Tag Archives: College

Returning to an Unchanged Place Reveals How You Have Changed

Nelson Mandela once said-“There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to see the ways that you yourself have changed.”

I wanted to write my last blog post about remembrance and change. The returning to a place that we have once been to realize the changes and experiences we’ve gone through since we left. I write this for the graduating seniors as well as everyone else on our campus who has experienced an incredibly difficult semester.

There are things about returning to a familiar place that trigger memories within us. I know for me personally there is a perfume that is cucumber and melon that I wore one summer while on a trip to an Indian reservation in Montana. I still have the same bottle and when I wear it occasionally I remember vividly the experiences I had there of walking through yellow stone park or climbing up the side of a mountain to a secret site where people would meditate and fast for days at a time. These types of things are called Engrams. We experience them then as external stimuli allows for memories that are stored as “biophysical or biochemical changes in the brain” respond to things such as sight, smell etc…

In the article that I read about returning to unchanged places I thought of how many of us will be leaving Mary Washington very soon, within two weeks as we graduate on Ball Circle. I wonder how we will feel about this place five, ten or twenty years from now. Much of it I hope will remain the same like it has with the original parts of campus but I’m sure a lot will be different as we expand. That is the part I look forward to with engrams; the flashbacks to old memories when we come back one day and allowing the old memories and new memories combine and modify our neural networks that allow us to remain connected to the past.

The article also discussed Olfaction which it labels as out oldest primal sense. This is where the power of smell can be used to bring back powerful memories, some of which can be brought up in PTSD.  Although  there can be a negative memory associated with is “that remains unchanged and has deeply rooted negative associations—that it creates a window of opportunity to weave in positive associations and dilute the traumatic associations held in the engram.”

It is my hope that many of us have learned in this class how memory works, how our attention is processed and how our thoughts are formed. I hope that we can come back to Mary Washington and remember everything good about this place. May it be the smell of freshly cut grass even though the mowers were annoying at 6am, or the sodexo burgers being grilled out on Ball in the Fall and Spring. We can come back and help create out engrams with the new memories that we make from reminiscing on the old.

 

 

 

 

Cell Phone Apocalypse?

Imagine yourself bench sitting on a beautiful day out and you look up and you see student after student mindlessly walking on campus walk with their heads bowed down- bumping into poles, falling down stairs, and even running into other people. BUT the weird thing is that after they run into things whether it be a pole, a tree, or other people, they go right back to putting their heads down and walking mindlessly.

Are you in the middle of a zombie apocalypse? No you’re witnessing a different kind- the 21st century cell phone apocalypse. 

If you are like the majority of the people today, you are constantly on your phone. This is extremely distracting and most especially with finals week coming up, it is much harder to resist the temptation to waste countless hours on twitter, instagram, facebook, etc.

According to a study done by researchers Przybylski and Weinstein, the mere presence of a cell phone during a social interaction in which individuals are having a casual conversation led people to have lower trust and an overall lower quality of relationship. So, due to this, cell phones have been found to impede human social interaction.

But despite this, according to the Student Science website, the average college student still uses their cell phone fore about NINE hours each day. This article also puts into perspective that If you think about it, the average college student spends more time on their cell phones than they do sleeping!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iwPHRn7JcEU

James Roberts, a marketing professor at Baylor University associates cell phone use with addiction. Yes, a behavioral addiction! People panic when their batteries die or when there’s no service. Roberts ties this in with symptoms of withdrawal that is seen in many if not all addiction problems. A newly coined term called ringxiety has also made its way to popular culture which is when you think that your phone is ringing or vibrating when in reality is isn’t.

So, the big question is- how can we rely less on our cell phones? Again, especially with finals week coming up and us college students need to stay focused

Webmd offers three basic tips that people could follow in order to better manage their time better with their cell phone use- they can do this by being conscious, strong, and disciplined. 

1.) Being conscious– of all situations and emotions that you feel whenever you feel as if you have to check your phone, such as boredom, loneliness, or procrastination, you can find something else that would fill your time that is much more productive.
2.) Being strong- whenever your phone beeps or rings. This allows you to manage your time better and not losing track of time when you do check it. Try turning of the sound and the vibration so you aren’t tempted to check your phone every single time it goes off.
3.) Being disciplined- in certain situations where you should not be using your cell phone such as in class, when you are driving, and especially right before you go to bed.

