Saturday, November 18, 2017

Effective Thinking

In the October 29, 2017 edition of the New York Times, the article “Thinking on Your Feet” got my attention. A professor of exercise and health promotion at Arizona State University in Phoenix recruited 9 sedentary males and females who were overweight. The purpose of the study was to evaluate the following. During one visit the subjects sat for eight hours while using a computer and/or talking on the phone. Twice during the day, they also completed computerized measures of many thinking drills, including working memory and decision-making. During three other visits, the volunteers broke up there sitting time by standing, walking, at a treadmill desk or pedaling on a modified stationary bicycle placed beneath their desks for at least 10 minutes once an hour. The exercise was a gentle- walking pace, a 1 mph or comparable effort while pedaling. These subjects typed and chatted during these breaks. They also repeated the tests of thinking, memory, and decision-making twice each day immediately after standing or exercising. Previous research suggests that prolonged sitting is related to a higher risk for obesity and heart disease. We also know that exercise is better than sitting. Would standing or exercising, impair the ability to concentrate and think? The findings with this limited group of subjects showed that exercise breaks statistically improved scores on the tests .Specifically, it helped with the kinds of thinking skills that help individuals perform their jobs well- Immediately after standing or moving for 10 minutes or more. The volunteers performed better on all tests of thinking compared to those that sat all day. The gains were greatest for those subjects that peddled their desk bikes. Critically, employing only nine overweight individuals and referring to those tasks as exercise is questionable, to say the least. Be careful about generalizing from this study. However, many years ago I eliminated sitting at my computer, and even thought about the idea of developing and marketing a special desk. Secondly, I actually exercise on my trail runs, that last one and a half hours to five hours at a time. I believe, on a subject of one, that my thinking, memory, and ability to organize without interruptions improves greatly. Often, the outline or writing one of my posts happens during my time on the trail. As I said in the past, keep moving.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Panacea Part 2

If one has received an ALS diagnosis, then it is highly unlikely to consider that person achieving a well-being state. In viewing the physical health of many in the United States, we have a preponderance of obesity, heart disease, cancer, stroke, suicide, opiates, and alcohol diagnoses. These illnesses suggest that these individuals are having a difficult time reaching and enjoying any form of well-being. We know the emotional components of hope, optimism and well-being, is being able to experience happiness in the present, and looking forward to the future. When given a limited timetable, with a closing door, one thinks about their bucket list. According to Mike Keller, “the train has already left the station.” The ingredients for positive physical health are relatively concrete. One study, based on a US survey by the California State Department of Public health suggested: 1. Sleep 7-8 hours a night 2. Always eat breakfast. 3. Snack infrequently 4. Keep weight between 5% under and 20% over desirable standard weight for males and less than 10% over desirable weight for females. 5. Exercise frequently. 6 .Some or little alcohol, 7. Don’t smoke. One may agree or disagree with the seven listed. However, there’s not much disagreement when it comes to assessing the degree of difficulty or following through with these recommendations. These seven ingredients, on the surface, do not seem monumental or difficult to achieve. What seems to me, is that not following through with these or other recommendations is the result or inability of an individuals in making good choices or decisions. Is it simply man’s nature? Man is irrational and employs various defense mechanisms justifying behavior. However, irrational thinking leads to and influences non-productive behavior. Second, man has a need for abasement and employs self-destructive behaviors, and misfortune. This need can reach pathological dimensions. These two components, if unchecked, along with unconscious elements results in illness, and destroys the possibility for well-being. Reaching or achieving self-actualization, well-being and positive overall health is possible, but not probable for many. If moderation, when it comes to eating behavior is absent, and non- applicable as a physical activity can be troublesome when absent. It’s not surprising, that well-being and positive physical health are difficult to achieve and are simply illusions for many. PS After a long plane ride, my sister just arrived from the East Coast. On the plane, she was seated next to a physician who taught emergency room procedures to other physicians. This Dr. complained that she was tired and this was her first time off in the last four years. She said she loved her position. My sister got up in the aisle to stretch while this Dr. verbalized exercises for her in a standing position. Did this knowledgeable, young, overweight doctor also get in the aisle to perform these exercises? No! Once again, it’s about the decisions we make.

