Author Archives: Emanuel Gabriel Mitchell

Is Play Just for Kids?

As I was about to eat breakfast, I had trouble deciding which kind of cereal I wanted to eat. At After a few minutes of debating I finally picked “Trix” and the slogan “Trix are for kids” popped into my head, which is how I came up with the title of this blog. None the less, in my last blog post I talked about leisure, and one of its components: leisure. Now I will elude to the other component: play which is a context with improvisational potential, which provides for a creative outlet.  Also, it something apparently purposeless, voluntarily done for its own sake, and an activity which makes one feel good (loosens sense of obligation and time).

Why do we play?

  • Development and Change
  • Cultural Assimilation
  • Learning and Practicing Skills
  • Socializing
  • Exploration of our Environment

benefits of play

Researchers from Concordia University and Wilfrid Laurier University examined the way grandparents can establish strong ties with the grandchildren. After observing the two different generations interact, lead author Shannon Hebblethwaite concluded that “shared leisure time allows grandchildren and their grandparents to establish common interests that , in turn, enable them to develop strong inter-generational relationships and pass down old traditions.

One example was, Gardening with grandma. In this study 16 grandparents aged 65 to 89 as well as 14 grandchildren aged 18 to 24 were investigated to see the interactions. Many times grandparents take  advantage of events that typically bond generations such as vacations, holidays, cooking, gardening, etc. in order teach, mentor and pass on legacies. On the reverse side, these encounters gave grandparents the chance to discover things like email, face timing, etc.

Additionally, play promotes development and change. For example, according to this article, during play, children from birth to age three begin to jabber to themselves and use gestures. This transitions to them slowly beginning to use words to communicate.

Follow this link to see more information on the items bulleted above.

Is Play Just for Kids?

One day in my parks and recreation class, a guest speaker visits and actually talked about “play”. He went on to explain how animals play as well, as do adults. After research, I found that most animals stop playing after adolescence.  This is because it is dangerous for adults to play since other animals are out to hunt them.

Humans are considered the “biggest players” since we display neoteny and retain juvenile characteristics into adulthood.

play

Are there any benefits from play after adolescence?

Certainly! Neoteny is an evolutionary strategy to retain plasticity, which is the quality of being easily shaped or molded. This allows humans to develop and grow their whole life.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/02/110214115444.htm

http://www.parentingscience.com/benefits-of-play.html

http://udel.edu/~roberta/play/benefits.html

The Importance of Leisure

After months of being in a Parks and Recreation, I believe that I now have a pretty decent grasp on the concept of leisure and all it has to offer. While in that class, I had construct a “time diary” in order to document how I spent my time. After documenting in my diary and reviewing what I did throughout the week, I found that I spend a enormous portion of my time in leisure. At first glance I thought that the amount of time I spent in leisure was bad, then after scrutinizing and recalling the benefits of leisure it alleviated some of the guilt I had.

Before I get to deep into the subject, leisure is activity chosen in relative freedom for its qualities of satisfaction. Leisure is a multi-dimensional, contextual, and individual concept. What counts as leisure differs from person to person.

leisure

What does it mean to have leisure?

  • To be free from endless rounds of labor
  • To pursue what you want
  • To spend your time in voluntary, pleasurable ways
  • To have freedom to explore and accept your place in the world

So what are the benefits of leisure according to Cordes and Ibriham (2003)?

  • Brings balance to one’s life
  • Relaxation
  • Self-improvement
  • Cultural/family stability and interaction
  • Escape, novelty, complexity, adventure, excitement, and fantasy
  • Reduce stress

In order to have a work-life balance, one must partake in leisure activities while they are not working. Therefor many people do recreational activities in opposition to work. Recreation is a narrower component of leisure. These activities provide pleasure/satisfaction and restores us mentally/physically.

In a study done by Iwasaki, Zuzanek, and Mannell their findings conveyed that certain characteristics of leisure, over and above its physically active nature, may serve to facilitate coping. The study was conducted by analyzing data from the 1994 National Population Health Survey and then measuring three different components (health, stress, and physically active leisure of each individual).