Yes, it seems to be easier said than done. However, although it’s hard- trust me I have tried to follow these 3 steps. You can always start small. I started putting my phone away for 5, then 10, then 15 minutes when I’m studying and I have personally seen the increase in my productivity with my work. So next time you’re itching to grab that phone, try silencing it for a couple minutes and resisting the urge to go on social media. According to the article, you will not only be able to concentrate better but you will also feel less stressed and more relaxed.

*Even if it’s only for 5 minutes a day 🙂

Does trusting your instincts make sense?

dilbert_heuristics

As we grow up we develop instincts. These are mental habits that we posses which help us to make everyday choices. These are the kinds of choices that don’t involved much thought at all, they are almost automatic. These quick habits that are “deep-wired and govern our decisions” are heuristics. We’ve been talking about them recently in class and I wanted to find out a little more with what they mean exactly.

Author, Wray Herbert  just-published On Second Thought: Outsmarting Your Mind’s Hard-Wired Habits. 

Herbert does in depth on how heuristics can help or hurt us with our everyday decisions. Many of us are coming to the end of our college careers and at this moment our everyday decisions have a big impact on what happens to us in the next 4 weeks.  Heuristics are helpful for survival, Herbert refers to them as “having deep ancient evolutionary origins.”  He then defines a few that can really mess us up if we aren’t careful.  When applying these to our lives right now there is the “familiarity heuristic” which is being extremely familiar with something that it seems a safe way to go or do. This heuristic leads us o sick with what we have already done and not switching it up. At this point I feel like a lot of us who have been in college for four years now are comfortable with where we are the the habits we have developed. But there is a turning point now where we can’t skip a class here and there just because we have before. We can’t not turn in something or risk doing poorly in a class because there is still another semester or year to make it up. We have to alter our choices to ensure our “survival” of college which ultimately leads to graduation.

Another heuristic is the “scarcity heuristic” which in Hebert’s words means, if something is rare, it’s perceived as more valuable.  This can be good in helping us make choices that we wouldn’t usually make like getting up to go to the gym because you know for the rest of the day you will be sitting down and not moving so the gym is “rare” occasion.

There are many on each side of the good and bad of heuristics. I believe that you should trust your instincts but also we self-aware of the environment or situation that you are in. There is a reason we have our “gut” instinct but we should also be able to stop sometimes and recognize when we need to slow down and not make impulsive decisions.

 

http://health.usnews.com/health-news/family-health/brain-and-behavior/articles/2010/09/20/does-trusting-your-instincts-make-sense

 

Chronic stress and memory loss

When it comes to memory loss we often think of diseases like Alzheimer’s or traumatic brain injuries. As college students, we don’t think of the reasons as to why we forget our books in our cars or why that assignment slipped out minds. We simply put it to being absent minded or the fact that we have other things going on that distract us.  Stress isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when as a reason we forget things. However a recent study done in 2010 suggests that it may be the cause.

The study, A critical review of chronic stress effects on spatial learning and memory by Cheryl Conrad suggests that chronic stress vs. acute or high-levels of stress actually reduce spatial memory.  We have been learning recently about spatial memory, which is in charge of being familiar with our environment. We need our spatial memory to find our way around campus, We also need it for our spatial working memory to temporarily keep information while we take a test or work on an assignment. These qualities are extremely important in the daily lives of college students.

Researchers at the University of Iowa found the connection between the hormone found in stress-cortisol and short-term memory with rats. The amount of cortisol reduced the number of synaptic connections made in the pre-frontal cortex reducing the success of short-term memory.

There is a difference between long-term memory and stress. If the stress is acute or high such as experiencing an earthquake or getting into a car accident, your memory is actually improved and the ability to recall these events are easier because they are stored in the area responsible for survival. Low levels of chronic stress or anxiety can alter the brain and cause damage to memory. White matter in the brain is increases with stress, this is good for sending signals such as messages across the brain but reduces neurons that are in charge of information processing. This is shown in research on PTSD patients with increased white matter and long-term stress.

Researchers at Berkley suggest that the effects of long-term stress and anxiety in the younger generation may be the cause for mood disorders, learning disabilities and anxiety. From this I think we can all take the suggestions to reduce stress in our lives and manage a healthy balance. Anything from saying no to an extra meeting here and there or going for a walk on a nice day to get out of the office. We all need to practice self-care so we can take care of our memories in the long run.

http://www.cnn.com/2014/06/17/health/memory-stress-link/