Zen Den’s Dog Therapy

The effect of therapy dogs on the mental well-being of university students

Zen Dens — Concordia’s wellness center — collaborates with Imagine Therapy Dogs to bring dogs to either the Loyola or downtown campus every two weeks. 

On Thursday Sept. 29, Zen Dens brought their therapy dogs to the Vanier Library at the Loyola campus. 

Even though Concordia students haven’t reached midterms just yet, the same feeling of stress could be felt on campus that day. The dogs came at the perfect time.

What sounds more appealing than playing with cute dogs when you’re super stressed out?

Orwa Boudra, a science student came to school on her day off just to meet the dogs. “I was so nervous, I’ve never actually touched a dog before,” she shared. KAITLYNN RODNEY/The Concordian

Speaking from personal experience, when responsibilities pile up, one of the most positive ways to channel this stress is through animal therapy and playing with puppies.

Imagine Therapy Dogs has worked with several different centers, such as nursing homes, universities, hospitals, and childrens’ centers. 

After speaking with the owner of Imagine Therapy, Harriet Schleifer, she explained to The Concordian that potential handlers go through extensive training to be able to be part of such a fun and beneficial program. 

The handlers’ training sees them go through a program with their own dogs, so that the dogs can become therapy dogs. They learn how to train their dogs to be calm and a source of relaxation while also playful and interactive. 

 A research study available in the National Library of Medicine tested the benefits of animal therapy particularly with university students. The study tested the benefits of interacting with trained dogs on students’ mood and anxiety. It demonstrated that pre-tested levels of anxiety and situational depression declined when students interacted with dogs. 

According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, petting a dog lowers cortisol levels (known as the stress hormone) while also increasing oxytocin levels. Oxytocin is a feel-good hormone known as the “love” hormone or “cuddle chemical,” the same hormone that bonds mothers to babies. 

On top of being a great way to relieve stress, the overall vibes of this event are spectacular. It’s a great way to meet new people and make some friends in a fun and relaxed environment. 

The event had a great turnout; many students showed up and enjoyed their time with the dogs. Every once in a while everyone needs a serotonin boost, and what better way to do that than by playing with dogs. 

As a first-year student 5,552 miles from home, the usual university stressors such as finances and academics can get a little overwhelming. Finding ways to cope with feelings of homesickness is extremely important. 

Not only is this event a great tool to use as a positive outlet to channel stress, it’s also a great way to make new connections on campus. Zens Dens is offering many other therapy dog sessions over the course of the fall semester. 
For any questions or concerns, please do not feel shy to reach out to the wellness ambassadors at Zen Dens. They will be more than happy to talk about the countless services offered to help deal with stress at school.


Simply Scientific: Caffeine

Do you really think a bunch of journalism students wouldn’t talk about caffeine in a scientific column?

Living off our daily consumption of bitter brew, most of us university students cannot survive a whole day without chugging at least one mug of coffee. In fact, it is so popular that coffee is the second most traded commodity in the world, after oil. But how exactly does caffeine works on your body?

When breaking down ATP, the energy molecule that fuels our bodies, a chemical called adenosine is released. The chemical attaches to receptors in the brain that triggers a set of biochemical reactions, slowing down metabolism and making you sleepy. The more adenosine the body produces, the more fatigued it becomes. This makes sense considering the longer someone is awake, the more they feel tired.

Caffeine, however, is what is called an adenosine receptor antagonist. This means that it has a similar molecular structure to its counterpart and fits almost-perfectly to those receptors, blocking access to adenosine. But since it’s not adenosine, the sleepiness effect does not occur.

In fact, caffeine has similar effects to cocaine, but less intense. It promotes the production of adrenaline and extends the effects of dopamine on the brain.

Quite a clever way to challenge your midterm fatigue. But be careful. The brain responds to the long-term use of caffeine by creating new adenosine receptors to accommodate those pesky sleeping agents, meaning the body needs more coffee to enjoy the same effects. Miss your daily brew and you’re in for a nasty withdrawal – trust me, I’ve been there.

