Category Archives: Psychology

Red Bull- Energy, or Not

Sometimes exhausted from volleyball practice, I would go to the cafeteria to buy a gatorade as it claims to replenish energy. However, I never understand how the chemistry behind energy drinks work so I decided to focus on one of the most popular energy drink, Red Bull, “with sales in the region of 1 billion.” (Thomas, 2007) Through further investigation, Red Bull claims that “the unique combination of ingredients caffeine and taurine” (McKellar, 2013) improves one’s cognitive ability and muscular performance. This leads to my main question: How can the customer trust what Red Bull says? I am curious because there are many times where manufactures states things that are not always true.

In order to understand if Red Bull is making accurate claims, I investigated the chemistry and effect of the two main ingredients, caffeine and taurine.  Caffeine is one of the most widely used stimulants in the world. The structure of caffeine consists of heterocyclic rings, a tertiary amine group and two amide groups as shown in diagram 1. “Caffeine works by blocking the effects of adenosine, a brain chemical involved in sleep. It causes neurons in the brain to fire and the pituitary gland initiates the body’s response by releasing adrenaline.” (Watson) In AP Biology, I learned that adrenaline causes the liver to release more sugar than the body needs into the blood stream. The extra sugar in the blood stream then is converted to energy through cellular respiration.

cafmol

Diagram 1: Caffein Structure (itech,2008)

Understanding the effects of caffeine, I went on to research the chemistry and effect of taurine. Taurine is an amino acid, with an amino group(digram2), naturally found throughout the body. It is produced in the liver and the brain and taurine plays an important role in muscle contraction. “Taurine increase force generation by enhancing Sarcoplasmic Reticulum’s Ca2+ accumulation and release.” (Kim, 2003) I learned that in AP Biology, Ca2+ are intracellular signaling molecule for muscled contraction. This shows that an increase concentration in Ca2+ causes the muscles to contract more, therefore causing more movement of the body. Force generation is how much energy is generated in the body for the muscles to properly contract. Looking at the effect of taurine, it can be inferred that increasing the concentration of taurine in one’s body through Red Bull could possibly improve the bodies force generation. “However, no definite study exists on the absorption rate of taurine following dietary ingestion into muscle cells.” (Kim, 2003) “ The evidence for [taurine’s] implicated role is weak still; much more research needs to be done to fully understand taurine’s role.” (Batts, 2006)  According to Kim (2003), “an increase plasma level of taurine [concentration] from dietary concentration is unlikely to cause a sudden influx of taurine.”

Taurine

Diagram 2: Taurine Structure (chemistry, 2012)

Looking at these two main compounds in Red Bull, they seem to suggest that caffeine could perhaps be the sole ingredient responsible for the energetic effect of Red Bull. In a study, “Alford et al. compared the effects of Red Bull with carbonated mineral water as placebo-control and reported that the experimental group showed increase subjective alertness, concentration, and physical endurance. However, they also noted that the improvements in cognitive functions were similar to those observed in caffeine study.” (Kim, 2003) This experiments implies that while taurine has effects in the body, the main contributor to the responses from energy drinks is caffeine. In addition, there hasn’t been enough evidence to claim that taurine obtained from supplements can provided extra movement of the body.

In conclusion, base on the research of the two compounds, it shows that probably only caffeine is responsible for the effects of Red Bull stated by the manufacture. This means that the manufacture’s claim that there is a combination of ingredients to provide the effect is most likely false. Perhaps the manufacture’s purpose was to create placebo effect on the consumer. With the consumers knowing that there are “several” things contributing to the effect, they are prone to develop the chemical’s actual effect. This suggests that many products in the market are not as what the manufactures claim. While in this case the false information seems to do no harm, there could be potential danger to the consumers.

