Author Archives: Cristen Heaton

Does Chewing Gum Actually Help Studying?

Does Chewing Gum Actually Help Studying? 

During my freshman year at Penn State, my dad brought me a pack of mint gum because he saw an article about how gum can improve your studying habits. I thought he was crazy and I never looked into it. Until I recently have been trouble concentrating and I thought why not look more into this idea. I have heard that it helps you study for exams and I thought if that’s really the case, then I want to do it!

what-makes-bubblegum-blow-bubbles_7e1219c3-9e43-46f7-859b-648453e2fbd1 Image found here.

Study 1

The first study talks about the outcomes that chewing gum has on your overall mood, brain function and well being. This study also brought up how chewing gum can decrease stress in a person. The sample was 133 volunteers which were later divided in half. Half of the group tested in a quiet location while the other half tested in a more stressful location with loud noises. There were two flavors of gum given, mint and fruit. The volunteers were asked to list how they felt at the beginning and end of each session. The conclusion of this study was that chewing gum can in fact have a positive impact on people’s overall mood, brain function and well being.

There were a couple of things in this study that I would’ve done differently. The first thing is, the researchers didn’t take into account of any third variables such as the flavor of the gum or if the participants had any prior experiences with stress. Although I feel like the sample size wasn’t too large I can see how it might work more effectively with fewer participants. Rather than doing 133 people at once, break it up into a couple different studies and then compare answers.


Study 2

The second study talks about again how chewing gun can assist you in concentrating for activities such as schoolwork. The sample size for the study was 38 participants, split into two different groups. One group chewed gum while the other group didn’t. The experiment was to have the two different groups listening to random numbers, 1 – 9, being called out. The researchers themselves rated the participants on how well they listened and how long it took them to notice they were doing a pattern of odds and evens. The participants also completed a survey based on how they felt before and after the activity. The results conclude that chewing gum does help you concentrate!


da5132ce-1fde-41e1-a57d-6560646e9210 Image found here.

I came across this image and I thought it was pretty cool to see the differences between test averages of with gum versus without gum.


Take home message

The reason I used two different studies is to compare the two and get more insight on the topic. I can conclude from both studies that chewing gum can actually help you concentrate. This is important to know because I struggle with concentrating while doing things, like this blog post. (I just signed out of Facebook for the 3rd time! Whoops!) When looking back at the two studies, the first study pops out more to me because I feel like they did more to prove their point. By that I mean they actually tried two different flavors of gum as well as looked at how stress can play a factor in it. Another underlying potential problem is the confounding variables like IQ that were not taken into consideration. But overall I agree completely that chewing gum can help you concentrate!!


chewing_gum_good_or_bad_for_teeth Image found here.



Therapy Dogs = Happiness

Are therapy dogs helpful to others?

As I stated before I go see a counselor who has a therapy dog, Keona, who immediately brightens my overall mood when I see her. Then I got to thinking are therapy dogs helpful to others? I thought why not dig deeper into this topic to see the results I may come across. It is becoming more common across America for people to come out and admit they have a mental illness. Sometimes medicine always isn’t the best answer, so therapy animals come into play. According to this article, pets are found to be more of a support system than a husband/wife or even family.

keona  This is Keona, isn’t she adorable?!

Study 1

The study I came across talked about how elder adults react to pet therapy. They took a sample of 21 patients who are affected daily with dementia and depression. The researchers were trying to find out if the pets had any effect on the elder adults mood, what they thought about the overall quality of their life and etc. They broke the patients up into two groups, one being the experimental group and the other being the control group. The control group had no interaction with the therapy animals. They made both groups do a Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE) and also made them complete Geriatric Depression Scale (GDS) before and after they received pet therapy. This experimental study lasted six weeks.

Both the groups, experimental and control, improved tremendously after the study was finished. In the experimental group the depression scale ratings decreased when means that the pet therapy did play a huge part. It decreased by 50% and had a p-value of 0.013. The Mini-Mental State examination increased by 4.5 and had a p-value of 0.060. The conclusion stated that pet therapy is helpful when trying to enhance mental illness symptoms in people who stay in facilities for a long time.


