CollegeCultureInspirationMusic

Everyone has a playlist that gets them pumped up for a workout or to wake up early in the morning, but not all soundtracks are built for the perfect study session or relaxing at the end of the day. Finding what gets you going in the morning and what keeps you happy as the day goes on can really affect your mood throughout the day. If you don’t know where to start, here are some ideas from the experts.

Waking Up:

Some people need coffee to wake up, and some people need music (I need both!). Whether it’s a jolt of a song to shock you awake, or a slow, relaxing one to arise any sleepyhead, finding the right song so you wake up on the right side of the bed can really affect your mood for the whole day. It can be your favorite song that makes you smile every time you hear it, or it can be something that is scientifically engineered to get you up and out of bed. Spotify partnered with music psychologist David Greenberg to create the ultimate wake up playlist of twenty songs. Today.com has the playlist written out, and can also be accessed on Spotify here. His belief is that, instead of using the loudest songs possible, it’s better to listen to songs that gradually wake us up, preferably with positive lyrics.

Working Out:

When working out, you need something to keep you pumped up and keep going to push yourself even when you want to quit. When putting together a playlist, come up with a list of songs that get you moving naturally (i.e. songs that make you want to get up and dance!). For some, it’s some of the best sweat-worthy rap and R&B that pushes them to finish up the work out. For others, it can be Top 40 divas hits that get them going. If you’re doing a workout like Zumba where it’s all about dancing and shaking those hips, you’ll find yourself with some upbeat tunes that just keep you moving. Fitness Magazine and Six Pack Fitness both provide links to Spotify playlists so if you don’t have the time or desire to make your own, they’ve got you covered. Just be careful when you’re running: oftentimes your body naturally tries to match your step to the beat of the music, so if your music is too fast, you might tire out too quickly. Don’t forget to include some slower songs for when you reach the cool down of your workout, and breathe easy.

Studying:

We all know how studying can be a bit of a drag when you don’t have the right music to listen to. While some prefer to study in silence, a vast majority of the current generation finds themselves more productive when there is background noise to nod their heads along to. Studies in the past have shown that listening to classical music can improve cognitive function. Other studies have suggested that listening to music with lyrics can be distracting, so finding a playlist that’s instrumental-based works better than having Top 40s on repeat. However, not all of us might find that classical music gets the creative and studious juices flowing, so experiment yourself and find what fits for you. As everyone studies differently, music affects us differently too. Buzzfeed came out with a list of songs they find to be helpful while trying to get work done. Spotify also has plenty of playlists under their “Focus” tab, within Genre & Moods. ESM (Electronic Study Music) is my personal favorite.

Relaxing:

Don’t get me wrong, everyone’s version of relaxing is different. However, some songs are scientifically known to be calming to the human mind and are better to listen to when you’re in the mood to unwind. In that article, Ryot came out with the top 10 most relaxing songs – be careful though; as explained in the article, it did mention how the first song, “Weightless” by Marconi Union, was so calming that the women in the study found themselves drowsy, and thus listening to this song could be problematic when driving.

One of the easiest ways to shut the world out and completely change your mood is by putting headphones on and listening to your favorite music. Your mood throughout the day changes so many times, and is affected by the schedule you have that day and by your environment. As you go through your day, try switching up your music and see how it affects your mood.

Image: Flickr

Culture

There is a mountain of holiday entertainment out there, including movies, specials, music or books. Casey McAnarney listed Popular Christmas Movies for 2014. The popular movies are very beloved, but there are also films that are off the beaten path that people still include in their Christmas rituals. If you’re looking for something new to add to your Christmas viewing, here are some other holiday films that you may have missed over the years:

Romantic Comedy Recommendation: The Shop Around The Corner

Based on the same source material as You’ve Got Mail, this is a film about two coworkers who can’t stand each other but are unknowingly falling in love with each other through letters. The legendary Jimmy Stewart is a great romantic lead. You may have missed this movie because you have already seen You’ve Got Mail. If you would like to give your You’ve Got Mail or Love Actually DVDs a break, this is worth your time.