Bibliography

Batts, S. (2006, June 17). Pop Science: The Chemistry Behind Red Bull’s “Wings”. Retrospectacle: A Neuroscience Blog. Retrieved August 28, 2013, from scienceblogs.com/retrospectacle/2006/06/17/pop-science-the-chemisty-behin/

Caffeine Structure [Image]. (2008). Retrieved from http://itech.dickinson.edu/chemistry/?cat=92

Kim, W. (2003). Debunking the Effects of Taurine in Red Bull Energy Drink [eScholarship]. eScholarship | University of California. Retrieved August 28, 2013, from http://www.escholarship.org/uc/item/65k8r

McKellar, C. (2013, August 28). Red Bull Gives You Wings – RedBull.com. Red Bull Gives You Wings – RedBull.com. Retrieved August 28, 2013, from http://www.redbull.com/en

Taurine Structure [Image]. (2012) Retrieved from http://chemistry.about.com/od/factsstructures/ig/Chemical-Structures—T/Taurine.htm

Thomas, P. (2007, March 1). Behind the label: Red Bull – The Ecologist. Environment, Climate Change, News, Eco, Green, Energy – The Ecologist. Retrieved August 28, 2013, from http://www.theecologist.org/green_green_

Watson, S. (n.d.). HowStuffWorks “How do energy drinks work?”. HowStuffWorks “Science”. Retrieved August 28, 2013, from http://science.howstuffworks.com/innovation/edible-innovations/energy-drink.htm

Video Games, Are They Only Harmful?

As a kid, I have always been fascinated by video games and really enjoy playing them; however, my parents really opposes this type of things because they claim that video games can lead to addiction. Every time they see me play games, they would start to talk about how video games can lead to addiction which leads into many other harmful things in life such as academic failure. While this might be true, I know that many times what our parents claims are just false facts to scare us. As a result, I decided to do some research on video games’ actual effects on the body and whether or not they generate addiction

Addiction, the state of being enslaved to a habit or practice to such an extent that its cessation causes severe trauma (Addiction), is what all parents fear because of its effect on their children’s academics and social life. While addiction is regarded as something very harmful, the cause of addiction is actually due to a protein found naturally in the human brain.

In AP Biology, I learned about the formation of proteins in our bodies. Proteins are coded from things called amino acids which consists of a hydroxyl, carboxyl group and a R group to determine what kind of amino acid it is. These amino are then connected into a polypeptide chain that later folds into the shape needed for the proper function of the protein. The polypeptide chain would fold in a specific way to function as the neurotransmitter dopamine.

Dopamine is an important neurotransmitter found naturally in the brain. The chemical structure of dopamine is C8H11NO2 as seen in the picture 1 (Macalester College).

Picture 1: Chemical Structure of Dopamine (nuweb, 2013)

Dopamine synthesis begins when the amino acid tyrosine enters dopaminergic neurons. Inside the neuron, the enzyme tyrosine hydroxylase adds a hydroxyl group (OH)

Picture 2: Hydroxyl Group (world of biochemistry, 2013)

to tyrosine and it becomes 3,4-dihydroxyphenylalanine (DOPA). The final step in the creation of dopamine involves an enzyme called aromatic L-amino acid decarboxylase, which removes a carboxyl group (COOH) from DOPA. (Macalester College)

Picture 3: Carboxyl Group (Science, 2013)

In certain areas of the brain when dopamine is released gives one the feeling of pleasure or satisfaction. (Siddiqui) When people play video games, a certain amount of dopamine is released into the brain according the intensity and excitement of the player. According to Langlois (2011), an experiment that was done in 1998, by Koepp et al, monitored people’s dopamine levels, which then showed that the dopamine level increased by 100%. This number might look horrifying, but compared to other natural rewards like food and sex; the number is quite normal. Here is a diagram to illustrate it.

Picture 4: Dopamine Level (gamertheapist, 2013)

As seen in the picture 4, food creates 50% increase in dopamine and sex creates 100%. So why is video games opposed so much by parents but not sex and food. Perhaps parents’ oppositions to video games and not sex and food are because sex and food are necessary components for the survival of life. While all three of these things can lead to addiction, video games is not a necessity in life so being addicted to such does one no good. As a result, we don’t see parents complaining to their kids about how sex and food are harmful to their life.

