Community Student Life

Concordia’s Greenhouse

The 13th floor: a little hidden gem of paradise.

Did you know that Concordia University has its very own greenhouse? It was opened in 1966 when the Hall Building was built.

This hidden gem located at the downtown campus is a little hard to find at first. But once you start seeing the painted plants on the walls of the stairwell leading you up to the 13th floor, you’ll know you are going in the right direction


Dominique Smith, the outreach and communications coordinator of the Greenhouse, gave The Concordian all the ins and outs of this space.

“I became the outreach coordinator a couple of months ago. The Greenhouse is a collection of different working groups that make up the community. Essentially, we are the people who create the agriculture community through workshops, volunteer hours and the staff that upkeeps the space,” Smith said.

He explained that his job at the Greenhouse is to work with all the different working groups that occupy the space, those groups being HydroFlora, Co-Op CultivAction, City Farm School and more.

Smith is also working on creating a vlog to explain the projects of those working groups, almost like a farmer’s almanac. 

Smith emphasized that The Greenhouse as a whole is a collective space. 

The staff at the Greenhouse, in partnership with HydroFlora, have brought back the Greenhouse to its pre-pandemic state. 

“We came together to revamp the atrium spaces. So you have the front atrium which has always been available for students to rent or study in. Now we have a pond room that students are able to rent or study in as well,” Smith explained. 

Smith explained how the layout of the Greenhouse is organized.

If one walks to the back of the Greenhouse, they can see all the sections where the different working groups such as CultivAction grow food for the HIVE cafes at Concordia University. 

HydroFlora is the working group that helps maintain the house plants in the Greenhouse. They also give classes and provide students with job opportunities.

Not only is the Greenhouse a collective space for the working groups, it’s also a space to give workshops and classes.

“All these different working groups try to give students here at Concordia an entrance into the agricultural world. Sometimes it’s hard being high up and technically kind of far away from the ground floor,” Smith said. 

Although the Greenhouse is a great initiative at Concordia, Smith stressed that the space is very finite and can’t accommodate a lot of people at once. 

So if you are at the downtown campus, feel free to give the Greenhouse a visit but make sure not to take too many friends with you or else you won’t be able to get a seat.

Photographs by Thomas Vaillancourt/THE CONCORDIAN


STUDY: Minority students experiencing hardships after Bill 21

A joint study from Concordia and McGill highlight that religiously expressive minority students have faced career uncertainty, discrimination, and a worsened perception of Quebec since the enactment of Bill 21

Teachers like Bouchera Chelbi, a Muslim woman who chooses to wear the hijab, has noticed changes in Quebec since the enactment of Bill 21. Grandfathered in after the legalization of the bill, Chelbi now has no chance to move up in her career as she is unable to be promoted due to Bill 21. 

Enacted in 2019, the bill prohibits the wearing of religious garments and symbols for workers in the public sector in government-run institutions like courthouses or schools.

“It changed a lot about my future plans, I can longer dream about having a higher position, I cannot change school boards. It changes a lot for me,” Chelbi explained.  

As a member of the Coalition Inclusion Quebec and someone who is heavily involved in challenging the law, Chelbi feels that it has impacted her on both a career and personal level. Though leaving has crossed her mind, the priorities of being a wife and a mother have made her stay in the province.

“It makes me feel like I don’t fit anymore in the community. Before the bill, I used to feel like I was free as any other woman in Quebec but after, it felt like suddenly I was a second-class citizen.”

A study conducted by researchers from Concordia and McGill has uncovered harsh realities for the next generation of students, particularly minorities, entering the workforce, many of whom will likely be affected by Bill 21’s legislation. Students who wore religious symbols were at a higher risk of experiencing higher discriminatory treatment as well as job prospect uncertainty, prompting many of those surveyed to admit intending to seek work out of province once their diplomas are obtained. Those surveyed felt that Bill 21 had affected their future career decision, especially due to experiencing an uptick in discrimination since the passing of the legislation.

Meir Edery, a third-year law student at Université de Montreal who wears a kippah, felt that Bill 21 has affected him, like many others who wear religious garb. “The law felt like a personal attack. Truthfully, it felt like something that the government was putting forward to show the population that these people are not wanted and valued as a part of society.”

Kimberley Manning, an associate professor in political science at Concordia and one of the authors who helped conduct the study, was interested in researching the effects of students studying in sectors affected by Bill 21. 