” Coleman found that the belief that leisure behavior is freely chosen and under personal control acted as a buffer against stress in maintaining good health. Iso-Ahola and Park found that those participants who believed that they had developed friendships and social support through leisure pursuits seemed to be less susceptible to physical illness due to stress. More recently, Iwasaki and Mannell found evidence that the choices people make for the use of their leisure may help them develop feelings of empowerment, contribute to palliative coping and enhance their moods, and that these factors help them cope with stress.”

 

Other benefits of leisure are enhanced immune systems, improved memory, improved self esteem, and better quality of sleep. For more, click here.

In a Minnesota study 2,747 people with an average age of 25 participated in a treadmill test two decades ago, and once again twenty years later. Cognitive tests were taken 25 years after the beginning of the study to measure: verbal memory, psycho-motor speed (the relationship between thinking skills and physical movement), and executive function. The more fit participants were as young adults then the better they did on the test. Which conveys that physically leisure activities can lead to better cognitive performance. Many other studies have been published positively linking physical activity to cognition.

treadmill

Bottom Line: Leisure has a vast amount of benefits. Make sure you take advantage of them!

 

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-athletes-way/201404/physical-activity-improves-cognitive-function

http://www.researchgate.net/profile/Yoshitaka_Iwasaki2/publication/11847452_The_effects_of_physically_active_leisure_on_stress-health_relationships/links/0deec5338714e7f274000000.pdf

http://tx.english-ch.com/teacher/bien/home/the-importance-of-leisure-activities-in-reducing-stress/

 

How does nature affect one’s health?

One day in my Parks and Recreation class, a guest speaker came in to speak about how outdoor recreation is necessary for one’s social health and well being. Throughout the lecture he explained how outdoor recreation is becoming more popular throughout the United States, which could be because people recognize the benefits of outdoor recreation and nature. So, does nature affect one’s health?

nature health

After doing some research I found quite a bit of information on the benefits of being in nature. First of all, nature soothes. Robert Ulrich conducted a study on patients who had gallbladder surgery. Half of the patients had a view of trees, while the other half had a view of the wall. The patients with a view of the tree were able to handle the pain better, had less negative effects, and left the hospital sooner than those who were provided a view of the wall. Follow up studies similar to the one above were conducted as well, and concluded that natural scenes were more conducive for health/recovery than looking at urban scenery.

“Urban nature”, such as parks and walkways and incorporated into building designs elicits a calming/inspiring environment which encourages learning, and alertness.

Also according to this article, nature is said to:

  • Reduce stress
  • Heal
  • Restore
  • Connect

Nature has been found to restore. One study in Mind results showed that 95% of those interviewed said their mood improved after spending time outside, changing from depressed, stressed, and anxious to more calm and balanced. The study may not be that reputable though, since the respondents may of had the desire to please the researcher.

In a study cited in a book titled Healing Gardens, researchers found that two-thirds of people chose a natural setting to go to when stressed. Research has shown that environments can either increase or reduce our stress. Unpleasant/noisy environments can cause anxiety, sadness, or a feeling of helplessness which triggers the fight or flight response (elevated blood pressure/heart rate, and muscle tension which suppresses one’s immune system. On the other hand, pleasing locations reverse that, which are usually filled with nature (humans naturally find nature to be pleasing regardless of age/culture).

“Nature Deprivation” which is a lack of time in the natural world due to spending an overwhelming amount of time watching television or being on the computer has been associated with depression, and also correlates with a higher risk of death according to a study published by the Journal of the American College of Cardiology in 2011.

In another study titled The Benefits of Nature Experience: Improved affect and cognition done by Gregory Bratman found that nature decreases anxiety and rumination,  along with producing benefits for cognition such as complex working memory span task.

Two major theories have been proposed to explain nature’s restorative benefits:

  • Affective- this theory poses that natural environments such as meadows, lakes, and forests have a restorative advantage over artificial environments since humans have an intrinsic connection with nature due to the role it played in our evolution as species. Also, “nature scenes activate our parasympathetic nervous system in ways that reduce stress and autonomic arousal.”
  • Cognitive- this theory exclaims that natural environments invoke a sense of “fascination,” “being away,” “extent,” and “compatibility” that can result in the replenishment of directed attention because they are less heavily taxed in these alternative environments. Consequently, this may lead to improved performance on test that measure the memory and attention.

