The Garlick Press: Does ‘flexible’ vegetarianism have a lasting impact?

It has long been known that climate change is happening, and that our everyday consumption of fuels and products contribute to the rising temperatures. But what people don’t usually think of straight away is how diet can affect the environment.

Yes, I am talking about vegetarianism. I have been a vegetarian for almost a year now, and recently been reflecting on my journey of cutting out meat and various dairy products with my family, and we’ve been discussing different kinds of vegetarianism along with what reasons I myself abstain from meat products.

Not only do people abstain from meat for religious, dietary or ethical reasons, they also stay away from consuming animal products for a better environmental impact.
Beef industries take up a lot of water and energy. According to a study from 2010 conducted by Water USGS gov, California uses around 101 to 250 million gallons of freshwater and groundwater for livestock, coming in as the second state for most bovine water consumption.

But of course, not everyone wants to give up meat in the blink of an eye — or at least, not for the rest of their lives. So the question of eating meat less frequently throughout the week comes to the table.

There’s actually a dietary lifestyle for this concept; flexitarian. Combining ‘flexible’ and ‘vegetarian’ to create this new term perfectly exemplifies what flexitarians are; mostly focused on eating vegetables and simply reducing their meat intake.

Flexitarians will eat meat on fewer occasions, and mostly opt for meals that do not have animal products, cutting down their meat consumption more than the average meat eater.

Studies show families who have ‘meatless mondays’ and ‘fish fridays’ save water. According to the Meatless Monday Website, a quarter pound of beef takes 425 gallons of water to make, whereas soy takes only 75 gallons.

Some people are’ financial vegans’, and buy no meat unless it is free to them, saving their pocketbooks while working for a cause. Meat is expensive, and the average meat consumer can save $2,200-$3,000 each year, by just eat four less meals that have meet each week would save around $600-$800 per year, according to SomethingFinance20.

Others run into the ethical farm dilemma; if a chicken has been happy all its life living on a nice farm, and cannot stop itself from making eggs, is it ethical to eat them? Some will say yes, as the chicken was not harmed and is not contributing to global warming since it lives on a small scale operation. Besides, if you didn’t eat the egg, it could potentially become food waste.

Either way, it is up to the consumer to decide what is ethical to them and what makes the most important change for them personally. After all, becoming vegetarian is a personal choice.

Eating less meat could have health and ecological benefits, and decreasing the rate of one’s overall consumption could do a considerable amount of good for the environment and our population.

Making educated decisions about what kinds of dietary changes one can make to fit within a lifestyle is important for everyone’s health, as well as the planet’s.

The Garlick Press: Greener student driving

The student parking lot is always packed in the morning, with different types of vehicles: trucks, Mini Coopers and family SUVs. For families who are planning on getting a new car for their driving student, an electric car for simple commutes sounds ideal. One problem, however, is where to charge.

Charging stations will allow students and staff with electric vehicles to plug in during school hours.

That issue is going to be solved in a year. After construction for the new F building finishes, charging stations for both students and admin will be installed near the student parking lot.

Tara Grande, FUHSD facilities coordinator, is working on a joint project with Charge! Program to implement the new charging station plan.

“At Homestead, [where] we are looking to put [charging stations] is actually between the student lot and the access road,” Grande said.

In this way, the charging stations can be used by both administration, students and for the public after school hours.

Making charging stations available for students will benefit the campus by allowing families with electric vehicles to utilize the opportunity for a green and cost-effective commute. A newer option for charging stations will also allow prospective students to consider buying an electric vehicle as their first car.

Some college campuses have already taken this opportunity and put electric chargers into effect. Pomona College has 55 plug-in stations available for 1,500 students, installing it’s first six charging stations in 2011 according to a case study conducted by the EPA. Each station cost $6,000, and drivers pay $1.25 and admin get a discounted price at $0.15 per kWh.

Mountain View and Los Altos are also installing charging stations on their campus, according to Mercury News. Admin will be able to charge their electric vehicles at 240 volts for just a small fee. This strategy ultimately helps teachers with long commutes and who wish to use their electric cars to get to work.