The majority of the 629 participants surveyed highlighted worsened perception of Quebec since the bill’s legislation, creating more divisiveness rather than its intended unification. “Our findings are suggesting a rise in discrimination. People who wear religious symbols are reporting that they’ve experienced more discrimination since the passage of the law,” said Manning. 

The law’s notion was intended to secularize the province, providing neutrality in government institutions. Manning, however, has noticed from the study’s findings that it’s also affecting minorities who do not express themselves religiously. 

“This goes way beyond the individuals wearing religious symbols. [It] is clear that people who do not wear religious symbols are experiencing discrimination in the wake of the passage of this law,” she explained. 

“There is a great deal of confusion about this law, I think that our research findings and research findings from another study that was done by a professor out of UQAM are suggesting that among the general population there is confusion about what this means.”

This confusion has created a bypass for many people to single out minorities, regardless of whether or not the Law applies to those accused. One respondent reported a teacher telling an 11-year-old that she could not wear her Hijab due to the law, something which is patently false.

The results showed 51.8 per cent of those surveyed said that they are extremely likely to look for work out of Quebec as a result of Bill 21, while 77.9 per cent of respondents were considering leaving the province for employment options elsewhere. “I’ve decided to take the Ontario bar exam because I will likely go work in Ontario, where I feel more welcomed as a religious minority,” said an unnamed female law student at McGill.

As someone who will soon enter the job market for the first time in his life, Edery has to consider his future, as the bill prevents him from taking certain opportunities. “When I was looking at my career options, I knew that I was limited and it’s the first time I’ve ever been limited because of the expression of my religion and that stung, because in the 21st century that shouldn’t be happening to anybody.”

 Chelbi referring to feeling like a second-class citizen is a shared sentiment according to Manning’s study. Though a minority of people surveyed were in favour of the bill due to having once faced religious extremism from their native country, 70 per cent of respondents have developed a worsened perception of Quebec. 

“That’s really significant, again this is a motivated group who responded to the survey but when you triangulate our results with the results from the recent polling that’s not insignificant. I think it’s really important that our policymakers pay attention to it and consider the negative impact this is having on people’s lives.”

Teachers like Chelbi will continue to challenge the government in regards to the law for future generations of students hoping that they can work in a Quebec that favours religious expression.


Illustration and infographics by Lily Cowper


Do StudyTok hacks really help?

Too much time on TikTok can actually have productivity benefits


I know I spend too much time on TikTok. I tell myself that it’s mainly for journalistic research, which is at least partially true, considering that this article, as well as many others of mine, are inspired by videos I see while scrolling through my TikTok feed.

While the majority of my For You Page is riddled with Taylor Swift conspiracy theories, cute thrifted outfits, and cool new restaurants to try, a study hack sometimes slips into the mix (maybe that’s the algorithm telling me something…).

Because I have a pretty intense week of schoolwork coming up, I decided that this would be a perfect time to test out some of the tricks that I’ve saved over time and see if they actually work for me.

Textbook heaven

The first one I tried is a true game changer. Maybe I’ve just been living under a rock, but I was completely excited to see that something like this exists. is a free textbook library that gives you easy access to textbooks and research material, which is particularly helpful when the university libraries don’t have what you’re looking for or when you want to save some cash. I was writing a paper and needed a specific book that was already signed out from the university library. To my pleasant surprise, it was on z-lib and I didn’t even have to go in to get a copy!

Too good to be true

The next tip was definitely too good to be true. I saw a TikTok boasting about the “TLDR” Chrome extension that summarizes long readings into bullet points to save time. I have an absurd amount of reading to do this week, so I was stoked to try it.

I probably should have known that it wouldn’t actually work, but I was still quite disappointed when it spewed out gibberish that honestly confused me more than the reading itself. There were two settings: short/concise and detailed/section-wise, but they both came up with the same useless summaries. I also tried with another academic article in case the one I had was the reason it wasn’t working — spoiler alert: it didn’t. I still had to read a million pages on top of the wasted time trying to figure out how to use the extension. Serves me right for believing in things.

Racing to the finish line

I must say that I was very apprehensive about listening to the Mario Kart soundtrack while writing an assignment. Still, I’d seen tons of TikToks claiming that it helps give you a sense of urgency (as if the looming deadlines aren’t enough), so I figured that I needed to be open-minded and give it a try. I also don’t generally listen to music while writing, unless it’s a dark academia classical Spotify playlist to calm myself down when I have tight deadlines. They also help me convince myself I’m much smarter than I actually am.