Honorable Mention: While You Were Sleeping.

Musical Recommendation: White Christmas

In this story, two army buddies use their fame to help their old superior officer during the holidays. They also try to find love with a musical duo along the way. This film lightly touches on the war genre but is very uplifting. Bing Crosby sings his famous version of “White Christmas.” You may have missed this because it’s not the first film to use Bing Crosby’s rendition of the song.  It’s streaming on Netflix now so take the time to watch it.

Honorable Mention: Nativity!

Action Recommendation: Die Hard

This is the favorite Christmas film of many action movie fans. John McClane (Bruce Willis) wants to come home to see his family for the holidays and ends up trying to save an entire building from a hostage situation. This is a film beloved all year but also works as holiday viewing. You may have missed this because you didn’t know it was related to Christmas. It is very barely related to Christmas but it’s there.

Honorable Mention: Lethal Weapon.

Comedy Recommendation: The Ref

This is a dark holiday comedy. Denis Leary plays a thief who takes a family hostage on Christmas Eve. It doesn’t seem like comedy material but it is. You may have missed it because it was not a big hit but it is still a good film.

Honorable Mention: Bad Santa.

Animation Recommendation: Arthur Christmas

Christmas cartoons are a holiday staple. This feature is a good example of exciting animation as Santa’s son, Arthur, races against time to make sure a child isn’t forgotten on Christmas. While very funny, it also gives the lesson that technology and gifts are no replacement for optimism and Christmas spirit. You may have missed it if you felt like you had grown out of animation by the time this movie came out. Treat yourself.

Honorable Mention: The Polar Express.

Drama Recommendation: Happy Christmas

Anna Kendrick stars as a woman who goes to stay with her brother and his family. Though she begins to get closer to them, her destructive behavior could cost her what she has. This also has comedy elements and a mumblecore style. You may have missed it because it just came out this year. Try it.

Honorable Mention: The Family Stone.

Science Fiction/Fantasy Recommendation: Gremlins

In this tale, a father buys an unusual creature as a Christmas gift for his son. There are unexpected and violent consequences. This film can get pretty dark so be careful of watching it with little kids. For adults it can be pretty entertaining. You may have missed this if you didn’t know it was a Christmas movie. Enjoy it.

Honorable Mention: The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe.

These are just some of the many films out there this holiday season.  I admit that the first film I watch after Thanksgiving is National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation and all the popular movies on Casey McAnarney’s list. That still gives you a month to explore something new!  

What are your holiday movie favorites?

Image: Laura Ashley

Education

Getting back into college mode is hard after a break. While Thanksgiving break wasn’t that long, it was enough time for me to get used to doing nothing but sitting around the house all day, watching movies, and eating delicious food. When it was time for me to leave home, a part of me wanted to stay and start my career as a full-time couch potato. Since that really wasn’t an option, I had no choice but to come back to school. Now that I’m here, the only thing I want to do is be lazy and not do homework or study for finals. It doesn’t help that our next big break is just around the corner.

It’s seriously all I can think about. I don’t know about everyone else, but I am excited to be able to laze about and spend time with family for more than a week. Since it’s the end of the semester, there won’t be any homework or group projects to work on. We will no longer have to worry about studying for quizzes or final exams. We’ll be home free! I know you’re getting starry eyed just thinking about it but don’t let yourself slack off just because we’re almost at the end.

You owe it to yourself to end this semester off strong. Treat your finals like every other test you’ve had thus far and put in the time to make sure you are as prepared as can be for your exams. It’s okay if you had a rough start to the semester. It’s okay if you’re tired. It’s okay if all you want to do is go home and forget about this thing called college for a little bit. I understand how all of you are feeling right now, which is why I am here to tell you to keep pushing. You might’ve had a rough start, but ending strong can make up for that. You might be tired and just want to go home, but your break will be so much more rewarding if you give your finals your all. Not only will you feel great for pushing through, but your grades will reflect your hard work as well. A runner wouldn’t give up or slow down when the finish line is in view. Well, finals week is our finish line. So pretend that you’re that runner. Push yourself to do better and work harder than ever so that you can come out a winner.

