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Step Into The Sun, Step Into The Light

emerald city

It’s been four weeks since we; stubbed out our last cigarette, scarfed our last overgrown cupcake, corked the bottle, and put on sneakers. How are we doing? Have there been some slips? Have there been any results? Well there’s some bad news and some good news. Bad first? Well, three weeks is when a new activity really loses its aura of novelty. The excitement of starting something has ebbed. Now it’s just doing the activity. If you haven’t seen immediate or significant results you might just be thinking; “one donut never hurt anyone.” You may have started a convincing inner dialogue of “Ya know four weeks is a long time. I showed I could do it if I put my mind to it. This is just a bad time for me. I’ll pick it up again when…” And you’d be right. January is a dumb time to change physical behavior. So are you ready for the good news? A new behavior becomes habit at five weeks. That’s right, you are almost at the sweet spot. This doesn’t mean that in one week you will awaken to a svelte non-craving new self. It means that it will no longer feel like a virtual living hell on earth to engage in your resolution behavior.

Instead of simply enduring this last week of drudge, let’s use it to tweak ourselves.

If it’s tobacco that you are trying to excise from your life, do you have proper support? Have you seen a doctor (who might suggest nicotine patches/gums?) Do you have a (smoke-free) buddy you can talk to/hang with? Have you cleaned and made uncomfortable all your smoking spots? Have you eliminated or altered smoking triggers (that after dinner coffee, those work breaks, the commuting)? Are you putting your cigarette money somewhere visible? Have you earmarked your new wealth for something? In just one week you are going to feel incredibly proud of yourself! You’ve made real and considerable strides in prolonging and improving the quality of your life. And your skin is going to look so much better.

If comfort foods have made you much too comfortable you may be questioning your resolve right about now. It’s January! A long dark month quite simply designed for massive doses of carbohydrates. But we’re four weeks in, so dammit it’s full steam ahead. If you’re interested in losing more than 20% of your body weight, you’ve seen a doctor, yes? Have you banished all processed/sugar infused/empty calorie food and beverage from your home/bag/car/desk/pockets/nightstand/locker? Good. Do you write down any and everything that passes your lips? You must. Food amnesia is the single biggest weight loss sabotage. You may be eating/drinking at times and not considering the calories. That overpriced latte? It’s not coffee it’s a hot milkshake. The glass of wine (or two or three) after work/with dinner total real calories. The birthday/retirement/fertility office party cake? Eating with people you don’t particularly care for does not burn calories. There’s nothing wrong with overpriced coffee, wine or cake. There’s only something wrong with mindless eating. It will get you. Now have you found a nice substitution for the afternoon snack/wine? Perhaps some flavored teas? Maybe lighting a scented candle is all the sensory comfort you need. The only way permanent behavior change works is if it doesn’t feel punitive. Consider adopting one or two new (or forgotten) behaviors that would feel rewarding.

Have you noticed that your workout clothes aren’t being washed as much as they were a few weeks ago? Is all the treadmill/stair-master/soul cycling very dull? Does real life get in the way? You’re not a failure; you’re just not a hamster who is perfectly enthralled with walking to nowhere. It’s time to find what makes you happy. No really. There was probably once a time you enjoyed playing/moving. Did you love to dance? Was it double-dutch that made your heart sing? Figure it out! Find the adult 21st century equivalent and do it. No one is watching and no one cares. The only way this is going to work (and it will work) is if you enjoy what you’re doing. Maybe you love learning new things? Use that to your fitness advantage. Take on new and complicated activities on a regular basis. Fitness is not a chore it’s time for yourself and a wonderful way to feel (and stay) alive.

Changing behavior in any real and lasting way is not easy. (If it were the world would be a much nicer place.) We all want (in our heart of hearts) to be our best selves. Often our best intentions are stymied by the pesky existence of others. But we do have complete control over how we treat our bodies. Physical behavior change that will lead to a healthier (and perhaps happier) you is attainable and within reach.

 
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Posted by on January 28, 2013 in Well-Being

 

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Indoor Voices Please

If you’ve ever been in earshot of a small person who has recently acquired language, you have no doubt heard (in your head or in your ears) the cry of; “indoor voices!” The ability to form complete sentences arrives prior to volume control; exemplifying Mother Nature’s sense of humor. There is a real reason for this of course. The awareness of the world around us comes incrementally. Babies begin to explore that world through their mouths (via milk or their own foot.) Others don’t exist beyond what they can do for the baby’s immediate needs. If you’ve ever seen two infants on a play date you can attest to this. Up until toddlerhood babies only engage in parallel play (def: playing side by side without direct interaction. ex: sharing a meal while both parties text others.) By preschool children have developed a sense of a world outside of their own home and needs. They understand that when they leave the zoo the animals don’t cease to exist. (This is why peek-a-boo is not such a mesmerizing game for this age group.) But it’s not until school-age that children have a fully formed sense of otherness.

