Skills

Call it whatever you’d like: a talent, pastime, or your favorite leisure activity, but hobbies are something we all have. Has anyone ever told you, “that sounds more like a hobby than a career!”? I have. In fact, I turned down admission to the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City because all of my passions sounded more like “hobbies.” Do I regret this decision? Sometimes, but now I’m finding ways to integrate my hobbies with my career path of choice. However, I’ve found that many of us are sacrificing our hobbies for work and they’re being left behind in the dreamy “good old days.” If you’ve found yourself victim, here are a couple of reasons why it is vital to never neglect your hobbies.

1. They make you you.

Although you’ve probably heard it one million times, you’re special in your own way. Your talents and hobbies are things that make you just that much more unique. What you do in your past time actually says a lot about who you are as a person and what it is that you appreciate in life. People know you for what you do at work or school, but showing them another dynamic part of yourself may give them that unexpected “wow” factor. They are things that distinguish you from the rest of your friends, coworkers, or classmates. Who wouldn’t want to embrace the fabulous and possibly strange parts that make you, well, you?

2. Psych benefits: relaxation, emotional, better thinking.

There are many psychological benefits come with doing what you love. The first one is relaxation. Hobbies serve as an outlet from the stresses that fog up your mind with constant daily worries. They have also been shown to improve your thinking abilities. According to Carol Kauffman, assistant clinical professor at Harvard Medical School, hobbies allow you to go into what is called a “flow state,” which is essentially what you feel when you get intensely focused on whatever it is you are doing – you lose the sense of time and your surroundings seem invisible. Sound familiar? She notes that this actually restores your mind and energy. These states of mind that call for heavy concentration actually boost neurotransmitters in the brain which allow for a mental recharge.

3. Make better decisions.

The best decisions are always made with a clear mind and when you have had plenty of time to think. Taking the time to plunge into your favorite hobby allows you to unshackle your mind from the worries of whatever choices are awaiting to be made. It forces you to go into the “flow state” and return to your decision making process with a clear and more relaxed mind.

4. Meet other people.

What better way to meet people that have the same interests as you? Join a club, take a class, or even get together with some friends that have similar hobbies to you. This will guarantee you meet other people that share your passion. Another case could be in conversation. Discussing hobbies and interests are ways for people to relate and understand one another a little better. Who knows – you may just meet your new bestie!

5. Creativity.

Usually, your definition of success in your hobbies differs from the definition of success that is done in your work. You are the judge of your progress and achievements in your activities. Not only does this boost self-confidence and positive thinking, but this also calls for better creativity. It allows you to express yourself in your own terms and within your own boundaries. You essentially set your own rules because you are doing this hobby for yourself and for nobody else.

Making time for what you love is essential in the society we live in today. It is imperative that we make time for ourselves not only for the luxury of its pleasure, but for our own mental health.

What are your favorite hobbies?

Image: Michelle Tribe

Skills

By the end of a tough year of school, it’s easy to get burned out. Even if you’re not in school, doing the same routine everyday can bore you. That doesn’t necessarily mean you should avoid learning all together though. The more you use your mind, the better it will be. Here are a few ways to have fun while improving your mind:

1. Read

We all have those books we want to read if only we had the time. If you have the free hour, take the time. You may not be able to finish your book for awhile, but reading will transport you to somewhere else. More importantly, your brain will still be working on a new task while you’re relaxing.

2. Do Puzzles

Puzzles are an easy way to challenge yourself. This can include classic puzzles, Sudoku, crosswords, or any other puzzles you can think of. You’ll get a fun sense of accomplishment when you’re done.

3. Learn A New Skill

If you’re bored or burned out in your every day life, introducing something new can be just the change you need. Learning a new skill will challenge you in a new way. Plus, maybe you’ll learn something useful like how to cook.

4. Free Write

Writing is a good way to free your mind of distractions. Have you ever had a problem focusing because something was weighing on your mind too much? You can write a story, a letter or anything else you want to get out. You can unburden yourself and improve your writing at the same time. You could even create a new masterpiece.

5. Get New Experiences

You never know how many new things you will learn just by getting out there and doing something that you’ve never tried before. Even trying a dish you never had before will give you a new experience. When traveling, you have to train yourself to know your way around which will give you a sense of direction. Meeting new people will strengthen your memory when you have to learn faces, names, and details. It will all expand your mind while being perfectly painless.

Get out there and try to re-energize yourself. Don’t stop learning. Taking a little time out of your day to improve yourself will be helpful in the long run, even if it is something as simple as taking an hour to read. Be your best self and have fun doing it!

How do you keep your brain active?

Image: opensource.com

EducationSkills

November is the start of many things: cold weather, pumpkin spice lattes, and the holidays. However, while department store managers and baristas at Starbucks are preparing for the season, students are preparing for a different beast entirely. Exams are what shortly follow the month of November, so this month is a vital one in getting a few last good grades in before finals.

If you are one of the unlucky souls in desperate need of a few more A’s in a class, here are some ways to study for upcoming tests and exams:

1. Clear your mind and avoid multitasking

Cluttering your mind with other issues is probably one of the worst ways to study; in order to retain information you need to focus on that specific subject. Thus, multitasking is a terrible idea when studying. You do not need to have tabs open for other classes or for Facebook. Actually, if you have trouble with controlling yourself in terms of social media, websites like Cold Turkey is an amazing way to block social media temporarily, allowing yourself time to focus on studying.

2. Drink water and snack healthily

When studying, drinking water and eating healthy can play a vital role in retaining information. For example, eating slow carbohydrates, such as nuts, will give you a steady stream of energy and release of serotonin to keep you up and happy while studying. Whereas if you were to consume energy-infused foods and drinks, you will have a temporary rush of energy, but any information looked at during the crash will be lost to the intense desire to sleep. Also, prepare your snacks ahead of time to avoid wandering from the desk – you might never get back to studying.