The above image breaks up how animal therapy can serve as help to different people in different categories.

Study 2

The second study I looked into was how therapy animals can impact someone whose in an institution for mental health reasons. The sample of this study was 230 participants who were at the time patients at the institution and whom were pointed in the direction of curative therapy. A cross over study was used to look at the differences between a session with a therapy animals versus one without. Prior to the session and following the session the participants were asked to complete the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory which allows the participants to evaluate themselves based on how they think their anxiety levels is at that time. The results stated that both of the different sessions decreased anxiety levels for the participants who were patients in the mental health institution.

Take home message

My personal opinion about therapy dogs is that they help tremendously. Every time I walk into my counselor’s office and see Keona my mood automatically spikes into a upward spiral. The study also proved that pet therapy IS helpful among elder adults as well. I just think it is so powerful because just allowing someone to have a pet can increase a person’s mood. How easy is that?! When looking back at the two studies, I think it is very obvious how therapy animals can decrease anxiety and increase happiness. Study one looked at elderly people in homes and study two looked at patients who were in a mental health institution. That could be a big factor in changing the world around us and helping others who are struggling with mental illness feel like they actually have a place. If you are interested in this topic and want to look into it more, I suggest checking out this website!

Can Clowns Be Helpful or Hurtful?

With Penn State recently making national news on “clown hunting” I thought it would be a great idea to look into a topic on clowns. I came across an article about how clowns are supposed to calm down children before they go into the operating room for surgery. I thought this would be a good topic to look in depth too because I am personally terrified of clowns and if I saw one before I went into surgery I probably would have extremely high levels of anxiety. As mostly everyone knows, clowns are comical actors that wear costumes and make up. I came across two studies done by two different groups which both lead to completely different conclusions.



Studies on Anxiety Levels in Children Before Surgery

First Study:

According to the first study I researched claimed that the clowns being present before surgery do NOT help the anxiety levels of a child. The sample of the study was 61 children ranging from 3 to 12 years old who are going to go under a slight procedure. Like a regular experimental study, there were two groups, an experiment group and a control group. They measured how the child reacted to the clown by using the Facial Affective Scale (FAS). After a week the results were carefully looked at it and it showed that clowns do NOT help the anxiety levels of a child. There were obviously third (confounding) variables presented in this study which is if the parents were present, sex of child, previous anxiety, etc.

58482 Image found here.

Second Study:

According to the second study I researched clowns can ease anxiety for a child going into a slight procedure. This study involved 3 and 8 y.o. who were undergoing anesthesia and elective outpatient surgery. It was a double randomized blind placebo trial. There were three trial arms: (1) no drug + no clown, (2) drug + no clown, and (3) two clowns. The two clowns in the third group were present before the anesthetic was administered. After the testing was done, the conclusion stated that clowns can crucially reduce before surgery anxiety. Once the anesthetic mask is on a child’s face, the clowns have no effect.


This image shows how the different groups reacted to the medicine administered and clowns.

My take-away of the two studies

When comparing the studies there were some positives and negatives that came up. For the first study, it was great how they used a placebo group and a experiment group when testing to see if clowns have an impact on children before they go into surgery. A negative about the first study was all the confounding variables that could’ve been present but simply weren’t taken account for. The second study also had a lot of different groups when being tested which I think allows for a lot more answers and it also was a double blind. Double blind experiments are when the doctor and the patient don’t know what is going on in the experiment. A negative of the experiment are how is giving someone no medicine ethical before going into surgery? Another part that the study didn’t state is what the clown was exactly doing in the pre-operating room.

Take home message

After looking into both studies with two different conclusions I have to say that I personally wouldn’t want to have a clown in the pre-operating room before I go into surgery. I have never been a fan of clowns and especially with the recent news stories about them that are all over the United States. Even when I was younger I was never a fan of them and I for sure won’t be liking them anytime soon either.

3a6822d2c19c532d254b9306cc9cf2e3 Image found here.