I was pretty sure that the Mario Kart wouldn’t really have the same effect, but, after listening for a little while, it’s safe to say that working with these tunes was much easier than trying to stay on Rainbow Road. At first, the fast-paced tunes were stressing me out, but after a few minutes, the words were flowing from my hands almost faster than my brain could keep up. My assignment was done within the hour — I highly recommend it.

Tomato timers

Though not an exclusive TikTok hack, I definitely saw some videos preaching the Pomodoro method, which consists of allotting yourself specific amounts of study and break time to increase productivity. The most common time frame is 25 minutes of work to every five-minute break, a pattern that you repeat until you’ve finished your tasks.

I did two cycles of the Pomorodo method and found that it didn’t really work for my way of studying. Setting the timer definitely helped me actually start writing, which is often the most challenging part for me, and I appreciated knowing that I would get a break after 25 minutes. Once the 25 minutes was up, however, I was in a flow state and didn’t want to stop at that moment. For the sake of the article, I continued with the method (you’re welcome), and then took the five-minute break, which definitely didn’t feel long enough. But, I had the same challenges after the second cycle as well.

That’s not to say that the Pomodoro method, or any other study hack mentioned in this article or on TikTok won’t work for you (though if you do figure out the reading summarizer extension PLEASE message me). Everyone has different ways of learning and aspects of doing school work that are more challenging for them — that’s why it’s so important to personalize your habits to what works for you.

Overall, TikTok seems like a great place to look if you’re trying to figure out the best way to get through your schoolwork. Just be weary of “hacks” that are simply too good to be true. And plagiarism. All my homies hate plagiarism. Happy(?) studying!


Visuals by James Fay


Graduate students explore the world of artificial intelligence and the early detection of anorexia

The paper focuses on the system’s efficiency in labelling early signs of anorexia.

Concordia graduate students Elham Mohammadi and Hessan Amini developed a research paper explaining an algorithm, using artificial intelligence, to detect signs of anorexia through social media for the Conference and Labs of the Evaluation Forum (CLEF) 2019, this September.

CLEF is a conference that has been running since 2000 in Lugano, Switzerland. It aims to address a wide range of topics, primarily focusing on “the fields of multilingual and multimodal information access evaluation.” Mohammadi and Amini worked under the supervision of Concordia Professor in Computer Science and Software Engineering Leila Kosseim.

Social media platforms are a rich source of information for research studies because people use these outlets to share a large sum of data in relation to their emotions, thoughts and everyday activities.

The research was based on a simulation scenario using past posts from social media. In an interview with The Concordian, Amini explained that there are a few reasons the study was focused on anorexia specifically.

“It wasn’t covered that much in literature,” he said. “Finding out the patterns requires a more complicated source of analyzing information.”

Their focus was on the early detection of the eating disorder.

“We don’t want to detect the risk after it has happened or after it has caused damage to the person,” Amini explained. “We want to detect that the person is showing signs of anorexia.”

The focus of the study was to test the algorithm. Amini clarified that their role is not to diagnose or analyze the data. The study is about the system’s efficiency in labelling these signs. With this, they are able to send this data to an expert to closely evaluate it.

Surfing through over 2,000 social media posts would be tedious and time-consuming, so the researchers used an algorithm called “attention mechanism.” This algorithm systematically filtered through the abundance of posts to detect those that were the most important, using keywords.

They had one data set that was already separated by users that showed signs of anorexia and those that did not, as well as another set of data that was not categorized at all. Mohammadi and Amini analyzed the data to compare the function of the system; however, it must be noted that when dealing with personal data, ethical complications may occur.

Mohammadi explained that when dealing with user’s data, some people might be hesitant to have their personal information analyzed. “People might not be comfortable with it,” he said.

In being able to detect certain patterns of anorexia on social media, more complex research topics arise. Although this is a good start, Amini explains that this research requires many experts sitting together and discussing solutions.

Amini notes that although people think artificial intelligence (AI) systems like this are set up to replace humans, the opposite is true.

“AI is going to be there to help humans,” he said. Amini explains that it will make the lives of psychologists and mental health practitioners easier.

Although this research is not the final solution, it can help bring awareness to those in need of mental attention and create a healthier society.


Graphic by Victoria Blair


Study invalidates the existence of a “gay gene”

A recent study invalidated the existence of a gene linked to homosexuality after decades of scientific debate.