Over the past few decades outdoor recreation has been growing rapidly, a huge reason for this is because people are finally beginning to realize the importance of ecology to one’s health. Many researchers believe that without ecological health, human health cannot exist.

Bottom Line: There has been many studies conducted to support the hypothesis that nature has a positive affect on human health. On the other hand, I had difficulty finding detrimental affects of nature.

Although there are many studies in favor that nature affects one health, this theory may suffer from the file drawer problem where as negative results would conclude that nature has no affect on humans. Although that seems highly unlikely.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

https://books.google.com/books?id=ffnSgk3f1cYC&pg=PA213&lpg=PA213&dq=robert+ulrich+gall+bladder+surgery&source=bl&ots=qEHTFy2ZPV&sig=JkH1uNWhpaKPpVOtdbwJfGIg_hg&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0CCUQ6AEwAWoVChMI7_HH4tSWyQIViEMmCh2-2ASQ#v=onepage&q=robert%20ulrich%20gall%20bladder%20surgery&f=false

http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/07/22/how-nature-changes-the-brain/?_r=0

http://www.fs.fed.us/pnw/about/programs/gsv/pdfs/health_and_wellness.pdf

http://heapro.oxfordjournals.org/content/21/1/45.short

http://www.takingcharge.csh.umn.edu/enhance-your-wellbeing/environment/nature-and-us/how-does-nature-impact-our-wellbeing

https://depts.washington.edu/hhwb/Thm_Mental.html

Are Low-Carb Diets worse than High-Carb Diets

For about the past few years I have been exercising and developing knowledge about different diets people use in order to gain/lose weight, gain more muscle, and get rid of fat. A popular thing among weightlifters is to bulk up and then cut weight (click here for information on bulking). I personally have strayed away from this diet since the cutting phase requires a person to maintain a low-carb diet or to cut out complex carbohydrates completely. When first reading this, I thought to myself that there’s no way that can be healthy since carbohydrates are human’s main source of energy. So, are low-carb diets bad for you?

Null Hypothesis: Low-Carb diets are not bad for you

Alternative: Low-carb diets are bad for you

After some research I found a study that compared low-carbohydrate, high protein, high fat diet to a low-calorie, high-carbohydrate, low fat diet. Researchers conducted this study by randomly assigning 63 obese men and women to either diet for to track which group lost more weigh over the span of one year. After six months the low-carb diet had lost a higher percentage of body weight than the other group, but the differences after one year were not statistically significant. Both diets had a significant decrease in diastolic blood pressure. People with high diastolic blood pressure are more likely to have problems with their memory and thinking skills than those with normal levels which is less than 120/80 mm Hg (less than 120 systolic AND less than 80 diastolic) for an adult age 20 or over. Also, the insulin response to an oral glucose load decreased in both.

Bottom Line: The low-carbohydrate diet produced a greater weight loss, which was approximately 4%. Also, the low-carb diet was associated with an improvement in risk factors, such as coronary heart disease. Adherence to the prescribed diets were low which may have been set back to the effectiveness of the study. Therefor larger studies should be conducted in order to get a better understanding of the long-term safety of each diet.

In another study done by the Philadelphia Veterans Affairs Medical Center, they performed a test similar to the one above. Some differences were that the two diet groups attended separate two-hour teaching sessions every week for a month straight. Which was then followed up by monthly one-hour sessions for five additional months which was led by experts in nutritional counseling. Subjects were also given handouts, instructional nutrition labels, and other useful information to help guide the. Also, the subjects on the low-card diet restricted their carbohydrate intake to 30 g per day or less. While the low-fat dieters were not provided instructions on restricting total fat intake, but they did receive instruction that went along with obesity-management headlines of National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.