People constantly have the urge to game because they long to feel the rush of euphoria caused by dopamine release. To satisfy that desire, people will repeat behaviors that cause the release of dopamine. (Siddiqui)

In conclusion, video games can have very harmful effect on the human body because addiction leads to other things such as academic failure. However, there are also benefits to gaming.  According to Anthes (2009) most games involve a huge number of mental tasks, and playing can boost any one of them. Complex, strategy-based games can improve cognitive skills, including working memory and reasoning. Richard Haier, a pediatric neurologist and professor emeritus at the School of Medicine at the University of California at Irvine, has shown in a study with his colleagues that after playing Tetris for three month, the brain efficiency of the experimental group increased dramatically relative to the control group. (Anthes, 2009)

For me, while video games are very attractive, I have found ways to regulate myself, preventing addiction. The main method I use is making a deal with myself. I would tell myself that I could do some work first and as a reward I get some playing time. This way, I won’t be neglecting work and I can satisfy my need to play.

Bibliography

Pictures:

Chemical Structure of Dopamine [Image]. (2013) Retrieved from http://nuweb.neu.edu/rmelloni/schwartzer.html

Hydroxyl Group [Image]. (2013) Retrieved from http://worldofbiochemistry.blogspot.com/2011/10/hydroxyl-group.html

Carboxyl Group [Image]. (2013) Retrieved from http://science.jrank.org/pages/1219/Carboxyl-Group.html

Dopamine Level [Image]. (2013) Retrieved from http://gamertherapist.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/dopameth.jpg

Websites:

Anthes, E. (2009, October 12). How video games are good for the brain – The Boston Globe. Boston.com – Boston, MA news, breaking news, sports, video. Retrieved January 27, 2013, from http://www.boston.com/news/health/articles/2009/10/12/how_video_games_are_good_for_the_brain/

Siddiqui, I. I. (n.d.). Dopamine and Addiction. Serendip Studio. Retrieved January 27, 2013, from http://serendip.brynmawr.edu/bb/neuro/neuro05/web1/isiddiqui.html

Langlois, M. L. (2011, November 8). Dopey About Dopamine: Video Games, Drugs, & Addiction. Gamer Therapist. Retrieved January 27, 2013, from http://gamertherapist.com/blog/2011/11/08/dopey-about-dopamine-video-games-drugs-addiction/

Macalester College, M. C. (n.d.). Dopamine. Macalester College: Private Liberal Arts College. Retrieved January 27, 2013, from http://www.macalester.edu/academics/psychology/whathap/ubnrp/mdma/dopamine.html

Macalester College, M. C. (n.d.). Biochemistry: Dopamine . Macalester College: Private Liberal Arts College. Retrieved January 27, 2013, from http://www.macalester.edu/psychology/whathap/UBNRP/meth08/biochemistry/dopamine.html

Addiction. (n.d.). Collins English Dictionary – Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition. Retrieved May 28, 2013, from Dictionary.com website:http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/addiction

Oxytocin – drug of morality?

A few days ago while surfing the web, I came across a very interesting episode of Ted Talks regarding the chemical hormone oxytocin and morality.

From biology class I knew that oxytocin is a chemical produced during sex, meant to stimulate emotional attachment and feelings of trust, and an important hormone produced by females during labor. However, I was not aware that there was a specific drug responsible for inducing “morality.” And so, I researched on.

Bottles of oxytocin, this molecule has a 3 minute half-life and is extremely hard to keep at room temperature.
Bottles of oxytocin, this molecule has a 3 minute half-life and is extremely hard to keep at room temperature.

Oxytocin is a hormone produced mainly in the hypothalamus of the brain. From there, it can be released via the pituitary gland into the bloodstream to the rest of the body or it can stay in the brain and spinal cord, binding to oxytocin receptors and thereby influencing emotions and actions.

The hypothalamus produces oxytocin and the pituitary gland distributes it to the rest of the body.
The hypothalamus produces oxytocin and the pituitary gland distributes it to the rest of the body.