Having an electricity-powered car can be more cost-effective than a classic gasoline-fueled vehicle. The California Clean Vehicle Rebate Project administered by CSE for the California Air Resources Board has raised incentives for lower-income households while capping eligibility for higher-income consumers, encouraging a solution to the divide created by financial differences.

When it comes to the cost-benefit analysis in terms of pollution, going electric is an excellent option to reduce greenhouse emissions.

According to a study by the Union of Concerned Scientists found the emissions produced by an electric vehicle are less than the emissions of an average compact conventional vehicle, no matter the location of where the vehicle is used.

Our campus is green, and should also not just be green because of our colors. These new charging stations will benefit the staff and students and will encourage a greener commute.

The HHS charging stations will be implemented after the construction of the new F building, and soon, individuals with electric vehicles will have a place to plug in.

If you are looking for green options, resources such as DriveClean can help individuals find a valuable and affordable electric car that will benefit your family.

Garlick Press: Bay Area Superfund sites need super attention

A weekend ago, I hiked with a friend at Fremont Older, both of us looking to enjoy the fresh air and find an escape from our schoolwork. As we finally ascended the lookout called Hunter’s Point, I could see Silicon Valley below. Moffett Field, Levi Stadium, the giant flying saucer of the new Apple campus and something I did not expect: a quarry right behind the rich mansions of Los Altos Hills.

The mining operation had dug deep into the residing rock, exposing sedimentary layers and machinery. It looked like a big bruise in the beautiful rolling hills.

Before this, I had believed most mined materials used to build our cities were imported from over the hills beyond the valley, so as to not affect our living environment. I was surprised by how close this quarry actually was to houses.

After more research, I found even more quarries located north of the small operation I had seen from Hunter’s Point, including the Stevens Creek Quarry by the reservoir and the Lehigh Permanente Quarry, which has sparked concern in the past over the threat it may pose to public safety.

Quarries dig deep into the earth for minerals, and can hit groundwater supplies as their operations grow in size. The mining process can release toxic heavy metals like cadmium and arsenic, leaching out from underground and into the water systems that serve the public.

Yes, it is essential to have building materials close by for a growing community such as ours, but such operations must be assessed for unintended health and environmental hazards.

Superfund, the governmental program set up by the EPA to remediate polluted and intoxicated land, is what should be fixing these local disasters.

The Lehigh Permanente Quarry, though not currently labeled as a federal concern, is an active National Priorities List (NPL) Superfund site, according to the EPA.

Created in 1939, the quarry has been the main source of cement for the valley, but  has caused multiple concerns to the public over the years.

However, after testing nearby creeks and Monta Vista Park for air particulate and mercury levels, the quarry was deemed safe for surrounding citizens, and plans for reclamation are being put into effect, according to the Department of Planning and Development of Santa Clara.

While Superfund approached this case quickly, this federal government program is being neglected by our current presidency. As for the other surrounding quarries, their effects on our groundwater and air quality still remain a bit of a mystery.

But quarries are not the only hazardous locations affecting our health here in the valley. Other nearby Superfund sites in our neighborhood are being put on hold. Santa Clara is home to 23 Superfund sites according to Quartz, as the U.S. county with the most sites.

In such a tech-central destination, the brownfields, or polluted sites, in our backyards are mostly from old chip manufacturing. The materials used contained toxic chemicals such as ethylene glycol ethers (EGEs), most of which were dumped into surrounding areas. According to NBC Bay Area, 518 toxic ‘plumes’ or spills have been reported.

These groundwater plumes reside under large companies such as Texas Instruments in the industrial working area, and Moffett Field, according to NBC Bay Area’s interactive map of old Silicon Valley’s “chemical legacy”.

These locations are near us, and this fact should fear us. Toxic sites must be acknowledged by our local water management facilities and government cleanup programs to ensure the safety of residents. Not to mention, exploitation of natural resources so close to reservoirs and state parks is harmful to local wildlife and disrupts the aesthetic of our surrounding natural reserves.

The need to be aware of these hazardous areas and to be proactive to their remediation is essential to a better neighborhood.

