On 1/22/2011, while waiting for my daughter’s art lesson, I was reading Scientific American Mind magazine, issue Jan-Feb 2011. There is one article on habit-forming.
It is a research first published in European Journal of Social Psychology, carried out by Phillippa Lally of University College of London. She asked 96 undergraduates to form a habit in 12 weeks by repeating a healthy behavior.
The results of her study suggest that habits take much longer to form than researchers previously thought (an average of nine and a half weeks and potentially as long as several months).
Yet, as with enhancing our emotional intelligence and changing characteristic traits that are given at birth, no matter how hard it is, it is possible. A new habit can be formed as long as we keep up doing it. We just need to prepare for some hard work involved in habit-forming.
According to a Chinese saying, it is easy to change a landscape than to change a person’s nature. Though the saying is often used in a negative sense, I have for a long time inclined to accept it. The belief implies that a person’s personality and temperament come with his birth and will remain unchanged throughout his life.
The course on developing our emotional intelligence has made me a disbeliever of this age-old saying. We are more the products of nurture, our growing-up experience than of nature. Our experience can not only change the way we think and how we think, but also the physiological makeup of our brain, which will lead to the change in our temperament, making it possible to mold us into whatever human-being that we wish to be.
Second skill, harnessing emotions productively. This requires monitoring self-talk to catch any internal negative messages. It also means taking time to understand what is behind your feelings and finding ways to handle fear, anxiety, anger, sadness and any negative and energy-draining ones.
Third skill, reading emotions in others. This involves practice in taking another person’s perspective. You must first appreciate the differences in how people feel about things, work on listening effectively and asking a lot of questions, and recognizing your own reactions to what people say and do.
Being able to control the urge to focus solely on self and to control negative impulses offers a vast array of benefits to the individual and to society as a whole. These emotional intelligence skills open the path to empathy and listening, which in turn lead to caring and compassion. This dynamic combination breeds tolerance and acceptance of differences, increase mutual respect, and creates the possibility of fulfilling personal and professional relationships.
Very often people with high IQ fail in life as the result of their underdeveloped or failure to develop their emotional intelligence. They provide sad lessons for us all. After these postings, the first and final message is this: becoming emotionally intelligent is the key to lifelong success.
P.S. I love these courses offered freely by our company. As we merge with an academic institute, I look forward to more opportunities of this nature.
Educating emotions: Key to Your Success
A person with high emotional intelligence is self-disciplined, leads a virtuous life, is able to motivate and guide himself personally and professionally, has the ability to delay gratification, control and channel his urges, will, appetites, and passions, knows how to do right by himself and others, possesses “character.”
Character is the essence of emotional intelligence. Character is made up of these three skills:
First skill, practicing emotional self-awareness is essential in educating the emotions and building character.
—recognizing and naming emotions. This requires building a vocabulary for feelings so that when an emotion is experienced, you are able to label that emotion appropriately. e.g. anger, frustration, hurt.
—understanding the causes of feelings, which means dedicating yourself to observing your own behavior and recognize the feelings that various situations elicit. e.g. when someone treats you with indifference, do you give up or try harder to get them to notice you?
—recognizing the difference between feelings and actions. There is a big difference between thought and action. To become more emotionally self-award, you must understand the relationship between your thoughts and reactions. When you examine your actions, pay attention to whether your thoughts or feelings are ruling.
On your sweet sixteenth birthday, the song Rolf sings to Liesl in Sound of Music comes up in my mind.
“You are sixteen going on seventeen
Baby, it’s time to think
Better beware be canny and careful
Baby, you’re on the brink
I am glad to see you have continued getting mature and are working assiduously toward your goal, even if you have your doubts and are nebulous about your future.
It always warms my heart when I see you trying to be nice and considerate. Every time you proactively manage your time using a time tracking mechanism, I see you are on the way to better self-management. I know you will always try to get the best out of whatever situation you find yourself in. I have no doubt that you will become an individual that you are proud of.
Happy birthday, my dear daughter.
P.S. the snow gently fell as the day closed. Just two of us today. Her brother called early in the morning wishing her happy birthday. We went outside for lunch, then to library, then to get a cake of her choice. She went out with a friend yesterday.
Problems associated with emotional illiteracy:
The fourth problem is aggressive behavior. While admittedly withdrawal is probably the most common social problem that may be caused by emotional illiteracy, aggression is likely the most troublesome. Aggressive behavior includes the following.
