Category Archives: College

The Mental Health Diaries- Challenging Negative Thinking

Negative thinking is common to all of us be it at a certain point in our lives or characteristic of a particular mental illness such as an anxiety disorder and depression. It’s important to identify your negative thoughts and challenge them before they impact your life. While at my internship, I was reading about different questions we can use to counteract these negative thoughts and here they are some:

challenging negative thoughts 1challenging negative thoughts 2 challenging negative thoughts 3


Backgrounds: Tumblr and Google Images 

Questions: Edited by me 🙂

Personality Type

So I found these quizzes and decided to pass the time by taking them and here are the results. They clash quite a bit, one saying I’m a people person, the other saying I’m not but then again, it’s not like they’re all reliable. Go ahead and try them for fun though!

Zodiac Sign: Aries | Taurus | Gemini | Cancer | Leo | Virgo | Libra | Scorpio |Sagittarius | Capricorn | Aquarius | Pisces |


Four Temperaments: Sanguine | Melancholic | Choleric | Phlegmatic

Celtic Zodiac: Birch (The Achiever) | Rowan (The Thinker) | Ash (The Enchanter) | Alder (The Trailblazer) | Willow (The Observer) | Hawthorne (The Illusionist) | Oak (The Stabilizer) | Holly (The Ruler) | Hazel (The Knower) | Vine (The Equalizer) | Ivy (The Survivor) | Reed (The Inquisitor) |Elder (The Seeker) |

Soul Type (one test): Hunter | Caregiver | Creator | Thinker | Helper | Educator | Performer |Leader | Spiritualist |

Hogwarts House: Gryffindor | Hufflepuff | Ravenclaw | Slytherin |

Dark Triad: Psychopathy | Machiavellianism | Narcissism |

The Animal in You: Lion | Tiger | Dolphin | Bear | Wild Cat | Fox | Weasel | Badger | Dog | Otter | Wolf | Sea Lion | Wild Dog | Walrus | Gorilla | Deer | Rhinoceros | Hippo | Sable | Horse | Sheep | Mountain Goat | Warthog | Zebra | Baboon | Elephant | Bison | Giraffe | Cottontail | Mole | Bat | Porcupine | Beaver | Prairie Dog | Shrew | Mouse | Eagle | Rooster |Owl | Swan | Peacock | Vulture | Penguin | Crocodile | Snake |

Life Path Number: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 11 | 22 |

Rosenberg Self Esteem Scale: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18 | 19 | 20 | 21 | 22 | 23 | 24 | 25 | 26 | 27 | 28 | 29 | 30 |

Brain Lateralization Test: Left | Right | Middle (Tie)

Thanks to Disconnected Wifi, Unseen Positive Life Forces and Others

Are there times when you think you’re going to tank something and against all the odds, you actually do well?  I have and it still makes me unbelievably happy and a bit scared all at once.

The gist is that I want to be a psychologist except my universty doesn’t offer majors and minors. Instead, they offer a three year triple major undergraduate program and mine was in Communications and Media, English Literature and Psychology. I despise studying literature, although I’m more than happy enough to appreciate the prose and poetry and media wasn’t for me. I’d always known that psychology was what I really wanted.

In the third and final year, we have an option to apply for Psychology Honours, a more intensive psychology course involving a research dissertations and almost eight subjects of psych per semester. Ever since joining university I was very determined to take it and finally when the time came to apply, I did. All the forms were handed in and I just had to wait for the announcement of the interview date.

Only I had no idea that the one time I don’t attend a seminar because I’m sick, is the time they choose to announce that interviews would be held the next morning. So there I am, walking towards class the next day, unaware that my first hour had been cancelled until I called a friend asking where she was. My wifi had been down and I hadn’t yet got a data connection pack on my phone so I couldn’t access Whatsapp. It turned out to be a god send.

If I hadn’t known about my morning class being cancelled, I would never have gotten out of bed and gone to uni only to overhear some classmates of mine discussing something about honours interviews. On asking them about it, I got the shock of my life when they told me they were going on right then. Then I began quite the marathon. First running to the psych department but before reaching it, I saw a friend who told me which building the interviews were being held, then to the buidling main desk where they told me to print out a hall ticket which had me utterly puzzled because I’d already submitted all the paperwork. Nonetheless I went down to see if there was a hall ticket online but there wasn’t. Realizing this had wasted even more time in my quest to find the right room, I raced off again to the psych department and nearly fell through the doors, gasping, “Is there a hall ticket for the interviews?”

