Calming the Monkey Mind with Meditation

“Monkey Mind” refers to the unsettled or restless state that we find ourselves in – it’s a mind that jumps from thought to thought, similar to the way a monkey jumps from tree branch to tree branch. Instead of being present in the moment, it feels as though your mind is flooded with uncontrollable thoughts which insist on being heard. This creates distractions and makes it difficult to be productive and stay focused. If this sounds familiar then meditation may be worth giving a try…

I first heard of the term ‘monkey mind’ while taking a yoga class. At the end of the class the instructor led the class through a 5 minute meditation. The instructor had us take a few cleansing breaths to draw our attention into our breathing and rid us of any ‘monkey mind’. I struggled to keep my mind from wandering even in a quick five minute meditation (which felt like forever!!). This term really put into words something I have experienced not only yoga class but in classes, at work, within relationships and when I’m feeling anxious or overwhelmed – they are thoughts that are all over the place and make it challenging to be in the here and now. Sometimes these thoughts can even turn negative and become an inner critic that create feelings of fears, anger or guilt.

Establishing a interconnectedness between your inner and outer worlds through mindfulness is the tricky part… you have to figure out what works for you. It takes a lot of self control and self awareness to recognize when you’re in this monkey mind state and to then take proactive steps to be grounded and present in the moment. Meditation is one tactic that has helped me overcome this challenge.

Mediation was difficult for me at first. Initially I felt like I was doing it wrong because my mind was still racing. I couldn’t stop random thoughts from coming in. A couple misconception that I had (that I think many people have) was that the goal was to stop thoughts from happening. This is not the case. Thoughts cannot simply just be turned on and off. When a thoughts arise “during meditation, it provides a chance to cultivate skills to work with the energies of thinking. Without pulling the thought in or pushing it away, your job is to simply notice its existence. Observe the thought, and stay present with any judgments that arise. Then, gently guide your attention back to your point of focus. That might be your breath, a mantra, or whatever guided meditation you’re listening to”(Well+Good, Kait Hurley). The ultimate goal is to be fully present, allowing your thoughts to slow down.

Taming the Monkey Mind with Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo – explains basic meditation techniques to calm the mind. This is a bit of a longer video, but I enjoyed listening to her perspective and hearing the useful techniques that she uses to tame the monkey mind.

Headspace and Calm are a couple apps I have tried in the past that have hundreds of guided meditations, mini meditations, sleep sounds, nature sounds and breathing exercises for someone just getting into meditation or someone well rehearsed in meditation. They both offer free trials I believe, which is always great! The Mayo Clinic has some awesome suggestions on how to begin meditating and ways to build your meditation skills.

AsapSCIENE – The Scientific Power of Meditation

I think everyone could benefit from slowing down and being a bit more present. Like most things I think it takes practice and it’s important to not be judgmental about how it goes. The apps are a great place to start for either guided sessions or mini sessions. Meditation is something that I’m definitely interested in and I believe there are a lot of benefits that can help you being in the present and managing stress with upcoming midterms, projects, work, etc. Meditation may or may not be the way that helps you handle stress during these overwhelming times, but it’s definitely worth trying!

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Comfort Zones vs. Self-Growth

“Comfort, the enemy of progress” -P.T. Barnum

Breaking out of your comfort zone is hard. It’s scary and uncomfortable but the greatest growth comes from stepping outside our comfort zones. Think to yourself when you experienced the most personal growth, were you comfortable? Most likely not! My biggest self-growth was last year when I transferred to UMBC at USG. Before transferring, I stayed away from extracurriculars, but all that changed when I transferred to USG. 

Photo by Austin Chan on Unsplash

Within a week of transferring to USG, I applied to become a Student Ambassador. As a Student Ambassador, I have the opportunity to educate prospective students about the programs at USG as well as share my personal experience as a student. Becoming a student ambassador has allowed me to gain great self-confidence in public speaking and grow in my interpersonal skills. Now as a second-year ambassador, I am a Tour Trainer and a Student Engagement Chair. Stepping into these leadership roles have allowed me to learn new teaching techniques and fun new engagement strategies.

In addition to becoming a student ambassador, I became an active member of the Social Work Student Association (SWSA). In SWSA we engage in community service and educational events. Becoming involved in SWSA allowed me to meet people with similar interests as me and to learn new ways to help my community. Now as Vice President, I have also strengthened my outreach skills.