(a) Interpreting neutral acts as threats. Their aggressive behavior is based on a perceptual bias that causes them to be highly sensitive to what they perceive as unfair treatment. Consequently, even neutral acts appear to be threats.
(b) Aggressive person tends to jump to judgment, causing him to pay too little attention to what is really happening. Once that assumption is made, the person moves into action.
(c) Low emotional tolerance: aggressive individuals have low emotional tolerance, and get irritated more often by little things. Once upset, they see all acts as hostile and begin concentrating on how to strike back.
(d) Perceptual biases toward hostility are in place at an early age. Aggressive children are often rejected by their peers and are unable to make friends easily. These children are most at risk for eventual committing violent crimes.
Problems associated with emotional illiteracy:
The second problem is depression. Although there are many causes for depression, including biochemical imbalances, depression may also be caused by emotional illiteracy. People with depression often suffer from
(a) being lonely
(b) having many fears and worries
(c) needing to be perfect
(d) feeling unloved
(e) feeling nervous
(f) being sad
The third problem is attention or thinking problems. These problem often display themselves through nervous or overly active behavior.
(a) They have difficulty sitting still and very often they feel too nervous to concentrate or get his mind focused on the issues at hand.
(b) Or they are daydreaming constantly, having difficulty getting his mind off a topic and often act without thinking.
Problems associated with low emotional intelligence:
The first problem is withdrawal. This is probably the most common social problem that results from a lack of emotional intelligence. While everyone needs a certain amount of ‘alone time’, people who are severely lacking in emotional intelligence take this idea to the extreme.
Here’s a person’s journey from “alone time” to more severe problem.
“I started off just preferring to be alone, but after a while, I wasn’t able to function normally when surrounded by other people. I found them bothersome, as opposed to enjoying the interaction.
Next, I noticed that I didn’t want to tell anyone anything. I was overly secretive, and I felt I couldn’t trust anyone. Consequently, I had trouble developing relationships. As a result of having no connections and being withdrawn, I began to sulk a lot. I was really feeling sorry for myself.
Then, I had an overall drop in energy. I was never up. I constantly complained of being tired or overwhelmed. Feeling unhappy became an acceptable state for me. Since I spent so little time with other people, I began to lose my perspective and viewed life with a self-imposed negative bias.
Finally, I found myself overly dependent upon drugs and alcohol, which only served to make me more withdrawn.”
Humans are primed by genetics to respond to situations in either a generally positive or generally negative way. However, innate predispositions can be molded and changed through experience.
Specific brain functions and their effects on temperament:
Brain wave patterns can classify people as tending toward a morose or upbeat temperament. e.g. Adam has a cheerful temperament and the ability to bounce back from setbacks. This is due to greater activity in the LEFT frontal lobe. Opposite to Adam, Emma has a tendency toward melancholy and negativity. This is due to higher levels of activity in the RIGHT frontal lobe.
The good thing is emotional experiences can actually change the neural circuitry in the brain, affecting ingrained temperament. e.g. a boy was fearful of water. His mom helped him overcome his fear by participating in swimming lessons. This gave his neural circuits a chance to build new pathways that superseded the existing fear-of-water ones.
Psychotherapy or emotional relearning can accomplish the same thing and transcend ingrained temperaments by reshaping brain functions.
Here’s a special note to parents: Brain patterns affecting temperament are most easily changed in childhood. That is, nurture can change nature. This is very encouraging!
The literal meaning of these words is “Read ten thousands of book; travel ten thousands of miles.” The real meaning, well, is open to interpretation. I interpret it as “learn and put into practice as much as you can.” After singing “Happy Birthday to you,” this is the birthday message that I have for my son on his 22nd birthday.
Ever since my son turned 18 and left home, he has spent his birthday away from home either by himself or with his friends. On his 20th birthday, he was alone on his way to South Africa. On his 21st birthday, he was on his way to California for an interview. Today he is with his friends in Paris as part of their tour of Europe. Parents have to get used to their children being away and remotely wish them Happy Birthday. After all, happiness is what really matters, be he a small boy or a big man.
P.S. today also marks the 1000th posting. What a lovely coincidence!
The interconnection of genetics and temperament.
