Coping with Loneliness

Hey guys, it’s Omer again. For this week’s blog post, I’m going to be focusing on the topic of loneliness and its adverse effects on mental health among college kids.

In a 2017 survey of about 48,000 college students, 64% reported that they felt “very lonely” within the past 12 months, and only 19% reported that they never felt lonely. Clearly, this issue is very prevalent for college students.

Research has found that loneliness is associated with increased risk of depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, sleep problems, and increased stress.

While finding a solution to this problem is not very simple and will certainly not end all feelings of loneliness, there are certainly steps students at Ohio State can take to relieve some of these sentiments.

If it is a nice day and you happen to feel lonely, grab your hammock and go outside! Usually there are many other kids doing the same thing, so it’s certainly a great way to meet friends. Some of my favorite places to go hammocking around campus include the trees by Morrill, Mirror Lake, and right by the Olentangy River.

OSU has so many events and ways to meet people, so take advantage of your resources! Dorms hold events in their study spaces around two times a month, so make sure to be on the look out for these! There are also so many other clubs to join and religious organizations, including Chabbad and Hillel for Jewish students (Chabad has Shabbat dinner every single Friday).

Another way to combat loneliness if the situation gets very dire is to find someone you trust and connect with them, possibly talking about how you feel or even just spending time with them. For those living in the dorms, this could be your RA or Hall director. Additionally, OSU offers drop in appointments with the Counseling and Consultation Services, where you can talk with a counselor for 15 minutes in confidentiality about the problems or loneliness you may be facing.

Loneliness is a feeling that I am sure many of us have felt on occasion. The most important thing to remember when these thoughts and feelings begin is that you truly are not alone, that there are so many people around you willing to support and help you. Taking advantage of the many resources Ohio State provides is certainly a way to combat loneliness, and will only serve as a basis for feeling better and supported by those around you!



How Reading Can Improve Your Mental Health

Hey guys, it’s Omer again! For this week’s blog post, I’m going to be talking about the importance of reading. Reading can greatly improve your stress and anxiety levels as well as your mental health. In the eighteenth century, essayists Joseph Addison and Sir Richard Steele wrote that “reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body.” This is certainly as true today as it was back then.

Reading consistently, specifically fiction books, engages the mind and imagination, reducing stress in the process. In a study conducted at the University of Sussex, individuals who read for merely six minutes a day exhibited slower heart rates, less muscle tension, and reduced stress levels. Dr. David Lewis, the doctor who ran this study, pointed to the altered state of consciousness in which participants entered when reading, which allowed their imaginations to be engaged. In this sense, reading can serve almost as a source of distraction for those suffering from mental health and stress problems, shifting their focus to things other than what is currently bothering them.

In addition to this, reading has several long-term mental benefits. A study found a positive association between cognitive based activities such as reading and a decreased chance of developing Alzheimer’s disease as well as good brain health at an old age.

At Ohio State, there are several resources available that can allow students to grab a good book and unwind for a portion of their day. Many do not know this, but the university has 10 different libraries! Aside from the two main libraries in Thompson and 18th Avenue, there are several others which specialize in specific topics, such as Biological Sciences, Geology, and even Cartoons!

My personal favorite is the Architecture library, located at Knowlton Hall on North Campus, across from Fisher. The building itself is very cool and unique with its high-rise ceilings, and even has a café inside! It is the perfect place on campus to unwind, relieve stress, and grab a bite to eat.



Mindfulness Walks

Mindfulness Walks

Hello everyone,

My name is April Calish and I am one of the new volunteers at the SMART Lab! For this post, I’d like to introduce you to mindful walking meditation.
The SMART Lab focuses on how implementing mindfulness techniques can help reduce stress while increasing your wellness and overall health. Mindfulness can be incorporated into many different aspects of your life and one effective activity is mindful walking meditation breaks during the day.
Mindful walking is the act of using mindfulness techniques while on a walk so as to engage your body both physically and mentally. This walk is not about the destination but about the journey and should not be completed with a goal in mind. Mindful walking can be done anywhere but you should only ever take walks where you feel comfortable and safe in your
environment. As you walk, start slower than you would typically pace yourself and pay attention to the sensations in your body. How does the air feel? How does the ground beneath your feet feel? You should be paying attention to how your muscles are engaging with the rest of your
body on your walk. As you get more accustomed to listening to your body on your walk, shift your attention to the surrounding environment. Don’t look at your environment from a practical view but from a reflective and curious view. Pay attention to your breathing and try to stay in the moment to the best of your ability.
Mindful walking has many health benefits to your physical body as well as your mood. Walking is a recommended daily activity by the World Health Organization for its benefits to your cardiovascular health among other things. When combined with mindfulness, walking can improve your mood, reduce your stress, and reduce depression.
-April Calish