Saturday, November 4, 2017


Albert Maslow a humanistic psychologist, postulated 15 characteristics or needs to be satisfied. If these needs are satisfied, the individual was then capable of experiencing moments of happiness and fulfillment. Existentialists, such as Rollo May, believed that it was possible for man to realize his potential. This was accomplished when the individual accepted the facts that death was a constant; and that within his nature, irrational forces exist, and they cannot be realistically solved through illusions of religion, politics, or other mythology. Erich Fromm wrote that being could have a productive orientation. With a productive orientation, man was able to love, care, respect another, and become creative. If this was not achieved, he could become destructive, conforming, and become non-descript within the masses. More recently, Martin Seligman addressed 3 types of happiness. The first being pleasure and gratification; the second having strength and virtue; and the third finding meaning and purpose. Simplifying, each of these theorists, within a motivational construct, believed that man can fulfill his nature, regardless of his environment. Each within their own framework and terminology, have provided insight, and understanding into man’s potential for excellence. These individuals provided hope within the constructs of existentialism, self-actualization, and well-being. However, these theories are lacking in that they do not address the importance of physical health. One simply cannot omit the importance of positive physical health, when addressing man’s human potential. Is it possible for a human being to achieve the various positive constructs of mental health functioning, if one does not possess excellent physical health? We all know that our body begins to significantly change over the passage of time. In fact, aging affects our immune system, memory, cognitive functions, musculature, sexual functioning and aerobic capacity. Certain diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, ALS, etc. results in doom, gloom and despair. To Be Continued

Sunday, October 29, 2017

The Age of Escapism Part 3

If we participate in yoga, we can insulate ourselves from others, and withdraw to lower our breathing rate and blood pressure. Numerous other health benefits such as energy level, mood, executive function, and ability to control thoughts and emotions have correlated with this positive way to withdraw from everyday life. If we attend a sporting event, we yell, scream and experience enjoyment when our team wins or sadness and disgust when we lose. During the game, we can experience many emotions and not think about our personal issues, stresses and demands. We’re given permission to love our team and hate the opponent. We don’t have time to deal with our own issues as we externalize, project and identify with something outside ourselves. Another way to lose oneself is to read a best-selling novel. We can identify with the protagonist and live vicariously within the story. These are just a few escape mechanisms and if employed in moderation, they are benign. Yes, they do work, in that they block out troubling thoughts. On the other hand, we can consume alcohol, especially at a party or social event in order to loosen up and” enjoy” oneself. Once again, alcohol distorts one’s reality. Some people even become friendlier, while others become drowsy. All the commercials show young people drinking alcohol with smiles on their faces. The messages say” simply distort reality so you can have fun.” We can take drugs, since being in an inebriated state must be superior to present reality. Becoming addicted makes it a medical problem, which gives it cover for otherwise poor choices, inadequate heredity, etc. if it’s a medical problem, then insurance can pay for the treatment. We forget to see that consequence in all the fun loving commercials. However, our current favorite escape mechanism is to be found within the electronics explosion. We can carry our cell phone, provided we have a deep enough pocket, and entertain ourselves almost 24-7. We don’t even have to call someone with our phone device. We can text them, we can play games with them, we can listen to music, we can ask our device questions, we can get directions, etc. etc. What happens when we can’t find our cell phone partner? We become anxious like fearful parents that have lost their child. Find the cell phone and the anxiety lessons. We are dependent and addicted to our escape mechanism called cell phones. Man, may seek momentary pleasure by consuming that milkshake but on the other hand it creates long-term negative health consequences for self. Man may opt for surgery to minimize current pain and that then creates negative health consequences, as in knee replacements that only last for a certain period. Man attempts, at times, to minimize pain as the goal and some might call this seeking happiness. Falling in love is another escape mechanism commonly employed. However, the chemicals involved in this process are short-lived and do not last forever. Our statistics on marriage and divorce continue to bear this out. Living and coping with reality has evolved over time. We no longer have just alcohol and drugs to numb our senses. We now have many more opportunities. The early hunters and gatherers had to do just that, while creating lodging and safety. Early on they discovered more “civilized” ways of escape in the process. Since then we have mastered it beautifully. If you’re pursuing happiness, tell me how it turned out.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