In addition, while coffee can make you feel better and more alert, the increase of adrenaline can raise your heart rate, lead to high blood pressure, create anxiety and, of course, cause insomnia.

Some might think that it is impossible to stop drinking coffee because your brain is now used to responding more efficiently to adenosine. This is partly true. While quitting will result in short-term headaches and nausea, the brain adapts by discarding extra adenosine receptors. In only a few days a coffee addict, like myself, can get back on both feet without that daily dose.

I’m not saying everyone should stop consuming coffee. Au contraire! Never could I completely discard my daily pleasure of sipping on a hot americano, but it is important to stay moderate in our consumption. If not now, maybe after your last midterm!


Graphic by @sundaeghost


Staff picks for the best study albums

A bit of easy listening for your end-of-semester woes

At its most effective, music is an artform that evokes a physical response. Whether you’re dancing, moshing or grooving along, the medium creates a sense of euphoria that can’t be replicated. But sometimes you just need a good album to put you in the zone. Here are our staff picks for the best albums to study to.

Alt J – An Awesome Wave

Katya Teague, editor-in-chief

Alt J’s sleeper-hit debut, An Awesome Wave, is mired in Radiohead-style electronica and indie-rock quirks. Twisting and turning from art rock tendencies to a cappella vocal interludes and jangly guitar rock, Alt J channels immediate pop accessibility without compromising their more experimental leanings. The record is rich with a variety of sounds but maintains a palette of glitch-heavy electronica beats at the album’s forefront.

Homeshake – Midnight Snack

Maggie Hope, arts editor

Homeshake’s Midnight Snack is a comforting indie LP laden with spacey R&B textures and an overall laid-back ambience. Known for his stint as Mac DeMarco’s back up guitarist, leading man Peter Sagar composes songs with a kind of easy-breezy infectiousness that actually comes off as more earnest than its slacker demeanor suggests. Locking into moods that soundtrack rainy days, Sagar adopts a delicate falsetto and pairs it with bubbling synths and bass to compose an album that’s utterly relaxing in its lethargic moments.

Luciano Pavarotti – Nessun Dorma

Kenneth Gibson, video editor

Nessun Dorma is an expressive aria melody from the final act of Giacomo Puccini’s opera Turandot. The song achieved mainstream success after Luciano Pavarotti’s recording was used as the main theme for the BBC’s coverage of the 1990 FIFA World Cup in Italy. The song has long been established as a seminal piece of opera. That reputation is undoubtedly felt, as the album of the concert went triple platinum in the United States and went on to be the most sold classical recording in the world.

Antonio Vivaldi – The Four Seasons

Candice Pye, news editor

The Four Seasons is a series of four violin concerti by famed Italian composer Antonio Vivaldi. Each piece is an expression of the four seasons in a year. Vivaldi published the concerti with a set of sonnets that eluded to each season the music was meant to represent. This is one of the very first instances of music structured with a narrative component.

Beach House – Depression Cherry

Alex Hutchins, photo editor

Beach House fluctuates between a dynamic dichotomy of beauty and melancholy. The duo’s 2015 effort, Depression Cherry, dials back on the muddy lo-fi production of their early work in exchange for a lushly orchestrated experience filled with dazzling instrumentation and vocal performances that are the stuff of dreams. The album spins in a web of its own ethereality, unperturbed by outside forces, and instead focused on progressing with sounds of grace and beauty.

Nosaj Thing – Parallels

Kirubel Mehari, assistant photo editor

This project from L.A. producer Jason Chung is a dissonant collection of meditative soul grooves. Chung mixes various genres into a synthesis of unique musical flavours, dipping his toes in everything from neo-soul to trap. The melodies are rich with layers, but the approach is minimalistic, revealing subtle embellishments in the mix.