Here are two links if you would like to know more about mindful walking:

Eat Right to Manage Stress

Hey guys, my name is Omer Sarig and I’m a sophomore from Cleveland, Ohio. I am one of the new blog writers for the SMART LAB website!

With midterms coming up, this point of the semester is usually a very stressful one for many students, especially for those involved in outside extra-curriculars or athletics. With that in mind, it is very understandable that students are very busy throughout the day, and may not devote their time to ensuring they are eating a healthy diet. However, senior research scientist Matthew Kuchan claims that “eating a healthy diet can reduce the negative effects of stress on your body. Stress negatively affects blood pressure and blood flow, and nutrients from healthy foods can help improve blood flow in the body.” For undergraduate students on a meal plan, Ohio State provides many healthy options that students can easily choose from to improve their diets and in turn, their mental health as well.

Some of the nutrients that Kuchan mentions include Omega-3s, vitamin E and polyphenols. One of the highest sources of Omega-3 is in fact Salmon. The home classics station of Scott provides Salmon very frequently, so make sure to grab a piece next time you’re there! Supplementing it with some broccoli and roasted vegetables certainly couldn’t hurt either.

In terms of Vitamin E, you’re going to want to visit the salad bar offered at any of the Traditions locations as well Curl Market and make sure to add red bell pepper and spinach to your salad. Trying to eat a salad at least three times a week is a great place to start.

For polyphenols, the greatest source is going to come from fruits such as blueberries, strawberries, and apples. These can be found at almost all the dining locations on campus.

In general, focusing on maintaining a healthy diet by trying to stay away from greasy, fatty foods such as French fries or chicken tenders and replacing it with fruits and vegetables will lead to better physical and mental health. Keeping in mind the specific foods I have mentioned will certainly help overcome those stressful periods.





Tips on Managing Stress

Hello all.

As you are already aware, classes are in session! Some of us have already taken midterms, and for others, exams are knocking at the door. It is always a good idea to take a step back, relax, and try to focus on your mental health. A good way to improve your overall health is by managing your stress to the best of your ability. Before I give some stress management tips, it needs to be stated that stress is not always a bad thing! Stress can be beneficial in many instances, however, stress becomes harmful when it consumes the self, but don’t worry, there are ways to mitigate the burden of stress-overload!

Before you can combat stressors, you must be able to recognize stress! In an article from the Harvard Health Letter, published by the Harvard Medical School, recognizing stress involves understanding that it displays itself in the following forms:

Symptoms of stress can take many forms. Stress may cause physical complaints, such as tension headaches, back pain, indigestion, or heart palpitations. It may appear as cognitive problems, such as poor concentration and indecisiveness. Emotional symptoms of stress include crying, irritability, and edginess. And stress can also show up as negative behaviors.

Once you are aware that your body is under too much stress, it is always a good idea to stop for a second, and just take in a few deep breaths. Deep breathing is one of the most effective ways to quickly calm down the body! The Harvard Medical School has the following to say regarding stress management:

The first step toward reducing stress is learning what your triggers are. “If you know what pushes your buttons, then avoid it. But there are stresses we have to accept, so we must change our reactions to them,” explains Dr. Webster. She offers the following ways to reduce or manage stress:

  • Relaxation techniques.These are activities that trigger the relaxation response, a physiological change that can help lower your blood pressure, heart rate, breathing rate, oxygen consumption, and stress hormones. You can achieve this with activities such as meditation, guided imagery, yoga, and deep breathing exercises.
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).CBT is based on the idea that changing unhealthy thinking can change your emotions.
  • Goal setting.“When people set goals for themselves, they have a positive sense of commitment, feel they’re in control, and are optimistic,” says Dr. Webster. She recommends setting goals in your career, relationships, creativity, play, and health.