The Garlick Press: Plants in the classroom

It is another day in the classroom, and I’m finding myself gazing through the window, only half-listening to the lesson I should be paying attention to. Why can’t we have class outside? I have thought about this many times, though the class doesn’t necessarily leave the room to get a good fill of nature.

Introducing classroom plants, a fresh new way to engage students as they learn.

It has been proven that nature improves one’s well being, mentally and emotionally. According to Healthline, plants indoors can help to decrease stress, anxiety and depression and instead work to boost one’s sense of stability and positive calm energy.

A fresh new way to look at learning may be through nature; or better yet, with nature accompanying the student. Plants have been proven to enhance the wellbeing of individuals, both mentally and emotionally. Now it is time to introduce foliage among the future generations in our classrooms.

According to researchers from a study from the American Society for Horticultural Science, the presence of houseplants causes improved productivity for individuals, including reduced stress levels, less eye irritation and an increase in motivation and concentration.

Now this element should be taken inside schools to help eliminate the more depressing days and uplift students as they learn.

Our campus currently consists of cinder blocks and asphalt, with trees in the quad as the only greenery standing.

In a study by the American Society for Horticultural Science from the University of Technology in Sydney observed the influence of houseplants in a middle school learning environment. It was found the classrooms with plants improved testing in spelling and mathematics within a 10-14 percent range.

So plants can help students with their academics? Now we’re talking.

It would be easy to incorporate these plants into classrooms on a small budget. Most houseplants range from around $10 to $100, and the cheapest house plants have a range of $5 -45, with the ability to buy Mother in Law’s Tongue, the Money Plant and Areca Palm, according to WiseBread.

Having more greenery around students while they work would also be a breath of fresh air.

Not only do plants indoors filter out negative energy, so to speak, they also clean the air. Air pollutants such as formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, xylene, toluene, ammonia and benzene are all removed from the air by common house plants, according to a study conducted by NASA in 1989.

These pollutants are released by plastics and and inks, which plenty exist in the learning environment. For the betterment of the student’s health, addressing these toxins with a plant or two would improve the cleanliness and breathability of stuffy classroom atmosphere.

Finally, a breath of fresh air. Plants can help students improve their academics and wellbeing, all the while brightening up the classroom.

The Garlick Press: New food waste bins

T

he City of Sunnyvale has implemented a new way for homes to become more green; food recycling bins after approving the idea last fall.

These new bins with bright yellow lids are for organic food waste, including banana peels, egg shells and seafood waste.

This is taking a giant step toward a greener future by introducing this fresh new initiative into our homes. In the past efforts, I have tried saving food scraps for composting, only to be affronted by terrible fermenting smells coming from my kitchen and backyard.

The City of Sunnyvale is aiming to remove organic food scraps from the municipal land waste area to reduce greenhouse gases from forming.

The FoodCycle bins can be attached to the inside of a normal garbage bin, allowing homeowners to build the habit of throwing food scraps into a separate bin. There are also FoodCycle bin compartments for curb waste bins, and handy counter pails to make separating food waste easier by hand. These scraps will be brought to Sustainable Organic Solutions in Santa Clara, which will process the scraps into animal feed for local farm animals after testing and sterilizing the scraps for diseases.

Some residents fear this program is taking away from normal garbage space, as well as previous composters. This program, however, helps to recycle food scraps that are otherwise difficult to break down such as dairy and meat products. Spoiled food will ferment and this method will reduce the amount of carbon emissions created in landfills.

Others are concerned about the cost of the system, which is 20 cents more than the normal garbage can systems, estimating to be $12.37 more monthly per family, according to Mercury News. However the benefits for landfills outweigh the expenses in the long run.

With these new green steps, the Silicon Valley is working towards a more sustainable future.If your home has not received a FoodCycle Bin they are still being distributed until Nov 10.

 

The Garlick Press: Politics and Puerto Rico

The biggest natural disaster is always around the corner, and now it has hit Puerto Rico. In shambles, the territory is scrambling to get back on its feet after the 4.4 magnitude earthquake.

Where is our President in this time of need? Nowhere.

Hurricane Maria’s category 4 storm was reported to have winds racking up around 150 mph the morning of Oct. 3, according to Slate. It has left Puerto Rico in havoc after devastating the island.

