Colors and Stress: Why you should invest in a coloring book

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According to an article in the Huffington Post, coloring generates wellness, quietness, and stimulates areas of the brain related to motor skills, senses, and creativity (Santos, Elena, 2014). You may not know that coloring has been applied by psychologists as a relaxation technique (see Carl Jung’s work). The power of coloring lies in its mindfulness characteristics. Mindfulness is the practice of being in the present moment, not allowing thoughts or worries to affect your present state. There are different ways to practice mindfulness including meditation, yoga, and music. Coloring is a fun way of practicing mindfulness while reminding you of childhood bliss. You can use adult geared coloring pages such as the ones featured in Huff Post http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/08/27/coloring-book-for-grownup_n_5717281.html   You can browse adult coloring books here http://www.hachette-pratique.com/collections/art-therapie

However, a great way to start coloring involves Mandalas. Mandalas are a series of geometrical figures centered in one central pattern. Often beautiful in design, they have their origins in India and meditation. Mandalas are said to help one meditate, by encouraging one to focus on the intricate patterns of the mandala, instead of bombarding thoughts. More so, mandalas help you access energy and imagery of the unconscious mind. Here are two pictures of my mandala. It took me a couple of weeks to actually color in the whole mandala, but it was definitely worth it. Look at this beauty! Mandalas are accessible online, simply google “coloring Mandalas.”

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Volunteering with Purpose

At some point or another, we all contribute to human society by volunteering. Whether it’s at a soup kitchen, cleaning beaches, organizing a youth conference, or simply giving a couple of dollars to someone in need, most of us have experienced the gift of giving. However, I want to challenge everyone to critically think about volunteering, our intention, and purpose.

Who volunteers? (Is it a coincidence that people from low socioeconomic status are more likely to volunteer?)

Why are we motivated to volunteer? (Are there social, political, economic benefits? i.e tax breaks, extra credit)

What types of volunteering do people partake in?(Are you volunteering time or extra money you may have?)

These are some initial questions that may come up if you are thinking about volunteering. But what else can we think of when “volunteering” comes up? I started volunteering because it was a value instilled upon me at school. I grew up knowing that volunteering is good. Why was it good? I didn’t even question it. As I grew older, I found out some benefits to volunteering: getting in to college. Obviously, at a young age I wanted to help people that were disadvantaged: people who did not have the same opportunities that I did. However, there was a reward for me: looking good for college admissions. As I grew older and attended university, I realized a lot of people volunteered on a cost-benefit basis. Thought trajectories along the line of, “I  volunteer not necessarily because I want to help disadvantaged people, but because I will get extra credit and consequently improve my class grade.” I want to challenge readers to think about their volunteer efforts and come up with ways to positively volunteer.

Positive volunteering: Volunteering with a purpose that does not involve personal benefit, but does involve the greater good of society.

Example: I recently became a Big Brothers Big Sisters volunteer. I am a big sister to a young teenage girl in the Phoenix area. Over the years I have volunteered in numerous projects, but I felt BBBS was a little different. I would be contributing time and a long lasting relationship to a young girl that comes from a low socioeconomic background. I wouldn’t be getting “extra credit” or putting it on college applications. In fact, I would take off hours from work and spend my own money on activities for me and my little (all of which I didn’t mind). I really wanted to create positive impact on disadvantaged youth, but work more closely and make a longer lasting impact. I didn’t want to just show up to one event and tutor kids, or hand out free school supplies, I wanted to serve as a positive role model for this young girl. Months later, I text my little and we schedule biweekly hangouts where I expose her to new things. My emphasis is on exposing her to different cultures via food, events, and activities. I want to show here the possibilities of traveling, working, education, and show her that anything is possible if you believe in yourself. Here is a picture of me and my little, Maliyah.

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Qualitative Research and Interviewing

One realm of qualitative research involves interviews. As a qualitative researcher I have to constantly ask people if they would be willing to answer some questions or sit down for an in-depth interview. Often nerve wrecking, the hardest part about qualitative research for me is asking someone to be my participant. I get scared to ask strangers to sit down with me, especially if there are language and cultural barriers. Since my line of work is concentrated on small businesses of the East San Gabriel Valley, it proves difficult for owners to give me the time of day. Most of them work everyday during business hours, which is the only time I can ask them questions. They are usually busy tending to customers and running the business. Despite the nervousness I get from asking people for an interview, I have gained success from practicing one thing: Accepting the possibility of rejection. Something that always sets us back from personal growth, work solutions, and success is the fear of rejection. This is what always held me back about asking people to be interviewed. When you become comfortable with the idea of rejection, and the possibility of its occurrence, you begin to accept the challenge of interviewing.