The study, led by Andrea Ganna, a research fellow with the Broad Institute in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and Harvard Medical School in Boston, examined data from thousands of participants that shared both DNA samples and behaviour information to two genetic surveys – the UK Biobank study and the private genetics firm 23andMe.

Instead of a gay gene, the study suggested evidence of five genetic variants strongly associated with what scientists call nonheterosexual behaviours. From the two that were associated only to men, one had been previously found to predict baldness, and the other was present in regions rich in olfactory receptors.

However, the published study emphasized that genetic markers cannot be used to predict sexual behaviour.

“Behavioral traits, like sexual behavior and orientation, are only partially genetic in nature,” wrote the research organization on its website. “They are shaped by hundreds or thousands of genetic variants, each with a very small effect, yet they are also shaped in large part by a person’s environment and life experiences.”

Ganna also acknowledged that what they called in the research as “nonheterosexual behaviour” is part of a large spectrum of sexual experiences.

“[The sexual experiences] go from people who engage exclusively in same-sex behaviour to those who might have experimented once or twice,” said Ganna in an interview with Science. This limited the experiment, since, in reality, people who have a single same-sex experience might be categorized as open, while not being gay or bisexual.

The research also found that people with these genetic variants were more inclined to suffer from mental illness such as depression. It was noted in the findings that LGBTQI+ people are more likely to suffer from such illnesses due to societal pressure.

Some people from the LGBTQI+ community that faced societal pressure think that linking sexual orientation to genetics can have a negative impact on the long run.

“This could be a very slippery slope to eugenics,” said Queer Concordia’s Administrative Coordinator, Anastasia Caron. “There could be situations where people decide ‘let’s make DNA tests in the womb to figure out if your baby is gay or not’ and decide to keep it based on that.”

Queer Concordia is a student organization that aims to create a safe environment for all LGBTQI+ students at Concordia. Caron created a support group for students to act against discrimination towards community members.

As a member of the LGBTQI+ community themselves, Caron observed that societal pressure adds a lot of stress to students going through similar situations as them.

“A lot of people feel alone and don’t think that others feel the same way as them,” said Queer Concordia’s Resource Coordinator, Akira De Carlos. “It’s even better when you’re talking about your problems and see that someone else has the same ones and realize that ‘oh my god! I’m not alone in this.’”

De Carlos and Caron hope that biological research over sexual orientations stays moderate due to this potential rhetoric that can be used against the LGBTQI+ community.


Feature photo by @sundaeghost

Student Life

Great expectations, at what expense?

Cramming to finish your degree isn’t worth the mental exhaustion

Take a step back and look at your life from a different angle. Are you happy? Are you okay?

There’s a significant amount of pressure on students to achieve something in their young adult life, so much so that sometimes people forget that expectations aren’t always great. More often than not, this pressure comes from within. The individual lens that we see life through is tinted with the wants and needs of external factors: parents, society, friends, and the need to ‘become.’ It’s not a simple feat to differentiate between what’s really best for you and what you think is best, because of all these factors.

In 2016, The Charlatan published an article highlighting different factors contributing to university dropout rates. According to the article, most students leave because they’re unsure if their program is right for them.

“In the first year, dropouts were already struggling in terms of meeting deadlines, academic performance and studying patterns,” according to The Youth in Transition Study sourced in The Charlatan. “Compared to graduates and graduate continuers, more dropouts felt they had not found the right program,” the study stated.

Here’s the truth: deciding on your future at 18 is practically impossible. You’re told to make the most important decision of your life at an age when your brain is still evolving. According to the University of Rochester Medical Center, the human brain isn’t fully developed until the age of about 25.

When you wake up one morning and ask yourself if what you’re doing is worth the stress, money, and effort you’re putting into it, remember you’re allowed to change your mind, take a break and refocus your lens.

“Overall, being out of school let me take time to focus on myself,” said Rachel Doyon, a student in Montreal. “It also made me miss school—I think that was the biggest benefit. Being reminded that I was in university because it was something I was passionate about, not just an obligation. I still get little pangs of disappointment when my peers graduate ‘on time,’ but it was the best choice.”

‘On time’ is the key term here: this is exactly the kind of ‘want’ or ‘need’ that we associate with ourselves, but really it’s an outside factor. The concept of graduating on time is not at all an objective conventional setting: the only timeline that matters is your own personal clock. Granted, there are several factors that affect when you graduate: maybe your parents pay for your education and you don’t want to prolong it, or perhaps you have to prolong it because you pay for it yourself.

