Sunday, January 3, 2010

Making Changes

I really enjoy this time of year when the solar calendar changes.  People make resolutions to change habits that can cause potential damage or the habits just bother them.  The stores have sales for organizing home and office, sales for exercise equiptment and clothes, and sales for healthier food.  The magazines feature light and healthy recipes and great articles detailing suggestions for change.  Some might say I need a new source of fun, but that is a subject for another day.

The downside of this attempt at change is when the changes don't stick and people feel like they failed.  The brain area responsible for self discipline is the prefontal cortex which is located just behind the forehead.  This area of the brain also works to keep us focused, solve abstract problems, and is responsible for short term memory.

There are a number of scientific studies that show self control is not really a personality isssue, but is a biological issue.  For example, in an experiment at the University of Albany directed by Mark Muraven, a group of males was asked not to think about white elephants for five minutes while writing down their thoughts.  This is mentally challeging and requires much focus.  The other group had a few simple math problems to work on.  After the tasks were completed, both groups were given a beer taste test with the warning that the next part of the experiment involved driving a car.  The men in the white elephant group drank more beer than the other group which shows the stress of mental challenges impacted their ability to make the smarter choice.  Further, people who have been fasting for even three hours showed a decreased ability to focus on a task or suppress negative stereotypes.  There is great article in the Wall Street Journal by Jonah Lehrer detailing more studies.

It seems that an awareness and desire to change are important,  but even more consequential is a lifestyle that minimizes physical and emotional stress.  Ayurveda by definition is knowledge of longevity.  It is a system that promotes mental and physical health.  Feeling healthy and well improves our chances of making lasting changes and ensures our resolutions become a reality.

Yes, I know that we do not always find ourselves in ideal situations and stress exists.  So, how do we change then?  Read Making Changes Part 2.

Stay healthy & well,

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