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Two weeks ago, I sat in my Gender and International Relations class listening to my professor list 3 “good” reasons why we should all get a twitter for class. While he didn’t explicitly say that a twitter account was a requirement for the course, he implied that without one we would be jeopardizing our grade. I sighed heavily and sulked at the idea that I would finally have to give in to the twitter fad. I was not a fan of the hashtags, trends, and retweets that seemed to even flood facebook pages, and never understood the incessant need for people to constantly be tweeting about mundane things. Twitter, for me, was a place for those who updated their facebook statuses with “just woke up” or “had chicken for dinner;” a place where 140 words was meant to capture the next unimportant thing in someone’s life, which had to be recorded on the web for others to read simply because other people were doing it too.

Yet I found myself a few days later signing up for twitter and searching for my professor so that I could strangely “follow” him and have access to all the helpful hints and class discussions he would be posting for the semester. Over the next couple of days I realized that twitter had become my go-to cellphone app: it was a place where I could filter the things I cared about. In 140 words, I could read CNN breaking news or quotes from the President’s State of the Union speech, I could learn about the latest report released by UN Women or link to Nicholas Kristof’s latest NYTimes op-ed. I could scroll down my twitter homepage and in less than two minutes I could be informed about the things that most interest me. In a time where people are constantly on the go and people have less time to even read the paper on their i-pad, twitter is more than just a venue for the ordinary events of people’s lives.

I recognize that the usefulness of twitter has long been discovered: twitter has become a powerful tool for political campaigns, social movements, and activists’ efforts. However, the usefulness I am pointing to is on a much more personal level. It is about using a social media platform to discover our true interests, consolidate our values, and become more informed citizens of the world.

So hopefully I’ve convinced you about the value of twitter as a reputable source for your own personal interests; a tool that can allow you to connect to the world according to what or who you wish to “follow”.

Lifestyle/Advice Blog Roundup

I’m a big believer that there can never be too much good advice. Well, I mean unless it’s all physically printed out and you are being crushed by the weight of it in some freak accident involving bookshelves or something… but since this is a virtual list, I’m pretty sure that’s not going to happen. Anyway, here’s a roundup of all my favorite lifestyle/advice blogs around the web for those of you that are interested in everything from dating to feeling happy to getting over loss to body image to creativity… etc. etc.

ThinkSimpleNow

TinyBuddha

Bindu Wiles

White Hot Truth

BodyLoveWellness

The Cowation

(full disclosure: The Cowation is my personal lifestyle blog, where I write a lot of advice but also a lot of other stuff – checking it out will benefit me in happiness content)

Required Reading: Change Your Style, Change Your Life

Another classic hit from one of my favorite style blogs, AlreadyPretty, should make it onto your required reading list for this semester. We may not be out of winter yet, but if you’re getting into a body image/style/winter blues funk, check out these wise words from Sally McGraw:

If you’re feeling constantly restless, dissatisfied, and envious of others, change your look. Changes to career, relationships, geography, and finance may have huge, terrifying repercussions, mainly because those changes involve other people. But changing your look is singular, self-contained, all about you. It may elicit some curious comments from friends and coworkers and family members, but mostly it’s a change that is entirely within your control. YOU are the only person who decides how you dress, what you wear, how you wear it, when, and why. That’s a lot of power, and it can be used to shape your feelings about yourself as a participant in the world’s events.

Read the rest of the post by clicking this link.

The Winter Blues

 Well, it’s that time again. It’s only the second week of classes and already I feel completely exhausted. Forget focusing on homework, I’m trying to get up enough energy just to get books! This is a dramatic example, but I think we all are starting to feel the post-break drag. For seniors, like me, there’s no light at the end of the tunnel: sure, we’ll graduate, but what then? The concept of “summer break” no longer is there to carry us through. It just becomes Reality. Which is even more of a reason to put on your sweats, pop in a DVD and stay under your covers all day. In fact, the number of movies I watched last weekend reached double digits!