According to a study on persistence in post-secondary education in Canada done by York University, only 57 per cent of students aged 18 to 20 graduated, or are continuing in post-secondary education, 8 per cent of which were enrolled and dropped out. Students aged 20 to 22 had 14 per cent drop out rate of the 60 per cent enrolled in university.

“Even though my parents wouldn’t have minded, I just would’ve felt weird, like I fell off the train,” said Ali Sabra, a Lebanese student who was offered a year-long internship abroad, but refused because it didn’t feel right to take two semesters off. “Being in Lebanon, it’s virtually unfathomable to ‘take a year off.’ It’s the rush thing for sure.”

Culture played a big role in Sabra’s decision-making, but being in a rush to graduate is rather universal. In all fairness, it’s okay to want to graduate as soon as possible. You might not want to pass up an opportunity that would benefit you more in the future in the name of finishing sooner.

“I went into psychology because my parents got so excited, but I wasn’t sure I liked it,” said Noura Nassreddine, a previous American University of Beirut student. “The next year, I told my parents I didn’t like it and I needed to take a break, so I did.” During her gap semester, Nassreddine found what she really loved, and is now on her way to becoming a Paris-trained baker. Nassreddine’s experience is a reminder that your 18-year-old self doesn’t always know what you want your future to look like.

Choosing a career path is not a light task, and yes, sometimes you aren’t ready to decide where to go straight out of high school. It’s okay to go in blind and try things out, and then decide to change your mind. If you have the means, the patience, and the will, go find what’s best for you. When making decisions, consider which you’d regret more: doing it, or not doing it, whatever ‘it’ is.

All in all, taking time for yourself is as important as finishing your degree. Making sure the degree you’re getting is what you want to continue with and is important, too. Remember that your mental health is a key aspect of your success—take care of yourself so you can have the mental capacity to achieve your goals. Sometimes retreating is important to help put things into perspective. At the end of the day, life will bring you all sorts of problems in the future, so what’s an extra semester or two, anyway?

Feature GIF by @spooky_soda

Student Life

Some help with acing that research paper

Concordia’s Student Success Centre held a workshop on writing a good research paper

Concordia’s Student Success Centre held the first of five in-depth workshops on writing strategies for research papers and other academic writing on Jan 19.

This particular morning workshop, held in Concordia’s Hall building, focused on how to start academic research papers and gain an understanding of the paper’s topic.

Jennifer Banton, a learning specialist at Concordia, led a small group in an hour-and-a-half-long session on writing academic and research papers. She covered subjects such as the writing process, why universities and professors assign research papers, and multiple tactics to help improve one’s writing ability.

Banton stressed students should be aware of their audience. “The audience is not the professor,” she said. “The target audience of a research paper… is your peers. The professor reads it, but you cannot write a paper at the level of the professor—you are not targeting publication-level writing. Even in a master’s, even at your PhD, you are not at publication level. The educated peers in your class—you are writing to them and only to them.”

Banton also prioritized techniques regarding exploring the topic of a research paper. She encouraged students to try free-writing. “You start writing and let your ideas flow as if you were talking about the topic,” she explained.

Photo by Alex Hutchins

Banton also offered the group a printed list of 20 specific tips for overcoming writer’s block. This included suggestions such as “rehearse what you will write by talking about your ideas before you start—write whole sections of your paper at a time so that ideas flow,” and “stop writing in the middle of a sentence before taking a break to make it easier to get started again.”

Banton said the goal of the workshop was “to get a solid overview of what to expect in writing, to get some new information, some new ideas and strategies that could radically change the way you see your studies, or an affirmation that what you’re doing is correct.” This was, however, only the first of five workshops that will attempt to accomplish this.

Four more academic workshops, paid for using Concordia student fees, will take place over the next four Thursdays from 10:15 a.m. until noon. These workshops will cover how to write a thesis statement, how to do research in a university library, proper citation to avoid plagiarism, and punctuation and grammar. Any Concordia student can head to the fourth floor of the Hall building to attend, but must first sign up online through the MyConcordia portal.

Student Life

Pista: Rosemont’s turquoise caffeine heaven

This trendy Rosemont café is the perfect blend of a cozy and classy experience

After visiting café Pista for the first time last week, I finally understood what all the hype was about. Upon entering the café on Beaubien Street in the Rosemont neighbourhood, I was met with a serene feeling I had never felt at any other café.

