Media Project – Nature Walks

This particular research study, titled “Nature experience reduces rumination and subgenual prefrontal cortex activation”, discussed an experiment that was conducted to see if walking through nature was better for one’s overall mental health than walking through urban areas.  39 healthy participants were given a rumination self-report, or a Reflection Rumination Questionnaire (RRQ), in which they answered questions regarding their perceived level of rumination.  Rumination is a state of deep, often negative thought and can sometimes lead to anxiety and stress.  Participants also had a brain scan, in which activity in the brain, specifically in the sgPFC, is examined.  That area of the brain is known to show more activity during this type of negative, self-reflective thought and behavioral changes that occur during rumination.  After recording the participants’ rumination levels, they were each randomly assigned to either go on a 90-minute walk through nature or a 90-minute walk through a busy urban area.  Phones were given to each participant to make sure they stayed on the path and actually walked the whole 90 minutes.  Immediately after each participants’ walk they were given the Reflection Rumination Questionnaire again and went through the brain scan.  Results based on the Reflection Rumination Questionnaire showed that those who went on the nature walk showed a decrease in self-reported rumination.  For the sgPFC scan, participants who walked through nature showed a decrease in blood flow, a sign of relaxation and a sign of a decrease in sgPFC activity.  Those who walked in the urban areas did not have a decrease in blood flow.  These findings could possibly mean that living in urban areas could be a contributing factor to mental illnesses.  On the other hand, walking through and constantly seeing nature can be very beneficial for anxiety and other mental issues.  The lesson to be taken away from this experiment is that it wouldn’t hurt to get out of the house and go to your local park every now and then.  In fact, it would be very beneficial for your overall metal health.

 

Summarizing this article was not too challenging for me.  Although, it did require some thinking and problem-solving skills to make a decision of what information to leave out.  Throughout the article, I noticed that a lot of the results from the experiment were repeated and said in different ways.  I could have done the same thing, but I thought clearly stating the final results of the experiment once would be enough in order to process the outcome of the study.  I decided to add the process and the preparation  for the experiment to get a better idea of what the researchers were specifically looking for and testing for.  I also thought it was important, although a minor detail, to say that the participants were all relatively young and healthy.  This fact makes the results of the study even more impressive.  Despite the healthy state of the participants, the area in which you walk through affected them greatly.  Now that there’s scientific evidence supporting a more nature-centered lifestyle and that being around nature helps with mental health, hopefully more schools and parents will implement nature walks and time spent outside into their children’s lives.  Having to summarize this article into my own words has been slightly challenging at times, but overall, I think the summary represents the article very well.  This process also made me grateful for and impressed by the real professional journalists who summarize articles and research findings everyday into a form the public can understand and relate to.


A Reflection on Psychology

I have very much enjoyed being in a Psychology class, this semester and I have learned a lot about, not only how the human mind works, but about my own mind and personality.   In the beginning of the semester, I wrote an Introductory post about the three classes I was most interested in learning about.  I would say that those predictions were mostly true.  I definitely learned a lot when we talked about stereotypes & discrimination and how it still affects certain minority groups today.  I also enjoyed learning about personalities and personality disorders.  During that week, we got to take a few online personality tests, which were very interesting to see the results of.  It was also interesting to discuss the many personality disorders in the world.  I have known friends and family who have suffered from many of them, so it was very informative for me.

At the end of my Introductory post, I proposed a question that I had hoped I would be able to answer by the time I finished this class.  I had asked in what way could I apply what I’ve learned to my everyday life and possibly my future career?  As I mentioned earlier, learning about the personality disorders was very interesting and definitely gave me new perspectives on the many different disorders that exist.  Also, the week in which we discussed ways in order to help us get a better quality of sleep was very informative and useful, for me.  I often struggle with the amount of sleep I get and when I get it.  It is sometimes hard for me to stay on a good, consistent sleep schedule and learning about tips to help us sleep and how much we should sleep helped me a lot.  Throughout the semester, I have become more and more informed about the psychological issues and challenges people go through everyday.  It has made me appreciate psychology and psychologists even more than I had before.  I will definitely use the knowledge I have gained from this class in my everyday life.  Overall, it has been a challenging, yet very interesting semester in this class!