I have always been insecure about my writing, which is unfortunate for a social work major. When I saw the opportunity to become a student blogger for USG I thought “why not?” and applied. I truly thought I wouldn’t be offered the position because of the insecurities of my writing but sure enough here I am! Blogging has become an incentive for me to enjoy writing!

Photo by Diana Schröder-Bode on Unsplash

As exciting as becoming a part of all of this was, it was also scary. I was scared of being rejected or not being good enough. I am so grateful for listening to the little part of me that said I should try. Breaking out of my comfort zone allowed me to grow in so many ways. Once I learned to try new things, I fell in love with it. Now, things that seem scary excite me. Realizing I grew tremendously from trying new things has led me to love breaking out of my comfort zone. “Life begins when you break out of your comfort zone” – Neale Donald Walsch

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Broadening Horizons — Part 2

This past Monday was the second session of the CSEF Diversity Learning Workshop. If you missed my last post about it and would rather start from the beginning, here you go! Otherwise, let’s dive right in.

This month, the group discussed Cancel Culture. For those who don’t know, Cancel Culture refers to the reaction when a celebrity or business owner behaves offensively. “Canceling” is when the general public demands that said famous person lose their platform because of their behavior. For example, “Don’t buy from So-and-So Inc. anymore! The CEO made a racist statement in their interview with XYZ Magazine. We shouldn’t give people like that our money!” On paper, this holds the people who were canceled accountable and forces them to apologize. In practice, as I’m sure anyone who has spent five minutes on Twitter knows, it’s more complicated than that.

Photo Credit: Markus Winkler via Unsplash

During the workshop, we broke into groups to discuss whether we were “pro” or “against” Cancel Culture. Then we regrouped, and everyone changed their name on Zoom to reflect their beliefs. Upon being asked, a few people argued that Cancel Culture holds the more privileged accountable. Others said that it takes away the opportunity to learn from one’s mistakes.

The vast majority of people said, “It depends.” Including me.

That was interesting to me. I noticed that it was easy for me to promise that I would look for a broader context first. I wondered, “How many times have I done that in real life?” Aside from Cancel Culture, what about in general? Do I have a hypocritical streak that I don’t know about?

Needless to say, Monday was not comfortable. But, as I said last time, that’s the point. If I don’t leave these Diversity Learning workshops without taking a hard look in the mirror afterward, then I’m squandering the opportunity. Why would I spend my time going to something if I’m not going to do what it’s teaching me how to do?

Anyway, I’m not going to ask you, dear readers, to post your thoughts on Cancel Culture in the comments. I’m posting this the week of the 2020 election, so I’m sure we’ve all had enough of debating on the Internet. However, if you’re interested, or you’ve been asking a lot of questions about yourself lately, contact CSEF about getting into a future Diversity Learning workshop. Maybe you’ll learn something about yourself, too!

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Grad School Prep

Image by Wokandapix from Pixabay

As a senior at USG, I’ve been figuring out what I want to do once I leave. Before I know it, the spring semester has started, graduation time is just around the corner, and soon I won’t be an undergraduate anymore. Some of us may go into the workforce, others may go to grad school, or some may not know what they want to do afterwards. Ultimately, I decided that I’ll go to grad school once my time at USG is up. This process is similar to how you’d apply to your home institution for the first time as an undergraduate. There is a bit of a timeline you should follow if you want to be able to be considered for the institution of your choice. So here’s a rough timeline to ensure you turn in your grad school application on time. This process should start roughly a year before going into grad school.

Summer: I know that summer is when you want to relax but you should begin looking into what grad schools you’d want to attend. Once you find the ones you want to attend, look up the mandatory materials you need for your application(i.e resume, transcripts, GRE) This is also a good time to write a personal statement; this should highlight your skills, experiences, and what you can offer the school you want to attend.

Sept-Oct: This would be the time to ask 2-3 of your professors or supervisors to write you a letter of recommendation for grad school; be sure they’re people who know you well and can attest to your abilities in the field. You should also be taking the tests like the GRE if your grad school requires it and request your transcripts from previous institutions. Be sure to be making edits to your personal statement or resume.

Nov-Dec: Now this is where you need to start wrapping things up. Make sure you completed every single part of your application and pay the fee towards the end. Most priority deadlines fall within these months so make sure you know when the deadlines are.

Jan-Apr or May: Here is where most final deadlines occur. This time is also where you’ll hear the decisions from the institutions you’ve applied. Pick which grad school fits you best and continue the admissions process with them.

If you want to stay at USG after completing your Bachelor’s degree, check out USG’s graduate programs and see if your major has a Master’s program here.