Some teachers said no and kindly told me that the interview schedule was posted on the bulletin board and to just stay calm ( I must have looked really wired). If only I’d checked that in the first place, right? Anyways, it said that my interview was slotted for the next half hour. Phew.

I finally made it in time to the room where everyone else was waiting and they handed me my application so I could go through my statement of purpose. I’d written it a while ago so I may have forgotten what it said. Yet, I was as glum as glum could be. I had not prepared at all and felt like the race was lost before it had even began. I was so sure that I wouldn’t get in. I’m always nervous about interviews because the ones I’ve had were with terrible interviewers. (Stress interviews really suck, I cannot emphasize that enough.)

Thankfully, this time my interviewers were really nice. I answered every single question to their satisfaction and they were interested in my research ideas which bolstered me to keep talking about it. By the end, it felt more like a conversation and I walked out unable to stop myself from grinning ear to ear. I thought that must have been the happiest I’d ever been.

I was wrong. It was even better to see my name on the list of accepted honours students.

I always curse my luck but as it turns out, it really comes through when I need it the most. Thanks to that, my terrible wifi connection, the classmate I’d overheard, my very lovely interviewers and any unseen positive forces in my life, I’m starting my first day of psych honours tomorrow.

(I’m scared about it, but then again isn’t everyone when starting something completely new?)

The Mental Health Diaries- Natural Treatment

Interning over the summer at a neuropsychiatric hospital was an eye-opening experience but there was one thing I found disappointing and that’s the fact that doctors jump right to prescription drugs as a treatment plan for mental illnesses where therapy is more important or just as important for mental illness or addiction. An ADS (Alcohol Dependence Syndrome) patient had been prescribed medication when he drinks excessively and therapy wasn’t even considered.

Therapy and natural treatments such as changes in lifestyle and diet can be very helpful alongside medication and should not be written off. All of this inspired me to draw some sketches of natural treatment methods for some of the common cases I encountered at the hospital, namely depression and anxiety( not the disorder).

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I was glad at the opportunity to combine my love for drawing with my interest in psychology and I hope those in need find these useful. I guarantee I did my research before making these.




Hope everyone stays healthy and happy 🙂

Getting Lost in Reading and Writing

We’ve all read at least one book that makes us marvel at how writing can be so influential. I’ve often wondered how we can be so emotionally invested in nothing but words printed on crisp paper and then came across an interesting explanation of why we get lost in a book. At Free University of Berlin, a study of brain reactions to certain passages in the Harry Potter books was conducted to see if certain types of excerpts facilitated the immersive experience more than others . Out of this study, the fiction feeling hypothesis was born.

According to the fiction feeling hypothesis, narratives with emotional contents invite readers more to be empathic with the protagonists and thus engage the affective empathy network of the brain, the anterior insula and mid-cingulate cortex, than do stories with neutral contents.

Emotionally charged passages in books makes us readers empathetic with the characters and this brain engagement leads to the feeling of getting lost in a book. So if the passage is fear-inducing, we feel dread. It’s all about which neural pathways are activated while reading. This paints an interesting image in my mind, just thinking of brain scans lighting up in certain regions when reading different passages of books like a colourful kaleidoscope. It’s fascinating.

But then what about getting lost in the writing part of it?

I’d read something last semester that took a look at this. Freud attempts to answer this question in his essay, ‘Creative Writing and Day-dreaming”. He sought to understand where creative writers draw from while writing and how they are able to invoke in readers emotions they never thought they could have. In his quest for an answer, he likens the creative writing process to day-dreaming and child’s play. A child takes elements from the real world and builds his or her own, rearranging until he or she’s pleased and does so with a great deal of seriousness and emotional expenditure, all the while able to distinguish it from reality. Similarly, as we grow older, this pleasure derived from child’s play is found in its more mature substitute: day dreaming which can be immersive in its own right.

According to Freud, the hero of the story is a written manifestation of our ego or basically that the writer is in fact the hero, making most works autobiographical. Although I’m sceptical that this can be applied to every author, The Bell Jar is certainly a good example of this, with Syvia Plath and her protagonist Esther mirroring one another. Her semi-autobiographical book could have been a form of confessional, therapeutic writing, narrating her own descent into depression through a fictional counterpart. Not only does Freud say that the writer identifies with the hero, but readers do as well. I suppose that’s why reading this book can be quite intense.

So literature can be therapeutic for both writers and readers. It’s a space where we can fulfill wishes, live through danger vicariously and live out our potential problems. It’s a fantastic channel to release pent-up tension without negative repercussions and that’s what makes it so appealing to everyone. Expressive writing is an effective therapy technique for this very reason.