Genetics and temperament influence the level of one’s emotional intelligence in a variety of ways.
(1) A higher rate of activity in the amygdala is associated with timidity and fearfulness.
(2) Brain wave patterns classify individuals as tending toward cheerfulness or melancholy.
(3) Overly sensitive and fearful children often grow into shy adults.
As all parents can attest, every baby is different. Some are naturally easy and seldom cry, while others are easily upset. These early indications of temperament often stick for life — the easy and bold babies become social and popular adults, while the timid and fearful babies grow into shy, anxious and timid adults.
Genetics do affect emotional literacy. Every individual is “hard wired” with a genetic predisposition for a certain temperament. However, while temperament has a biological basis, it can be altered.
(a) Genetic response to stress:
Timid babies exhibit greater reactions to stress than bold babies; their hearts beat faster when faced with strange situations. They treat any new person or circumstance as a threat.
(b) Amygdala activity and temperament:
The amygdala of a timid baby is more easily aroused than that of a bold baby; the nervous system activates the amygdala more quickly. On the other hand, the amygdala of an outgoing baby is less excitable; the nervous system has a higher threshold before activating the amygdala.
(c) Parental influence on temperament:
Parents can moderate a timid baby’s fearfulness by settling firm limits and insisting on obedience. Parents who are lenient and indirect with timid babies tend to reinforce their fearfulness, making it more difficult for them to become outgoing adults. This is so true, as I have witnessed cases of timid babies being pampered into timid, shy and unhappy adults.
Hope and optimism: the third and fourth characteristics that contribute to emotional competence. Recent research shows that hope is a crucial element in a vast array of abilities. In everything from taking tests to handling a difficult boss, hope is more than just a vague belief. It has been discovered that hope gives people confidence that they have the will and the means to achieve the goals. In terms of emotional intelligence, hope plays a role in not giving into defeat, depression, setbacks, or anxiety. People with hope have less emotional stress.
Optimism is an extension of hope. If hope is not giving into defeat, depression, setbacks, or anxiety, then optimism is the attitude that goes along with it.
–Optimism protects people from apathy and depression.
–Optimistic people see failure as an event they can overcome
–Optimism prevents people from blaming failures on person traits
Martin Seligman’s study of insurance salesmen is one of the greatest examples of the power of optimism. Seligman discovered that new salesmen who were naturally optimistic sold 37% more than those who were pessimistic. The difference was attributed to what happened when rejected. The pessimistic salesman interprets “no” personally–“I’m a failure.” The optimistic one interprets “no” quite differently–“I need to try a new approach.”
Mood manipulation: the second characteristic that contribute to emotional competence.
Even small mood changes can color a person’s ability to think clearly.
(1) Good moods actually enhance a person’s ability to think and solve problem. Laughing frees up one’s creativity and promotes one’s ability to see complex relationships and consequences. Joking can actually help one think through a problem.
(2) Studies show that problems are more likely to be solved by someone who’s just had a good laugh. After watching a show about television bloopers, a person is better able to find alternative solutions to a problem that was weighing heavily on his mind before.
(3) When making important decisions, it is preferable to be in a good mood. It helps one think more positively and comprehensively. One considers the pros and cons, recalls positive events, and is more likely to make a sound decision when one is upbeat.
(4) When a person is in a bad mood and try to make decisions, he can only recall the negative. He finds that he is overly cautious, and his emotions cause him to make decisions based on his fear.
Continue with marshmallow experiment and impulse control:
The interest part about the experiment is its follow-up phase.
First of all, there is a behavior difference— when researchers followed up on Mischel’s test group 14 years later, there was a marked difference between the group that took the marshmallow and the group that was able to delay gratification. The children who had been able to control their impulses at age 4 were found to be more socially competent adolescents. These children were also more self-assertive and demonstrated more competence in handling frustration, stress, and pressure.
Secondly, on their ability to face challenge, this research found that the group of children with gratification-delay ability were better able to face challenges and were more likely to be relentless in their pursuit of valued goals. On the other hand, the children without impulse control were more easily upset and put off by frustrations.
Thirdly, regarding personal traits, the 4-year-olds who resisted the treat displayed more personal integrity than those who couldn’t wait. Qualities like trustworthiness, self-assertiveness, dependability, social competence, and self-reliance were evident in these individuals. The marshmallow-grabbing group had fewer of these qualities.