What’s the deal with Essential Oils?

Before any blog post or homework assignment I work on, I put lavender essential oil on my wrist so if I start feeling anxious I just take a deep breath and inhale the lavender which acts as a calming mechanism. Everyone is raving about them, you can buy them anywhere really and each essential oil acts in a different way. I wanted to explore the concept of essential oils more because after frequent use of lavender I have wondered if it actually works or if it is a placebo effect.

Every essential oil has a different benefit for your overall being. Lavender, Orange, Frankincense, and Ylang Ylang are a few of the essential oils I have heard about. Throughout this blog post I will discuss the benefits of different essential oils from different resources. Below are the essential oils I discussed above and what their overall effect are.

Image found here
Lavender: relieves stress & improves sleepc700x420

Orange: fights cancerous tumors & decreases wrinkles

Frankincense: reduces inflammation

Ylang Ylang:  helps improve self confidence in ones self


How do essential oils work?

There are multiple ways to use essential oils including by massaging it into your skin, breathing it in through your nose, swallowing it, and taking medicine with the essential oils inside. These 4 ways were stated in this book. The picture below is how someone can react by inhaling the essential oils.


Image found here.

It is hard to find specific studies that relate to if essential oils really do work. I did find a couple articles that talked about what essential oils are capable of doing. According to aromatherapists in the journal, the overall conclusion is that they don’t want all the scientific studies done in order to still obtain the symbolic procedure of essential oils.


Question: Do essential oils help or are they just useless?

According to the evolution of aromatherapy there are two types of aromatherapies that are present. The first one is clinical aromatherapy which focuses in on one problem like having a headache. The second one is holistic aromatherapy which involves a combination of different essential oils.

study I came across talks about the different smells of rosemary and lavender have on the perception and mood in adults who are healthy. The sample of the study was 144 volunteers who were randomly assigned to 3 different groups. During the study they would place a volunteer into a room with the smell of rosemary, lavender or no smell. During that time the volunteers would complete the Cognitive Drug Research (CDR) assessment which is when you are presented with two answers, yes or no, and the assessment records how long it takes you to answer and if you selected the right answer. The results stated that lavender provided a reduction in active memory and damaged times for memory/attention tasks. On the other hand, rosemary allowed volunteers a sufficient amount of performance for memory. The overall findings of this study state these two specific essential oils, lavender and rosemary, can provide unbiased effects on brain function and personal effects on overall mood.

Take home message:

After researching this topic more, I am 100% positive that essential oils help and work. I go to a counselor for my anxiety and she always tells me to put lavender on my wrist and inhale it when I am starting to feel anxious. That is all I have ever known. On the other hand, a lot of people state that essential oils are what you make them. By that I mean that some people don’t believe that essential oils work and it’s all just what you make it.



Are they smoking marijuana to get high?

Marijuana has been a controversial topic over the last couple years with it now being legalized in 25 states for legal medical use and 4 states for just recreation use. Living in East residence halls, I get a lot of complaints about smelling marijuana which results in calling the police right away. Then I get to thinking why are these students smoking marijuana in the residence hall? Maybe it is a stress reliever and can actually calm down a student. My next underlying question is, are people smoking marijuana to get high or for the medical benefits? This question is two sided which leaves the answer being one people smoke to get high or two people smoke for medical reasons.


What are the components of Marijuana? 

To start off with, Tetrahydrocannabidiol (THC) and Cannabidiol (CBD) are two completely different things when talking about them in relation to marijuana. THC is the one that will make you get the feeling of being high that affects your brain. CBD is the one used for medical reasons and it is the one that doesn’t have the affect of making someone feel high. CBD helps battle depression, epilepsy, and so much more. This is the part where people start getting worried about legalizing marijuana. CBD is specifically to help people who are going through significant health problems.


Picture found here.


