The other day I came across a blog post titled “How to Become an Exercise Addict”. As a recovering “Cheez-It” addict, the title enticed me (not unlike Cheez-Its), and I read the post. Okay, part of the post. There were 21 steps to get to an exercise addiction, 18 too many for me. Turns out it was really about how to make exercise a habit, not an addiction. So even though my fantasy of replacing the Cheez-It addiction with exercise evaporated, I realized I could beat the other blogger by 14 whole steps, offering just 7 steps to make exercise a habit!! That’s a 200% reduction-savings for you, lazy habit makers, and please check my math.
In my last post, I suggested that it’s easy to mis-spend your wellness dollars for the same reasons many of us participated in the ALS ice-bucket challenge:
- We’re not always clear on our own priorities.
- Powerful, distracting messages conflict with the priorities we might have.
- Wellness initiatives can be complex. Without knowing the most impactful options, we’ll often go with the low hanging fruit presented to us (usually okay but not great).
In this post I’ll review better and worse ways to spend your wellness bucks.
A few days ago, one of my more irascible friends dissed the ALS ice bucket challenge on Facebook, figuratively pouring cold water on event participants. He would have gotten a more favorable response had he announced to my wife’s book-club group (all of them mothers) that he didn’t think child-birth pain and labor was such a big deal.
His point was this, though — the ALS ice-bucket challenge (IBC) has raised disproportionate money/attention for an issue which pales (statistically) beside other diseases/health issues also in need of funding. For example, heart disease and cancer (each) annually cause 100X the deaths of ALS. Diabetes-related deaths are 10X higher. The numbers are more severe if we start talking about world-wide deaths from malnutrition or poor sanitation or lower respiratory disease. This info-graphic makes the point better than all of those words I just used.
If you’re still subscribing to any of these fitness/exercise myths, JUST STOP IT, as the old Bob Newhart psychiatrist character used to say (see here).
I’m keeping this list of pernicious myths short (just four), though like George Bush bloopers, there are so many to choose from. Like “spot-losing”….Please at least join the 20th century if you still believe you can “target” lose your belly fat. Or “lifting weights will make you bulky”. Every women’s health magazine has a diatribe against that one. So why are my four myths so annoying???
- Because they persist. Despite solid data which contradicts them, they might not even be “mostly dead”.
- They’re blocking you from optimal wellness. If they’re not injuring you, they’re at least slowing you down or making your exercise efforts less efficient.
- They’re indulged and even promoted by folks who should know better. No health professional is off the hook for at least trying to stay current.
I’ve heard different people use the phrase “Get out of your head”, from personal trainers to drama coaches to fellow musicians to college friends who would rather see you dominate on the beer pong team than pass your biochemistry finals. Usually this irritating cliche evokes fleeting thoughts which are not consistent with Gandhian non-violence or my wellness coaching reputation.
In any case, the basic ideas (two) behind the dictum have merit. Nike (“just do it”) and other popularizers don’t necessarily legitimize it, but they’re onto something which is fundamentally attractive and maybe elusive for us. Here are the two ideas:
- Stop thinking and procrastinating and get on with it. Stop dipping your toe in the water and just jump in; the water’s fine.
- Less discursive thinking and more feeling. Let go of the mental replaying and the forecasting and pay attention to what’s right in front of you, without over-thinking it.
Part one of this blog looked at negativity bias, our built-in tendency to accentuate the negative and de-emphasize the positive.
This evolutionary relic is kryptonite to wellness change (badly needed, given the national obesity rate of 35% in 2014 among other things), creating built-in resistance of which you might not be aware. This post summarizes how mindfulness can mitigate negativity bias impacts. But first, some key points on it from the first post:
- Fear helped keep our ancestors alive. Perceived threats make a bigger mental imprint than do positive opportunities.
- Negativity bias creates inertia for wellness change by crippling healthy decision-making with a fear-based foundation.
- It’s a “low-level” cognitive activity that can happen quickly and powerfully influence choices and behavior.
- It’s built into our animal brain. No escaping it, but mindfulness can tame it (see below).
Most of us have heard the word mindfulness. It’s made the cover of Time magazine, it’s now being practiced by the NFL (if you’re a pro running back, you can now be mauled by a calm and present linebacker) , everyone who follows Oprah or Dr. Oz, the US Marines (semper om), apparently a very small minority in Congress, and countless Hollywood celebs. This last list includes (I’m not kidding) Angelina, Giselle, Demi, and Arnold. Please get on board, Lindsay. Guys with serenity-soaked names like Deepak Chopra (Oprah should marry him; think about it…) and Jon Kabat-Zinn have made it popular and accessible to people like my mother, who can now use it to be more aware of my faults. That’s right, mine, not hers. Just kidding, Mom.
This post (part one) will focus on negativity bias, a basic, root-cause impediment to wellness change. The next post (part two) will cover how mindfulness can help address negativity bias and clear the path to wellness change.
The Lotus has long been a symbol of enlightenment and a fully-realized human being. So the “Lotus” part of mud lotus as a symbol for a wellness practice is a no-brainer. I encountered it studying Buddhism and other cultures/religions in graduate school, desperately trying to postpone my inevitable encounter with adult life and accountability. After graduate school, I started working for Lotus Software in Cambridge, MA and loved the place. Those were the days when hippie-nerds really made their mark in the software and business worlds. They frightened blue-suit capitalists and gave their companies cool names like Apple and Lotus, evoking happy organic stuff to look at and eat, shifting focus away from silicon chips and intellectual property lawyers and caffeine-fueled, sleep-deprived coders. In any case, Lotus evokes positive memories.