5 Resolutions For 2017

5 Resolutions For 2017

It's not "new year, new me" -- it's "new year, same me, but better."
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People will always try to say that New Years resolutions are overrated, and cynically insist that no one ever keeps them anyway.

But at the end of each year, I feel it's important to look back and reflect upon the strides I've made, what I've accomplished and what I haven't, and the areas in which there is still room for me to improve. I try to see life as a continuous journey to become the best person I can be, knowing that each year will bring new and more difficult challenges than the previous one, and I'll have to figure out ways to accept them and cope with them. I know this coming year is going to bring big changes--in school, at work, in the world around me. So, yes, like so many others who are on a continuous journey of self-improvement, I'm taking the new year as an opportunity to set some new goals for myself on that path. I guess you could say I'm preparing for the next level of the game that is my life.

And yes, I DO have faith in myself that I can keep these resolutions--this year and beyond.

1. Relax

I never realized just how many thoughts constantly raced through my mind, or how that might be affecting my life, until a few days ago when I downloaded a meditation app and began doing 10-minute daily exercises. Slowing down, quieting my mind and letting all those thoughts go felt better than I could have ever imagined, and I couldn't help thinking of how much more productive I could be if I always felt relaxed, centered and clear-headed. So this year, I'm going to continue taking time at the beginning of each day to meditate, and at the end of each day to unwind and de-stress. When the new spring semester begins, I know I'll be able to improve my GPA, my relationships and my general way of life in a more relaxed state.

2. Keep a journal

At the same time, when I'm going through something big in my life that brings confusing feelings with it, I know writing in a journal is a good way for me to sort them out. It's another way to make more space in my mind for clearer thinking.

3. Become a better communicator

Communication is essential in all relationships--romantic, friendly, professional, and so on. It's how people come to understand each other's feelings, thoughts and ideas. This year, I want to make sure my feelings, thoughts and ideas are heard, and that they're heard in the right way. I want to be able to let others know what I need from them, and be there when others need something from me.

4. Keep my word

I'm not just going to say "We should really try to hang out more!" and then let weeks pass with no contact at all. I'm going to make sure it actually happens. I want people to know me as the type of person who really means what she says--especially when it comes to nurturing friendships.

5. Stop degrading myself, and start praising myself

I'm now entering my 21st year. I believe now is as good a time as ever to realize that I'm going to make mistakes, and it's going to be okay. They're not a comment on my character and they don't take away from the good parts of me. I'm really going to try and have more faith in those good parts.



Cover Image Credit: Ariana Leo

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4 reasons how Drake's New Album May Help Us Fight Mental Illness

Increasing Evidence Points to Music as a Potential Solution to the Mental Health Problem.

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Okay, You caught me!

I am NOT just talking about everybody's favorite actor-turned-rapper— or second, if you've seen Childish Gambino's "This is America" music video. Unfortunately, current research hasn't explored specific genres and artists. However, studies HAVE provided significant evidence in possibilities for music to treat mental health disorders. Now, before you say something that your parents would not be proud of, ask yourself if you can really blame me for wanting to get your attention. This is an urgent matter concerning each one of us. If we all face the truth, we could very well reach one step closer to solving one of society's biggest problems: Mental Health.

The Problem:

As our nation continues to bleed from tragedies like the horrific shooting that shattered the lives of 70 families whose loved ones just wanted to watch the "Dark Knight Rises" during its first hours of release, as well as the traumatic loss of seventeen misfortunate innocents to the complications of mental health disorders in the dear city of Parkland— a city mere hours from our very own community— it's impossible to deny the existence of mental illness. As many of us can already vouch, mental illness is much more common than what most would think: over 19 million adults in America suffer from a mental health disorder. Picture that: a population slightly less than that of Florida is plagued by hopelessness, isolation, and utter despair.

Disease in the form of depression holds millions of people prisoner, as anxieties instill crippling desperation and too many struggles with finding peace. This can be you. It could be your brother, your sister, your mother, your father, your cousin, your aunt, your uncle, your friend, your roommate, your fraternity brother, your sorority sister, your lab partner, or just your classmate that sits in the corner of the lecture hall with a head buried into a notebook that camouflages all emotion.