Fourthly, even more significant is the fact that impulse control is a strong predictor of lifelong success, signifying the ability to identify situations in which delay and resisting temptation would be beneficial in achieving goals.
Lastly, on their mental ability— Mischel’s research proved that the ability to control impulses when focusing on a goal is the essence of emotional competency. His findings clearly identify emotional intelligence as a critical factor in using other mental abilities to the greatest capacity.
Impulse Control: Key to Emotional Competency
Characteristics that contribute to emotional competency include
(a) impulse control
(b) mood manipulation
Psychologist Walter Mischel started the famous Stanford marshmallow experiment in 1972. Working with 4-year-old children on the Stanford University campus preschool, he used a model to evaluate the importance of emotional intelligence. The children were promised two marshmallow as a treat if they could wait until someone returned from an errand. If the child couldn’t wait until then, the child could have only one immediately.
The choice made by these children became a telling tale about emotional intelligence and about one of the basic characteristics associated with emotional intelligence — impulse control.
Impulse control is one of the several characteristics that predict and measure emotional intelligence. It is often considered the core of emotional self-management. This is probably because emotions by nature call for action or response. For up to 20 minutes, some children hid their eyes, sang, played games, and talked to themselves while waiting for the two-marshmallow reward. However, other children took the one marshmallow almost immediately after the facilitator left the room.
More on this experiment tomorrow…
Negative effects of anxiety
Anxiety is a strictly negative experience. Anxiety focuses attention solely on the issue at hand and drives the mind to obsession. This leads to an endless cycle with no hope of resolution, causing inflexibility and unrealistic perceptions. Just imagine yourself trapped in the narrow corner of a cow’s horn.
Characteristic, damages and ending of anxiety
(a) Physiological reactions: sweating, a racing heart, and muscle tension
(b) Limits creative solutions: it prevents a worried person from shifting his mind away from his worries, limiting his ability to develop creative solutions.
(c) Ruminate on danger: causes a person to review again and again dangers of all kinds–even things that have no chance of happening. They see trouble or opponents at every corner.
(d) Addicted to anxiety: if a person chronically worries about problems that rarely happen, he may attribute their nonoccurrence to his obsessing about them.
The first step in minimizing anxiety is self-awareness, which means training yourself to identify situations that trigger worry, images that prompt worry, and sensations that signal anxiety in the body.
Challenge troubling thoughts:
Once aware of anxious thoughts, the next step in eliminating anxiety is to actively challenge troubling thoughts. This involves questioning assumptions and maintaining a healthy skepticism toward the probability of occurrence.
Positive effects of worry
Sometimes, worry can serve a very useful purpose. Some of the aspects of worry that at first seem negative can actually produce positive results. Worries usually escalate from thought to thought within seconds. These thoughts are a steady progression of verbal expressions of concern, but seldom include images.
(a) When danger is sensed, worry allows you to assess your options, rehearse methods for dealing with them, and reflect upon desired outcomes
(b) Catastrophizing is the process of imagining a worst-case scenario; it produces a series of terrible thoughts without a visual component. Because catastrophizing is expressed only as thoughts, not images, it does not leave a lasting impression.
(c) Worry can suppress the physiological effects of anxiety. When faced with anxiety, an individual launches into a train of distressing thoughts. Meanwhile, anxious sensations, like a racing heartbeat, can be lessened because the mind is distracted from the original triggering thought.
Worry and anxiety
If at some point you have been obsessed with a minor issue, making a mountain out of a molehill and you cannot get it out of your mind, you are being consumed and controlled by energy-draining anxiety. Ability to handle and free yourself from your consuming anxiety will not only enhance your productivity but also improve your social relations.
Although the perception of worry has been quite negative, not all worry is bad. Worrying can assist you in reflecting upon and developing positive solutions to problems. On the other hand, chronic worry creates a cycle of anxiety and unproductive obsessive thoughts.
Difference between worry and anxiety
Worry and anxiety are two points on a continuum. When a troublesome thought triggers the emotional brain, worry kicks in. Initially, this may generate constructive reflection. However, further down the continuum, it becomes chronic. Your worry functions as a rehearsal for what may go wrong and provides a risk-free opportunity to evaluate solutions. Your anxiety produces tunnel vision, causing you to be obsessed with a single negative outcome for the problem at hand, which often leads to a dead end.