Sometimes, small neighbourhood cafés can feel a little too noisy, a little too crowded. At Pista, thanks to good acoustics and spaced out tables, the environment is quiet, welcoming and stress-free, even though there are usually many people.

Pista is located on the corner of Beaubien Street and Saint-Vallier Street. Photo by Danielle Gasher

I was served by a kind barista who recommended their most popular drink: the chai tea latté. It was delicious—creamy enough, with well-balanced sweetness. Pista’s service style adds to the laid-back feel. After ordering, the barista brings your hot beverage directly to your table. The coffee has a strong, nutty taste that seems to be quite common among numerous small cafés in the city.

The décor is an important part of the overall experience. While the space isn’t too big—approximately the size of a small Montreal apartment—it is well laid-out, with enough places to sit comfortably and study. The walls are a pale turquoise and covered with abstract artwork and a beautiful black-and-white Asian temple photograph next to the window. The ceiling is impressive, painted gold with church-like detailing. It brings together the modern and minimalistic aesthetic of the café, and the touch of antiqueness gives it added charm. The spot’s music is also a highlight. They play a lot of underground hip-hop and some jazzy tunes.

The spot sells classic café treats such as pastries, but also have a brunch and lunch menu. Photo by Danielle Gasher

The café is appropriate for study sessions, business lunches and coffee with friends. In the fall, the spot introduced a breakfast and lunch menu. The menu includes healthy options such as salads, soups and trendy breakfast classics like granola, poached eggs and avocado on toast, or toast with ricotta, honey, nuts and fruit. While affordable, the prices are not particularly low or student-friendly. The breakfast and lunch menu prices range from $3.50 for toast and jam to $12 for a smoked salmon bagel.

Pista could even be a go-to spot for a first date because of its laid-back vibe combined with its trendy and classy atmosphere and décor. At the same time, the long tables in the back are the perfect place to camp out for a few hours and get those readings done. All in all, I would highly recommend this unique café to all Concordia students seeking a classy and cozy place to study far from campus.

Café Pista

500 Beaubien Street East

Open weekdays from 7:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. and weekends from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Student Life

Analyzing stress levels – it’s all in the heart

Study by Concordia prof says your heart rate reveals your risk for chronic stress

Stress – this is a condition that is no stranger to students, especially as they climb the rungs of higher education.

While some students tackle deadlines and exam season with a come-what-may attitude, these same events can be triggers of extreme distress for others. So, why is it that some of us are so much more susceptible to stress than others? Concordia psychology professor, Jean-Philipe Gouin, holds the answers in his most recent study.

The study, published in the latest issue of the journal Stress, details the findings of how students’ heart rates play into their stress levels.

Gouin, along with colleagues Sonya Deschênes and Michel Dugas, measured the respiratory sinus arrhythmias (RSA), or in layman’s terms, heart rates, of a group of 76 undergraduate students during periods of high and low stress in their university semester (i.e. beginning of the semester vs. exam time). The results indicate subjects’ comparative levels of distress during these times and explore how one’s resting heart rate plays into the stress they may experience later.

“What we’re looking at [with the RSA measurements] is very high rapid fluctuations in the heartbeat,” Gouin said. “For most people, there’s a change in heart rate associated with breathing. When you expire it slows down for a few seconds, and when you inspire, it goes back up. The measure of this heart rate variability is the measure of the strength of your parasympathetic system.”

The parasympathetic system is responsible for the rest-and-digest phase which allows your body to maintain a calm state and replenish its energy, explained Gouin.

“Lets say you’re walking in the street and you see someone who is armed and want to run away, you want your sympathetic system — responsible for fight or flight responses — to be activated, and your heart rate variability to be quite small,” Gouin said. “You want your heart rate to be quite elevated so you can run away the way you need to. If your body has the same reaction when you’re worrying about something, when you show this withdrawal of the parasympathetic system, then you’re much more at risk [of experiencing elevated stress].”

The results of the study indicate that students who have a more variable heart rate during times of low stress are in fact less prone to experiencing acute distress during periods of high stress. Conversely, students whose heart rate was more regulated during times of low stress were more likely to be more stressed during a period of intensity.

With the information gleaned from this study, health care professionals will be able to better predict who might be at higher risk for chronic stress, allowing for preventative measures to be taken.