24/7 Live Youtube Lo-fi Mixes

Matthew Coyte, assistant sports editor

These mixes on Youtube interweave hip-hop instrumentation with a lo-fi aesthetic, culminating in a millennial interpretation of ambient music. The beats are basically wallpaper music, creating an effective mood for zoning out, chilling out or simply getting lost in your mind. The artists and song names are usually never mentioned, creating a sense of ambiguity while maintaining a linear listening experience.

Hans Zimmer – Inception: Music from the Motion Picture

Mia Anhoury, assistant life editor

The soundtrack to Christopher Nolan’s accomplished film Inception is towering in breadth and absolutely halting in its approach. The sounds aren’t exactly the most complex in the world, but composer Hans Zimmer uses this minimalism to create an emotionally harrowing atmosphere out of a mere three or four droning tones.

Andrea Bocelli – Romanza

Nicholas Di Giovanni, sports editor

Despite it being a compilation album, Andrea Bocelli’s Romanza was the singer’s first release in the United States and Canada. It is widely considered Bocelli’s most accomplished work, selling over 20 million units worldwide and garnering the Italian singer an international following in the process. On top of that, the album topped charts all around the world, further cementing Bocelli’s status as an operatic pop icon.

Graphic by Zeze Le Lin

Student Life

Exploring the healthy side with Fardad

Debunking stress eating: Tis’ the season of midterms and takeout

Midterm season is officially here, and stress is creeping up on many students. Although people respond to stressful situations differently, a lot of us have a common struggle: stress eating.

Emotional eating can happen for a variety of reasons, but this week we will specifically analyze stress as a cause.

When your body is put under prolonged stress, a multitude of physiological changes happen, namely, your body releases a hormone called cortisol.

Cortisol plays a key role in human survival—think about it from an evolutionary standpoint. Your body registers stress as a “fight or flight” situation. When your body thinks it’s in a life or death situation, it “panics” and urges you to consume calories for strength and survival, when really, all you need is a deep breath.

Needless to say, exam period is a stressful time. Seeking refuge in the glory of pizza or greasy fries when the workload gets overwhelming is something a lot of us can relate to.

While this may provide momentarily relief—due to the release of other hormones like dopamine—the underlying cause of your stress still remains.

Additionally, feelings of guilt about eating too much may enter into the equation and end up adding to your initial stress.

But how can you tell the difference between being actually hungry or just feeling stressed?

There are a few telltale signs. Here are the most important ones:

  • We usually turn to comfort foods or unhealthy foods when we are stressed. Let’s just say cauliflower and broccoli aren’t the food of choice when cramming for an exam.
  • According to Harvard Health, consuming comfort food triggers two changes in the brain. First, it stimulates the reward centre of the brain by releasing feel-good hormones. Second, it has been shown to temporarily counter the effects of the stress-producing and processing hormones. So not only does comfort food provide a “happy fix,” but it also temporarily takes the stress away.
  • According to American pediatrics doctor Dr. Mary Gavin, and many other experts, contrary to stress cravings, physical hunger isn’t instant. It takes time for the digestive system to process food.
  • According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, when you feel physiological hunger, it’s due to the gradual release of the hunger hormone, ghrelin. Ghrelin itself is released over time, thanks to “feedback” provided by sensory nerve endings in the digestive tract, including the intestine and colon. So if you suddenly have a “need” for a bag of chips, take a second to reflect on how stressed you are in that moment. You might just need to relax and take a deep breath.

Here are a few things you can do to help combat stress eating during exam time: 

  • Get moving. Exercise releases endorphins so hop to it. Physical activity also releases those feel-good hormones and it gets fresh blood flowing to the brain, making you feel more awake.
  • Drink a lot of water, regularly. Dehydration oftentimes manifests as hunger. Staying hydrated helps keep your body healthy and your brain active.
  • Call a loved one or a friend—but make sure you don’t end up talking about studying or exams. The aim here is to take your mind off all the stress by hearing a familiar voice and maybe cracking a joke or two. Tell the person in advance that you don’t want to be talking about school.

Fardad is a science student here at Concordia. He wants to share his research and learning about the science field with the Concordia community.

Graphic by Thom Bell

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