According to philosopher and neuroscientist Patricia S. Churchland, “Oxytocin and its cousin-compounds ground the human capacity for empathy.” The research of Paul Zak, neuroeconomist, certainly seems to support this claim. Showing a video of a young cancer patient with his father to a sample population, he and his team then measured their blood and found large increases in oxytocin. Knowing this, they then pioneered a study where “morality” was quantified by the generosity of each subject to a complete stranger. Giving a test subject an certain amount of money, each were told that if they send some of it to another test subject, that amount would be automatically tripled in the holdings of the other person. When oxytocin was introduced nasally into the system of test subjects, Zak found them to be ­­­­ more likely to be willing to give their money away, and thus, his subjects became more trusting. The implication of oxytocin being able to promote empathy, trust, and altruism is that indeed, it should help individuals become more “moral.” As Paul Zak noted during his presentation, his study concluded that heightened levels of oxytocin in the system “caused people to be more generous when asked to share money; and even to donate more money to charity.” But to what extent can we really rely on this molecule to make us better human beings?

According to recent research conducted by Dr. De Dreu, a psychologist of the University of Amersterdam, limitations do exist for this hormone. Based on his social experiments where Dutch test subjects were given moral dilemmas to choose whether or not to throw someone with either a Dutch name or a typical Muslim name to divert the path of a train headed for five nameless victims, “subjects who had taken oxytocin were far more likely to sacrifice the Muhammads than the Maartens.” Dr. De Dreu concluded from his studies that while oxytocin may spur bonding, trust, and empathy between individuals, it is limited to only “in-group” – perhaps to family members, peers, or people of the same race/nationality.

On a macroscopic level, the discovery of the possible connection between this special molecule and morality implicates the reduction of poverty. In conjunction with its tendencies of promoting selflessness, “oxytocin physiologically rewards those who maintain good social bonds with feelings of well-being,” heightening a person’s sense of empathy, and therefore casting them into an ideal mindset to be philanthropists. Aside from financial good deeds, oxytocin may just be the drug of morality simply because producing it makes us feel great. Next time you’re feeling down, go on, and give someone a hug. As Paul Zak states at the end of his Ted Talk, “eight hugs a day, you’ll be happier, and the world will be a better place.”

Bibliography:

DeAngelis , Tori. “The two faces of oxytocin.” American Psychological Association: Monitor on Psychology. 39.Feb. 2008 (2008): 30. Web. 9 Nov. 2011. <http://www.apa.org/monitor/feb08/oxytocin.asp&xgt;.

Wade, Nicholas. “Depth of the Kindness Hormone Appears to Know Some Bounds.” New York Times . 10 Jan 2011: n. page. Web. 9 Nov. 2011. <http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/11/science/11hormone.html>.

“Paul Zak: Trust, morality — and oxytocin.” Infographic. TEDGlobal 2011. Paul Zak . New York City : TED CONFERENCES, LLC, 2011. Web. 9 Nov 2011. <http://www.ted.com/talks/paul_zak_trust_morality_and_oxytocin.html>.

Shea, Christopher . “Rule Breaker.” Chronicle of Higher Education . 12 Jun 2011: n. page. Web. 9 Nov. 2011. <http://chronicle.com/article/The-Biology-of-Ethics/127789/>.

The Wonder of Fireworks

Fireworks. Everyone has seen them and/or used them. More recently, during Chinese New Year break, I watched as people bought fireworks by the box-loads and set them off with the excitement of 6-year old boy playing with an action figure he got for his birthday. As the constant sound of fireworks continued for days, even on the last night before school as I was trying to sleep (and as I write this post), I wondered how do fireworks work and why do we get so excited by watching them?