As for tricks to beat stress? Gouin said the best idea is just to get lots of sleep — easier said than done, I know — and try to keep up a healthy diet. A healthier body will always deal with stress better than a sleep-deprived, sugar-filled one will.

Student Life

Happiness is having more sex than your friends

Article by Concordia Prof explores the sex-happiness link, and why we’re so competitive

Having more sex leads to greater happiness — sounds fairly obvious, right? Yet, according a Psychology Today article published by Concordia marketing professor Gad Saad, simply the satisfaction of having lots of sex is not enough if you’re not also getting more action than your peers.

These findings were established in studies by David G. Blanchflower and Andrew J. Oswald in 2004, and a paper published by Tim Wadsworth this year. Basic point: envy and competition are huge driving factors in people’s happiness, even (and perhaps especially) in an area as private as the bedroom.

In his article, Professor Saad links these findings with his own research, which showed that when given the option of you and your co-worker getting a $500 raise, or you getting a $600 raise and your co-worker getting a $800 raise, the majority of people polled opted for the former. Despite the fact that in the second option you also receive more money, Saad explains that overwhelmingly, people, and more often women, preferred the scales to be balanced.

This is because humans are inherently competitive — the whole “survival of the fittest” concept is ingrained within our evolutionary make-up. It is not enough to have something, you have to be the only one who has it, or have the most of it.

For men, power and social status are determinants of success and prowess, which goes back to the primitive need for men to be strong hunters and providers. The strongest men were also historically the most eligible mates.

“Men and women are equally competitive, albeit different triggers will engender a rise in their competitive juices,” said Saad.  “When it comes to resources, women are likely more communal and hence prefer the equitable/fair option.”

The results may have been different if the question asked had been related to physical attractiveness — then, the women would likely have been more ruthless than the men.

This is not meant to be anti-feminist, but rather reflects the results of Saad’s findings which back up the fact that after centuries of societal reinforcement, women are considered more desirable mates if they are physically attractive. In hunting and gathering societies, this meant that a more womanly shape — full breasts, curves etc., suggested that she would be more fertile and therefore a better mate. Our societal ideals of beauty have changed, but the concept remains the same.

Now, bringing these results back to the bedroom, it is not surprising that having not only lots of sex, but more sex than your peers, would fulfill these primal concerns for both men and women.

What Wadsworth’s study did not specify however, was whether having more sex with one partner, or more sex with many partners, had any effect on the sex-happiness link.

“Both men and women have evolved a desire for sexual variety, albeit the penchant is more pronounced in men,” said Saad.

As such, more sex with more partners would be the preferable option for men, whereas the opposite would be true for women.

“This is simply because the stakes of possible mating are much higher for women than for men,” said Saad. “It’s why a woman can go into a bar and have the option of having sex with any man in the room, but is selective with her choice, whereas men are less exacting when choosing a short-term mating partner.”

For a man, having lots of sex, especially with many partners, would be significant of his social desirability and powerful rank.

For a woman, having lots of sex, whether it be with one or many partners, would reinforce that she is an attractive and desirable mate.

In either case, the simple act of getting it on brings us happiness, not necessarily because of the innately pleasurable quality of the act itself, but rather because it reinforces our desirability, and by extension, our worth.


Does imaginative literature hinder a child’s knowledge?

Why childrens’ books should not affect future learning patterns

Growing up, I was obsessed with Marc Brown’s Arthur series. I owned every book, and read them religiously. I certainly didn’t grow up believing aardvarks could speak.

According to a recent study performed by four child psychology experts in Boston and Toronto, children who read books with human-like animal characters are less likely to absorb scientific facts.

Researchers created six stories, with illustrations, about three lesser-known species. They all contained scientific facts, but half of them had fantasy elements included as well. The study showed that the children who read the fantasy versions of the stories were more likely to believe false information about the animals, such as their ability to speak.

Researchers concluded in the summary that fantasy storybooks for children were “likely to be counter-productive for learning scientifically accurate information about the biological world.”

First of all, if your child likes reading, you’re doing something right. In today’s society, where kids are more likely to pick up a video game controller than a book, we shouldn’t be discouraging children from reading at all. Whether it’s books about talking dogs or non-fiction ones about the animals of the rainforest, they’re still expanding their minds.