Another point Freud goes on to make is that in the case of the modern writer, the hero/ego is often fragmented into many parts, split off into several characters. It’s as if writers can pocket parts of themselves, positive and negative traits, in a wide range of characters. I think we can see this in the case of Game of Thrones (I’ve always thought GoT is Freudian what with all the emphasis on sex and violence in the series). George R.R Martin himself said that he identifies with all his characters, even the nasty ones we can’t fathom loving or even liking.

“When I get inside their skin and look out through their eyes, I have to feel a certain – if not sympathy, certainly empathy for them. I have to try to perceive the world as they do, and that creates a certain amount of affection. That being said, my favourite character is definitely Tyrion. He’s the one who I most enjoy writing. But I identify with all of them.” – George R. R Martin

While Freud may be far-fetched in some of his theories, I think these points have a certain truth to them. The essay is also worth a read, if you’re a little curious of what the father of psychology thought about creative writing.

Social Psychology is Everywhere

We know a lot of things about people around us but what exactly makes them tick? That’s what psychology is all about and social psychology in particular is everywhere. It’s in the books we read, the movies and TV shows we watch and the social interactions in our daily lives. It’s funny how after studying the subject for an entire semester, you know the reasons for a lot of common phenomena. So much of what we learned in class was actually something we already knew, just unaware of what it was in psychological terms.

And I just had to connect it to TV shows and books!


Some of us do things for rewards like money, status and grades and they’re extrinsically motivated. On the other side of the coin, are people who do things for personal satisfaction without expecting rewards of any kind and these people are intrinsically motivated. Research has shown that intrinsic motivation diminishes for activities that become associated with an extrinsic reward. That’s called over-justification.
If you’re a Game of Thrones fan, you’ll remember Jack Gleeson who played Joffrey Baratheon. Well, he said that he wanted to quit acting because it became more of a job and less fun. So once his acting was associated with pay checks and fame, his love for acting diminished making play feel like work. That’s how his acting became over-justified.
Fundamental Attribution Error
This is the tendency to focus on the role of personal causes and underestimate the impact of the situation on someone’s behaviour. This is why we make the mistake of assuming that an actor in real life is the character he or she plays on TV. We think Jennifer Aniston is Rachel Green, Jim Parsons is Sheldon and so on.
Aaron Paul who played meth addict Jesse Pinkman on Breaking Bad once said in an interview that he’s had fans come up to him asking for some ‘crystal’ and that they genuinely believed that he was a drug addict in real life. He had to clarify that he is the exact opposite of Jesse in that regard. So you see, people didn’t take into account that he is an actor hired and paid to play a character on a TV show and they jumped to the conclusion that he is Jesse.
Beauty Bias
It’s been found that there are benefits to being with beautiful people. Average looking people can benefit from being seen with a physically attractive group, by rule of assimilation. People viewing this group would perceive the average looking person to be more attractive.
Does this ring any bells? It’s quite similar to Barney Stinson’s Cheerleader effect! As a group, people look more attractive because their features average out but on looking at each individual you’ll find it’s not quite so.
Psychological Reactance
When a freedom you enjoy be it in terms of thoughts, actions and feelings is threatened, it seems even more appealing and you try harder to reinstate it.
Remember Joey and his determination to sleep with ‘the hot nanny’? The fact that Ross and Chandler kept stopping him from hooking up with her made the idea of the hot nanny even more attractive.

Childhood amnesia

Ever wonder why you can’t remember anything from your early childhood, like it was some blur in time and then everything became clearer a little later? It’s called childhood amnesia. It is not possible for your autobiographical memory to recollect anything before the age of 3-4.

In a book called The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time, the protagonist mentions this clearly:

“Except I can’t remember anything before I was about 4 because I wasn’t looking at things in the right way before then, so they didn’t get recorded properly.” – Christopher Boone
*All pictures courtesy of Google

Autism in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time

According to Sir Philip Sydney, art serves the dual purpose of instruction and pleasure so learning from films and books can be just as useful, even if they are fictional work. So instead of just studying a textbook to learn about autism, you could watch Rain Man.

As for books I’d recommend The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time. Mark Haddon wrote this book from the perspective of a fifteen year old autistic child named Christopher Boone yet never makes any direct references to autism itself. Instead, chapter by chapter, he incorporates various symptoms and indications of autism to give the readers a more investing  first person narrative. It’s a very interesting book for this very reason.