The Age of Escapism Part 2

On the biological level, an aging body can reach havoc proportions and that clearly affects the health, and the health care delivery system in our country. On a personal level, a young mid-60s, athlete friend was diagnosed with ALS, as was Dwight Clark, the former San Francisco 49er hero. We have an obesity problem in our country that just makes things go more badly for the health and welfare of individuals. We also have preponderance of non -curable diseases that limit the health span of many. It seems to me that the pursuit of pleasure, pursuit of happiness and avoidance of pain, tell only part of the human story. It’s apparent that the motivation of individuals also seek escape from the realities of being. Yes, it’s clear that natural disasters and our biology contribute to life’s unpleasantness. Civilization, culture, society add to life’s challenges. A brief list of articles found in the magazine 9/29/17 of The Week included these titles: 1. College: the trouble with Ivy League schools 2. Obama care: why the uninsured are happy. 3. Facebook it secret experiment on users 4. Breast-feeding: the politics of mother’s milk. 5. Regulation: putting a price on life. 6. Russia: no protection for our kids in America. The list goes on with all these articles pertaining to the vast array of negatives currently going on in our society. We turn to radio, TV, movies and social media and pile on more hate, destruction, fear, anger, and disgust. It affects all of us negatively. As humans, we are skilled at the distortion of reality and who can blame us? With the threat of nuclear war, political ineffectiveness, the dying middle class, war on terror or whatever, and interacting with our fellow humans, it’s obvious that we are stressed, anxious, uncomfortable and fearful. Life is not only difficult, but it’s hazardous to our health. We have learned to escape. We are living in the “Age of Escapism.” Escape is the distortion, change or modification of the physiology {neurotransmitters, pleasure-pain centers and executive functions} of the brain and the psychological {thinking, perception, feeling, mood changes, memory and motoric functions} taking place within our state of being. Escape is so widespread that more than likely people who employ and rely on an escape mechanism, then erroneously label themselves happy. Remember, according to Epicurus, it’s only our thinking that puts labels on good and bad. We are experts at deceiving ourselves. To Be Continued