Welcome to Arizona

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Arizona is a strange place. Coming from Los Angeles, I am used to exploring. The cultural jungle of the West has instilled in me a love for exploration. Whether its food, culture, or entertainment, L.A will forever have an explorer searching. I am now celebrating my one year anniversary as an Arizona resident. In reflecting on my time here, I’ve decided to share a few thoughts on Arizona. Something Arizona has helped me develop is a strong appreciation for nature. Growing up, I played outside, spent a lot of time at the park, and was involved in several outdoor sports. But as I grew older and as my interests developed, I leaned towards academia, which meant more time indoors. Entering college, I was always busy. Work –> class –> study –> eat –> meetings –> tests –> more work… The cycle never ended. My senior year of college, I told myself I needed to appreciate every last moment I could at USC. Taking long routes back to my apartment, I noticed the beauty of life: simplicity. I watched leaves fall off of my favorite trees, I paused to observe the beautiful planted flowers on campus, and walked around appreciating all the squirrels protruding campus. The mere thought of observing flowers, trees, and squirrels seems ridiculous, but how many times do you actually stop and stay in the present moment? How often do we practice mindfulness, being in the present moment? Rarely. How often do we walk around, headphones in our ears, and have 10000 thoughts running on our minds? All the time…

Pause. Breathe. Take a look at all the beauty that surrounds you.  In these moments, I began to realize how nature is so important, and how nature can bring a whole sense of meaning to my life. What is nature to me? The trees, the birds, animals, flowers, air… Everything that is essential to our existence and part of our Earth that we so often take for granted… I learned to appreciate nature in small doses at USC. When I moved to Arizona, I truly began to realize how beautiful and important nature is.

Arizona is a strange place. I saw cacti, dry landscape, mountains, etc. I saw a different type of beauty in nature, a simple, calmness to the landscape of Arizona’s backyard that I had never seen before. Plants were different. Trees were different. Most of the recreational activities in the area involve the outdoors. Arizona has the Gran Canyon, Sedona, Creeks, Lakes, etc. Lightning/Thunder storms are some of the most beautiful scenes I have ever seen. I couldn’t possible be scared of a storm because the horizon is graced with rays of lightning and a setting sun that can’t be seen in Los Angeles. There is so much to appreciate and so much to admire. It may not be Los Angeles, but it is one of the Earth’s natural beauties. It may not have  a booming cultural or foodie seeking appeal, but the appeal of nature is all it needs.

Arizona is a strange place, but it’s definitely grown on me. Above is a series of shots of a succulent plant I bought at Lowes. I love these small plants, and they hardly require any watering. It’s a small piece of Arizona ❤

A Conducive Work Space

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There’s nothing like a clean, simplistic, and well thought out work space to accomplish your daily tasks. Spending a lot of time at work and school, I don’t really spend much time at home working on assignments or work-related tasks. Honestly, I get home and dive into bed, lounging and relaxing with some Netflix. However, with the semester starting up at the end of the month, I know I will be extremely busy with school –> work –> work –> school. Not to mention completing my Masters thesis. That being said, I have told myself over and over to create a small workspace in my apartment to channel my inner desire to succeed! I bring you Natalie’s work space titled: Enlighten me with Positivity. I tend to hoard things from small trinkets friends have given to me from abroad, to old receipts dating back 6 months. I got rid of a lot of things and created this simple, and affordable layout. I often see amazing work spaces and apartments on Pinterest, only to discover that the items I want are ALL vintage and nearly impossible to acquire. I got all of the pictured items at the common person’s stores. The gold, industrial lamp was purchases at Target for approximately $38. Stylish, urban, with a new age sophistication, I definitely thought it was the perfect accent for my work space. Not to mention I need proper overhead lighting for late night sessions. I got the white candle for about $10 at Target as well. The Buddha head was also from Target (I love Target -___-  ) for about $12 in the gift aisle. The lotus candle holder is from Michael’s (about $3) and the orange candle in it is a 12 pack set from World Market. The golden hands print is from Etsy. It was a gift from my roommate so I don’t have price details! Lastly, I made the glitter “N” from a series of supplies. You can pick up a cardboard-like letter from your local craft store. I then purchased scrapbook paper in this gold-red glitter style from Michaels, cutting it to fit the “N” proportions. I used super glue to bind the paper to the letter.

Three things guiding my work space design:

1. Simplicity (my life is too hectic. Keeping a simple layout helps me stay grounded in my high paced, hectic life. I chose one statement piece, the lamp. Its clean, urban design reminds me to focus and to remember that less is more.)

2. Inner peace (even though I have 100000 things to do everyday, I need to remember to breathe and stay calm. the buddha and incense remind me of this… Stay grounded and happy)

3. Passion (with my research, I sometimes get stuck. I forget my motivation and drive, and get into ruts. The glitter “N” reminds me that I can accomplish anything I start. When I accomplish tasks and goals, beautiful results come, just like the “N” I created. It is an original work that wasn’t just purchased, but made.)