Here are some of  Christopher’s symptoms in the book:

Unable to pick up social cues or understand nonverbal communication:
I find people confusing. This is for two main reasons. The first reason is that people do a lot of talking without using any words. Siobhan says that if you raise one eyebrow it can mean lots of different things. It can mean ‘I want to do sex with you’ and it can also mean ‘I think that what you just said was very stupid.’
Difficulty understanding other’s emotions: Christopher can’t interpret others emotions nor label various pictures like these:
I got Siobhan to draw lots of these faces and then write down next to them what exactly they meant. I kept the piece of paper in my pocket and took it out when I didn’t understand what someone was saying. But it was very difficult to decide which of the diagrams was most like the face they were making because people’s faces move very quickly.

Unable to understand jokes or metaphors: Christopher interprets what someone says word for word and fails to understand the implied meaning. This is why he has difficulty in comprehending the ‘play’ of language.

…she said lots of things I didn’t understand e.g ‘I’m going to hit the hay’ and ‘It’s brass monkeys out there’ and ‘Let’s rustle up some tucker’. And I didn’t like it when she said things like that because I didn’t know what she meant.

Unable to comprehend abstract concepts: Christopher has a hard time understanding things like God and heaven.

A need for schedules and sameness: Christopher follows a certain schedule or routine for different days and does not like to remove things from the timetable once it has been added. So when he is stymied in completing something according to his timetable, he gets anxious.

You can also read about the different techniques Christopher uses through out the book when he becomes anxious or uncomfortable.

Repetition works as a calming mechanism for him.  For example, when he gets lost in the train station all alone, he imagines a long line on the floor and walks along it while saying ‘left, right,left, right’. This repetitive pattern and rhythm assuages his anxiety of being in an unfamiliar place.

Also, research has found that autistic children having a pet at home have more advance social skills, are more assertive ( like asking questions) and more communicative than autistic children who do not have an animal companion. So Christopher’s pet rat Toby definitely helps him in this way. The dog he gets later on helps him since dogs are better at providing emotional support.

This book is particularly interesting for psychology students, even though it is a work of fiction so please give it a read!

Images: Google, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time text

13 Types of Group Members You’ll Work With

When teachers sit down to plan out their course syllabus, they always undoubtedly include a group grading component, either oblivious to the fact that group work is never done in equal contributions and they genuinely believe it teaches students to work cooperatively and effectively in a group or they do it in spite of that just to make us sweat while they enjoy the chaos. That was a long rant-like sentence, I know. But that’s just how frustrating it is to work in a group.

We all know how hassling it can be when your group is a panorama of different types of members and we’ve all encountered at least a few of these:

The Idea (Wo)man

This is the guy or girl who comes up with an idea and designates work to every other member in order to get it done. Once the idea is put out there, they won’t lift a finger to execute it.

The Worker-Bee

The earnest group member who works really hard to make everything a success. Their responsibility and honesty are their own worst qualities since they’d have to carry the group on their shoulders because of these traits.

The Leech

The group member who digs his or her claws into into a worker bee type group member in order to maintain the illusion that he or she is contributing something when in actuality they are not.

The Blonde

The group member who insists they don’t know anything in order to escape work being thrust on them. They really know how to play the ignorance card but don’t be fooled. They definitely know more than they let on.

The Sloth

That lazy group member who everyone else knows won’t contribute so no one assigns them work. Their standards of laziness foster super low expectations which they bask in and take advantage of.

The Hitler

That group leader who refuses to listen to their group members opinion and almost single handedly calls the shots.

The Nazis

The select few members who ‘the Hitler’ confides in and whose viewpoints are considered. In return for this special privilege they enforce whatever the Hitler says upon the rest of the group members.

The Usurper

That group member who isn’t the leader but wants to be and plans the way to claim the position for themselves. If they have good intentions, they do better than the original leader, but if their lustful for power then they don’t.

The Mutineers

Those  who nod along when ideas are bounced around instead of contributing their own even though they may not be a 100% sold. Later when plans are built around this idea they agreed to, they voice concerns and begin questioning it. They tend to have clashes with the idea m (wo)men.

The Invisible (Wo)man

That group member who always disappears when everyone gets down to work and magically comes back once everything’s done.

The Perfectionist

That group member who absolutely needs everything just right and usually does all the work alone.They resents other group members for it but won’t relinquish control either.

The Ticking Timer

That guy or girl who insists on counting down the days until the official deadline, attempting to instill fear in the rest of the group to get everything finished.