But here’s the thing: “hermiting” doesn’t help. Believe me, I should know. (Seriously guys, more than TEN MOVIES in one weekend.) While we all react to stress differently, it’s important to also be aware of environmental factors that can affect our moods. And I don’t mean a pesky roommate, I mean literal environmental factors. I’m one of many women that has SAD–Seasonal Affective Disorder. During winter months, my vitamin D level drops, my fatigue increases, my focus decreases, and I become a lethargic lump. Once spring hits again, I’m skipping down the sidewalk in skirts and sandals, eager to  take on the day.

This is a really extreme (and slightly exaggerated) example, but SAD can dramatically affect your moods. Even if you’ve had sunny days like we have (KNOCK ON WOOD), the amount of sunlight that we receive is still significantly diminished. Your body doesn’t soak up those delicious and invisible vitamins that trigger your brain to produce neurotransmitters that will keep you alive awake alert and enthusiastic during the day, but also help you sleep at night. You don’t even need to have SAD to be affected by this; individuals with SAD are just much more susceptible to fluctuations in circadian rhythm (that thing that helps you sleep when you wanna sleep and stay awake when you wanna stay awake).

As the winter progresses, it’s important to stay aware of your energy levels or your mood changes. Women are much more susceptible to SAD, and especially in New York (Land of Very Tall Sun-Blocking Buildings), it can be difficult to get the sunlight you need. Even though you don’t feel like it, go for a walk in the park. You can keep the sweats on, but get out of your room for a while. Did you know that a walk from the Barnard gates to 110th st and back is 0.8 miles? Even just that amount of fresh air can be really refreshing to the mind and body. Take a 10 minute break from the library to walk around a little bit–your mind and body will thank you.

If you have more questions about Seasonal Affective Disorder, check out this article that my mom, a licensed professional counselor with thirty years of experience, wrote on SAD back in December. I know, shameless plug, but really it’s a great article, and nepotism never hurt anyone (ask the Kennedys!). If this is something you’re interested in learning more about, come in to the Well Woman Office, Primary Care Health Services, or Furman Counseling Center. Although there’s no “cure” for SAD, there are things to do to help alleviate your symptoms.

I’m going to leave you with a music video that’s been stuck in my head all day and perfectly describes the feeling after a bad day. We may not all have someone to rub our feet or fix us up our favorite treat (I am accepting applications for masseuses and cooks, everyone welcome to apply), it is important to take care of ourselves…especially when we don’t feel like it!

An Everlasting Meal: Food & Philosophy

Click the picture to go to her website.

I must admit, I’ve become a bit of a foodie since winter break. I taught myself how to cook (and since it’s “pics or it didn’t happen” on the internet, click here for the images to prove it) and have ever since been looking for ways to incorporate that cooking knowledge into the everyday hustle and bustle of college life.

So, you can imagine the excitement that I had when I read about this book, An Everlasting Meal, on the New York Times Wellness blog. Taking the fear out of cooking? Talking home cook philosophy instead of chef-based? No crazy recipes or ingredients that I would have to go all the way out to Queens for? Sign me up!

The book just came in for me today and I started reading it right away, ignoring all my other studies. From the first few pages, I am smitten. Tamar Adler talks about food in a ritualistic and practical way – her first chapter mimics the “how to boil water” crowd and tries to make good use of that water too (for instance, after cooking veggies, you can boil your pasta in that water, siphon a little bit of it out once the pasta’s done, add cheese and oil to make a light sauce!). And from the first page on, she dispenses some good de-stressing wisdom, not just applicable to cooking, but to life as a whole.

All I can say is that so far this book is like Bird by Bird for cooks. Applicable in so many ways to so many aspects of life, although it appears from the outside to be on a specific mission. Snag a copy if you can or check it out from the library in your (copious) free time – it’s worth the study break.