I hope we— the UCF community— understand the gravity of the problem, but it's clear that some still see mental illness as a disease that affects only a handful of "misfits" who "terrorize" our streets, while the numbers reveal more to the issue. In fact, 1 in 5 Americans suffers from a mental health disorder. The problem is so serious that suicide has risen to become the second-leading cause of death among 20 to 24-year-olds. While many continue to ask for more antidepressants and even the occasional "proper spanking," recent studies indicate increases in occurrence, such as one in depression from 5.9% in 2012 to 8.2% in 2015. So, clearly, none of that is working.

The Evidence:

If we really want to create a world where our children are free from the chains of mental illness, we need to think outside the box. Doctors and scientists won't really talk about this since it's still a growing field of research, but music has strong potential. We don't have any options at the moment, which means we need to change our mindset about music and to continue to explore its medicinal benefits. If you're still skeptical because of the title, then please consider these 4 pieces of solid evidence backed by scientific research:

1. Music has been proven to improve disorders like Parkinson's Disease.

Researchers sponsored by the National Institute of Health— the country's largest research agency— saw an improvement in the daily function of patients with Parkinson's Disease. This makes patients shake uncontrollably, which often prevents them from complete functionality. The disease is caused by a shortage of dopamine— a chemical your neurons, or brain cells, release; since music treats this shortage, there's an obvious ability to increase dopamine levels. As numerous studies connect dopamine shortages to mental illnesses like depression, addiction, and ADHD, someone could possibly use music's proven ability to increase dopamine levels to treat said problems.

2. Listening to the music has the potential to activate your brain's "reward center."

In 2013, Valorie Salimpoor and fellow researchers conducted a study that connected subjects' pleasure towards music to a specific part of the brain. This key structure, the nucleus accumbens, is the body's "reward center," which means all of you have experienced its magical powers. In fact, any time the brain detects a rewarding sensation— drinking ice-cold water after a five-mile run in sunny, humid Florida, eating that Taco Bell chalupa after a long happy hour at Knight's Library, and even consuming recreational drugs— this structure releases more of that fantastic dopamine. So, with further research into specifics, doctors may soon be prescribing your daily dose of tunes for your own health.

3. Listening to Music may be more effective than prescription anti-anxiety medication.

In 2013, Mona Lisa Chanda and Daniel J. Levitin— two accomplished doctors in psychology— reviewed a study wherein patients waiting to undergo surgery were given either anti-anxiety medications or music to listen to. The study took into account cortisol levels, which are used daily by healthcare professionals to gauge patient levels. This "stress hormone" was actually found to be lower in patients who listened to classical music rather those who took the recommended dose of prescription drugs. Sit there and think about that for a second: these patients actually felt more relaxed with something as simple as MUSIC than with chemicals that are made specifically to force patients into relaxation before surgery. Why pop a Xanax when you can just listen to Beethoven?

4. Music may release the chemicals that help you naturally relax and feel love.

Further studies continue to justify music's place in the medical world as results demonstrate increases in substances such as prolactin— a hormone that produces a relaxing sensation— as well as oxytocin— the substance that promotes warmth and happiness during a hug between mother and child. So this study basically showed us that music has the potential to actually make you feel the way you did when Mom or Dad would embrace you with the warmest hug you've ever felt.

The Future:

The evidence I present you with today is ultimately just a collection of individual situations where specific people found specific results. There are a lot of variables when it comes to any research study; therefore, data is never truly certain. We should take these findings as strong suggestions to a possible solution, but we must remember the possibility of failure in our search.

The neurochemistry behind the music and its medicinal properties is just beginning to unfold before the scientific community. In fact, extremely qualified scientists from the National Institute of Health— the organization that basically runs any important medical study in the United States— continue to remind us of the subject's youth with the constant use of "potential" behind any and all of their findings. Therefore, it's our responsibility as a community to look into this— not just that of the scientists at the National Institute of Health.

We're all surrounded by music. It's at the bars. It's in our ears during all-night sessions at the UCF library. It's keeping us awake through East Colonial traffic at 7:00 AM while hordes of students focus on their cell phone screens instead of the paved roads ahead. It's in the shoes we wear, the actions we take, and the words we say. IF YOU'RE READING THIS: it's accessible to you. So, don't be shy, and try to play with your Spotify account, or even just on YouTube, and gauge the power of music. As more and more of us see the light, we can promote the movement and carry on as more research comes out to support us.

Drop the bars, drop those addictive pills that destroy your body slowly, and pick up your headphones and press PLAY.

Just relax, close your eyes, smile, and live.

Cover Image Credit:

@champagnepapi

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