Marijuana’s Cognitive Effects on College Students

A study was done on the residual cognitive effects of heavy marijuana use in college students. It was a single blind experiment which looked at frequent users of marijuana versus infrequent users of marijuana. Two samples of undergraduate college students were represented in this study; 65 heavy users who had smoked 22-30 days out of all 30 days and who showed cannabinoids in their urine versus 64 users who had smoked 0-9 days out of all 30 days and showed no cannabinoids in their urine. Cannabinoids are the reason that people get the high feeling after smoking marijuana or the pain relief feeling.  The participants took part in a series of tests looking at attention span, verbal skills, and more. This is how the researchers measured for the primary results. The results of this study was that more frequent users of marijuana had more damage than non frequent or light users.

The study design used was very effective when testing frequent users versus infrequent users. In a single blind study the participants are unaware of what the purpose of the study was. If the users were aware of what was going on I feel as though the results would have been altered. In class, Andrew discussed the concept of reverse causation which is when x causes y and y causes x.  Looking at the question I proposed, I feel like reverse causation could be a definite answer when taking all the facts into consideration because college students could smoke marijuana to relieve stress or they are stressed out so they smoke marijuana. Another possible answer is confounding variables such as sleep activity, not eating enough and/or stress.


This image shows how infrequent users are better off than frequent users when coming to living situations.


Take home message:

I personally believe that if a person needs to smoke marijuana for medical benefits then go right ahead, I support that 110%. If that is the only medication that can relieve whatever illness they are going through, then why stop them? Everyone deserves relief from something they feel is taking over their life in a negative way. On the other hand I am not quite convinced that marijuana should be legalized for safety reasons. Such as, driving after smoking marijuana. I also can see how that can be compared to driving while under the influence of alcohol. The next step I would take on getting a specific answer is conducting a survey for college students that would allow me to dig deeper in why students smoke marijuana.



Like to study the night before an exam?

First week of classes are all about learning about the class and how the professors teaches. The number one thing that all professors say is, “Don’t cram for my exams, you won’t pass.” You can usually hear among the college students a small chuckle. As soon as the professor says that it’s immediately like challenge accepted. Am I right?! I am a person who waits to the very last second to sit down and study. It’s a bad habit but I can’t help not too. I know that I am not the only one to do that either. So I am going to explore just how bad cramming a night before an exam really is.


Image found here.

There are multiple reasons why cramming for a test can be dangerous, according to Andrew J. Fuligni cramming the night before an exam isn’t worth staying up late for because it actually won’t help at all and you actually won’t be helping yourself,  you will be hurting yourself. This article looks at the sleep vs. cramming for high school students but I feel like it is close to the same statistics for college students. Fuligni recommends a schedule that helps a student and doesn’t overbear a student to the point of cramming the night before something is due.

Sukru Burc Eryilmaz states that students attending Ivy League schools have a tendency to cram more to make sure they get better grades and the better grades make them feel like they belong to that school. I completely agree with that because a lot of students here at Penn State feel like if they don’t do well on an exam, it’s the end of the world. Which I know it’s like that everywhere, but people do fail exams. Nobody is perfect. I failed my first exam last semester and I cried for a solid 2 hours and I ended up getting an A in that specific class. So anything is possible here. Personally when I study for an exam and I cram my body tends to shut down. It impacts my body so much and makes me feel awful if I stay up late cramming for an exam. During my freshman year I did that a lot and I had to stop because of health concerns. It was very scary and not worth it.

According to The Hawkeye the number one explanation for waiting the night before an exam to study is because of having no time. There is a simple way to fix that though and it is buying a planner and time management. It’s super easy and it helps students everywhere. From the articles that I have researched and talked about in this blog post, it is safe to say that cramming before an exam is not the way to go. But, let’s be honest.. how can you not cram?!



Image found here.

Napping is my middle name

I think I can speak for most of Penn State when I say naps are a crucial part of college. I LOVE naps. It’s actually a little scary how much I actually do sleep. For example, I sleep 7-8 hours a night and i’ll be up for 5 hours and then I’ll nap for 4 hours and be up for another 6 hours then go to bed for the night. I recently realized that while napping is great and helps, it may not always be the best thing to do. I have also heard recently that napping isn’t good for you. So I am going to explore the positives and negatives associated with napping.