Hopefully this has been a beneficial read! Everyone is capable of controlling the stress that life brings upon us, and if you need help in order to do so, that is perfectly okay! There are countless resources at The Ohio State University that are designed to help students manage their lives, and we at the SMART Lab are always willing to help you understand your stress and give feedback on stress management skills! Stop in and see us soon!



Harvard Health Publishing. “Best Ways to Manage Stress.” Harvard Health,


Building A Better You

Hello all,

Finals week is almost here, and that means we will all soon be consumed in our studies. Before we all become distracted by the impending time that will be spent in the library or wherever you find comfort while studying, I wanted to take this time to share a few tips that may help mitigate the effects that stress can have on your mental health. As I have previously stated, we will soon be distracted by the tasks that are in need of our attention, but it is worthwhile to set these distractions aside from time to time and focus on yourself. I want to share an excerpt from the Little Book of Mindfulness by Matt Valentine; it is a lighthearted approach to discussing our daily distractions and how to manage them. I found this to be extremely relevant to the lives that we live today. We are constantly distracted by our phones, social media, and technology in general, and I believe this can be a helpful resource for anyone who is finding themselves constantly distracted. Enjoy!



Finding Peace in the Age of Distraction

          Distraction is a force which takes our already dispersed
attention and splits it into a million different strings. It brings our
monkey mind to a whole new level. This was already touched on
in the section on “Stopping”, but our modern world warrants extra
focus on this particular point. If it wasn’t enough that our minds
are already naturally inclined to this semi-conscious and stress
induced state, the modern era has brought us many of the worst
sources for distraction all within a matter of decades.
These distractions, which are the substance of our monkey
mind, are always within arm’s reach in our modern world.
Smartphones are in our pockets, desktops are at our place of work,
and TVs are in our homes. It’s so easy to distract ourselves from
reality. But if we can bring our attention back to the present
moment with mindfulness we have the ability to attain both a
tranquil mind and clear vision.

          This is the reason mindfulness is so attractive to us. Our
modern world is plugged in 24/7 and it’s difficult to get away from
these distractions even if you make an effort. More than ever it’s
so easy to live in a mindless and disconnected state of being. Most
of us are rarely fully present. We live in a state of perpetual
distraction. We live the majority of our lives in one place while
thinking of another. We’re at work but we’re thinking about what
to make for dinner tonight at home. We’re at home thinking about
that project we have to finish at work. We’re enjoying eating out
with our family but we’re really inside of our heads, stressing
about the bills we have to pay next month. We all think this is
normal. That it’s OK. But it’s not. This mind dispersion is the cause
of much of our suffering and discontent.

          After a tough day, one where you’ve been rushing around
constantly and inevitably forgotten to take time for yourself, your
mind will naturally be more active. If you sit down to meditate
during this time you’ll see that your mind is literally like a
firecracker. It will be very difficult to keep the mind in one place
for more than a few seconds. In this situation the mind will often
be distracted over nothing special. It’s still racing because it’s
conditioned to you racing around, not because there’s anything
particular going on in your consciousness. Mindfulness of these
distractions won’t lead to any great liberation. This is simply a sign
that you need to slow things down. If your life continues as is, it
will be very difficult to attain complete rest and fully quiet the
mind. And if you can’t calm the mind you certainly won’t be able
to get to the point where you can start gaining clarity of mind. Of
course, that’s part of the point of mindfulness. In the beginning,
in order for you to practice mindfulness of anything you’ll have to
do it very slowly. If you’re constantly rushing around, your
mindfulness practice won’t be authentic. You’ll be telling yourself
that you’re practicing mindfulness but you won’t actually be

         Computers, smartphones, and TVs aren’t the enemy. But you
do need to be careful not to go overboard. By shining the light of
mindfulness on your life you’ll be able to see clearly the effect
these things have on your mind and body and be able to make the
right decision for your well-being and the well-being of your loved

          It’s important to establish mindfulness as a way of life as
opposed to simply “something you do sometimes”. By making
mindfulness a way of life you’ll begin to notice how these things
distract you and pull you away from the real beauty of life. You’ll
naturally begin to distance yourself from these devices a bit. A
busy mind is only natural and the modern age has made our minds
more chaotic than ever. But by developing the practice of
mindfulness in your daily life you have the ability to stop, calm,
fully rest, and heal the mind and body which will provide a
renewable source of peace and joy in your everyday life.




Valentine, Matt. The Little Book of Mindfulness. 2014.