FIP – Schizophrenia

This week in Psychology, we were given a video to watch, which simulated what having a psychotic episode as a schizophrenic patient would be like:

 

Often, in the media especially, schizophrenia is depicted as someone who has no control whatsoever of their life.  In movies, schizophrenics are viewed as the abnormal ones, either being portrayed as a “crazy” person or as someone who has potential to succeed, but is too blinded by their never-ending hallucinations and daydreams.  This exaggerated view of schizophrenics, however, is far from reality.  As the video showed, people with this mental illness can absolutely live “normal”, healthy lives.  Just like with any mental illness, some days are worse than others and staying regulated on their prescribed medication will help patients with these daily struggles.  People with schizophrenia are often depicted in a way which makes people almost scared of their disorder or worried of how they will function in society.  When in fact, people will this disorder can certainly live long, healthy lives, when on the proper medication and with daily routines.  The media often exaggerates issues or things in the public eye in order to grab anyone’s attention.  This ultimately casts a negative shadow on these misunderstood and feared disorders, like schizophrenia.  Simulations, however, like the one in this video, begin to help people understand the experiences schizophrenic patients go through every day.  They have struggles, just like the rest of us and the more we can understand each other’s pain, the more we can begin to heal it.

 


FIP – Cognitive Dissonance

This week in Psychology, we are discussing the theory of cognitive dissonance, which is when two opposing thoughts or facts are known to someone and to take away some of the discomfort of these conflicting things, the mind changes its behavior and attitude.  For example, one time in my Biology class last semester, I had decided to study extra hard for the upcoming exam that week.  I hadn’t been doing great on the tests so I thought finally studying and taking the time to look over my notes would definitely boost my grade on the next exam.  Finally, that Friday came and I felt more prepared than I had been int he past exams in this class.  As I took the test, I felt as though I was acing every question and knew every answer on it.  I felt confident that I had gotten a good grade on the exam.  The next week, our professors handed our tests back to us and to my surprise, I barely passed the test.  My grade was higher than my pervious ones, but not by much.  I knew that I had studied really hard before the exam and this was a shock to me.  As friends and classmates asked what I got on the exam I began to say things like “Yeah, I didn’t study that much though”, or “I didn’t have any time to study so…”, when, in fact, I had studied harder than I had before on any of my previous tests in Biology class.  By saying these things to friends and classmates, it eased the discomfort I felt, knowing I had studied hard for the exam and had still made a poor grade.  This use of cognitive dissonance was a way for me to cope with my poor grade, knowing I had studied hard.  I think in situations, such as mine, it is normal for humans to try and ease the discomfort or conflict inside of them.  I do think, however, sometimes it could get out of hand.  In politics, for example, it wouldn’t be good if the President sugar-coated serious issues and made excuses to minimize their importance and impact.  People in more influential and powerful roles, such as the President should do everything in their power to avoid this way of coping.  It can benefit us in minor, small risk situations; but used in the wrong situation or context could lead to catastrophic corruption and misunderstandings.


FIP – Stress

This week in Psychology, we were given a Ted Talks video to watch, in which health psychologist, Kelly McGonigal, discusses the important role that stress plays in our lives.

 

Whenever someone mentions the word “stress”, people tend to think about the negative ways in which it impacts our lives.  Kelly McGonigal, however, offers a different perspective on stress and proposes the idea of it being a good thing to have.  She talks about the psychical symptoms that stress can often cause a person to experience, such as an increased heart rate and sweating.  These uncomfortable symptoms couldn’t possibly be benefiting our overall health and well-being, could they?  Dr. McGonigal goes to explain how, yes, these psychical reactions to stressful situations are actually working to help the body during these times.  It is only society’s skewed perception of stress that makes it potentially unhealthy for us int he long run.  Multiple studies discussed in the Ted Talk showed that regardless of the amount of stress someone was under, how they viewed their stress is what ultimately affected their health.  In one study, participants were asked how much stress they had gone through that year and also how much time they had spent helping people either in their family, friend groups or in their community.  For the next five years, records were kept of deaths that occurred of the participants.  At the end of the study, results showed that for every significant, stressful life event that occurred, increased the risk of dying by 30%.  This fact would seem to favor the idea that stress is bad for your health.  The study also found, however, that those who helped others around them, experienced no increased risk of death.  This further proves the theory that thinking about your stress in a positive light can change the way it affects you and your body.  Once the psychical symptoms of stress are viewed as your body’s way of helping you, it truly does change the way, in which, stress impacts your health.  Applying this concept to my own life can definitely work to benefit not just my health, but my mental state.  Thinking about my schoolwork and other things in life can become overwhelming at times.  But focusing on my stress as something there to help me through these times will most likely assure me that what I’m feeling is normal and will ultimately lead me to live a longer and healthier life.