I hope you all enjoyed this blog. If you have questions, concerns, or suggestions please let me know! I’ll see you all in the next blog and remember to vote while you still can!!!

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Importance of Networking:

Yesterday I attended a Zoom Fireside Q&A chat with special guest Isabel Yanes. Isabel is a freelance Assistant Editor for scripted television based in Los Angeles. She also works as an Animation Artist for various companies. The Q&A was very informative and she gave attendees a great perspective on how to transfer a college education into a career, positives and negative of starting off in a career, mentorships and the significance of networking. The part about networking and how much she stressed the importance of it, really stood out to me. Personally I always associated networking as an awkward gathering of a bunch of random people; I imagine a lot of small talk. The fact is that networking is essential. Whether you’re trying to break into an industry or to accomplish meaningful professional connections, networking is the right step. Here are reasons why you should look into ways to network…

How To Hack Networking TED Talk: David Burkus

Finding a mentor – I have always heard that a mentor is a great tool. You just have to find someone who is successfully working in the position you want to obtain! My question is where do you find a mentor? Where do you find someone willing to invest time and energy into your success? When you are first starting out in a career, establishing a mentor is great way to figure things out and lean on for guidance. Networking meetings/events/workshops are a great place to shop around for a mentor! Finding someone that you connect with and would feel comfortable to reach out to

Exchanging and expanding ideas – Networks fosters a trade of ideas and perspectives. Its a pool of people, each with differing ideas, expertise, perspectives and outlooks. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and pick peoples brains! How can one persons experiences and knowledge benefit you? And can you assist them in return by sharing knowledge of yours?

New opportunities and advancements – investing time and energy in networking opens the door to new opportunities. Potentially meeting a mentor, finding an internship and/or developing relationships with individuals superior in your field. The opportunity of advancements are endless. Its really just getting out of your comfort zone and recognizing the potential benefits of doing so. If nothing comes of it…so what! Maybe that guy or girl you were standing in line with for the restroom is an runs a marketing firm or a PR agency… you leave a good impression and that small encounter turns into dream job at the marketing firm/ PR agency (insert dream job here.)

Develop long-lasting relationships – It’s a two-way road of giving and taking. This process can build a strong relationship with people that you share similar interests with. Obviously there are some boundaries when socializing in a professional work setting, but having the mindset that networking is just a way to build relationships and make friendship makes that whole thing much less intimidating. It takes the pressure off and it feels less forced and more authentic.

Networking doesn’t have to be so intimidating or feel awkward… “It’s about understanding the network around you and acting accordingly,” in other words, “It’s about whose a friend and whose a friend of a friend.” -David Burkus

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Making Piggy Banks Grow

Anyone else fit the stereotype of a broke college kid? Well, let’s talk about some techniques I’ve learned throughout my college journey to break that stereotype!

  1. Even the Spare Change: The little things add up! Saving my spare change throughout the year allows me to spoil my loved ones during the holiday season. This is honestly the easiest way to save money. With this technique, you don’t feel a dent in your wallet!
  1. The in-case jar: I was one of many who lost their job when coronavirus hit. When I returned to work I couldn’t shake the anxiety that any moment I could be unemployed again. Although it was scary it allowed me to come up with the in-case jar. After every shift, I put away 5-10$. 
  1. Savings account goals: It’s always a great feeling to see yourself get closer to your goals. Seeing yourself reach your financial goals is an even greater feeling! Depending on my expenses at the time, I’ll set goals for myself on where I want my savings to be by the end of the month. Set these goals realistically, we’re in college so don’t tell yourself you’re going to save $2,000 a month! Start small and work your way up!
  1. Limits: To be honest, I break this one often. But limits are important. Giving yourself a budget for your free-spending every week can allow you to cut down on unnecessary spending. A tip for this method is keeping your free-spending budget for the week in cash. Seeing the amount you’re spending can give us a sense of reality, swiping a card can be too easy! Keep the cards at home! 
photo via unsplash.com

We don’t have to be the stereotypical broke college kid. My biggest saving hack is APPLYING FOR SCHOLARSHIPS!! It is free money! USG students, make sure to fill out the USG scholarship application! Take every financial opportunity you have available! Comment your best saving money techniques!

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Elle Woods and the Art of Movie-Making

One of the great things about being a communication major at USG is having access to the digital and visual communication classes. They’re interesting classes, and more useful than ever!