Losing momentum is the worse thing you can do to yourself. If you feel yourself wanting to give up, just remember that you can get through this. It doesn’t matter if this is your first semester of college or your fifth. We all need a pep talk during this time of the year. We all need to be reminded that we are brilliant and amazing and we can achieve anything as long as we work for it. So work for that gold medal. Do your best to ace your exams and even if you don’t do your best on an exam you gave your all, just remember that you did the best that you could and really that’s all you can do.

If you want to win a chance to be lazy during Winter break, then earn it by putting a lot more effort and hard work into finishing this race out strong.

You can do it. I believe in you!

Image: Anne

EducationSkills

Midterms are right around the corner already and juggling studying with regular coursework can be difficult. Here are some tricks to balancing and preparing to help you do your best when these scary exams roll your way.

1. Don’t Procrastinate

If you have work assigned to you, take care of it as soon as you possibly can. Waiting may seem like a good idea at the time, but if you wait too long you’ll have more work added on, and before you know it you’ll have a huge pile of work to get done. By doing assignments at the earliest possible date you prevent the opportunity for excess stress to be created.

2. Think Ahead

If you know that an exam is coming up, don’t wait until the last minute to make a study guide or notecards. Instead, create your study materials as soon as you know what is going to be on the exam so when it does come to study time, all you have to focus on is that!

3. Know Your Study Techniques

While some people do well with written out study guides and notecards, others do well by repeating information aloud. Experiment with different study techniques in order to find the one that works best for you so you can have an easier time when the cramming comes around.

4. Ask a Friend

Don’t hesitate to ask a friend for help! Even having a partner-in-crime to go to the library with can motivate you to take the time to study and focus. If you see someone else studying hard, you’ll be more likely to do so yourself. Also, having someone to quiz you or explain different topics and concepts can ease the studying process and take a huge weight off your chest.

5. Plan Your Time

If you want to take time to rest or if you know you have a class that will take up a lot of time, plan it out. Planning out your day and managing your time is one of the most important things when it comes to preparing for midterm exams. If you don’t stay organized and scheduled, it can be difficult to juggle everything that gets thrown at you along with your daily routine.

At the end of the day, don’t forget to take breaks and keep from stressing yourself out. Getting the proper amount of sleep and relaxation is just as important in order to do well on these exams.

How do you prepare for midterms? Good luck!

Image: Jack Amick

Health

Last week I talked about the benefits of meditation and the roadblocks that keep many people from getting started. In a nutshell, it’s a wonderful way to find freedom from anxieties, negativity and certain ailments. So you might be motivated to get it going. But how?

I’ll walk you step-by step through a first-time meditation sequence. The type of meditation I’m going to outline is called mindfulness meditation; it’s a simple technique and a great place to start. It will help you be more mindful (duh) of your feelings and desires, and allow you to cultivate or work through them more easily than you would if you were not practicing mindfulness.

Your first time meditating should be short and sweet – enough to at least immerse yourself a little, but not so long that you get bored and discouraged. I recommend allotting about ten minutes to begin, but even this can be intimidating if you have no idea what you’re doing or a short attention span, so five minutes is ok, too. And just follow along!

1. Find somewhere comfortable and where you won’t be interrupted.

I like to sit on the edge of my bed with my feet on the floor and hands in my lap. Find somewhere you can sit this way, where people aren’t likely to bother you. Background noise, even if it’s loud, is ok; being jarred out of your thoughts by sudden disruptions is not!

2. Sit with feet on the floor and hands in your lap or on your thighs.

Find a happy medium between rigid and lounging; keep your back straight and shoulders back, but don’t freak out about having perfect posture. To keep you straight and still you can try imagining your head aligning with a point in the sky.