Some other key notes:

  • Subjects were at least 18 years old and had and had a bmi of at least 35
  • There were 132 participants involved in the study
  • Stratified randomization used to ensure that each group contained equal numbers of women, subjects with diabetes, and severely obese subjects (bmi greater than or equal to 40)
  • Study was not blinded
  • Many participants dropped out before the end of the study

After the study was completed, researchers found that triglyceride levels decreased in the low-carbohydrate group. Many studies suggest that lowering triglyceride levels has an overall cardiovascular benefit. Also, insulin sensitivity improved after following this diet.

The Bottom Line: The study revealed that low-carb diets can improve triglyceride levels and insulin sensitivity. Also, that confounding variables such as the high dropout rate could have greatly affected the results in this studies findings.

On the other hand. I found a few articles that claim low-carb diets can elicit the below side effects:

  • Induction Flu
  • Leg cramps
  • Constipation
  • Bad Breath
  • Heart Palpitations
  • Reduced Physical Performance

Sometimes people temporarily put themselves at risk when they abruptly/drastically cut cubs out their diet. A few short-term effects are headaches, bad breath, weakness, fatigue, constipation, and diarrhea. Consuming less than 20 grams of carbs per day can result in ketosis. The mayo clinic states that: Ketosis occurs when you don’t have enough sugar (glucose) for energy, so your body breaks down stored fat, causing ketones to build up in your body. This causes the above stated side effects such as nausea, headache, mental/physical fatigue and bad breath. Then in heavily restricted carbohydrate diets other effects come into play. For example: vitamin/mineral deficiencies, bone loss, and gastrointestinal disturbances (symptoms of stomach pain, heartburn, diarrhea, constipation, nausea and vomiting).

What’s the cause for these side effects?

http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa022207

http://scoobysworkshop.com/bulking-and-cutting/

http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa022637#t=article

http://authoritynutrition.com/10-things-dietitians-say-about-low-carb-diets/

http://www.news-medical.net/news/20090824/People-with-high-diastolic-blood-pressure-more-likely-to-have-cognitive-impairment.aspx

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http://www.ccjm.org/fileadmin/content_pdf/ccjm/content_69_849.pdf

http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/weight-loss/in-depth/low-carb-diet/art-20045831?pg=2

Is Stress Good For You?

About a month ago, I began reading this novel by Gary Mack titled, “Minds Gym”. The novel explains how your mind influences your athletic performance as much as your physical skills does, if not more so. I noticed that this concept can be applied to other types of performances and not just athletic. For example, I thought about how throughout high school/college many people are stressed out about homework, tests, projects, and different clubs/organizations, which sometimes results in very low test scores, unorganized events, and other negative consequences. Many times I thought to myself that they should not be as stressed as they are; but rather more relaxed. Although stress is common among most individuals, is it good for you?

Null hypothesis: Stress is not good for you.

Alternative hypothesis: Stress is good for you.

“Stress is the body’s way of responding to any type of demand or threat. When one feels threatened the nervous system responds by releasing stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol, which rouse the body for emergency action.” When one gets stressed blood pressure rises, breathing becomes more rapid, the digestive system slows down, heart rate rises, the immune system goes down, muscles become tense, and we do not sleep according to this article.

Stress 1

After some research I found that stress can have positive and negative effects.

Image result for yerkes dodson law

Above is the Yerkes-Dodson Law, it states that as stress levels rise, so does the performance levels to an extent. During the “calm” portion of the curve, people tend to be torpid and perform poorly. Then the stress portion is where people feel energized, motivated, and “in the zone”; optimal performance occurs during this point. In order to test this hypothesis, Yerkes and Dodson did an experiment on rats where they had them try to find the way out of a maze, if the rats took the wrong route they were given electric shocks. During the experiment, the researchers were looking for the optimum punishment, where rats learned the quickest. They found that as the voltage of the shock increased, so did the rats performance until it reached a voltage that was too high which leads to the third portion of the performance curve – “distress”. When the stress levels rose beyond a certain point, the rats began to under perform as they started to slow down, freeze, and retreat to avoid being struck by extreme voltages.

The Bottom Line in this study was: “When motivating people, find ways to increase their arousal level but only to the point where performance is maximized. Different people have different overload points so do be careful about this.”