One of the classes I’m taking this semester is COMM 373: Digital Visual Narrative, otherwise known as Movie Directing. It’s all about the basic building blocks of making movies: different camera angles, storytelling guidelines, choosing background music, and so on. Taking this class has changed the way I’ve been watching movies lately and I’d like to share the experience with you. It’s kind of like digging for buried treasure!

Let’s have a look at this clip from Legally Blonde:

Video courtesy of Movie Clips: https://youtu.be/rLcAQVgMTSY

Elle Woods (Reese Witherspoon) has gotten into Harvard Law School and just walked into her ex-boyfriend, Warner (Matthew Davis). If you haven’t seen Legally Blonde before, Warner dumped Elle because he didn’t believe that a girl who likes fashion as much as Elle could be “serious” enough for him. She studied her brains out and got into Harvard to convince him to take her back. Knowing that, what do we see in how this scene is constructed?

1. Color! Color psychology is my favorite movie magic trick. Here we see Elle as the only student in the building wearing green (sparkly green, at that), while everyone else is wearing muted colors like khaki and gray. According to Colorpsychology.org, green represents growth, balance, and soul-searching. It’s the perfect color for a character who discovers her self-worth like Elle!

2. Cinematography! Elle’s conversation with Warner is filmed at a medium close-up. Medium close-up shots are designed to be vaguely uncomfortable, just like the characters. Elle may look calm and collected—I know a few people who would love to have confidence like that—but inside, she’s doing several dozen cartwheels and Warner doesn’t need to see that. Warner, meanwhile, is not collected. Not one bit.

3. Music! Listen to the background score. It stops while Elle and Warner are talking and doesn’t pick back up until she walks away. When the music does come back, it starts with a low horn sound before jumping back into the happy music. It’s like even the score is holding its breath during an awkward conversation, then exhales as Elle leaves: “Whew! Glad that’s over. Girl, you nailed that!”

“You got into Harvard Law?”

“What, like it’s hard?”

-The best comeback in the history of ever

See what I mean? The more you know about how movies are made, the more you can appreciate the little touches. If you’re a communication major, and you thought this was interesting, ask your advisor about taking Professor Nixon’s courses this Spring! Registration opens up on November 12th. If you’re not a communication major, ask your advisor anyway. There’s no harm in trying! You can also check out Understanding Movies by Louis Giannetti. There are several editions available online for only a few dollars, and the older versions are just as good as the newest one. Have fun!

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Weight Loss Journey

Image by Steve Buissinne from Pixabay

A lot of people have made these kinds of resolutions: “I will lose weight this year”, “I’m going to eat healthier this year”. Most people don’t stick with these resolutions for long which can be a huge bummer for those who truly want to lose weight and stay fit. I wasn’t one who really cared for things like that since I felt that my weight was at the right range for my age. However, COVID came through and I couldn’t maintain my weight as I used to; thus I began gaining pounds quickly which got me very upset and feeling very insecure of myself. Soon enough I decided that I needed to lose this extra weight and ensure I get back in shape.

Here are somethings I’ve done to lose the weight and keep myself going.

  1. Have a reasonable weight goal and time frame: Something a lot of people don’t do is establish a weight goal to reach and when they plan to reach that goal. Having a goal can motivate you to stay on your workout routine. My goal is to lose ten pounds by the end of this year and I’ve lost about five pounds so far and it’s gotten me very motivated to keep going. Even if you hit your goal, keep going so you don’t gain the weight back.
  2. Moderate my food intake: A lot of us have started eating more since we have been stuck at home due to COVID. I’d recommend changing your eating habits to match your lifestyle. Say if you eat a whole medium pizza, try eating only half a medium pizza and decrease as you go. I often ate half a medium pizza, now I eat three pieces of pizza and plan to eat less over time.
  3. Drink lots of water: Water can really help with weight loss. You may need to use the bathroom a lot but it will be worth it towards your weight goal. I drink a bottle of water with every meal I eat to help maintain my weight and it has helped me stay hydrated throughout the day.
  4. Have a workout routine: Having a workout routine can help your body lose weight and help strengthen different parts of your body. I do a lot of abdominal workouts like squats, crunches, planks and more. I focus on that area of my body since that’s the area I feel a little uncomfortable about but it has been getting better. So make sure you find a workout routine that works for you and your schedule.

I do these things on my own, however, if you’re comfortable with having someone guiding you or being in a group, the Campus Recreation Center is having virtual fitness classes and you can learn more at their page on the USG website.

If you have more questions, concerns, or suggestions let me know and I’ll take then into consideration! Hope you enjoyed this blog and I will see you in the next one!

