4 Ways To Tackle Homesickness This Fall

4 Ways To Tackle Homesickness This Fall

When birds leave the nest, not only do they miss the other birds but they miss the nest too.
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It is Fall right? Growing up I remember that if I walked into a spider web on the way to the bus stop in the morning, then Autumn had officially arrived.

Those were the days when my mom would force me to dress warm in the morning but by mid-afternoon at recess, I would be sweating and wishing I had worn shorts. Fall always came with cool weather, sweatshirts, apple picking, and a ton of baking with my sisters. We took trips to Michael’s and Hobby Lobby in order to see the sparkly wreaths and Styrofoam pumpkins. The trip down memory lane ends here because I currently live in Florida. Enough said.

It’s amazing how much weather can affect one’s mood. Up north where my family lives, the world is different during this time of year.

Down in Florida, it stays the same. It tends to get dark earlier but the heat and humidity linger. A few years ago when I came down here for school, part of what made me homesick was not being used to the year-round summery weather. When the bird leaves the nest, not only do they miss the other birds but they miss the nest too.

Here are some ways to feel at home while not being at home,

1. Decorate tu casa.

If your dorm or apartment doesn’t look like Martha Stewart walked in on Thanksgiving then you haven’t fully decorated yet.

2. Get involved.

Fall means football.

3. Do the things you used to do.

Don’t go out every night if you are a homebody. Don’t stay in your dorm all day because you don’t have any friends to go out with. Want to continue the traditions from home? Go buy a pumpkin from Walmart, invite a few people over and watch Halloweentown.

4. Wake up and smell the dead leaves.

Fallen palm fronds have the same smell as a yellow birch leaf, but I'll take what I can get.

Cover Image Credit: Kevin Dooley

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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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The Benefits Of Waking Up Early

The secret to being happier, healthier, and more in control
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For the past two months, I have been waking up what I normally would have considered brutally early. It started with waking up consistently at 8 a.m. That was for two weeks. Then, I worked down to 7:30. The first two weeks of May, I woke up at 7am. Now I can delightfully say I’ve been waking up 6am. Why? I’m prepping to take the dreaded MCAT exam, the golden ticket for admissions into medical school. I’m a pretty curious person, so I decided that maybe waking up early hasn’t been the worst thing. I decided to look into it.

I happily discovered that I was right (Who doesn’t like to be right, right?)! After clicking on just a few articles and research studies, I had more than enough information to conclude that waking up earlier may actually put you at an advantage, and be really healthy for you, mentally, physically, or both. Allow me to elaborate.

Waking up early correlates with better grades. I noticed that waking up earlier made me more determined to learn as much as I could in the day. Mind you, I was juggling extracurricular, studying for the MCAT, and 5 classes. It wasn’t easy. But somehow, my grades were basically the same, if not better than my previous semesters. When I looked into this, I found a study conducted by Texas University, which found that students who consistently woke up early each day actually scored better test scores and overall grade points, in comparison to those who slept in more often than not. Obviously, there’s a lot more to this than waking up early, but let me explain.

Waking up early often leads you to eat healthier. It encourages you to eat breakfast and have well-spaced meals throughout the day, with having snacks intermittently. Skipping breakfast is a bad idea because your body needs those nutrients in the morning for energy and focus; it’s been “fasting” for 6-8 hours and you need to break that fast with some calories. When you decide to skip your morning meal, your body goes into starvation mode so the next time you actually eat something, you are more likely to overeat and crave unhealthy foods. Eating breakfast is also a foundation for building healthy eating habits and makes you less likely to eat junk food throughout the day.

Waking up early actually enhances your productivity. If you wake up early, you get more done. In 2010, Christoph Randler, a biologist from Harvard found that early risers are more proactive. When presented with statements such as “I spend time identifying long-range goals for myself,” an early riser is more likely to agree. Waking up early helps productivity in the follow ways: there are less distractions in the early hours of the day so you achieve more, after a good night’s sleep your brain is charged and ready to work hard-you are at your efficient best and will get things done quicker and better, early risers are also better at making decisions and planning and setting goals. Beware: it was no easy feat at the beginning, but I got used to it pretty quickly. I found myself having more energy throughout the day, and able to get my work done, while still working out and taking the occasional break or two.

The first hour of your day and how you spend it often sets the tone for the rest of your day. By waking up earlier, you start to reduce the stress in your life by eliminating the need to rush in the mornings. This adds an insane amount of positivity to your life and will positively change your attitude. Studies have shown that “morning people” are often more positive, more optimistic, and more likely to experiences satisfaction in their lives. While night owls are known for their creativity, they can also pay the price by becoming more likely to succumb to depression and other psychological problems.

Working out is really important to me. By waking up early, I was able to balance whatever I needed to do throughout the day, and get my steps in. I was able to reduce the chances of missed workouts, and sometimes I would work out right after waking up, which I’ve never really done before. And it felt really, really good. If you’re trying to commit to a regular exercise routine, make morning time just that. Also, if you’re really struggling to wake up and snap out of the sleepiness in the morning, exercise is a good way to fix it. By exercising, you are energizing your body and getting it ready to take on the day.

Exercise and waking up early are a great way to combat lethargy. Lastly, early risers have very well established sleep routines. This means going to bed earlier, and most likely at a consistent time every day. This makes it easier to establish a habit of waking up earlier, and at the same time every morning. To wake up earlier, you must of course go to bed earlier. According to many sleep experts, it’s important to establish a proper sleep routine to improve the quality of your sleep as this helps to set you body’s internal clock. It establishes a routine, and makes it easier for you to sleep and wake naturally. Sleeping in on the weekends may, in theory, help you catch up on your sleep, but you’re actually doing your body more harm than good in the long run.

So, all of these factors combined bring me back to my first point: if you have a better diet, are more optimistic and proactive, exercise, and have a consistent sleep schedule, you’re likely to do a lot better in school. After the MCAT, I may just keep it and see how I feel!

Cover Image Credit: @TyCarlson

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