The international anti-poverty nonprofit Oxfam has recently condemned the response of the U.S. in its involvement with the hurricane wreckage. Oxfam is promising to advocate with Puerto Rican political leaders, and is outraged at the “slow and inadequate response” the U.S. government has made in regards to the natural disaster.

Recovery in Puerto Rico is a trainwreck right now. Citizens have been lining up in the streets for just the fundamentals. Gas, water and The Puerto Rico National Guard have been working to clear the roads and deliver supplies to locals, according to Weather Nation.

What has our leader done for the distressed citizens on the island? Nothing.

President Trump claims Puerto Rico has “thrown our budget a little out of whack” due to the expenses the United States has already invested into the region, according to Politico.

The leader and face of our territory should be supporting our fellow Americans. Instead, the president instead hurled rolls of paper towels into the crowd.

When billions worth of damage are required to rebuild cities on the island, President Trump has not started a support foundation or sent federal money to help out with the relief force. Instead, he donated one of his golf trophies to the territory.

Trump also compared Puerto Rico’s disaster to Hurricane Katrina and deemed the whole storm inadequate. He also stated Puerto Rico should be “proud” of its death count. What sort of condescending statement is that?

The president has undermined the entire population by stating the storm’s wreckage has only killed 16 people. The final death count turned out to be 34, according to New York Daily News.

Instead of acknowledging the families who have lost loved ones, Trump instead declared how “proud” he is of the territory, only continuing to attempt to sustain the limelight of positivity the president believes he is gaining from his broadcasted visit.

 

The Garlick Press is a monthly column by Kira Garlick.

The Garlick Press: Natural disaster prevention is better than procrastination

The storm has already broken and now all of us are left to clean up the damage. Hurricane Harvey in Houston, and the small but mighty Hurricane Irma in the Florida Keys have hit with lasting impacts.

Hurricane Harvey was only a Category 1 storm when it began, but grew into a Category 4 storm as winds picked up speed from 110 mph to 130 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center.

Harvey lasted only a few days, but the billions of dollars in damage will stand for years. Rebuilding projects are estimated to be around $200 billion, which is 25 percent more than the costs to rebuild after Hurricane Katrina, according to CNBC. The destruction in New Orleans from Katrina is still being dealt with now, and Harvey is only in its initial stage of debris clean-up and rescuing the people obstructed by the storm.

It is time to take notice. With these current trends in weather, it seems like the entire nation should be ready to brace against an uphill battle.

The hurricane surge is definitely not subsiding either. Hurricane Maria reached a Category 5 rating Monday after forming a pinhole in the center, a strong indicator for a nasty storm. According to the Weather Channel, the combination of warm ocean temperatures and moist atmosphere allowed the storm to reach this status, and the hurricane will potentially damage the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico severely.

Yes, hurricane season is annual due to normal weather patterns, but the rate these clouds are brewing at is something entirely new. Considered the “most violent storms on Earth” by NASA, only heat and water are required to create them, and the levels of both are rising due to melting icebergs and greenhouse gases.

The records have already been toppled this year. The count for Atlantic hurricanes clocked in around 13, exceeding expectations for the past six months, according to NOAA.

The evidence proving climate change is already alarming, with rising global temperatures and receding glaciers. But even with these numbers, it seems like a real slap in the face from the weather is required. The only thing that will motivate real proactivity is the consequence itself, when there is no way around it.

But even with these obvious signs, only some of us are taking notice of these alarming new precedents in weather change. Precautions are still overlooked.

In Houston, 69 lives were taken, and thousands were left homeless and devastated from the flooding and water destruction. The city, however, should have been prepared for these possibilities.

Houston is only 40 feet above sea level and within range of the annual hurricane season due to its proximity from the Gulf of Mexico. So why were the people of Houston not prepared for such a disaster?

The city has added over 100,000 residents this past year, and has seen a 23 percent increase in population since 2001, according to CNN. The design was not well planned for natural disasters, however, and faces issues due to its urban sprawl.