Firdaus Dhabhar, an associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences, and member of the Stanford Institute for Immunity, Transplantation and Infection claims that short-term-stress (fight or flight response) stimulates immune activity. This response is another benefit of stress. Dhabar concluded this after subjecting rats to mild stress, which in turn caused immense mobilization of several types of immune cells into the bloodstream, skin, and other tissues thus improving the immune system.

In addition, Dhabhar and his colleagues performed an experiment previous to the one above to figure out whether or not stress enhances recovery from surgery. They conducted the experiment by recruiting 57 patients who were scheduled for surgery to repair damaged cartilage in their knee joints. Three to ten days before the surgery, patients gave blood samples to establish a baseline count of  immune cells in their blood. Then again on the morning of their surgery before the administrating anesthesia, searching for an increase of immune cells in the bloodstream. Dhabar believed that patients should be somewhat stressed/anxious about half an hour before surgery thus activating the short-term immune response. Researchers found that three major types of immune cells: lymphocytes, monocytes, and neutrophils redistributed throughout the body. They then calculated the median redistribution. Patients above the median were labeled “high responders”, and those smaller than the median or unchanged were grouped as “low responders”. Researchers then followed up with the patients for one year, checking knee inflammation and used the Lysholm scale in order to rank knee function, pain, and mobility. Patients who elicited positive stress during surgery increased recovery as early as one week post-surgery. Low responders had scores around 80 and never recovered as much as the other group.

Also during this study, researchers found that women were less likely to show an adaptive response than men.  On average their lymphocyte redistribution numbers were almost four times lower than males’, and also had lower overall knee recovery.

Conclusion of the experiment: High levels of stress before surgery enhances the chances of recovery from surgery. Also that women are less likely than men to fully recover from surgery, therefor more research needs to be done to explain this conundrum.

Take Home Message From This Blog: Stress seems very likely to benefit people in various situations. Although stress can sometimes be beneficial, when levels of it are too high it can be detrimental to one’s performance and health.

 

Sources:

http://www.helpguide.org/articles/stress/stress-symptoms-causes-and-effects.htm

https://ccme.osu.edu/WebCastsFiles/562The%20Management%20of%20Stress%20-%202.pdf

http://changingminds.org/explanations/motivation/yerkes-dodson.htm

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0278262607000322

http://med.stanford.edu/news/all-news/2009/12/good-stress-response-enhances-recovery-from-surgery-stanford-study-shows.html

Throughout the school year, my roommate from San Diego has asked me a wide range of questions; from “what’s there to do in Pennsylvania” to “are fireflies real”. The other day he asked me why he went from enthusiastic to tired the majority of the time, and also asked why he felt somewhat down in the dumps. I responded by telling him about the “winter blues”  and how colder weather sometimes results in depression, and more of an inclination to sleep. Without question, he took my word for it. So does the cold elicit different moods?

Image result for winter depression

Null hypothesis: Winter does not affect one’s mood

Alternative hypothesis: Winter does affect one’s mood

The first information that I came across when researching was that negative changes in behavior/mood were linked to SAD (seasonal affective disorder).

So what exactly are the symptoms of seasonal affective disorder?

  • Greater fatigue throughout the day
  • Difficulty waking up in the morning
  • More of an inclination to sleep
  • Craving for carbohydrate-rich foods
  • Depression
  • Weight gain
  • Loss of interest in activities
  • Cognitive Effects

A health poll on weather.com asked people if they tended to feel depressed during dark winter days and slightly over 76% answered “yes”. Since the poll was not randomized,it was not representative of the population, and the results could only extend to those who participated in the study. Also, since the poll was done online anybody could have answered the question, even if they never experienced dark winter days which could result in response bias. With this type of study there could be many confounding variables that affected the conclusion, so the validity of it is questionable.

An experiment was done on sixty-two students at the University of Miami, where they had to explain how they’d feel after being told the weather conditions in each scenario. The study concluded that certain weather conditions tend to enhance emotions rather than create them. For example, cloudy, gray-sky days would increase chances of depression while sunny, warm days would enhance one’s confident and optimistic emotional state to ecstatic. Although, I myself am not a scientist, I believe that a meta-analysis should be performed on this study to make sure it was designed well.