FIP – Motivation

This week in Psychology, we are discussing types of motivation and how various strategies could be applied to our own lives.  Motivation often plays a large role in the decisions we make about our career paths, relationships and many other things throughout our life.  For example, when applying to colleges I had many things which motivated me to choose the college I chose.  When beginning the application process, I started out with applying to the much bigger, well-known schools in Texas.  As I received acceptance letters and continued my search for the right college, I started to narrow down my options.  It was starting to become apparent that I was drifting towards two particular schools in Texas.  One, however, had about 40,000 students attending that college every year and the other had about 1,300.  Although, this is a large difference in size, both schools had aspects that I really liked.  What motivated me to choose Austin College, however, was how personal it seemed to be for the students, because of its small population size.  I was also impressed by the many praises the college had gotten throughout its years.  Being a liberal arts school, it covered many different areas of studies and it seemed like a perfect fit for me and my future endeavors.

Now that I have finished my first semester at Austin College and are in the middle of my second, I can definately relate to the many tired and overworked faces I often see on campus.  As most students know, it can be hard to stay motivated in one’s academics throughout the year.  I definitely have those weeks where schoolwork can feel very overwhelming and tedious, and almost like there’s no point in doing it.  After I’ve had a week like this, I often take a step back and try to look at the bigger picture, the real reason why I am here.  Although, there may be certain exams or projects adding to my stress right now, in a week I will be working towards new endeavors and goals.  This mentality of pushing forward and looking beyond the present moment is what gets me through those difficult weeks of college.  What motivates me greatly is the fact that I want to be here.  My parents, although they encouraged it, did not force me to attend college.  I am working hard in my classes, towards a degree, and although, it may feel like a struggle now, the end result and the experiences I have made and will make along the way are well worth it.


Children of Divorce

 

Throughout the years, the amount of divorces in the U.S. has seemed to increase significantly.  This has led parents to question whether or not divorce is the best option for their family in the long run.  Divorce is not something that only affects the two people involved, but it can dramatically change the lives of their children, as well.  As this question of whether or not divorce is the best decision for children of bickering parents began to surface, many people reacted by assuming the worst.  Rumors began to spread that the children of divorced parents were worse off than if their parents had stayed together.

As I researched this topic, I found very different opinions on how divorce affects kids and, especially, how parents should handle their dilemma.  I first stumbled upon the rumored negative affects that divorce seems to have on children, while reading “How Divorce Affects Children” by Dr. Robert Emery.  He presented four points on how divorce impacts children and what parents can do to help their children through this difficult time.  First, he addressed that in almost every situation, divorce is a stressful time for both the parents and the child/children.  He said that sometimes the parent-child relationships can become strained or contact can become lost between one of the parents and the child.  Dr. Emery presented the method of making the legal process go as smooth and stress-free as possible.  This will significantly help the child make the adjustment to this dramatic change in their life quicker and easier.  Dr. Emery also stated that divorce will often increase the risk of the child developing psychological and/or behavioral problems down the road, not to mention, a lack of motivation for school or other activities.  Children can sometimes become depressed, anxious or overly responsible; where they end up wanting to care for their parents, instead of letting their parents care for them.  Later in the article, Dr. Emery diseases the negative emotional impacts divorce can have on children and how it can still affect them in adulthood.  He refereed to a survey, done by himself and Lisa Laumann-Billings, in which college students who had experienced their parents divorce, as recent as three years ago, were asked to choose the description that represented their current emotional pain level from the divorce.  Although, she held less resentment/pain than others, almost all the students believed that their life would have been different if their parents had stayed together.  This does not necessarily mean it would have been a better life though, as we discuss this later.

In the second article I read, titled “The Impact of Divorce on Young Children and Adolescents”, the negative impacts of divorce on children were given based on their particular age and Dr.Carl Pickhardt discussed how they might react in different ways to their parents’ separation.  He explained how a child’s world is very dependent on his/her parents or legal guardians.  Their social and everyday activities revolve around what the parent is doing or wants them to do.  An adolescent’s (or teen) life, however, is a more independent one and the circle of friends they form becomes a big part of their life along with their parents and other outside influences.  Dr. Pickhardt goes on to describe the different ways a child and an adolescent will react in a divorce.  For a younger child, seeing the love of their parents be broken by a legal document shakes their trust.  The child will often feel confused, as they visit each parent separately in different households.  This change in routine, can create a sense of instability and anxiousness within the child’s life, which will often lead to the child crying at bed time, breaking practiced toilet training, wetting the bed, and more frequent crying and tantrums.  Although, most of these anxieties will fade over time as the child adjusts to life with divorced parents, this process can still be very traumatic for the child stuck in the middle of a difficult separation.