Photo by Neeta-Lind

I was always encouraged to read as a child. For as long as I can remember, my parents would read

me a story before falling asleep. When I was four years old and able to read all by myself, I would get in to bed every night with a book. Sixteen years later, I still have that enthusiasm for reading.

Nicholas Oldland, author of Big Bear Hug, is one of many children’s authors who disagrees with this study, and believes that fantasy books are just harmless fun.

“A 4-year-old reading a book about a talking bear, or in my case a bear that hugs trees, it’s an innocent little fantasy,” Oldland told The Star, March 28. “If a child loves picking up that book every night, I think the positive outweighs the negative — if there is any negative. I’d strongly argue there isn’t.”

My parents may have fuelled my passion for literature, but they also taught me the ability to differentiate between what is real and what is fantasy. I started reading the Harry Potter series when I was seven, yet I never once believed that there was actually a wizarding world where magic was possible and dragons existed. That’s because I knew it was all fiction.

Our children need to be taught lessons. Reading and watching TV can help them learn about all sorts of things, don’t get me wrong, but they can’t replace education. It is not a book’s job to teach your child to know the difference between reality and fantasy — it’s yours. Read books with your kids, and make sure that they know that bears don’t talk or wear overalls like The Berenstain Bears.

Are we sending children mixed messages? From the moment we’re born, we’re told to use our imaginations. Our teachers and parents told us that we could use our minds to envision anything we could possibly dream of, but now we’re telling kids they shouldn’t read the stories that help them strengthen their creative thoughts. Is imagination not as important to some people as learning science?

Whether or not this study is accurate shouldn’t even be relevant. We need to encourage the younger generation to be both imaginative and open to learning about the world around them.

And not to be boastful, but I turned out to be fairly good at science — regardless of how many Arthur or Winnie The Poohbooks I read.

Student Life

If you’re happy and you know it, say thank you

What makes you happy? Spending a full day in bed watching Netflix? Going out with your friends? It is an intriguing question to ask yourself. Here is another: when was the last time you thanked someone? Not for merely opening the door for you or giving you a loose-leaf paper, but truly expressed your gratitude and appreciation for how they have impacted you.

Graphic Jenny Kwan

This is the question psychologists asked themselves when conducting a study on the emergence of positive psychology. The study, “Positive Psychology Progress: Empirical Validation of Interventions,” gave participants several “happiness exercises” and questionnaires in an attempt to increase their levels of happiness and decrease their depressive symptoms.

One of the exercises was called “Three good things in life,” where participants were asked to write down three things that went well every day for a week. Another was “You at your best,” where participants were asked to write about a particular time when they were at their best and were told to review their story daily for a week. According to the study, the exercise that showed the largest positive changes was “Gratitude visit,” where participants were given one week to write and then deliver a letter of gratitude in person to someone who had impacted them positively, but were never properly thanked.

The concept of expressing your gratitude directly increasing your happiness is what inspired the viral YouTube video, “The Science of Happiness” by SoulPancake, who decided to put this study to the test.

The video starts off by giving volunteers a short test to get an idea of their current level of happiness. They were told to close their eyes and think of someone who was influential in their lives. They wrote down everything about that person and why they were important to them. They were then told to call that person and read what they wrote about them. The subjects called friends, family members, and one even spoke of a college accounting instructor.

After they expressed their gratitude via telephone to their chosen influential person, they were given one more happiness test. It was essentially the same test the participants had taken at the beginning of the experiment, but the questions were mixed up and re-phrased. According to the results, the participants who personally picked up the phone and expressed their gratitude were significantly happier. The host, Julian Huguet, noted that the person who came in the least happy had the biggest jump in happiness.

The concept is so simple, but at the same time, not something that crosses our minds very often. I sent the video around and asked people what their thoughts and reactions were.

“I think it is indicative of our society as a whole, where we just take things for granted, happiness included, and never look at why or how we got their in the first place,” said McGill student Robert Laurella. “Being grateful forces you to think about why you have a reason to be happy in the first place, and that gets lost a lot.”

John Abbott College student Carine Chan agrees: “That was so cute, I started tearing up,” she said. “We often don’t express our gratitude towards others not because we don’t feel it, but we just don’t think of doing it. It clearly does bring happiness in so many ways.”

SoulPancake has since conducted other experiments such as the correlation between happiness and success, looking on the bright side, and being kind. They continue to add videos to The Science of Happiness series and post their findings on YouTube, while encouraging others to test them out for themselves.

The Science of Happiness


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