Friday, October 27, 2017

The Age of Escapism

Philosopher [Aristotle], religious icons [St. Augustine and Thomas Aquinas], past president of the United States [Thomas Jefferson], economist [Paul Ananad] and psychologist [Albert Maslow]are some that have written about happiness. Happiness has been referred to as a rational activity, employing ethical behavior, being an ultimate goal in life, found in self-actualization, and attainable in the life after. It has been positively correlated with GDP, GNP as useful measures of successful economic policy. Also, there is a positive association between happier nations and richer nations as well. It has been stated that good mental health and good interpersonal relationships contribute more than income to happiness. However, the German philosopher Nietzsche, on the other hand, criticized the notion of happiness as in his words,” it makes one contemptible.” He believed that attaining and achieving difficult goals were a higher ideal as opposed to pursuing mere self-serving happiness. Interestingly, it’s been found that happiness does not correlate highly with physical health. Perhaps one of the difficulties with this concept is the number of its many employable definitions. Some psychologists see happiness as an emotion, while others attempt to incorporate various associations with the happiness notion like Seligman. Seligman found the following factors correlated with happiness or well-being: 1. Pleasure 2. Engagement 3. Relationships 4 Meaning and 5. Accomplishments. I have no argument, if we’re talking about well-being. The above factors, no doubt, contributed to well-being. Psychologist Paul Ekman studied the relationship of facial expressions to emotional states. He identified five major emotions that included: anger, fear, sadness, disgust, and enjoyment. Note that four of his emotional states are negative. Even if we include happiness within Ekman’s classification of enjoyment, the one positive emotion is outweighed by four negative emotional states. The preponderance of negative emotional states for human beings make sense as man is confronted with natural disasters, frailty of the mind and body during the lifelong process along with the development of civilization, society and culture. Within our society we have to deal with interpersonal drama, unions, losses, employment challenges, economic uncertainties, political shenanigans, along with the threat of war etc. Just recently, there was horrendous human suffering as a result of the season of hurricanes in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico. Furthermore, the deadly fire in Santa Rosa, California devastated that community. These natural disasters caused havoc with individuals who experienced too much anger, fear, sadness and disgust. There was not a whole lot of happiness to be experienced. To Be Continued

Friday, October 20, 2017

Do College Football Rankings Matter?

According to the college football national rankings and the media, Saturday’s game between the Wolverines and the Nittany Lions is a big deal. At the moment, Penn State is ranked number 2 in the polls, while Michigan is ranked either 15 or 19. Many of you know that the 100+ college football teams in Division I are ranked prior to even playing their first season game. Of course, there’s great variability in terms of football history, past season success, previous week’s ranking, level of competition, etc. per school or university .Despite all the many variables, there’s no shortage of the rankings. Accuracy and reliability of the pools are suspect to say the least. Rankings are used as if they are the gospel. If a higher ranked team gets beat, it’s called an upset irrespective of where the game was actually played, weather conditions, number of player injuries or suspensions, or whether or not it’s a rivalry game. Two weeks ago, Harbaugh’s Wolverines lost to unranked Michigan State University. MSU has been a very significant rival. That close scoring game was played in very rainy weather conditions. The Maize and Blue beat themselves by fumbling twice along with throwing three interceptions. After the games that week, Michigan was ranked ahead of now ranked MSU. Per last week’s football games, MSU is now ranked higher than Michigan. At this time, PSU has a 6-0 record. None of their victories have been attained against a top {1 through 25 ranked team}. Buy the same token, at this point. Michigan has a 5-1 record against all unranked {1 through 25} teams. These two Big Ten schools have played one common Big Ten team that being Indiana. Penn State blew them out while Michigan beat them in overtime last week. Penn State is heavily favored to beat the Wolverines on their home field. Using various statistics, currently, they are a 9.5 favorite to beat Harbaugh’s Wolverines. According to statistics, the Wolverines have an outstanding defense, which will be tested Saturday evening. It’s their offense that makes them statistically underdogs. Michigan, earlier in the season, lost its starting quarterback. The current quarterback is John O’ Korn. As a result of John’s three interceptions against MSU, the passing attack was practically nonexistent against Indiana. That nonexistent passing attack was the result of Harbaugh’s decision to limit O’Korn’s decision-making options. If that’s the case Saturday, the Wolverines are in big trouble. According to Thom Darden, U of M, All-American, all Pro, Hall of Fame Cleveland Browns defensive back, Harbaugh has to allow O’ Korn the freedom, instinct’s and flexibility to play quarterback without the play calling restrictions. Only then will the Wolverines have a fighting chance to whip the Nittany Lions in Happy Valley, Pennsylvania. In sports, as far as competition and playing performance goes, the time, the day, the competition or the event is always unique and different Last year’s whipping of Penn State in Ann Arbor was just history. Every game brings its own sets of variables. There is not one college team, at this point, that looks unbeatable, except maybe Alabama. However, we won’t crown the 2017 college football champion until January of next year. It’s a long football season. Go Blue!