The state is known to have “no zoning” regulations, which basically means buildings can be built in any location without having to pass requirements for flooding and other environmentally hazardous factors. Houston therefore falls behind the nation’s policies for a “freeboard,” a building requirement to avoid flooding. Houston set that requirement for only one foot, and that’s not prepared. Compared to cities like Nashville that require four feet, this standard simply is not up to par.

The storm was not the only factor affecting Houston, it was also city planning. These factors are all evidence that that outcome could have been prevented with smarter city planning and tighter regulation. Now the entirety of Houston has to rebuild itself.

A hurricane won’t hit California, but other natural disasters such as earthquakes can.

The repercussions Houston has faced can be an warning for how  California should take extra precaution in protecting homes before disaster hits.

Smaller earthquakes hit areas around San Francisco more often than we think ranging from 1.0 to 4.0 in the past month, according to Earthquake Track.

Don’t think the chance of a big earthquake is not affected by climate change, however. Earthquakes are triggered by slight increase in the pressures between tectonic plates, which are already coiled up like a spring. According to The Guardian, the rising temperatures that cause tsunamis and hurricanes can also cause a release of these strains in the crusts, which can result in the Earth’s crust shifting along the fault line. This process can not only trigger earthquakes, but also volcanoes rupturing as well.

The next big earthquake to shake California, known by locals as “The Big One” has become a pending reminder in our minds. We must be prepared for when natural disaster strikes. The Bay Area already requires a Standard Set Plan to strengthen homes and prevent weaker infrastructure from collapsing, implemented by the Association of Bay Area Governments.

It seems obvious enough that we cannot prevent the weather by brute force, but we should always be prepared and work towards preventing further global warming. With the rising temperatures resulting in weather pattern changes, it is a necessity to get everyone on their feet and reinforce their homes for the battle ahead.

The Garlick Press: Trump polluting the news

It seems like the news has centered around President Trump’s recent policies, some of which concern the environment. This is leaving many conservationists, including me, wondering what exactly is going to happen as our beautiful outdoors is left vulnerable to small budget cuts.

Throughout his campaign, Trump promised to put more funding towards the military and planned to slash the budget for the Environmental Protection Agency by 30 percent, according to LiveScience.

This cut that Trump proposed would defund Energy Star and Targeted Air Shed Grants, organizations which research new energy efficient options and reduce air pollution, according to LiveScience.

Letting this happen would mean more greenhouse gas emissions and a warmer climate, which Trump has claimed to be a “Chinese hoax.”

This along with countless other articles and claims made by our president, however, may not be true. With the media blowing everything out of perspective, it is important to distinguish what is fact and what is most definitely false news.

As of now, only a few changes are actually in effect. Trump has attempted to make changes to the Obama-era regulations regarding methane emissions, but his propositions were rejected by the U.S. Senate, according to National Geographic.

What is currently the biggest threat is our president’s review of national monuments and offshore drilling sites, both of which would be exploited for industry, according to National Geographic. This process is not instantaneous, however, and will take around 5 years to process.

All of this leaves the public with a window of opportunity. This does not mean we should sit idle. Our voices need to be heard.

If there is anything the liberal west coast is good at, it is peacefully protesting for what we want.

Even if our current president is not putting the environment first, other political figures are offering a hand. French President Emmanuel Macron wrote an open letter to the U.S, stating how he is welcoming American scientists and entrepreneurs in France to help fight against climate change, according to The Washington Post.

Just in the past year, numerous protests regarding the fight to preserve science and women’s rights have happened, resulting in new and old faces coming to light in the name of change.

Many protests have been put on to fight for justice. The March for Science happened in multiple cities include San Francisco, New York and Washington D.C.

Television personality Bill Nye arose as prominent public figures through this movement, and “will not shut up about climate change” until the nation does something about it, raising awareness in young adults through his new television series Bill Nye Saves the World.  

Nye’s show is working to dispel myths about climate change, and is inviting guest stars such as Karlie Kloss and Rachel Bloom to help make his case for science.

All of these efforts are what is driving conservation forward at the moment, and we need to keep that energy moving. We are, after all, in an energy crisis.