In one of the Huffington posts, titled “7 Ways Divorce Affects Kids, According to the Kids Themselves” seven different responses were given from children (young and old) of parents who had gotten divorced in their life.  Many of the negative affects it had on the children, seemed to be either minor or temporary and the article focused on both the negative and somewhat positives that can come from a divorce.  Some of the children who were interviewed said when their parents first got divorced, it was a very hard experience for them.  They often wanted to blame their parents for putting them through this and for many, having to go back and forth between different houses was a hard concept to grasp and to get used to.  Although, the process of divorce can be a confusing and hurtful time for the kids, something good can come from it.  One girl said that although, it was distressing at first to see her parents divorce, she was happy to see them thrive afterwards.  She said her dad seemed more full of life and energy after the divorce and both parents were, overall, more content with their lives.  One person said that they were relieved once their parents finally got divorced, even though they (the child) had to wait until their early 20’s until it happened.

In another Huffington post, titled “Why a Good Divorce is Better Than a Bad Marriage for Kids” multiple points are given as to why getting a divorce and working out the issues of that situation is much better than putting your kids through a life of arguments, fighting, and emotional instability under one roof.  One of the points the article made was that even though, yes, divorce will be difficult for the children, it is much better than living in an aggressive, combative home, full of anger and resentment for most of their childhood.  Many parents stay together for the kids sake and will decide to divorce once the children are adults.  As the article points out, this may not be the best decision for the children’s sake.  When parents decide to divorce, they are an example to their children, in a positive way, showing them that they value personal happiness.  In this way, the children can learn from their parents’ actions that it is important to be happy in life, even though it might mean making hard desicions about their future.

In all four of these articles, it is shown that divorce is not an easy thing to go through as a family, especially the confused children in the middle of it all.  I believe, however, as the Huffington post articles suggest, that if the parents work together to make things go as smooth as possible for the child and for themselves, good can come from divorce.  In the end, the parents who had to make a hard decision about their futures, choose their own happiness, which doesn’t mean they will neglect their child’s happiness and well-being.  I believe that a family can make it through divorce and come out the other end (although separated) stronger and happier than ever.

 

Sources:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/08/28/kids-and-divorce-_n_5730980.html

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/brette-sember/why-a-good-divorce-is-better-than-a-bad-marriage-for-kids_b_6925236.html

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/surviving-your-childs-adolescence/201112/the-impact-divorce-young-children-and-adolescents

http://emeryondivorce.com/how_divorce_affects_children.php

 


FIP – Personality (What type are you?)

For this week in Psychology, we were given four (free) online personality tests to complete:

They each had different ways of classifying what “type” of personality you have and what characteristics most likely shape you as a person.  For each test, except the Color Quiz, we had to answer roughly 50 questions about how we acted or reacted in certain situations and even how we viewed our own personality.  It was very interesting to analyze and think about what my answers to these, somewhat deep, questions about myself would be.  At the end of each test, different descriptions of my personality were given to me.  Some of them seemed to be a little vague and could apply to a lot of people.  There were, however, a few that I identified with and related to very well.

I found that the tests which used the Myers-Briggs analysis as a template for their questions, had the best results for me in the end.  These tests seem to be more reliable and I agreed with most of the characteristics I was told I have (I’m a INFP).  This type of analysis of one’s own personality is very interesting to me and I think anyone could benefit by taking one of these tests (unless you tend to overthink & be critical of yourself… but the test would tell you that…).

So, what personality “type” are you?


FIP – Affecting Intelligence

This week in psychology, we are learning about the positive and negative effects teachers can have on their students’ overall confidence and intelligence levels.  We were told to watch three videos: one about Jane Elliot’s blue eyes/ brown eyes experiment, stereotype threats, and the discovery of the Pygmalion effect.