Image found here.

Take a nap, it helps! 

I found an article that is all about napping from the National Sleep Foundation (pretty cool if I do say so myself). It states that 85% of people plus more will sleep throughout the whole day. There are two parts of a day, the time where we are asleep and the time that we are awake. While napping isn’t bad for a person, it is only recommended to sleep for 20-30 minutes not 4 hours like I have been doing. Another factor that plays a huge role in all of this is the temperature outside especially when you live in East Halls and there is no AC. Thanks Penn State!! According to, there are 3 main reasons that the sun plays a huge part in making a person drowsy. The first one is that being in a hot room or directly in the sun can cause your body to overheat and lose track of its temperature. Your body is constantly trying to cool itself down and doesn’t have time to slack which results in your body feeling very tired and weary. Another problem which I know I do is not staying hydrated. I tend to forget to drink something and sometimes I’ll go all day without drinking water. It is bad but for me I am just not trained to drink water all the time, I never have. Even though we walk to class, we are still getting hit with sunlight which can cause skin to burn. We all know how we feel after being in the sun all day and getting a sunburn. All you want to do is sleep.

Sometimes the only way to get through a long day is to take a nap, I completely understand. Best Health Mag listed 19 reasons why taking a nap is good. Some of the reasons are it helps alleviate headaches, perks you up and even boosts your sex drive!



Image found here.

Naps aren’t good, says who?!

According to Telegraph news, napping isn’t good for you and can increase your risk of getting diabetes by 46%. Ralph Downey III, PhD said, that even the small naps can reduce your sleep at night. Rachel Nuwer from the Smithsonian states that from a study should looked at that naps during the day for an extensive period of time can actually decrease your time here on Earth. Obviously one can conclude that naps aren’t always the best for a person, but a quick power nap will for sure do the trick. I couldn’t find that much information on why naps are bad for you.

All in all, I have found out a lot about naps. Growing up I was told that naps were good but now that I am in college and I nap frequently I am getting told to go to the doctors to have it checked out. I understand the concerns, but come on.. it’s just napping, right?



Image found here.


How Does Anxiety Affect College Students?

How anxiety relates to myself and the people around me. 

While sitting here thinking about what to write about and getting anxious while doing so, I thought why not write about something that hits close to home. Anxiety has been present in my life way too long, I have been diagnosed with severe anxiety and a panic disorder. Panic disorder pretty much means that I can have an anxiety at any time and I don’t expect it, although sometimes I know they can still be random, which really stinks. I have been seeing a counselor the last FOUR years of my life and I am very thankful to have someone in my life like her. She’s great and it’s nice talking to someone who actually keeps a secret. As I stated in my last blog post, I am very interested to see how anxiety can affect people, especially college students. Being a RA I see a lot of this first hand, it can be anything from classes, sorority rushing, adjusting to college life, roommates, etc. I want to make this blog post all about anxiety and why college students are so heavily impacted by this small word.


Image found here

What is anxiety?

Learn Psychology states that stress is caused by a challenge that is presented to us whether it be good or bad. Personally for me, when a homework or exam is presented I immediately lock up and it isn’t good at all. There are 3 types of stress that are known by psychologists right now. Acute stress is the stress that mostly everyone goes through, it can be anything from being stressed/excited about going to your prom or starting college. This type of stress can be positive or negative but at the end of the day it passes. Episodic stress is the next level of stress that usually happens to Type A personalities. It is when there is a constant or reoccurring stressor that keeps coming back. Chronic acute stress is the last one that is truly the worst one. As many would say this stress is like seeing no light at the end of the tunnel.

Anxiety comes from numerous different outlets. But when talking about college students it usually stems from classes, a job, relationships or trying to fit in. Another article I found interesting that answered a lot of questions that I have is this article right here. This article talks about the different stressors that college students face, especially first year students or transfer students. I remember when I first came to Penn State there was so much diversity and I honestly just didn’t know how to handle it. But not in a bad way, I came from a 95% all white community with the occasional study abroad student who came and lived with a family.  I am completely all for diversity but sometimes you don’t know what to say to a different race or culture because you don’t want to offend them. College is about stepping out of your comfort zone and to a lot of people that can be anxiety inducing.