For a more in-depth analysis of the experiment, click here

One study exclaimed that a causal factor of  changes in one’s mood could be due to circadian rhythm, which is “physical, mental and behavioral changes that follow a roughly 24-hour cycle, responding primarily to light and darkness in an organism’s environment. They are found in most living things, including animals, plants and many tiny microbes.” Researchers believe that daylight assists in the release of melatonin, which allows the body to know when to sleep (which is apart of circadian rhythm). Scientists have found that high melatonin levels cause feelings of depression, daytime sleepiness, irritability, headaches, and stomach cramps. Melatonin levels are found to increase as light disappears. Therefor, since the days are shorter in the winter and less sunlight is present, melatonin levels are relatively higher, which causes the above side effects. This could be a mechanism for SAD.

Also, serotonin also known as the, “happiness hormone”, goes hand in hand with melatonin (the sleep hormone).  The following link briefly explains that if there is a lack of serotonin in the body, the person feels depressed and their mood/spirit declines. Then goes on to say that when it darkens outside, melatonin is produced from serotonin when it darkens outside.

Image result for winter depression meme

If you are afraid that you’re being affected by SAD, then try light treatment. Exposure to light substantially brighter than indoor light can help mitigate symptoms, since it acts as artificial sunlight which would keep melatonin levels from intensifying thus  lessening the chances of suffering from depression.

Image result for how to treat SAD

For more information on how to treat SAD, follow this link

Conclusion: Winter seems likely to affect one’s mood.  The reason for this conclusion is that there was difficulty finding studies/research that concluded that the winter did not affect  one’s mood. Either all the scientists who researched this found that the alternative hypothesis was true or it could be that this study suffers substantially from the file drawer problem.

 

 

http://time.com/278/can-winter-really-make-you-sick-the-truth-about-seasonal-affective-disorder/

http://www.accuweather.com/en/weather-news/fall-winter-bring-forth-three/18376650

http://www.healthyresources.com/sleep/magazines/sleepwell/sad.html

http://www.webmd.com/depression/features/seasonal-affective-disorder?page=3

The Science Behind Giving Dogs Treats: Positive Reinforcement.

A few years ago, my little sister had a dog named Chloe. During the time she had Chloe, she could never seem to teach her any tricks. My sister kept on trying to teach the dog different tricks, but each time she failed. So one day I decided to do some research on training dogs to perform certain tasks and I came across some very useful information, which proved to be a success in the end.

Here’s the link that helped me teach my sister’s dog to roll over.

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The most interesting aspect of my research was that the treat acted as positive reinforcement, which is a form of appraisal – which is a reward system that makes it more likely for a dog to repeat a particular behavior. John B. Watson actually did various behavioral studies.

Positive reinforcement can be applied to every day life in many ways other than just teaching dogs tricks. Many parents use it when dealing with their children. For example, if a child wants their parents approval, the parent can reward the child for good behavior, then the child will feel the need to keep on behaving accordingly thus decreasing negative tendencies.

On the other hand, behaviorist B.F. Skinner believed that  classical conditioning was too simple and that other outside factors had to be involved. He concluded that there were:

  • Reinforcers- those surrounding an individual and increase the chances of good behavior elicited by them. One can be rewarded by treats, good grades, etc
  • Punishers- those who provide negative consequences for one’s wrong doings. For example, police, judges, etc.
  • Neutral Operants- those who have no effect on the way you behave. They just simply observe or pay no mind to it. This could be people outside of your immediate circle and you have no interaction with

jdf

For more info follow this link

 

Why do people meditate?

The other night I felt myself becoming overwhelmed by trying to handle various task and obligations, such as completing school work, attending different meetings, exercising, and keeping a social life. While trying to balance everything, I began to get stressed and it showed. The next day my friend realized that I was currently troubled, so he recommended me to attend a meditation class with him to help unwind – I accepted.

fjbfdj

After leaving the class I felt slightly rejuvenated and like some of the weight that was on my shoulders disappeared. Also, I felt less stressed.

So, what’s the science behind meditation?

Meditation is a form of deep thinking, and examining your mind. People meditate in order to relieve stress/weariness. Researcher believe that meditating leads to understanding of life and less suffering.