Anger Management, part II
There are some common misconceptions about anger. Contrary to popular belief, venting anger does little or nothing to dissipate it. Actually, venting is one of the worst ways to cool off after an outburst. It fuels the brain’s emotional arousal and leaves people feeling more angry, not less. The right anger management is to defuse it by early intervention.
There are three types of intervention that can lessen or eliminate anger. In fact, any anger mood can be sidestepped altogether if caught in its earliest stage. Don’t wait till it is too late. For example, a man has just blown up at his boss. As his anger escalated, he couldn’t think straight and was oblivious to the consequences of any actions he might take. At this point, it became very difficult for him to defuse.
(1) Challenge the thoughts that spark the anger. This is most effective when undertaken at early or moderate levels of anger. Once enraged, a person is no longer capable of rational thought–only of revenge and reprisal.
(2) Distraction–it is useful for diminishing an angry mood. TV, movie or reading can take your mind off the hostile thoughts. But shopping or eating may worsen anger by allowing you to dwell on the triggering situation.
(3) Physical activity–you can deflate anger by engaging in a physical activity, especially by yourself. Deep breathing and relaxation exercises are also effective.
Anger Management, part I
With the exception of people with high emotional intelligence, most people have the hardest time controlling their anger. When you let anger get the best of you, anger fuels actions which you will soon regret. You let angry feelings overtake rational thought and escalate out of control.
Anger creates a dual response in the body with short-term but lasting effects. The initial reaction is the “fight or flight” syndrome–the body senses a threat and prepares itself for possible attack. At the same time, the brain sends a signal that heightens sensitivity to subsequent events.
Physiologically, when angry feelings are triggered, the brain sends a rush of energy throughout the body. This surge lasts several minutes while the brain assesses the situation. Meanwhile, the nervous system is put on general alert–a state of readiness that lasts for hours or even days. This persistent state of arousal explains why people get angry more quickly if they have already been provoked. The nervous system remains ready for any subsequent threats. Thus, anger builds on anger.
In order to be self-aware, you can try the following:
(1) Step back from the situation or the provoking experience and observe what is happening. Very often, distance yourself from it provides you the space and time to take a fresh look at the situation.
(2) Gain control over ourselves so that we will not be controlled by our emotion. It takes a lot of constant efforts to control our urge to act stupidly when in anger. But you will see the benefit of these efforts as soon as your stormy anger is over.
(3) Remain positive. When you are clear about your own boundaries and options, you will feel good psychologically and can maintain an overall positive outlook on life. Always try to put things in a long range perspective.
(4) Recognize your own feeling. This recognition signifies that you want to feel otherwise.
There are varying degrees of self-awareness. However, when taken to extremes, emotional awareness can be troubling. For some people, awareness is overwhelming; for others, it barely exists. People who are overly tuned to their emotions can increase the intensity and severity of their reactions to stressful situations and easily become engulfed and going to the first style.
People who use distraction to avoid tuning in to their emotions tend to be less aware of how they react to stressful situations. Therefore, their experiences tend to be less significant. Keep in mind that some degrees of emotional self-awareness is crucial to emotional intelligence.
There are three distinctive styles that people use for dealing with their emotions, ranging from low to high emotional intelligence.
(1) Feeling engulfed, the style of people with low emotional intelligence
When people are engulfed by their emotions, they often feel like they have no control over their mood. They surrender to their emotion and let their emotions run wild and are prone to overacting and thinking the worst. They are the ones who will freak out, be frustrated, going crazy, with blood flooding to their heads, leaving no room or any possibility of clear thinking.
(2) Being accepting
People who accept their emotions passively do little to change how they feel. They are aware of their feelings, but they either don’t believe they can or aren’t willing to do anything about them. There are two types of acceptors: Type I is the person who is always in a good mood and has no need or motivation to change. Whatever will happen happens and I don’t care. Type II is the person who is always in a bad mood. Though he accepts it, he does nothing about it.
(3) Being self-aware, the most desirable style, the style of people with high emotional intelligence
They are self-aware and have conscious thoughts about their moods as they experience them and has the ability to get out of a bad mood.
Life is by nature full of ups and downs, beyond our control, with people in our lives as diverse as birds in forests. Like it or not, you spend much of your life attempting to manage your moods and feelings.
