To The Friend Who Has Always Been There

To The Friend Who Has Always Been There

For years, you've been the one I can turn to.
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Through life's crazy twists and turns, you make friends along the way. But down those same chutes and ladders, you lose friends, too.

But, there are certain friends that you just can't get rid of. They are so branded into your life that there is no way in hell they can leave your side now. It's just impossible.

Friends that stick around long enough eventually blend in with your family. They are the people you want to bring to Cedar Point and camping on the lake. They are the ones your family love almost more (if not more) than you. And it has always been easy for the both of you to get your way with either set of parents for permission to have a sleepover; double-teamed with big blue eyes and the puppy dog lip.

I met my lifelong best friend at 12 years old and we've been inseparable ever since. Although we've never gone to the same school and we don't live particularly close to each other, she's always a text or phone call away. She's the one I don't mind calling at 3 in the morning to vent about anything and everything. She's the one that will spontaneously invite me out with her and who's always ready for a good time together. She's the one who has never left my side.

She's the one who will call me out on my bullshit. She's the one who gives the advice that she knows is best for me. She knows how to handle me at my worst time and how to love me at my best.

I'll never forget when I left for college. We both took it hard, she was still stuck in high school. One of the first times I came home, I made a plan with her mom so I could surprise her. The moment I saw how happy she was to see me, was when I knew our friendship could never fall apart. We're soulmates.

I stopped calling her my best friend, and started calling her my sister.

Not everyone has one of these friends, and that's okay. They are rare. Especially in today's society, friends leave at the blink of an eye. But, the truly special ones will stick around.

Life gets hard, so hard that it's hard to rely on yourself to get you through the tough times. Everyone deserves one friend that will ride next to you on the roller-coaster of Hell that is high school, heartbreak, college, and adulthood.

Taylor McKean, thank you for being my person.

To the people with die hard friendships, a second family, and are blessed with the best, I'll keep rooting for you.

Cover Image Credit: Playbuzz

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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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7 Apps That Make It Easy To Stay Close With Your College Friends Over Break

"We should totally hang out over break!"... and then you never do.

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One of the best parts about college is all the joy you get from being on campus. There's that newfound sense of independence you get if you move straight from your family home into your own apartment.

You get the freedom to choose things like what you're going to eat and when you're going to study. But the best part could arguably be the people you meet. Professors and mentors could potentially change how you're shaped as a person and what you end up doing, but so will your friends.

Most of what happens on college campuses is about engaging students with each other. You're meant to make friends that stick with you through graduation and beyond.

They become your support system when you're struggling with school stress or sickness, and the happiness they bring you could be what gets you out of bed in the morning to face that difficult class one more time.

But what happens when you go on break? Most students end up going home to visit with family or work at their old jobs while they aren't in class. This time might mean that you're going to have to leave your friends for a bit or that they'll leave you.

Don't panic about not being able to see them every day! Check out some of these great apps that will make it easy to stay in touch with your best friends.

You may even continue to use them after you're back to meet up at the cafeteria for dinner.

Whether you want to be able to hold long-term conversations as a group, binge watch movies together or even compete at games, an app will let you do exactly that. Get ahead of the curve and try some out before your next break so that you don't have to be without them.

Cover Image Credit:

Photo by Sammie Vasquez on Unsplash

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