According to an article, meditation works because of 5 categories of brain waves:

  • Gamma State- state of hyperactivity/learning
  • Beta State- where analyzing, planning, assessing, and categorizing takes place
  • Alpha State-when the brain waves begin to slow down, and we become more calm and peaceful
  • Theta State- where verbal/thinking mind transitions to meditative/visual
  • Delta State-most people experience this in the final state during sleep, where the brain waves range from a low 1-3 Hz

brain waves

For a more in depth analysis on all of the States, click here.

Benefits of meditation are:

  • Decreased insomnia
  • Reduction in blood pressure
  • Reduced risk of diseases, illnesses, and cardiovascular deaths.
  • More focused
  • Less anxiety/stress
  • More creativity

benefits of meditation

Statistics and Facts on Meditation:

It leads to neuroplasticity (brain’s ability to change structurally/functionally).

neuro

A study showed that men and women who meditated forty-minutes per day had thicker cortical walls (associates with memory, decision making, and attention functions) than those who don’t meditate. This also means that their brains aged at a slower rate.

For more fascinating facts follow this link.

Last of all, how do we meditate? Many people think they need to purchase things like yoga pants or incense candles, and sit in some fancy style, but all you need to do is concentrate and focus on one thing for a brief period. The objective of meditation is to properly train your brain, just like one would with the rest of their muscles. So, if you’re interested in relieving some stress and exercising your brain, then follow this link for a short tutorial on how to meditate. Enjoy!

 

 

Dreams and Nightmares

Have you ever woken up in the middle of the night yelling, and covered in sweat after having a bad dream. Well the other night I was sleeping in my dorm, and I had a ridiculous dream of a raccoon chasing me around campus, then finally pouncing on me. Immediately, I jumped out of bed and face planted onto the floor while splurging out some bad words. Once I pulled myself up off the floor, I decided to write down the occurrence, so I could retell it to my roommate in the morning. Furthermore, at that current moment I had no idea as to why i had that dream.

falling

*The picture above accurately depicts how I landed when I jumped out the bed.*

That morning when my roommate had awakened, I retold my dream to him and then he began to point out reasons why I had that dream such as the events that happened the day prior.

“Dreams purpose are to resolve unfinished thoughts left over from the day before”, according to a post. Usually one was obstructed when they had a certain thought, which explains why I dreamed of a raccoon since I saw one the previous day.

Some researchers believe that the purpose of dreams are to:

  • Help process/understand new information
  • Prepares one for change
  • Help cope with trauma/loss
  • Consolidate information

Harvard psychiatrist and other sleep researchers believe that their is more to it. Doctor Hobson of Harvard says that REM sleep has a physiological effect rather than just a psychological one.

 

On the flip side we have nightmares. An article discusses that the main reasons for recurring nightmares is because one’s subconscious is trying to assist the individual in ridding a certain problem in their actual daily life. Stress, conflict, fear, trauma, emotional problems, drug use, and illness can be underlying factors.

nightmare

*This article  recommends that one who has persistent nightmares to see a professional about their mental health.

 

Does Studying In Different Settings Improve Performance?

Each night I try studying inside my room, but for some reason I can’t seem to focus. Usually my roommate is in the room playing music or trying to converse with me as I am doing my work. I thought the extra background noise was the reason i could not concentrate, but even when he was not present in the room, I was still sidetracked. After I came to the realization that I worked poorly in my dorm room, I began experimenting by studying in different locations.

After a few days of experimentation, I found that studying in the lounge area of my residence hall early in the morning, and even outside during night elicited the most productivity for me. My hypothesis for why these locations worked for me is because both were relatively quiet during these times, the temperature was just right (not to hot, humid, or cold), and I did not have random items in sight to distract me (like I did in my room).

study location

So what are ALL the factors are there to take into consideration when determining a good workplace?