Abstaining from fake news and analyzing the facts of what is happening right now is what will keep us on the right track to a greener tomorrow. In the meantime, we must continue to keep our voices heard.

The Garlick Press: Teens with Autism

Imagine walking into a grocery store, but with superpowers. You can hear every wheel of multiple shopping carts, the swish of plastic bags and the shuffling of feet all at the same decibel. It can get crowded in your mind, and your senses begin to jumble.

This is only one point of view from a mind with autism.

You have probably heard this before, but never understood exactly what it was. And that, along with the silence about the topic, is what creates stigma these people don’t deserve.

Autism is a mental disability is unlike any other condition. Some wear their scars and deformities on the outside whereas others, like autistic differences, are internal within the mind.

The condition is different for everyone. Autism exists as a spectrum, and cannot be labeled with black and white definitions.

Around 3.5 million Americans are on the spectrum of autism, according to Autism Society. Of those individuals, 35 percent of people ages between 19-23 are unemployed due to their disability, or have not gotten an education beyond high school.

This exclusion can be traced back to diagnosis and financial aid, some factors which help more low functioning individuals live a normal life despite their condition. Early diagnosis can help this by reducing the cost by two-thirds, according to Autism Society.

If people didn’t realize cost be an issue, that is part of the problem shrouding the view of what life with mental disability is like.

I have amazing family friends who have a son with autism. We go on hikes and eat at restaurants, but the experience can be different from a normal day. My friend is nonverbal, and I remember as a young child, we didn’t have to communicate because we simply played with stuffed animals together. Now as teens, the divide is harder.

When I saw posters about mental disabilities as a kid, it was always portrayed in the face of a child, but never for older people.

That age divide is what bothers me the most. Though society has begun more discussion about mental disabilities, the conditions are always embodied in the face of a young child and seem to ignore anyone past elementary school. I have yet to see ample awareness of autistic teens and young adults.

American society is filled with stigma over mental illness. Only recently have depression and anxiety been discussed more in mainstream media. Our generation has yet to take the leap and recognize mental disabilities as a topic not of taboo, but of understanding.

What we need, especially in high schools, is more acceptance and understanding as to what exactly is going on in the minds of the mentally disabled. They are not weird. They are not to be shunned. They are witty, smart and some of the funniest people I have met and shouldn’t be treated an differently.

The awareness week for this may have passed, but that doesn’t mean the end of a discussion. Talking about these topics is what can alleviate the confusion most of us have so we can see these people for who they really are.

The Garlick Press: Boring is brilliant

By Kira Garlick

It happened again. The weekend has arrived, and I have no plans for Sunday. I have finished all my homework and went on a bike ride, but there is no avoiding the inevitable hum-drum of the late afternoon. Even though I plan to keep myself occupied by hanging out with friends, it always seems to pop up: boredom.

Don’t get me wrong, I love to unwind after a long day. But when I am stuck in my house for longer than five  hours, I start to go stir-crazy and I have always wondered why.

You may be thinking, I would pay to be bored right now I am so busy. That’s true; Generation X is very occupied. People have around 35 hours of leisure time each week, according to The Futurist. This may sound like enough, but fractured out this daily 5 hour slot can be taken up by organized sports, clubs and part-time jobs after school.

So yes, stumbling upon some free time may be rare, and very enjoyable.

But when the fast-paced energy comes to a still, what exactly do you do with it?

Sure, there’s always Netflix and Pinterest. According to Science Daily, most people go to the internet to ease boredom. Around 60 percent of teenagers will spend 20 hours a week glued to a screen. But what happens when that is not an option?

Apparently the average person will avoid sitting alone with their thoughts at all costs. In one study, men and women were left alone to ponder aimlessly, or give themselves an electric shock. 67 percent of the men and 25 percent of the women, according to Psychology Today.

These people were so uncomfortable with simply thinking, they zapped themselves. I’m shook.

What most of us inattentive folks don’t know is we’re passing up a perfect opportunity to be our most creative selves.

 

Boredom has proven effective for imaginative thinking. According to a study from Pennsylvania State University, the bored participants performed better on creative tests than others who were relaxed, elated or distressed.