 

 

All three of these videos discuss different scenarios in which a teacher’s certain expectation of their students can impact the way they perform in that class or in their school in general.  In the first video, Jane Elliot’s classic experiment to teach her students about discrimination is described.  In order for her students to personally experience discrimination, this elementary school teacher placed her students into two groups: those with blue eyes and those with brown eyes.  She told the class that the blue-eyed children were superior to the brown-eyed children.  The blue-eyed students were told not to play with the brown-eyed students during recess and vice versa.  As the school day went on, the “superior” blue-eyed students began calling their brown-eyed peers names and overall, treated them as lesser individuals.  Jane Elliot also noticed that her students with blue eyes performed much better on spelling tests on average than those of her students with brown eyes.  When she changed which group was receiving the discrimination, however, saying that brown eyes were superior to blue eyes, her students with brown eyes performed better on the spelling tests.  This begs the question of whether or not a teacher’s expectation (low or high) of a particular group of students has an impact on their intelligence level and how well they do in the class.  In the second video we watched, the concept of stereotype threats was explained and tested.  In the video, stereotype threats were described as the feeling an individual gets when they think that if they perform a certain way in a specific situation or test, it will confirm a typical stereotype about them.  This very fear/hope often results in the individual living up to their specific stereotype, whether it is a negative or a positive one.  In the third video, a group of elementary school students were given an exam in order to test their current and potential future intelligence levels.  Although, it is impossible to predict how a child’s intelligence will grow in just one year, the teacher of these students was instructed to inform the class on which students would grow in their intelligence that upcoming year, based on the tests they had taken.  At the end of the year, the same class of students were tested again to see how much, if any, their intelligence had grown in the past year.  On average, the students who had been randomly chosen as the ones who would have the potential to grow intellectually, in fact did.  And the students who weren’t given any specific expectations from their teacher did not grow nearly as much as the others.  This is just another example of how much a teacher’s expectations of a student can affect not only the way they view themselves, but their actual intelligence level and how well they perform in the classroom setting.

In my personal experience as a student, I believe that a teacher’s view of a student can affect the way they perform in that class or in their school, overall.  During my freshman year in high school, it was my first time taking a Pre-AP class instead of a regular class.  During my Pre-AP Biology class, I really enjoyed learning about the material and I often got high grades in the class.  I remember one time we had taken a quiz in class and I had gotten a C.  Since this was unusual for me, my teacher seemed a little disappointed that I had not done so great on the quiz.  Because of this, I studied the material I had not understood and made a larger effort not to get any more low grades in that class.  In my case, this negative reaction from my teacher made me motivated to do better on the next quiz and the next test after that.

If we want to see improvement in the school system, however, I believe the first step is to help teachers understand their important role in these children’ lives, especially the younger ones.  I think it is impossible to have just one method in order to help a student succeed in a classroom.  Every individual is different and I believe it is the teacher’s job to see each and every student differently, not in a negative way, but in a personalized way in order to help them grow intellectually.  For some students, firm encouragement is the best method to get them motivated to do school work and to make better grades on a daily basis.  For some students, however, they need to be reassured they have what it takes to make good grades and they just need to apply themselves.  The teacher can then ask the student what he/she thinks will help them complete schoolwork.  This way each child can be specifically helped, based on their own needs.  Often, in the school system, kids who get mediocre/poor grades in school are seen as not that smart.  When, in fact, these students may be used to teachers ignoring them or disregarding their effort in school.  Instead of focusing on the “good” students in class, teachers should take a look at the struggling ones and ask them: How can I make this easier for you to learn and succeed?


FIP – Why do we sleep?

This week we are learning about sleep, as in how it affects our brains and ultimately how we function and get through the day.  We were given a TED Talks video to watch, in which Russell Foster gave three possible theories of what is affected by sleep.  Out of the three, I definitely agree with the third one he presented the most, which included information processing, memory building, and learning.  Many statistics have shown that those who are sleep deprived also tend to be under a considerable amount of stress.  A lack of sleep adds to these daily struggles by making it hard to concentrate and remember things throughout the day.  This could easily make someone resort to the consumption of caffeinated drinks, alcohol, and harmful drugs.  Another negative effect for loss of sleep is weight gain.  Lack of sleep has also been linked with either the cause of or adding to the severity of mental illnesses.  Russell Foster explained how a lack of sleep does not only affect your daily functions, but it affects your long-term well-being.

Personally, my sleep habits tend to change throughout the year.  Sometimes I can get on a pretty good sleep schedule and manage to get enough sleep throughout the week.  Of course, there are many weeks where I stay up too late working on homework and I end up getting about 5-7 hours of sleep each night.  Overall, I could definitely work on having a healthier sleep schedule and trying to stick with it throughout the whole year.  If I were to set a realistic goal for the amount of sleep (in hours) that college kids should be getting every night, I would say 8 hours is a healthy goal.  In my opinion, it’s enough sleep for students to wake up feeling refreshed, yet still giving them enough time for homework or other activities to do throughout the day.

argue for the theory you find most convincing (3rd one about brain structures), discussion of your current sleep habits how healthy you think they are. what is a realistic goal for amount of sleep per night for a college kid?