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Simple Fall Recipes

This time of year the sun goes down earlier and temperatures begin to drop… This calls for some warm comforting meals and treats! As a full-time student and also working full-time, its a necessity to have simple go to meals that aren’t super time consuming and are (for the most part) healthy and nutritious. Here are a few recipes I have either tried in the past or plan to try this fall season.

Stuffed Sweet Potatoes: I am a big fan of sweet potatoes – they are very versatile! The recipes linked give some good inspiration for your own sweet potato creation. It makes an easy, filling lunch. Typically it takes about an hour to bake them. If you bake several at time you can store them in the fridge and throw one in the microwave when you’re ready to eat one. Add whatever toppings you prefer and enjoy! (The sweet potato burrito – with guac, salsa, lime juice and black beans is the one I am going to give a try!)

photo credit – Jordan at Smile Sandwich

Bacon Butternut Squash Soup: This is a new recipe I discovered this year. I have made my own butternut squash soup before, but this has an interesting spin with the bacon. If your in a time crunch it may not be the best option. Prepping and roasting the butternut squash is a bit time consuming. Buying the pre-cut squash saves quite a bit of time! A few things I did differentIy… I added cinnamon and nutmeg and used full fat coconut milk to make in a bit more creamy. Super delicious combination with the sweet butternut squash and savory bacon.

Slow Cooker Turkey Chili: If you have a slower cooker – this seems like a great recipe! Only 20 minutes to prep and then the rest of the work is for the slow cooker. The recipe yields 8 people so plenty for your family or to save for left overs. You can really customize it to your personal preferences – Swap out or add veggies that you prefer, change the meat (or no meat and make it a vegetarian chili) or make it thicker by cooking it with the lid off for 30 mins.

photo credit – Laura from JoyFoodSunshine

Peanut Butter Cookies: This is a super simple, 3 ingredients recipe to satisfy your sweet tooth. I grew up making these except we would get the Betty Crocker bag, which calls for loads of sugar and butter. This is the healthier alternative with fewer ingredients. I would definitely recommend adding chocolate kisses to the center of each cookie if you are a chocolate lover!

Sautéed Cinnamon Apples: I made these a few weeks ago. Not only were they really yummy but while they were sautéing, they made my entire apartment smell like cinnamon apples! These can be used as a side or add some vanilla bean ice cream and make it dessert.

If you do give any of the recipes a try please let me know how it turns out in the comments… Or share your own go-to recipes! Thanks for reading 🙂

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Mental Health Check

Hello, my friends! I can not believe it is already spooky season. It has been such a rollercoaster year for me. As I was changing my calendar to October I reflected on how this year has affected my mental health and the actions I took to ensure I sustained mental stability. Let’s be honest, we could always do better in regards to our mental health. So let’s talk about some coping skills that are commonly overlooked!  

  1. Venting: This can be a great technique for those of us who like to bottle things up. Let the frustrations out! If you need just a simple venting session where you just want to speak without receiving advice, communicate this to the person you are venting to. It is okay to explain to others the kind of communication you need at the moment. You don’t even have to vent to a real person, write your feelings in a journal. I think we all know the relief of finally getting things off our chest, let’s learn how to stop keeping ourselves from doing it.
  2. Working Out: This is an awesome killing two birds with one stone technique. By working out our mental tolls through physical activity we are taking care of our entire well-being. This is my personal favorite for when I am feeling angry or anxious. There is truly something special about releasing endorphins. 
  3. Taking a Time Out: Sometimes I just need to step away from a situation and breath. I have learned that going on drives or walks by myself listening to music I can sing my heart out to is very therapeutic. Sometimes taking a break allows me to remember the things that are frustrating me are simply temporary and to focus on the bigger picture. 
  4. Trying New Things: Sometimes we grow out of techniques. Counting to ten may have worked for me when I was younger, but today it just makes me even more worked up. Coping skills are only useful if we utilize them. If we say we can color when we feel overwhelmed but we take out our frustrations on someone else instead of coloring, coloring is not a coping skill for us. Ask your friends what is their go-to technique for calming down you may find something that works wonders for you. 
photo via unsplash.com

If you are feeling overwhelmed or not like yourself you are not alone. USG students, we are blessed to have the Center for Counseling and Consultation available to us for free.   I have a couple of challenges for you guys. Take a moment and think to yourself, what am I doing to take care of my mental health? If you know you are in tip-top shape, text a friend right now saying “Mental health check” to let them know you care about their mental health and you are there for them.

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