3. Chew mint gum when studying and when testing

Psychologists have found that chewing mint gum while studying and testing correlates positively with good test scores. It allows your brain to make connections and help you remember retained information better. Therefore, it might be to your benefit to chew a stick of mint gum while studying for you next test and during the test itself.

4. Break up your study sessions, DO NOT CRAM!

MIT’s website shows that cramming can actually cause you to lose information and that the best way to study is in 20-50 minute intervals and to take 5-10 minute breaks in between these intervals. This allows your brain to absorb the information you just read without being overwhelmed.

5. If you are going to listen to music while studying, make it classical or instrumental

Everyone knows of the idea that playing classical music to an infant can increase the child’s potentiality of intelligence, and this idea still applies to students and young adults today. Studies show that classical music increases cognition and helps to remember data and material. However, classical music is not digestible by everyone. Hence, listen to some instrumental music, but make sure that it is instrumental music you are familiar with; if I try to listen to new music when I study, I get too distracted by the new melody and lyrics that I am listening to.

What are your best study tips?

Image: Anita Hart

InspirationSkills

Taking time to self-reflect is absolutely necessary in this day and age that can sometimes feel like a “societal factory.” Journaling is a great way to balance the mind.

Writing may not be everyone’s forte, and oftentimes people associate writing with school and essays. However, writing can be a wonderful emotional outlet as there are no rules and no structure. Do you keep a journal or diary? Better question: did you keep a journal or diary in the 3rd grade and have it stuffed in a dusty carton shoebox somewhere in your basement? Dig it out. Skim through the pages until you find something juicy. How refreshing was it to write in that diary every single night, and why did you do it? Was there something thrilling about burying your deepest darkest secrets through writing with a chance of them being found with a defining date on the top right hand corner? Or was it simply a cathartic experience to have some sort of emotional release when there was nobody to talk to? Discover the truth behind your diary-keeping and decide whether or not that can be helpful today.

Meanwhile, here are a few reasons why journaling can be a good idea:

  1. Studies Show It’s Healthy For Your Brain

Writing a journal entry each night has incredible benefits for your brain. Writing has been proven to clarify thoughts and feelings to allow you to reflect on yourself and your actions in a more detailed manner. It assists in facing your problems or dilemmas head-on and really analyze your emotions. More specifically, when you write about deep or dark emotions, you are essentially “letting it all out” and releasing some of the stress that has been built up. Studies also show that writing helps solve problems more successfully as it works the right hemisphere of the brain (or the creative/intuitive side) to explore other solutions to problems that you may be facing. This includes misunderstandings with others. Writing out the scenario will help you put yourself in their shoes and understand him or her, or even your point of view, a little better.

(source: http://psychcentral.com/lib/the-health-benefits-of-journaling/000721)

  1. Looking Back is Like Looking At a Masterpiece

There is nothing more valuable than the words you wrote a few years back. They capture your thoughts, beliefs, and point of views in a matter of pages. They even capture the tone of your feelings at the time by observing the hand writing – were there scribbles, were your letters written hard and bold, or were your words written in peaceful cursive? Notes on the side or casual “P.S’s” are sure to crack subtle smiles on your face. Writing things down is a great way to keep a personal time machine. Looking back five or even 10 years later can be a hypnotizing experience as you are glued to the pages until you reach the final blank page. Not only is it fascinating to go back in time, but it’s incredible to see how you have changed as a person. Life is a constant journey that molds the person you are, and every experience and interaction will somehow change your beliefs, points of views, and opinions. New information is received regularly and this only allows for a better, more informed mind. This observation of noting your changes will invite further development and greater reflection for the future.

  1. Organization and Sorting

Journals are a great way for you to keep track of your daily activities. In essence, they are great for keeping up with your goals, dreams, and current endeavors. They are also beneficial for logging your workouts, diet, and anything that is in progress when working on an objective. In addition, journals are a fabulous way to organize the jumble of thoughts that swerve through your mind on a daily basis. Life gets busy; we are all victims of this and sorting out your thoughts and ideas on paper may give a sense of release. Developments will surely arise from this because writing things down are almost like setting things down in stone.

  1. Discovery

Aside from jotting down the ideas and thoughts that have already crossed your mind, a journal or diary is the place where Chapter One begins. It can be the place where you let your creativity dive into a pool of new story plots, life plans, and side notes. The left side of the brain is already busy just by writing, therefore, this allows the right side of the brain to freely roam- allowing your brain to fully serve as a powerhouse of ideas whether it be artistically or philosophically.

  1. The Little Things

Journaling each night has more power than you may think. Take 10 minutes out of your day to write down the best things that have happened to you on that very day. This can include great things that happened to you as a result of luck or hard work, nice things people said or did, and simply the moments that brought positivity in your day and simply made you feel happy. Recognizing these small things has great power to them as they allow you to reflect and appreciate your life in another way. Many times a grave GPA-determining final exam can overlap that moment after lunch when a stranger reminded you with a sincere grin on his face that your shirt was on backwards. Maybe it made you laugh or made you want to hide in the corners of the Earth, but the sincerity of his smile and his good intentions made you see the light in humanity. Little things like this change the way you may view your days and essentially invite a more positive attitude toward your life.

Daily journaling is a fantastic habit to adopt. It brings many benefits to your overall health and well-being. It allows for deeper self-reflection and essentially calls for “me-time,” an essential mechanism that many people ignore today. Treating your journal as if it were your best friend may serve as a great way to purge away negative emotions and bring you to a better mental place. But finally, writing each night primarily does one thing: it allows you to grow. It allows you to develop into a better person and see the world with different eyes.

P.S. You can also start a gratitude journal.