The mechanism of aerial fireworks is much like that of a rocket. In its simplest form, it is made up of two stages. The first is the propulsion section that is filled with gunpowder with a small hole in the bottom, which when combusts, releases the products carbon dioxide and nitrogen gas out of the hole to send the firework high into the air (this is sometimes replaced with compressed air, for safety reasons). The second stage contains the bits that you see as clouds of color. A fuse leads into the section that ignites the black powder, exploding the container (which is what you hear), sending the “stars” containing the salts in all directions giving off the colors as they do so. This is where the chemistry comes in. The colors are produced when atoms in the metal salts absorb the energy of the explosion, exciting the electrons. The electrons move to a higher-energy state and as they return to a lower-energy state that is more stable, they emit the light that we see (as demonstrated by the Bohr model). The amount of energy released depends on the compound used, and this in turn determines the color of light emitted. The colors range from red at the least amount of energy emitted to purple at the other end of what is the visible light spectrum.

firework1

So, now that we know how they work, why the fascination? If we were to use logic and reason as a way of knowing in this situation, we would find that it is quite pointless wasting both time and money to light explosives just to see the pretty colors that they create. After all, it is just a bunch of heated salt flying through the air after the explosion of a rocket. However, it is the creative side in us that causes this wonder of fireworks. It is a combination of sense perception and emotion that lead us to watch these shows of explosive art. Yves Pépin, a fireworks artist, puts it this way: “I think one reason people continue to be fascinated with fireworks is that they remain incomprehensible, even though people know how they work. They are a chain of chemical reactions that begins with a spark on the ground and ends in flashes of light several hundred meters in the air. But there is something sufficiently nature-defying so that it remains magical.” Thus, we appreciate fireworks much in the same way as we do art. It is the irrationally in us, that makes us spend millions on satisfying something that logic and reason just cannot explain.

Fireworks_thumb_xPsE5g

Finally, what does this means for us IB Chem students? It means that the concepts that we are learning in class are not just to memorize and re-iterate for a good grade, but are actually used in real life in a very relatable way. As these fireworks displays continue for the next few days, until the people setting them off run out of money or the stores run out of fireworks (whichever comes first), we can look at these fireworks with the thought that we know the science behind them. Furthermore, this is an example of us asking why we do certain things and linking the science behind it. It is part of the quest to continually ask What? and Why?

Works Cited:

http://chemistry.about.com/od/howthingswork/a/fireworks.htm

http://chemistry.about.com/od/fireworkspyrotechnics/a/fireworkcolors.htm

http://scifun.chem.wisc.edu/chemweek/fireworks/fireworks.htm

http://www.time.com/time/europe/specials/ff/trip4/pepin.html

Fight or Flight?

People’s lives are never free from stress. After entering Junior year, I can safely say that every week has been filled with stress. Stress about lab reports, stress about tests, stress about grades and now. I’ve always wondered why stress is as terrible as it is. Anyone that has felt stressed would understand what I mean. When I’m stressed, I have trouble sleeping, eat a lot more than I should, and am in a terrible mood. So why does stress make us feel so terrible. It’s not bad to have a little pressure in life but I don’t want to be in a bad mood and snap at people. How wonderful would it be if our brains would just stop releasing epinephrine and norepinephrine and instead release dopamine, then everyone would be happy. So why does the brain release epinephrine and norepinephrine? The first step to answering this question is to examine the past.

The human body has a fight or flight response. This is the physical ability of to react of stress that evolved as a survival mechanism. When we are faced with a threat or a danger, our bodies release epinephrine and norepinephrine. These hormones elevate our heart rates and increase blood flow to our muscles, preparing our bodies to fight or flee. Envision this scenario: a person comes into contact with a situation that is perceived as a threat (maybe there’s a fire or it could even be physiological, like a test). The brain goes into it’s emergency state activating the sympathetic nervous system which releases epinephrine and norepinephrine and the parasympathetic nervous system which conserves energy by stopping growth. The base of the brain, the hypothalamus, emits the corticotropin releasing factor triggering the release of corticotropin, which in the bloodstream triggers the release of glucocortoids by the adrenal gland. This is the fight or flight response.