According to BU Today, anxiety is now the number one diagnosis in college students. This statement makes so much sense to me and I am glad that the word is finally getting out there. Professors are a hit or a miss when talking about this topic. I have had a professor personally say to me “Don’t worry, your anxiety won’t interfere with your work in this class.” HELLO, yes it will. It drives me absolutely insane when people say that. ESPECIALLY PROFESSORS. According to the study, from 2010/2011 to 2015 the number of college students that reached out for help nearly doubled. Another part I want to hit on is how anxiety can affect school performance in college students. In the year 2015, the Penn State study from BU Today reported that 21.8% of students enrolled in college had either did poorly on an exam or dropped a class from high levels of anxiety. I am apart of that 21.8% without a doubt. During my sophomore year I had to go to the hospital for an anxiety attack over ECON 102. Later I had to drop that class due to health concerns. Can you believe it? A class like economics can cause a student that much anxiety.


How can we help those affected by anxiety? 

Since I wrote a whole blog post about anxiety and the negative effects that come with it, I figured now would be a great time to talk about how we can help those who are affected by anxiety. From experience with residents, friends and family the best thing anyone can do is to just listen. Don’t ever get frustrated when talking to someone with anxiety. Sometimes people just need to vent and they feel a lot better afterwards. Don’t love them any less because they suffer from anxiety. Anxiety can be stopped in anyone just by love & support.

Teenager consoling her friend

Teenager consoling her friend

Image found here.



Why not Science? Here’s Why…

Hello everyone!

My name is Cristen Heaton and I am a Junior here at Penn State and I am studying Recreation, Park, Tourism Management (RPTM) with my path being Commercial/Community. I am a Resident Assistant (RA) in East Halls for freshmen! A lot of people think I am absolutely insane for doing it, but I love helping others and spreading my love for Penn State through my residents. Both my parents work at Penn State, my mom works as the assistant to the department head in BBH and my dad works for OPP (Office of Physical Plant). I grew up in a small town called Julian, PA which is 15 minutes away from main campus. I associate myself with being a “townie”. I am apart of the twirling club here at Penn State and I have been twirling since I was 8 years old.



I am the one on the left!

To be completely honest, I am taking this course to fulfill a general education requirement. I heard that Andrew was an awesome professor and really got you to think about the world around you. I am pretty excited to be in this class to hopefully change how I look at the world around me. I have taken Bi Sci 3 before with Christopher Uhl and I loved it, so I thought why not try Sci 200.

When picking a major at Penn State I wanted to do something that would make me happy for the rest of my life and something that I genuinely liked doing. I am a social butterfly so the only major that really clicked with me is RPTM. It isn’t too stressful and I can enjoy myself. Science to me is a scary word. I have so many associations with science but they aren’t great. I have always struggled in science related classes. I think of math equations, chemicals, and more which causes a lot of anxiety. When I think of science I honestly just want to cry because of my past experiences. I am positive that I will enjoy this class and maybe start to associate positive feelings with science.


As I stated above, I am a RA in East halls and I am overseeing 60 new freshmen as they are making their mark here at Penn State. One thing that has been common the first couple days of class is how the transition is very hard for some. This is completely expected as I am a Junior and I am even struggling with the first week of classes with getting so many papers, directions, etc. I want to dig into this topic deeper to try to understand why anxiety is taking over so many people’s lives. I personally struggle with anxiety but it is a personal goal of mine to make sure no one else suffers as much as I did my freshman year. I found this great article by BU Today about anxiety in college and so happens that the study done in the article was done at Penn State! It drives me insane that anxiety can affect students so much that their grades suffer. To me that isn’t fair at all, anxiety is hard to control.

I can’t wait to meet some of you! If you see me in class, don’t be afraid to say hi! I love meeting new people. 🙂