The same study also had a group of 80 participants copy numbers (yawn) while brainstorming ideas of what to do with plastic cups. Their ideas were more creative than groups which didn’t compute numbers.

This explains why we all have great ideas while doing monotonous tasks. Nikolas Tesla didn’t come up with water displacement theories in the laboratory, he came up with it while going on a stroll. J K Rowling came up with the idea of Harry Potter on a train ride.

Forced to do nothing but let our mind wander, we are free to explore our most creative journeys.

Letting yourself have free time is healthy, but letting yourself have time to think about absolutely nothing is better.

We always hear about meditation, and we usually picture a monk crossed legged in the middle of a jungle muttering omm for hours on end. What most don’t know is just clearing your thoughts and focusing on the present constitutes as meditation.

So how does this all tie into boredom? For some reason when we are left with no other option against our will, we turn against these natural, healthy and enjoyable practices for our brain.

It is important to slow your thoughts throughout the day to avoid overextending your mind and letting yourself rest from the constant flying of ideas. Hacking into your creativity when you have nothing to do can be easy, you just need to let it happen by being aware of the present and drifting into your thoughts without fighting it.

 

The Garlick Press: Owning Nothing

Finding peace in small pleasurable items can better good mental health

A year ago, I hit rock bottom. Every day came with a depressing haze and thousands of roller-coasting hate comments playing whack-a-mole in my brain. I felt depressed, overwhelmed and lost.

My room was filled with familiar trinkets close to my heart. Boxes and containers filled with art supplies, jewelry and hair scrunchies carpeted my desk. Stacks of books I never read or enjoyed littered my floor, old novelties from past events and birthdays.

One day, I felt my brain jump to overdrive while processing all the stuff in my room. I needed to think, and it wasn’t possible to do with all of the pictures and materials bombarding my vision, each vying for my attention.

At that moment, I thought of a white room. Four plain walls, completely empty. It brought me peace in my mind.

Sitting on my bed, I looked to my feet. I felt the urge to be closer to the floor, and I thought; why don’t I just take out my bed frame?

So I did. In my small 8-by-10 room, I moved my queen-sized wooden bed frame through the door and out into the yard.

Before I thought it through, I began taking out everything. I wasn’t satisfied until all of my stuff was gone, and as I moved things the sense of relief washed over me. Dressers, nightstands and drawers were all banished. Clothes, paints, sketchbooks and boxes of knick-knacks were thrown away or tossed into the attic.

Before I knew it I had scraped the entirety of my room out the door and when I was left in my room, with just my mattress, I cried.

Tears flowed slowly, and then full force. Not of regret, but relief. I was free to think in my own house again, free to confront whatever it was that was bothering me.

I sat on my bed, which was now a foot shorter than before, and I stared at the four blank wall as I sobbed. I breathed for a long time, and meditated.

The rest of that week, I would sit and breath in my room after school and think. For seven days of doing absolutely nothing but staring at walls, it is one of my most memorable moments. Through that whole week, I learned why I was sad and I was able to catch up on sleep and my work without being drawn to the things in my workspace.

Months later I realized my purging of possessions is actually a lifestyle: minimalism.

Driven by the strong minds of many individuals including Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus, known as the minimalists, the practice of living with a light load is a part of  popular culture all over the globe.

In Japan, the lifestyle is very popular and people empty their apartments to the bare essentials. Some influence comes from Steve Jobs, who once worked with nothing but a cup of tea, a light and stereo according to Reuters and Everyday Minimalist. Books such as The Life-Changing Magic of Cleaning Up by Marie Kondō describe how tidying up your house by categories and only choosing things that ‘spark joy’ should be kept.

Minimalism isn’t just the practice of living with less stuff. The concept extends to art and fashion as well as wardrobes and makeup. According to SpyreStudios, the minimalist design movement began picking up speed in the 1920s. It is believed that the condition of having fewer things brings more joy to one’s life. Simply, if something you own doesn’t make you happy, get rid of it.

The lifestyle has many other benefits that go unseen. A decrease in accessories means less spending, meaning you save money and materials.

The practice has also become popular among psychological studies as well. According to Psychology Today, the process of doing laundry, cleaning dishes and keeping a house clean, all add up to create mental exhaustion. The solution is simple: have less stuff, and you may begin to think clearly again.