Managing Finals Week Like a Pro

Good morning all,

With finals week right around the corner, there is one sensation that we will all share in common these next few weeks: stress, and a lot of it! Many think of stress as a bad thing, but it doesn’t have to be. Below are some helpful videos on how to manage stress. Hopefully this helps relieve any fears or anxieties that finals week brings out! Make sure to take some time to focus on mental health because your sanity is just as important as the grade! And remember, the SMART Lab is available to any and all students who are in need of stress counseling.


Managing Stress – Brainsmart – BBC

This is a short, BBC cartoon video that gives tips on keeping your cool when you feel stressed.

How to Make Stress Your Friend | Kelly McGonigal

This TED Talk with Kelly McGonigal, a health psychologist at Stanford, takes an optimistic approach on the views of stress and stress management. I really encourage this video to everyone, especially those who find themselves stressed about getting stressed!

Post-Spring Break Stress? Not Anymore!

Hello all,

Now that Spring Break is over, and we are all trying to get back into the habit of taking care of our studies, it is important we remember to take care of our mental health. Here is a mindful practice that can be done during the morning to help you mitigate your daily stressors. I encourage everyone to give this a try as it can be very beneficial to be mindful and also it helps to wake you up in the morning, maybe even more than a cup of coffee!

Awaken Your Breath:

This is a helpful morning routine that will help relieve stress by breathing more fully and will enable oneself to be more confident in handling the day’s tasks.

  • Start by standing in mountain pose (see figure 1 below) with feet at hips-width apart and hands at your side with your palms facing outward.
  • Inhale and slowly lift your arms in a sweeping motion until your hands are overhead with your palms touching.
  • Exhale slowly while simultaneously lowering your arms back down to your side, palms still facing outward.
  • Repeat these steps 5-8 times (or as desired)


                                     Figure 1.


Hi, I’m Conner, your new SMART Lab blogger

Hello all,

My name is Conner Clark. You’ll be seeing blog posts from me in the near future. I am hoping to share helpful information on stress management. But first, I want to share a little bit about myself. I am a current sophomore at the Fisher College of Business, majoring in Accounting with a minor in Business Spanish. My hobbies include weightlifting, running, and socializing with my friends. Just like you, I struggle with the stress brought on by my classes, but I have found ways to manage these stressors, and I would like to share the ways that I find to be most useful. Typically when I am stressed, I find it most relaxing to lie in my bed with music playing and just focus on my breathing. After a few minutes I usually notice that i have become more relaxed. I have also found that writing down my thoughts at that current moment help out immensely with reducing my stress levels. Aside from a basic introduction of who I am, I want to give a general overview of my initial experience with the SMART Lab. Clearly, I had a great experience as I am now dedicating time to help others maintain healthy lifestyles. Here is my experience:

Before my visit to the SMART Lab, I had little to no experience with stress management. I understood that there were benefits to be gained from mindful practices and stress management, but I had no idea where to start. I felt as if there was no point in seeking information because I was rather busy with my studies, and I felt as if I had no time to focus on myself and my struggles to regulate my stress levels.

One day, Dr. Paul Granello decided to send my STEP group, a cohort designed to enhance the second year experience at The Ohio State University, to go visit the SMART Lab. I was amazed by how easy and fast the process was. The basic procedure that I went through involved sitting at a computer and carrying out simple breathing practices by following along with the prompt on the computer. After focusing on breathing for a few minutes, one of the workers in the SMART Lab came over and discussed my results, giving constructive tips on what I could do to improve my overall heart rate. My experience at the SMART Lab that day was eye-opening. The thirty minutes that I spent in the lab had me thinking about how important taking care of my mental health truly is. Who knew such a short period of time could yield such helpful results? I began to seek out new techniques to reduce and manage my stress levels, including new ways to find happiness. This journey brought me back to the SMART Lab with the hopes of giving back.

The staff in the SMART Lab is very welcoming and informative, and I recommend giving the SMART Lab a try; see what it has to offer for you. It truly was an amazing experience because it has allowed me to open up to myself and become more self-understanding and figure out exactly what I need to do to maintain a healthy lifestyle. I would suggest that if you are struggling with the stressors of daily life, no matter what the issue, come visit the SMART Lab and give it a try. You won’t regret it, I promise!

I appreciate you taking the time to get to know a little bit about me, and I look forward to sharing useful information in the time to come!


Conner Clark