways on improving body image, confidence,  and mental health. Here I list ways that help me practice self-love:

 

  • Remind yourself that you are enough: When you wake up in the morning, look in the mirror and tell yourself what you love most about you. It may seem silly or weird to some, but it doesn’t hurt to try it. As much as we may focus on the negative and get wrapped around those thoughts, it’s also very important to focus on what you love – what makes you special. This exercise helped me build my confidence in high school. I would look at myself in the mirror everyday and give myself a pep talk around the lines of “you are beautiful, you got this, you can accomplish anything you want.” Saying these positive lines and putting it out into the universe actually can make a huge difference in your day, with improving your mood and creating a healthy mindset.

 

  • Take a break from social media: This is an important one for my generation. In this era, we are constantly comparing ourselves to the next person, especially from what we see on each others social media apps. We have the outlet to showcase our lives in a light that may seem perfect than what it really is. Seeing this constantly on a daily basis can sometimes put a dent on our self-esteem, whether we realize it or not. If you have to, take some time away from social media. Put the phone down for a couple hours and find a hobby that will benefit you. Sometimes even deleting certain apps that consume a large amount of our time (such as Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, etc.) can be beneficial and clear your mind out. This is what some may call taking a “social media cleanse”. In my own experience of deactivating Instagram for pretty much the whole year, I felt a significant relief within my life. I didn’t feel drained anymore and felt free from toxic influences.

 

  • Tell yourself what you’re thankful for: Everyday, name five things that you’re thankful or blessed for. It doesn’t matter how small it may seem. Appreciating and understanding the value of gratitude, can put a lighter touch on your heart. There are many things that we may overlook and take for granted.

 

  • Don’t compare yourself to others: This ties in with taking a break from social media. It’s hard for us to not compare ourselves to the next person, but it’s also important to remember that there is no one else like us and we should use that to our power. Learn to appreciate all of your attributes and characteristics that you offer. One’s life may seem great compared to yours, but we do not know what they may truly be going through behind closed doors. We only see so much and they only choose to expose happy and positive moments, but leave out everything else. Focus on you and do not let the lives or thoughts of others get in your way.

 

Here below is a video presented by Leo from Actualized.org on the concept of self-esteem and working on ourselves. I highly recommend to check it out.

*If you are having thoughts of suicide please contact 1-800-273-8255 or visit www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org.

Five Songs to Keep You Motivated

As we head into our fourth week of the school year, us students have come to the realization of summer coming to an end; the weather is getting colder, the workload is piling up at a fast rate and accepting the fact for some (including myself) that seasonal depression is on its way. Some may wonder exactly how many students are affected by mental health issues? An article from ABC 6 News, by Ali Gordamn states how one in three college students battle mental health issues. That is an alarming number, as mental health issues are on the rise.

If you’re feeling down or feel yourself being swept into the motion of depression, music can help bring you back to your senses. Music is such a huge part of my life. It has helped me in so many ways (more than I think) to staying on track, feeling my best self, keeping me going when I feel like giving up, and overall just putting me in a better mood. It allows me to have a more positive outlook on life. I like to start my mornings blasting my music while preparing myself for the day.

An article from Lifehack lists fifteen different ways on how listening to music can provide benefits, such as…

  • Lowers stress and improves health
  • Helps you sleep better
  • Reduces depression
  • Keeps your brain healthy in old age
  • Strengthens learning and memory

With that being said,  I share with you five songs that have never failed to keep me motivated and pushing through. While my music preferences consist of rap and hip-hop  for motivation, that is not to shut down any other genres that have the same effect. These are some of my all-time favorite songs to listen to when I’m in a rut. Take a listen, let the music digest, and get ready to feel pumped.

1. “Can’t Tell Me Nothing” by Kanye West

As a huge Kanye West fan, I would have put pretty much have chosen all of his songs in my top five, but I know that wouldn’t be fair. This song is empowering as you listen to the lyrics and hear what he’s saying. He’s talking about not letting anything stop him and disregarding the negativity around him. All of Kanye’s songs off of his album Graduation pushed me through the gym when I would be training for my pageant, which I later ended up winning. I honestly owe my success to listening to Kanye’s music. This song will have you feeling like you’re on top of the world.

 

 

2. “The Spiteful Chant” by Kendrick Lamar featuring ScHoolboy Q

Kendrick Lamar is another one of my top artists who I always listen to when I’m feeling down or uninspired. “The Spiteful Chant” has powerful lyrics that bring testimony to pushing through and coming on top despite what other people may think about you. The intro of the song starting off with the loud trumpets playing never fails to give me goosebumps and anticipation for the beat to drop. In an era where we are constantly comparing ourselves and trying to find our value, just believe in yourself and own it. Don’t let other people’s thoughts or actions hinder you from doing what is best for you.

 

 

3. ”If You Know You Know” by Pusha T

Whenever I listen to this song, I picture myself as a football player walking out to the stadium onto the field in slow motion, with the crowd getting riled up. That’s exactly what this song does to me. “If You Know You Know,” which came off of Pusha T’s awaited album that dropped back in May, “Daytona,” has many other phenomenal and hype songs that will leave you wanting to go out and conquer your day. He sets the tone of this album, being the first song, with his thrilling adventures of selling coke (as he talks about in many of his other songs). While I cannot relate to that activity, I still love how this song never fails to put me in a mood where I’m ready to grind and get to work.

 

 

4. “Started From the Bottom” by Drake

A little throwback song from Drake, but nonetheless still motivational. The lyrics will have you looking back to where you started, to where you are now. In the beginning, Drake talks about his humble beginnings and hardships that made him who he is today. It’s a constant reminder throughout the song that despite the struggles one may go through, you must keep fighting and going harder to come out on the top with your future success. It might not be easy, but like they say, “it’s the beauty within the struggle” that makes it all worth it.

 

 

5. “WIN” by Jay Rock featuring Kendrick Lamar

The title says it for itself. Jay Rock’s chorus for this song repeatedly says “win,” which makes you feel like you have no other choice but to win. This song will have you feeling like you’re ready to give it your all. The ensemble of the trumpets throughout the song provide consistent, strong energy. This song is perfect to play in the morning while you’re getting ready for school, work, or whatever it may be. Jay Rock breaks down the lyrics and his motives behind putting together this song on a video from Rap Genius.

 

Comment and let me know down below what are some of your favorite songs that keep you motivated? I would love to know!

Until next time,

Lurene.