In my room, I kept essentials such as empty sketchbooks and art supplies while I let go of old yet semi-important memorabilia, like notes from freshman year and outdated sketches. While it’s important to keep things that have sentimental meaning, creating an emotional attachment to a bobble head you think may or may not come in handy in the future is not worth the space.

Overall, I came from compressed in my room among my possessions to lighter than air. If you are in some turmoil in your life, wondering how to clear your mind, maybe it will do some good to get rid of a few things. I appreciated seeing more floor than furniture, and maybe you will too.

The Garlick Press: Teens must play too

O
ne of the best and worst parts about family vacation is seeing family members, especially younger relatives. As an older child, it is automatically your job to entertain the toddlers and leave the adults alone.

Even if you want to discuss the controversy of inauguration day and other political issues, you’re forced to build Lego battleships and draw in princess coloring books.

Sitting down with my younger relatives to play games they imagine can sometimes be draining, but over the holidays I realized the mindful benefits of play.

As I sat down to sketch another dragon for my cousin, I was transported into my artistic self. Coloring wings and a spiky tail, I realized how much time has been taken up with studying, AP and SAT classes and just hanging out with friends. Drawing became the freedom from my work, taking the chains of my current duties away.

In adolescence, younger children play to develop certain parts of their brain. Through play during adolescence, kids develop their cognitive learning, linguistics and social as well as emotional reactions to situations, according to PBSparents.

The benefits of coloring have been mass marketed to the public already, with millions of zen coloring books on the shelves of Michaels.

Coloring is a mindful activity, helping to heal and meditate through art therapy, a mental health profession that uses artwork as a tool to “explore feelings, reconcile emotional conflicts, foster self-awareness, manage behavior and addictions, develop social skills, improve reality orientation, reduce anxiety and increase self-esteem,” according to American Art Therapy Association.

TWO SIDES OF the mind must be exercised, though don’t let your creativity be neglected.

For those with anxiety, coloring provides a calming ritual and a sense of control over situations, helping the artist to ‘switch off’ the worries and allow creativity to flow. According to CNN, a study in 2005 found subjects coloring in Mandalas showed drops in anxiety levels, while doodling had very little effect.

Coloring isn’t the only form of play. Stretching beyond the mindful benefits are simple games that exercise people’s physicality.

According to Psych Central, playing can create deep connections between strangers as well as intimate relationships between couples. Look at prank videos on the internet, such as theCHAIZYchannel’s episode with strangers engaging in a water balloon fight. These people have never met before, and yet they instantly bond in a universal game of throwing water balloons at each other, smiling and connecting throughout.

Throwing water at strangers isn’t the only way older folks can indulge their inner child.

Not only does play naturally evoke joyful banter, but certain aspects of therapy also utilize this beneficial psychology. Play therapy, usually used with adults who’ve experienced trauma as children, consists of allowing adults to toy around with objects while talking with therapists. According to Charles E Shaefer, a recognized psychologist and author of Play Therapy with Adults, playing allows a more empathetic and intimate setting for adults to relieve troubles while working out past conflicts.

“Play is a wholistic experience in that it invites our total being into the process,” Schaefer  said in Play Therapy with Adults, describing how the physical actions of play connect the analytical and creative parts of our brains.

Many are probably thinking, where do video games and apps fit into this picture?

According to Psychology Today, playing video games develops spatial attention and vigilance. Games that tap into split-second decision making and move rapidly help build intelligence and reflexes.

All of this shouldn’t be surprising, though modern teens are being forced out of this important stage in life, as we’re thrown into responsibilities our parents didn’t have at our age.

 

It may seem ridiculous, but take the time to relax after a busy day of studying. Play fetch with your dog. Run outside with your younger cousins. If you’re alone, spend some time on the Xbox or playing with an app for a couple minutes.

As the holidays came to a close, I felt relaxed and ready for the pressures of the new year. I hugged my cousins goodbye, promising to play pretend with them when I returned. Heading back to the normal routine, I knew it would be just as important to color as it is to study hard.