The Drama Queens/Kings

That group member who has no idea what damage control is when shit hits the fan. You’ll be surprised how they handle crises and it’s better to avoid their hysterics if you want anything to get done.

And just think, your grade depends on these people.

I’m not saying there aren’t pros to group work, I’ve just done enough of it to know the cons definitely outweigh them. It’s not fun and cooperative and anyone who spouts out praise for such assignments lives in a world of rainbows and unicorns.

But then again, a world of rainbows and unicorns wouldn’t have any group assignments 🙂

How Mrs. Gruwell Eradicated Prejudice and Discrimination in the film Freedom Writers

In the film Freedom Writers (based on true events), students at Woodrow Wilson High School resort to physical violence and shoot at other gangs. A young and enthusiastic teacher, Erin Gruwell, wishes to make her class of at-risk teenagers read Romeo and Juliet but her colleague, Mrs. Campbell, tells her that the condensed version of the play was more than they could handle. Another colleague, Mr. Gelford blames these very at-risk students for the school’s academic deterioration.

Mrs. Campbell’s belief that at-risk students are incapable of learning is an example of a stereotype (generalized beliefs and expectations about social groups and their members). The negative attitude towards these coloured students harboured by Mr.Gelford is a case of prejudice (negative evaluations of groups and their members based solely on their membership in that group) while the gang violence rife in the school is a solid example of discrimination (negative behaviour toward members of a particular group).

What is fascinating to see in the film is how real-life teacher Erin Gruwell employed various effective techniques to unite her class across all races and backgrounds and how, with time, her efforts paid off in full, impacting the lives of her students. She first mitigated the negative effects of stereotypes before attempting to eradicate prejudice and discrimination seeing as stereotypes are the grassroots level of the problem.

Here are some of the ways in which she achieved this:

Employing the Jigsaw Process

Woodrow Wilson High School implemented a voluntary integration program where students of all races could gain admission as a form of desegregation. However, it’s not enough to just thrust these students into the same class and expect social harmony. Since classrooms can be competitive environments, self-fulfilling prophecies are created for both minority (eg. blacks and latinos) and majority (whites) group members. Stephen found that minority students suffer from decreased self esteem after desegregation which is seen in the case of Mrs. Gruwell’s class.

For this purpose, Aronson et al. devised something called the jigsaw classroom to improve the classroom atmosphere by serving a dual purpose of reducing prejudice and raising self-esteem. This is done by placing students in small desegregated groups where they have to depend on members of their groups to finish their work. Jigsaw works because it breaks down in-group and out-group categorization, making students think of their class as a single group instead. Another reason jigsaw is effective is because it places students in a favour-doing situation, causing them to like those who do them favours. Studies have shown that integration is more successful in jigsaw classrooms and this can clearly be seen in Mrs. Gruwell’s class once she changes the seating arrangement.

A jigsaw classroom

Providing information about the objects of stereotyping

When Mrs. Gruwell made her class do a “Toast for Change”, it allowed everyone to open up about their struggles and how they would attempt to change them. This exercise provided crucial information that made her students see that each and every one of them had their own struggles and this made them more empathetic with one another.

Reducing Stereotype Vulnerability

According to Claude Steele, many African Americans suffer from obstacles to performance that stem from awareness of society’s stereotypes about them which is called stereotype vulnerability. African American students and other minority students who receive education from teachers who doubt their potential and set up special remedial classes for them come to accept stereotypes that claim they are prone to failure. Mrs. Gruwell points this out to Mrs. Campbell when her request for more challenging reading material to give her class is denied because, according to Campbell, even simple abridged versions of literary texts are difficult enough for them. Disregarding this view, Gruwell succeeds in giving her class more difficult coursework and has faith in her students performance which pays off as they rise to the challenge and actually become eager to learn.

Increasing contact between the target of stereotyping and the holder of the stereotype

This may be one of the most effective ways to erode prejudice. According to Allport’s contact hypothesis, bringing members of different groups into informal, interpersonal contact with one another will reduce prejudice. This is why the field trip to the museum and the lunch with different Holocaust survivors played a crucial role in breaking down existing prejudicial barriers between the students.

Also having a common goal to work towards that promotes mutual interdependence helps. You can see this in effect when all the students work together on fundraisers.

Ultimately, Erin Gruwell’s success story is one from which many teachers who face similar issues concerning classroom harmony can learn from and is quite inspirational. It reaffirms that prejudice can be eradicated and we just need to make that effort to break down those barriers we’ve constructed for ourselves and others.