Sunday, August 26, 2007

7 Ways to Grow the Action Habit

7 Ways to Grow the Action Habit: By becoming a doer you’ll get more done and stimulate new ideas in the process.

...One average idea that’s been put into action is more valuable than a dozen brilliant ideas that you’re saving for “some other day” or the “right opportunity”.

...Use action to cure fear - Have you ever noticed that the most difficult part of public speaking is waiting for your turn to speak?

...Start your creative engine mechanically - One of the biggest misconceptions about creative work is that it can only be done when inspiration strikes.

...These distractions will cost you serious time if you don’t bypass them and get down to business immediately.

...Once people see you’re serious about getting things done they’ll want to join in. The people at the top don’t have anyone telling them what to do.

Ten minutes of sun 'could stop 30,000 cases of cancer', researchers say

Ten minutes of sun 'could stop 30,000 cases of cancer', researchers say: The researchers believe vitamin D deficiency may be to blame for 600,000 cancer cases worldwide each year, particularly in northern European countries where sun exposure levels are relatively low.

...In the latest study, scientists at the Moores Cancer Centre at the University of California, San Diego, estimate that 250,000 cases of colorectal cancer and 350,000 cases of breast cancer could be prevented worldwide by increasing the intake of vitamin D3.

...The study combined data from surveys of blood levels of vitamin D during winter from 15 countries, along with satellite measurements of sunshine and cloud cover.

...Dr Cedric Garland, the cancer prevention specialist who led the study, said: "This could be best achieved with a combination of diet, supplements and short intervals - ten or 15 minutes a day - in the sun."

14 Foods that Lower Cholesterol

14 Foods that Lower Cholesterol is an interesting overview of controlling cholesterol with diet. The typical way to treat high cholesterol is with drugs, right? But what if you could just change your diet a little? The suggestions aren't just to eat less fatty foods, but there have been a range of studies showing foods which act positively to decrease cholesterol levels.

Reviewing the list of recommendations I see some which have their own unwanted effects. For example Whole grains and oats, which is a great idea because high fiber foods help clean the colon (probably reducing colon cancer) and according to the above blog posting, they act to decrease artery wall thickness. However if you have a gluten intolerance or celiac condition, whole grains and oats are a bad idea as they contain gluten and will trigger the gluten allergy.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Remembering to do something when there's no way you can do it

Ever remember to do something when it's the last thing you could possibly be doing? Like, you're at the barber shop having your hair cut, and your to-do list starts coming out of the woodwork. Like how you've been meaning to clean out the closets, or shine up the chrome on your car, etc. Why is your subconscious reminding you to do something when it's the last thing you could possibly do? Why don't you remember to do this when it's convenient?

This, and more, is covered in Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity. In this and his other books David Allen has been exploring the subconscious processes that interfere with getting things done, and he offers practices to help one better manage the tasks we have in life.

The way he puts it, the source of this is the operation of human consciousness. How many items can you hold in short term memory? Psychologists have studied this in every way, and shown it's possible to hold 5-7 items in short term memory. This means the vast majority of things we are remembering are stored in long term memory, and long term memories surface when the triggered, not necessarily when they're convenient.

For example, sitting in a barber chair is a very relaxing place, and when the mind relaxes the pending items in your mind will tend to surface. Meditators through the millennia have known this, they call this the monkey mind. When meditating it's widely recognized a flood of ideas will surface, and it is part of meditation to learn how to focus on something even with the distracting thoughts surfacing from the subconscious. The same process occurs in the rest of our lives, with the subconscious surfacing ideas and thoughts at a time and place of its choosing.

In Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity the focus is on practical issues of more efficiently recording ones to-do list. The idea is to help your subconscious relax by purposely recording all the to-do items you've entrusted to the subconscious. By recording all your to-do items your subconscious doesn't have to work to keep reminding you of these things, and instead you can trust the system you build that holds the reminders.

It sounds great, but in the back of my mind I'm wondering, what happens if the reminder system is lost or stolen? For example if you have a "smart phone" which you've used to hold all your to-do items, what happens if the phone is left in your pants and goes into the laundry? Or if it's stolen or lost? Hopefully you kept the phone backed up onto a computer, but since when does anybody make backups? And what if the backup of your phone contents cannot be copied into the replacement phone (because the phones are incompatible)?

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Ways to make new habits stick

I think in many ways habits drive us in ways that create pain in our lives. For example I am somewhat shy, and the shyness is really a habitual not-speaking. I have been outgoing at times, especially when I spent lots of time in friendly talkative situations, but being quiet and retiring has been a lifelong habit. There are of course deeper issues which are what led me to be shy in the first place, but that just means there are multiple ways to understand the phenomena of why we do what we do. At one level it's our habitual behavior, at another level it's the life history of woundology which led us to decide one behavior is better or safer than another.

At some point in ones self healing process it is necessary to begin to change. Once you understand why you chose to act the way you do, why not work to change how you act? Probably you can think of other behaviors that are more agreeable with your understanding and preference of life.

Here are a few good recommendations, some of which I've done for myself.

18 Tricks to Make New Habits Stick

Changing lifelong habits cannot be done overnight. You've been doing this for years and years, so it will take some practice and awareness to make the change to newer habits. The writer suggests a 30 day period, but I would say it's actually not a fixed time period but whatever time period you find necessary. Another suggestion is experimentation, and having a period of time where you focus on a specific behavior gives you time to experiment and learn about the new and old behaviors. It is important to have a way to remember the habit changing experiment you are undergoing. It's so easy to, throughout your day, just fall into the habits and having a trigger to remind you of the experiment will help.

Good luck

Friday, August 17, 2007

Two views to health

I came across these two articles one right after another and find them interesting together. The Secret to a Healthy Body is a set of recommendations to health that essentially boil down to being active. Their specific suggestions include aerobic exercise, and stretching and balance exercises. Then Why New Yorkers Last Longer goes over research showing that New Yorker's live longer, and it attributes this to the fact that they walk more. New York, as a city, is organized such that it's easy to walk around the city rather than drive. This moderate exercise, walking, apparently is enough to give them an average longer life, and is enough to overcome all the pollution in that city.