(Image from google)

In ancient times, when people were faced with predators, this fight or flight response determined their survival. However, in modern days, our stress often come from psychological factors such as taking a test or giving a speech.  These causes of stress have only risen in the past few centuries hence, our bodies have not had enough time to evolve biologically and find new ways to cope with stress. Thus, these physiological responses are completely useless to us.They don’t help us do better in our tests or give a better speech. In fact, they just make us feel even worse.

This makes me sad because it means that I shall have to live with the horrible side-effects that come with stress. I guess this fight or flight response is helpful when people are in physical danger, but in the world that we live in today, there aren’t as many physical dangers. However, there really isn’t a way to make changes to the stress coping mechanisms of our bodies. The only solution is to wait for our bodies to evolve and change itself and that is going to take a long time. So the best thing for us to do would be to suck it up and cope with it, which for me, would be retail therapy.

Bibliography:

Mitchell, Tamara. “Stress: Part I The physiology of stress.” n. pag. Web. 18 Nov 2010.

Renew – Stress on the Brain.” The Human Brain-Stress. The Franklin Institute, n.d. Web. 18 Nov 2010.

The Science of Stress.” Stress Physiology. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Nov 2010.

Norepinephrine.” ISCID Encyclopedia of Science and Philosophy . Web.

Definition of Epinephrine.” Epinephrine definition-Medical Dictionary definitions of popular medical terms easily defined on MedTerms. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Nov 2010.

The Pursuit of Happiness

“What do you want to be when you grow up?” This is perhaps the favorite question all my relatives prefer to ask me. My answer, ever since childhood, has never changed. I said I wanted to be happy. But as the years go by with increasing amounts of schoolwork, I cannot say that I’m well on my way to achieving this goal. To help myself on my way, I thought I’d do my first blog post on happiness…

To be happy, one must know what causes it. So what causes us to be happy? Luckily, studies in modern psychology have provided us with some startling but profound answers.

According to Time magazine, A study done by David T. Lykken tracking happiness levels of identical twins found that over 50% of happiness levels throughout life depend on your genes. Genes decide if you’re an extrovert or an introvert, a pessimist or an optimist, a glass half full or half empty person, and all this correlates very strongly with one’s satisfaction and happiness found in life.

Lykken
David T. Lykken (1928-2006) was world renowned phychologist and a pioneer of behavior genetics and psychophysiology.

So does this render all our after-birth efforts in searching for happiness futile?

The answer is unsettling. Contrary to popular belief, Lykken’s study shows that only 10 – 15% of happiness is linked directly to one’s wealth, possessions, socioeconomic status, and health. But how could this be? According to the research of as written about in Time magazine, Dr. Seligman, sources of happiness include three main categories: pleasure, engagement, and meaning. Material wealth and contingent circumstances fall into the first category of pleasure, which only accounts for a small part of our happiness. Ultimately it is in our relations and interactions with others, engagement, from which we are able to use our abilities to participate the macroscopic world that then gives us meaning that makes us truly satisfied individuals. In other words: we are most happy and satisfied with life if we can find a meaning…or purpose – if you will – to live for. This is often achieved by having a long term goal, or simply being in the pursuit of some aspiration or desire.

The remaining 40-35% from Lykken’s study of happiness factors is tied to one’s actions and reactions throughout life. It has to do with what a person chooses to do that could make them happier or more depressed than others. Highlighting this is the different types of ups and downs we all must go through, but the paradox here is that, depending on our genes, different types of individuals are better equipped to go through these ups and downs. Some, for example, may be better suited to dealing with stress, and others with death.

glass-is-half-full
Is the glass half empty or half full? Your answer may reflect more about your genes than your outlook...

So should the elusive enigma of happiness be a cause for alarm? Is our happiness levels forever bound by strands of DNA? No need to worry, there is ultimately one thing we can always count on for happiness. According to New York Times author Natalie Angier: Dopamine is a chemical neurotransmitter produced in the brain that acts like a “reward system” for our body. When this chemical is released, the paired dopamine receptors in our brain receives them and we experience pleasure (refer to picture 2 below). The pleasure we get from eating, shopping, sleeping, is the result of a release of dopamine.

dopamine
Where Dopamine is produced in the brain.

dopamineowrks

So next time you’re feeling down: eat a piece of chocolate or prepare to take a nap. Be warned though, dopamine levels have been shown to be higher when we anticipate to do a pleasurable thing, so chances are, opening the wrapper of that chocolate will make you happier than actually swallowing it.

