How to Make or Break a Habit

From biting nails, to caffeine, all the way to drinking. Every habit can be broken down to this system above famously coined by Charles Duhigg in his book The Power of Habit. It is called The Habit Loop and it consists of three parts being cue, routine, and reward. This cycles in repetition so efficiently that you do not question why you do some of the things you do. If you give it some thought, it is rare that you find yourself thinking about how you brush your teeth or the order in which you dress yourself. You have already mapped the neural network and stored it away so you never have to bring it up again because you bury it in validation. This is the dangerous and awesome power of habits because has the power to benefit or deteriorate you.

Cue

The cue is the trigger for the action that you do. It usually has something to do with your location, social reasons, emotional states, or timing. For example, the cue for smoking could be anxiety or restlessness building up. It could also be that they smoke everyday at exactly the same time making their schedule prompts the internal desire. The cue sparks the automatic processing that you store away so you rarely question the impulse. If smoking is difficult to grasp as a want, most can relate to the inclination to drinking coffee at certain parts of the day due to low energy.

Routine

The routine is the easiest element to understand. You want to cease the act of consuming caffeine or eating unhealthy. The routine is the act that follows the cue in a response to satisfy the desire.

Reward

The reward is the reasoning behind deciding why the steps prior are worth doing again in the future. It provides a positive support for the routine, increasing the odds of doing it again. The reward can be something tangible like money (gambling), or intangible like social validation. I like the energy coffee offers so I will drink it more often. The downside is I will be tired if I do not drink it throughout my day.

Using the Habit Loop to your Benefit

The maker of the Habit Loop has a system to play with habits in your life. First step is to identify the routine. This should be somewhat easy to point to as if there is a desire to change it, you should know what is being changed. Next step is to experiment with the rewards. For example, if you drink coffee habitually, you might be just looking for an energy. There are different ways to achieve this that is not coffee. Trying different things to achieve the same result is an effective way to realign a habit. Another way to change the usual is to isolate the cue. This can be more difficult living in such a stimulus driven world but asking what you were feeling right before enacting the habit is an easy method to help with the process. Final step is to note the cue and change the reward.

If you have the urge to smoke, try doing something that will give you the same stimulus. Perhaps it is painting or reading a book. Whatever it may be, make it an experience you want to partake in. Try something new so you can trade out smoking with a cool hobby you picked up.

5 Ways to Survive the Stress of College

College is the best of times and the worst of times. Close friends, bad food, and memories to last a lifetime. College is also a ton of work whether it is yet another essay, pages of homework, or staying up all night finishing a group assignment that you have not started until that night, the workload is more than enough to cause stress. Here are five easy and helpful tips to see next semester with gratitude instead of attitude.

Organize and Plan

Keeping everything clean and easy to find is a simple way to experience less stress. Buy a binder or folders to keep the classes separate and to have a central location to put all of the papers. It also may be worthwhile to buy a planner or to use the calendar on your phone to remind you of assignments. Find what works best for you and invest in organizing yourself. Same goes with your computer. Create folders on your computer to have a location to save to when you are working on something digital. No more putting everything in your downloads and searching for the date modified instead of the arbitrary title you named it.

Studying can be boring and monotonous at times but try different studying methods to boost your morale. The Pomodoro Technique is the one I use which is to put a timer for 25 minutes and with zero distractions, you start your work. Go at your own pace but make sure you have everything on do not disturb so nothing will tempt you to sway away from work. After the timer goes off, you have five minutes to do what ever you need to do and then set another 25 minutes to work. This allows you to be efficient with the time you are offering yourself and still have some time for cat videos.

For your own mental sanity, set aside time to work and play every day. Have a goal in mind and when that is complete, go reward yourself with doing something you love. Psychologically, a reward system to finishing work provides the great benefits and little residual damage from the labor.

Exercise

Getting the heart pumping can be a great way to relieve stress when college has you down. Going for a run, lifting weights, or dancing for a period of time can help to reset your mind and body to attack the day with relentless optimism. Not to mention it regulates your sleep cycle, metabolism and energy. Would it not be great if you did not have to drink four cups of coffee throughout the day? Exercise may just be the answer you are looking for to obtain more energy for your day.

Meditation

Simply breathing can make a world of difference for your mindset. Meditating every day can provide positive benefits such as an increase in happiness, self-awareness, and concentration. It also decreases stress, anxiety, and aging. “Meditation is mind without agitation,” Narasimhan says. When it comes to stress, we could all use a mind without unnecessary turbulence. Reminding yourself what your purpose is and aligning your values through breathing often can make your motivation unstoppable.

If you do not have time for simple meditation, get credit for it. Most Universities have stress management courses offered in their curriculum. The class is an easy three elective credits and truly does assist you in your college journey. Look for it under the social work category of classes.