High emotional intelligence equals to emotional balance and well-managed appropriate emotional response. The essence of managing emotions is the ability to cultivate emotional responses in a variety of settings and to keep your emotions balanced by restraining excess emotions. People with high emotional intelligence are able to deal with situations that provoke highly intensive emotions so that these situations can be solved successfully and crisis can be defused.
The take-home message is we need to understand the value and necessity of achieving emotional balance.
(1) Ability to manage emotion is a critical skill in becoming emotionally intelligent.
(2) Managed emotion enables you to limit the effects of anger and worry.
(3) Managed emotion helps you achieve balance.
Anger and fear are part of a spectrum of emotions. Other emotions that trigger different physiological responses are love and happiness, surprise, disgust, and sadness. Keep in mind that although people don’t always display their emotions, the underlying physiological reaction is present.
Core emotions and their impacts on us are:
(1) Love and happiness–are exhibited by a general sense of calmness and contentment. Brain signals inhibit negative feelings and foster an increase in energy.
(2) Disgust–is the primitive human’s attempt to resist a noxious odor or spit out a poisonous food.
(3) Sadness–produces a decrease in energy and enthusiasm and slows the body’s metabolism. It is often accompanied by a flow of fears.
(4) Surprise–the body responds to surprise by lifting the eyebrows to permit more light to reach the retina and allow a wide range of view.
This met primitive humans’ needs to assess the unexpected event and create a plan for action. Physical reactions have been implanted in the nervous system since primitive times. While they originally served as a survival mechanism, in modern society these emotions can obscure rational thinking and cloud judgment.
Here’s how emotions function and the physiological responses to anger, fear, love, happiness, surprise, and disgust and sadness. Each emotion is an impulse to act, to either “fight or flight.” Every emotion has a unique role in preparing the body for some type of response.
One of the strongest ones people feel is anger. When a person is angry, blood flows to the hands. The original purpose in primitive time was to facilitate grasping a weapon–the “fight” response. Also, in anger, the heart rate increase, and there is a rush of adrenaline that creates a surge of energy for intense action–the adrenaline response.
Closely aligned with anger is fear–the “flight” response. A rush of hormones puts the body on general alert, causing it to freeze temporarily and then making it ready for action. Blood flows away from the face and to the large muscles, making it easier to run.
Responses like these allowed primitive humans to concentrate on the threat at hand and decide whether to hide or flee. These physiological responses still occur, even though modern culture doesn’t normally require such actions.
To identify your “fight or flight” response, consider how you might react if someone unexpectedly started banging on your car window while you were waiting at a stoplight. You’d probably freeze momentarily, grip the wheel a little tighter, and quickly begin evaluating your options.
This is a course provided by our company, with the purpose of enhancing our emotional intelligence. I found the course specially useful for parents. Many Chinese parents tend to emphasize the weight of IQ in their children and neglect the development of their emotional intelligence. I remember one Chinese parent telling me that her son had a very high IQ, yet that son of hers has been unsuccessful whichever way you look at, all because of his under-developed emotional intelligence. Hence I have taken lengthy notes and will share with my readers in the days to come.
IQ includes verbal comprehension, number facility, spatial ability, memory, perception, and reasoning. IQ measures a person’s intellectual ability and generally remains steady throughout life. It contributes to about 20 percent of the factors that determine life success. Traits exhibited by a person with a high IQ include a wide intellectual capacity and range of interests, confidence and fluency in expressing thoughts and opinions, a tendency to be anxious and to worry, and a critical nature.
Emotional intelligence is comprised of a broad range of abilities including awareness of one’s own emotions, the ability to regulate moods, the recognition of emotions in others, the abilities to motivate oneself in the face of frustration, the ability to control impulses and delay gratification, and the ability to empathize. Emotional intelligence contributes to about 80 percent of the factors that predict life success.
A person with high emotional intelligence is poised, outgoing, and cheerful, and has empathy for others, expresses his feelings directly but appropriately, and has a capacity for developing relationships. Emotional intelligence is a more accurate predictor of life success than IQ is. Fortunately, it is a skill that can be developed more readily than pure intellectual abilities.
I am going to devote 22 postings on this topic, all in the month of March. Hence, call it emotional intelligence month.