To me, this knowledge about happiness is both disheartening and encouraging. On one hand, it is good to know that there are things (or chemicals) that we can always count on for a “rush” of happiness. And yet, I can’t help but be slightly disoriented after finding out that contingent surroundings (wealth, material things)only account for 10% of happiness, for this may just change my whole outlook on life. Instead of focusing my attention on my surroundings, I think from now on I will turn my attention to my inner self, and (though my genes may get in the way of this) focus on how to see that half empty glass as still half full.

These recent studies into happiness embody a new and exiting field in contemporary psychology, transforming this entire field’s focus away from psychological diseases and abnormalities of the human brain into areas more likely to benefit everyday humans, such as, according to the Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, how stress can reduce illness, and improvements which can be made to workplaces or schools to increase mental health. As Aristotle once said, “Happiness is the meaning and the purpose of life, the whole aim and end of human existence.” One can’t help but be excited as leading psychologists make breakthroughs that ultimately will help to make life more, for lack of a better word, happy.

—————————————

Wallis, Claudia. “The New Science of Happiness.” Time 09 Jan 2005: 1-4. Web. 1 Nov 2010. <http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1015902-3,00.html

Herper, Matthew. “Happiness Is Mostly Genetic .” Forbes Magazine 23 Apr 2009: 1. Web. 1 Nov 2010. <http://www.forbes.com/2004/09/23/cx_mh_0923happiness.html>.

Angier, Natalie. “A Molecule of Motivation, Dopamine Excels at Its Task .” New York Times 26 Oct 2009: 1. Web. 1 Nov 2010. <http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/27/science/27angier.html>

“psychology: Modern Psychology.” The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia. © 1994, 2000-2006, on Infoplease. © 2000–2007 Pearson Education, publishing as Infoplease. 18 Nov. 2010                                                                            <http://www.infoplease.com/ce6/sci/A0860568.html>.

Stressed Out?

It’s only been a week and a half of school since summer vacation and I’m already thinking about my plans for the next one. Honestly, I wouldn’t mind school and would gladly go if there were no homework, but we can’t always have what we want. In my case, it just amounts to a ton of stress.

One of the most common sources of stress is just that- school or work. The American Institute of Stress has even gone so far as to coin the term “job stress“. According to AIS, statistics on job stress can be manipulated to make a certain job seem more difficult than another or to get more benefits for employees; but in general, it’s safe to classify jobs as a major source of stress. Other sources of stress can have a more direct impact younger generations as well, through social factors (peer pressure, substance abuse, family issues, etc.).

The problem with stress is that it’s not the same for everyone. It’s one of those things that vary in degree from person to person. The inability to measure stress then becomes totally subjective, which comes with its own set of implications.

 

 

The way I see it, people can deal with stress in four ways. First, there are the people who abuse their right to stress, or in other words exaggerate or feign stress as an excuse to slack off. Then there are the people that don’t even know they’re victims of stress and fail to recognize its symptoms (here’s a link for a neat chart on the effects of stress). Worse yet are the people who notice their stress but do nothing to minimize it. And finally, there’s the lucky bunch of people that somehow find a way to manage it all.  

For those of us who still wonder why we’re stuck in the second category and not the fourth, there’s still some hope. The immeasurable quality of stress not only makes it hard to identify, but also hard to treat on a large scale, where it’s hard to find something that works for everyone. But why not just beat stress on a personal level? For example, some stress treatments include “yoga”, “physical activity”, and “meditation”, all of which can help people disconnect from everything else and just be alone with themselves. The trick is in finding which activity helps an individual relax, and generally it’s the techniques that allow the person to forget about their “stressor“, without creating another, that work.