3. Breathe, imagine a sense of calm.

Before closing your eyes, think about yourself in a peaceful place and state of mind. Take a few deep breaths.

4. Close your eyes when you’re ready, and take a few more deep breaths.

Focus on the up and down of your breathing, wherever that is in your body. Imagine inhaling calm and exhaling stress or negativity. Once you’ve taken several deep breaths, return to your normal breathing pattern, in your nose and out your mouth.

5. Body scan.

Do a mental scan of your body; I like to start at my head and move downward, but feel free to start at your feet, stomach, wherever. As you move down, up or out, focus on the way each body part feels. Are some areas tense? Are some relaxed? Just notice, don’t try to fix it. Take as long as you need for this; it may take several minutes.

6. Emotional scan.

As you do the body scan, you will begin to notice the underlying emotions you’re feeling. It may be obvious or you may have to look for it. Are you anxious? Sad? Happy, free, peaceful? Again, just notice. Don’t judge or try to change it.

7. Return focus to breath.

Sit for several minutes (I’d say up three to five) with yourself. Don’t force your mind to be blank. Instead, if you realize your mind has wandered off, gently label it as ‘thinking’ and bring the focus back to your breathing. You can count your breaths if it helps.

8. Let your mind go.

For about 15-30 seconds (but don’t strictly time this, just approximate) let your mind wander free. This feels longer than it sounds. Let your mind think or sing or be blank, whatever it wants. No effort. You may get frustrated by this at first; don’t worry. It’ll get easier and easier to let go the more you practice.

9. Bring it back to breathing.

Bring it back again to your breath and physical body. Just allow yourself to re-acclimate to your physical surroundings. How do you feel?

10. Open eyes when ready.

Take your time breathing before doing this if you need. There have been times I’ve needed to keep my eyes closed and remain focused on my breathing for another 15 minutes, and times I’ve been immediately ready to return to my physical environment.

Congrats!

That’s it. Nothing super difficult, nothing ridiculous. Just sitting with yourself.

You may be confused at first or unsure whether you even feel any different. You may be sure you don’t feel different. Just keep at it. As you continue meditating, you’ll begin to understand your feelings, become able to sense them more effortlessly and manage them with ease.

I hope mindfulness meditation helps you in your journey, whatever it may be, and that you are able to more fully live and discover yourself through it! Most of all, I hope it helps you find freedom from anxieties and health issues.

Any meditators out there have other advice or suggestions for getting the most out of meditation?

Image: Jesus Solana, Flickr

EducationHigh SchoolTravel

For those of you who are about to embark on spring break or are still anticipating the sweet arrival for a long needed rest, here are some ways to relax while still remaining productive!

1)   Grab your calendar. Spend thirty minutes writing down everything you need to keep track of for the rest of the semester. For example, pull out your classes’ syllabi and mark down when assignments are due and when exams are taking place. Having everything marked visually in one place give you a good sense of what is coming up – stress less and take time for fun!

2)   Volunteer. If you are at home and looking for something to do, consider donating your time to volunteerism. Not only will you be doing good in the neighborhood, but you will have the opportunity to learn something new about your community. Check out Volunteer Match to start helping!

3)   Work out. In between your classes, friends, exams, homework, eating, sleeping, etc., it can be difficult to find time for exercise. Whether you go on a run, sign up for a trial-period at a nearby gym, or spend an hour outside doing yoga, take some time and sweat it out!

4)   Find a job or internship. This is easier said than done, but with just three months until summer it is a good idea to begin applying within the next few weeks. Websites like Intern Sushi and The Muse are great places to start the hunt!

5)   Rest. Your body needs to rest. Don’t feel bad about sleeping in or taking the mid-day nap you never have time for at school. After midterms your body is likely in need of some rest and relaxation.

If you are going on a trip with friends or family make sure to check out our tips on how to stay safe while traveling and have an awesome break!

 

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