GET MORE SLEEP

I know this sounds a little counter-intuitive. Getting less time to do more work? Sleep holds amazing benefits that we have grown to forget. The simple method here is to be more productive, sleep more. When we lack sleep, our quality of work decreases. You may be doing a lot of work but probably not a lot of quality work. There are serious health problems with sleep deprivation such as trouble concentrating, high blood pressure, risk for diabetes, risk of heart disease, weakened immunity, and weight gain. Basically throwing all the benefits of meditation and exercise away because you are not sleeping enough. Take the time needed each night and get a full eight hours (or as close to as you can) of sleep. Tiredness is not a trophy and it is something we should not be striving for.

Do Something Creative

This one is easy. Every person has their form of art be it painting, drawing, playing an instrument, cooking, or underwater basket weaving. Setting time aside every day to mastering your craft is a fun way to relieve stress and increase overall well-being. According to a 2016 study published in the Journal of Positive Psychology, engaging in just one creative activity each day can make you more likely to feel “energetic, enthusiastic, [and] excited.” It goes on to say, “Overall, these findings support the emerging emphasis on everyday creativity as a means of cultivating positive psychological functioning.” There you go, science has now supported the idea of creating art for clear benefits. Get working and create something beautiful.

College is an adventurous odyssey filled with self-discovery and a metric ton of ramen noodles. It is a lot of seemingly unnecessary work and stress but it is all worth it in the end. Hopefully with these simple methods of stress management, college will be more of a positive experience.

Compact vs. Colossal – A Comparison of College Size

 

There are benefits to attending a small college or a big college, and with those benefits come drawbacks as well.  Some people thrive in one environment while others suffer, but here are some of the pros and cons of both.

Small College:

You Know Everybody

Pro: Freshman year it’s super easy to make friends because you keep running into the same people all the time

Con: Junior/Senior year you’ve cut ties with some people and you’re really tired of seeing your former friends all the time…everywhere…and you can’t get away.

Every building on campus is within walking distance

Pro: If you live on campus, you can walk to every building on campus within just a few minutes, and sometimes, the classroom buildings are right outside your front door (perfect for early classes).

Con: If you live on campus, you really have no excuse for being late to class since everything is so condensed.

Small Class Sizes

Pro: You have more personal relationships with your teachers and classmates.  Professors usually know their students’ names fairly quickly, especially once you declare your major and get set in the same classes with most of the same people.

Con: It’s almost impossible to skip class without being noticed, so you have to have almost perfect attendance even in easy classes.

Community/Small Town Feel

Pros: You get to hear the latest gossip on everyone that you know.

Cons: You’re probably a subject to be gossiped about.

 

Big College:

Lots of People

Pros: You have plenty of potential friends, and you’re able to avoid people that you don’t prefer.

Cons: Class sizes can range from small 30 student classes to hundreds of people in a lecture hall, so student-teacher ratio can vary drastically.

Sports

Pros: The energy of a big college on game day is incredible, especially when your team is winning!

Cons: Parking is difficult to find on a normal day, so game day makes it almost impossible to find a parking spot on campus.  It also brings even more people to campus, so, again, not ideal for non-people people.

Events/Groups

Pros: There are plenty of groups like sororities, fraternities, and clubs to choose from, so you’d always have something to do.

Cons: With there always being something to do besides homework, sometimes college life can get in the way of learning. Also, with so many options to choose from, there can be almost too many options for activities and not enough time.

There are numerous factors that can go into selecting a college as a freshman or as a transfer student. The best tip I can give is for you to really evaluate what suits your personality best and then use some of these pros and cons to help align your preferences. So whether you go big or go small – stay true to yourself and soak up every minute!

10 Terrifying Things for College Students

This stuff is way scarier than Halloween’s ghosts and vampires:

    1. Public speaking: YIKES! Unless you have unyielding confidence, you probably get nervous speaking in public, even if you’re only speaking in front of a class of ten people.  Public speaking class is one of the more daunting college courses many college students take at some point in their undergrad career.
    2. That one professor: Everyone has that one professor they’re too terrified to talk to; even to ask questions in class. Sometimes these professors are just too smart, and sometimes they’re just mean.  Either way, you spend the entire class period avoiding eye contact and viciously taking notes, so you won’t have any questions.
    3. Going to the hall bathroom in the middle of the night: If you’ve ever lived in a dorm where you had to exit your room in order to enter the bathroom, you’ll understand this. Dorm hallways are creepy at night. And bathrooms are creepy at night.  Period. Combining the two? Absolutely terrifying. There could be a murderer in the shower or a kidnapper in the stall, and both options sound a lot worse when you’re half asleep.
    4. Sitting in the front of the class: Paranoia takes over when you’re at the front of the classroom because you feel eyes burning into your back the whole period. You can’t see behind you, but everyone else can see you.  What if your hair looks bad from the back?  What if your shirt is on backwards?  What if you look like you actually enjoy learning?
    5. Bad Roommates: Bad is a relative term that can be used to describe roommates who are smelly, messy, rude, or just plain annoying. Sometimes they use or take your stuff without permission, sometimes they don’t let you have alone time with your significant other, and sometimes they’re just downright unbearable.
    6. Phone going off in class: This is especially scary if it is your phone and during a test, but it can be scary in just a regular class. Each professor has a different cell phone policy, and you can easily forget to turn the sound off on your phone. In this technological age, it is common for students to have more than one potentially noisy device, yikes!
    7. Oversleeping for important exams/finals: This is absolutely horrifying. Sometimes entire semester grades depend on the final exam, and missing it can keep you from passing the class.  Some people set multiple alarms to ensure they wake up on time, and some people just don’t go to sleep the night before (not healthy, not recommended, you’ll actually do worse on the test).
    8. Group Projects: Group projects involve meeting new people, talking in class, relying on other people for likely a large percent of your class grade, letting other people do work that you will be graded on, and taking the risk that you will be stuck doing all or most of the work. If you get to work with your friends, these projects can be friendship ruining, or you will just goof off and procrastinate so badly that you’ll be up all night the night before.
    9. Signing up for classes: Signing up for classes is stressful because everyone has to get the classes they need or want. Coming from a small college, where the class options are limited, this is especially nerve-wracking. You often have to take a class at a specific time in your career to be guaranteed a spot in it.  Sometimes this affects graduation, especially if you have to rely on an advisor to give you permission to register online.  This is probably the third most stressful time of the semester, only behind midterms and finals.
    10. 10+ page papers: Even English majors hate these things! It’s hard for anyone to come up with 10+ pages of completely new, original, and accurate information, and it’s even harder when you have to write about a topic you don’t care about AT ALL – which happens way too often.  Many people procrastinate these assignments because they aren’t sure how to begin or because the idea of the 10+ pages is too daunting.

     

  1. Comment your scariest college or Halloween experiences!
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5 College Study Tips

 

Something that tends to be difficult about college life is adjusting your study habits. Reviewing five minutes before class will not fly like it did in high school. And of course – different techniques work for different students – which ultimately means you have to go through a trial and error process to determine the right one(s) to suit your needs. With the semester in full swing, it’s important to try and figure out the easiest ways to ace all of your exams. Here are five college study tips to help you out along the way.

A great study tip: Rewriting notes on index cards can increase retention of the material.

1. Rewrite Your Notes
This happens to be the study tip that works best for me. Before any exam or group discussion, I rewrite all of my notes from the chapters that I need and it helps my memory immensely. It incorporates re-reading your notes and going over key concepts, which is why I believe it is such a great way to study. Speaking of concepts, it’s very important not to just memorize the words on the page but to actually understand them. Know the ideas behind them and why they’re important and you will have no problem ace-ing your exam.

2. Use Index Cards
This tip ties into the first one because you can certainly rewrite your notes on index cards. This will help you break up certain topics and concepts to get a more in-depth understanding. It’s also smart to use index cards for important key terms or dates. You put the important term on the front, with the definition on the back, which makes it easy to quiz yourself on the information. You can buy index cards for cheap and in bulk from websites such as Amazon or Office Depot.

3. Study and Homework Groups
I learned very early on in my college career that you should never underestimate the power of your peers. Studying in groups is beneficial because if you are having trouble understanding a topic, you can easily ask someone in your group for help. An additional benefit to group studying is that teaching someone else about a topic is a good tool to help with memorization. All in all, study groups are beneficial for everyone – plus you can make some friends too.

4. Eliminate Distractions
This is a very important element to successful studying. Put away your cell phone, turn the television off and only use your laptop for academic purposes. Also, find a peaceful place – like your school’s library or a quiet place at home – and focus on yourself for a little while. If you need some background noise, there is plenty of studies to show the benefit of listening to classical music while studying. So, bring on the Mozart! In all, eliminating distractions will help you focus on the task at hand and really help the material sink in.

5. Track Your Habits
Like I mentioned before, finding the study habit that works best for you is a trial and error process. When you have tried a few things, make sure you track how well you’re doing so you can really focus on the habits that make you do well. If flashcards aren’t your thing but studying in groups is, make sure you are aware of that so you always set yourself up for success.

College can be very difficult and changing around your study habits can be stressful, but with these helpful tips you can easily find which study habit works best for you.