A study found an association between teenage active exercise and a reduced risk of old age dementia. The study was carried out by researchers from Sunnybrook Health Sciences Center in Canada, published on 6/30/2010 in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. They analyzed exercise habits of 9,344 women from four U.S. states during their teenage years, 30s, 50s, and twilight years.
They found that, independent of factors like education, marital status, diabetes, hypertension, weight, depression, and age, there remained a strong correlation between teen physical activity and reduced risk for cognitive impairment late in life.
Furthermore, they found women who began routine exercise in their 30s and 50s showed lower risk for cognitive impairment as they aged compared with those who were consistently inactive.
The take-home message is nicely given by Laura Middleton, the study’s lead author, “To minimize the risk of dementia, physical activity should be encouraged from early life. Not to be without hope, people who were inactive at teenage can reduce their risk of cognitive impairment by becoming active in later life.” It’s nice to know there is still hope for folks far older than teens.
Yesterday, during lunch break, I went to get prescription for my daughter. The weather felt like summer. For some reason, the driving reminded me of so many summer lunchtime when my children went to summer school and I fetched them back at this time of the day. The feeling and the experience that I found myself in are so familiar that it makes me feel nostalgic.
For sometimes, while I was driving, my mind went back to those summer drives when my son was having lunch on the way back home because he was very hungry after five hours class. I seemed to relive those moments when I was in a familiar situation. It quietly dawns on me that we actually live in both present and past time via our memories whenever we hit the familiar scene or experience. This must be the experience of déjà vu.
Last summer might be the last one that I was needed for this task, as my daughter plans for some other activities for this summer.
On 1/20/2011, a friend of mine from Alabama sent me a PowerPoint document on “Philosophy for old age.” The second part tells how to stay young, the part that we all love. Here’s the ten interesting points which I am going to share with my mother and my friends, old and young.
1. Throw out nonessential numbers. This includes age, weight and height. Let the doctors worry about them. That is why you pay ‘them’
2. Keep only cheerful friends. The grouches pull you down.
3. Keep learning. Learn more about the computer, crafts, gardening, whatever… Never let the brain idle. ‘An idle mind is the devil’s workshop.’ And the devil’s name is Alzheimer’s.
4. Enjoy the simple things.
5. Laugh often, long and loud. Laugh until you gasp for breath.
6. The tears happen. Endure, grieve, and move on. The only person, who is with us our entire life, is ourselves. Be ALIVE while you are alive.
7. Surround yourself with what you love , whether it’s family, pets, keepsakes, music, plants, hobbies, whatever. Your home is your refuge.
8.Cherish your health: If it is good, preserve it. If it is unstable, improve it. If it is beyond what you can improve, get help.
9. Don’t take guilt trips. Take a trip to the mall, even to the next county; to a foreign country but NOT to where the guilt is.
10. Tell the people that you love them, at every opportunity.
AND ALWAYS REMEMBER : Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.
I had a very labored Skype conversation with a young relative of mine last week. He is in China right now. I have talked a lot trying to convince him some of the values which I take as a matter of fact.
(1) Always try to put values into your time, especially when you are young and full of energy. Don’t be stupid enough by fooling away large chunks of your time.
(2) If it is the right thing, do it no matter what others do. Don’t find excuses for your failure to do so. Whatever other people are doing is not your business. If you are not doing the right thing, you have only yourself to blame. Don’t be a loser by not taking responsibility for yourself.
(3) Volunteer and contribute whenever you can find time for it. Nobody likes selfish persons, no matter where you are, even if everybody is selfish.
Remembering the transiency and limitation of human existence, we are around this time this place only once. Do something, reach out, make difference, put value into your time, instead of gaming out your youthful time.
For the past few weeks, my daughter has been working on her project with her school competition partner at library. They have made it to the state level and have to work hard so that they could reach to national. While I was at library waiting for her, I noticed many adults were there spending nearly all the time on the computer, either gaming or watching video.
Last Sunday, while my daughter and I were at library again. She directed my attention to an elderly person and said, “He was watching that all the time.” I asked her if she had noticed what many adults were doing on the computer. In fact, she has noticed that most of them were playing or watching video on library’s computers most of the time.
You would expect adults to know better than wasting so much time this way. What role model they are to the young children in the library! I admit that people have different views of life and have their right to whatever life they please to live. Still, I would rather not see my children grow up to be one of them. I placed this post in success category, simply because they stand opposite to success.