  • Temperature
  • Noise Level/Background Noise
  • Lighting
  • Smell
  • comfortability
  • Miscellaneous Distractions

An article discusses how temperatures between 69.8 and 71.6 degrees result in the highest productivity. On the other hand if the location is too warm, one may get sweaty or dehydrated which can make one lose focus. Also, being too cold will result in being unable to concentrate.

too hot - too cold

 

Another huge factor that comes in to play is background noise. A study  was done on 7th and 10th graders and it found that the high academic students who were not in range of noise from the airport, performed better than those who did experience airport noise. Additionally, many people enjoy listening to music while they complete their homework and study; but research shows it can be detrimental. So when is music harmful? In most cases, when the volume is too loud and/or has lyrics. When those two factors are present, then retention rates decrease and the more difficult it becomes to concentrate. Music with headphones on is extremely harmful; but if it’s just playing in the background it can block out other noises without much harm. On  the other hand, listening to classical music has a soothing effect, and produces the “Mozart Effect

Lighting is also plays a role in performance, for example poor lighting lessens the brain’s effectiveness when it comes to collecting data.

poor lighting

 

You can read more about lighting here.

Last of all, when choosing a place to study consider the smell and the amount of comfortability it provides. Dorms or bedrooms usually aren’t the best places to study due to your bed being easily accessible, which may lead to one just sleeping instead of actually completing their work. On the flip side, avoid places that will cause discomfort. Also, find a location where random items are not in your vision to distract you.

Hopefully everyone can find there ideal study location after reading this blog! Good luck!

 

 

The Science Behind Procrastination

Have you ever been given assignment that you had plenty of time to do, and then realize the deadline is tomorrow? I thought about the topic of my blog, as I continued to put this blog assignment off and became angry at myself for beginning to develop the bad habit of procrastination. Once i noticed I was postponing impending task, I became curious as to why myself and millions of others do so.

procrastination

I personally believe that procrastination is detrimental to humans in the long run, which is sad because statistics show that procrastination affects over 20% of the population. After some research, I came to the generalization that people put off task that they don’t find amusing, boring, or difficult. Another article suggest that we procrastinate is because it gives us instant gratification. In other words, you tell yourself that you’ll do a certain task later, which makes you feel better without actually even doing anything.

tomorrow

Critics of procrastination say it is self-defeating in that it lowers the quality of performance. Also, procrastination is correlated with depression, low self-esteem, anxiety, and poor study habits. Studies show that the relation between procrastination is indirect, so we cannot say either is causation of the other.

On the other hand, procrastinators argue that they “work better under pressure”. For some this may be true, but for others it’s not. I recently just read a book called, “Mind Gym” which discussed how people can either perform 15% better or worse under pressure. Although some people can excel even when they procrastinate, it is never a good idea to purposely do so. In the long run people who procrastinate build up high stress levels. Also, a study conducted a few years ago, showed that 25% of 195 participants who procrastinate had significantly lower GPA’s and class grades.

F

There are millions of people out there who want to stop procrastinating; so why is it so hard to stop doing it? Simple, because your brain acts as a natural defense mechanism, also known as fight or flight response (caused by neural activity and hormones) and protects you from assignments and things you believe will make you uncomfortable or put you at risk.

fight or flight

 

Despite the natural response of the brain, there are ways to prevent and avoid procrastination, and the following link provides different ways to counteract it, if you are interested.

 

 

Initial Blog Post

Hello, my name is Emanuel Mitchell and I’m from Chichester, Pennsylvania (which is twenty minutes from Philadelphia).  I am currently a freshman and majoring in Recreation, Parks, and Tourism management, and plan to minor in kinesiology. Originally I did not want to come to Penn State since three of my brothers went here, and I wanted to follow my own path; but I liked the atmosphere too much, so now I’m here.

I never considered a science major, mainly because I never enjoyed it. Instead, I chose a major that I appreciated and suited my strengths. Unlike other science classes, SC200 peaked my interest just by the write up on it. Although only week one of classes have gone by, I can sense that the class will continue to be very thought provoking, which is why i decided to take this class. Also, I believe this course will allow me be more curious about the nature of things and help me be able to evaluate “why things are the way are”.

Once I came to PSU, I decided to challenge myself by being open-minded and trying new things.About each day I learned something new or found new hobbies, such as playing the ukulele, walking different routes to class, and meeting new people.

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Here’s a picture of me playing the ukulele.

ukulele bill cosby