At about 5 years old children are aware of others and how they differ from themselves. Gender becomes somewhat of a fascination as little boys and girls discover that some are fancy on the inside and some are fancy on the outside. (This is the age that is often cited as time to give different gendered children their own bedroom.) Children at this age learn to whisper and tell secrets (a clear indication of an awareness of others.) They learn, or are reminded, that there are behaviors that should remain private. Kindergarten teachers have spent more time than they care to consider telling little people to remove their fingers from noses, mouths or worse.

Historically, activities outside of school have existed to assist in socializing little people. Team sports, scouting, dance class and birthday parties traditionally began at this developmental stage. Beside the obvious life skills taught (how many times have you found yourself grateful for the skills of perfect turnout, bugling, or catching in your daily life?) what’s really being taught is group dynamics. Learning to work, play and live with others is the foundation of most structured activities. It is quite plausible that the average child spends thirteen years having these skills drummed reinforced on a daily basis. Some parents consider ‘socializing’ to be a top priority in their job description. You can see them guiding their little people in the ways of social graces and niceties. They are the ones dining out and instructing on how to sit, talk, order and eat. The child is learning that eating in the backseat of the car is not the same as eating in the presence of strangers. You can see these ‘lessons’ at museums, movies, theatres, libraries, or anywhere there are other people.

Whether it’s school, scouts or parents, or any combination thereof, there is consensus that childhood leads to adulthood, And with the right kind of guidance we hope to produce adults who will be; strong, confident, and kind. Yet with all these efforts to teach children how to interact with others, adults don’t always do such a gold star job in their own implementation. As you go through your day you will notice a lot of grown people using their outdoor voices (literally or figuratively.) Someone will have a conversation (with their phone or with a person in their physical presence) that will be loud and very personal. You will be subjected to gruesome details and possibly glared at for not having the ability to close your ears. (It’s as if by not wearing headphones you are now eschewing social mores.) You may be lucky enough to be enjoying a lovely meal in a beautiful restaurant. You are there not just for the food but for the specialness of it all. Then without warning there appears at the entrance a couple. The light shines from the open door behind them. You can see silhouettes only, wait they are stepping in, and there it is; baseball caps, shorts and sleeveless undershirts. Does the management have the right to refuse them? Probably. But only the snootiest of establishments feel they should/could. So you decide to start dining at home and save your money for the snootiest establishments. How about the theatre? Let’s try sitting up front in the most expensive seats. Surely people who have overpaid will have an appreciation of the specialness of the occasion? Unless by “specialness” you mean texting throughout the performance, or sipping a big gulp, then the answer would be no.

One explanation to at least the restaurant and theatre behavior is that we’ve all become terribly spoiled. We consider what was once “special” to be quite commonplace. We’ve had money or at least credit to spend and our definition of ‘bare essentials’ has expanded. But that doesn’t really explain wearing underwear as outerwear in places of worship or to stroll the streets. Increased standards of living don’t touch upon personal grooming in public or loud personal conversations in the presence of strangers. No doubt contagion and fashion is in play. As the volume around us increases, we are likely to raise our own voice. As style changes we are apt to discard and adopt accordingly. It can be exhausting to swim upstream day in and day out. It is risky to call out to strangers; “indoor voices, no touching, use your words, phones down, say; excuse me, thank you, please, you’re welcome.”   But there are times (more frequent than we possibly care to recognize) when we would relish a booming voice from above instructing us all to play well with others.

 
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Posted by on July 10, 2012 in Childhood, Cultural Critique

 

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Reading, Writing, Rigoletto

There is enough bad news (or at least, not such good news) about the state of education to go around.  When a story comes out, no matter how small, I feel like a Who shouting loudly, for one and for all.  Imagine my joy as I woke to discover, that teaching of arts has edged out Red Rover.

According to a piece today by Kyle Spencer there are city schools offering arts “electives” during traditional recess periods.  Music, art, dance and theatre are being taught in elementary schools.  Adult volunteers are creating mini-book clubs.  Yes, it is only a handful of schools (for now,) but it is so very encouraging, no?  Before anyone gets all “what about their unstructured playtime of recess” on me.  One need only consider the climate of primary education, to realize there is not a whole lot of unstructured activity being encouraged.  I don’t think (and I could be wrong) there is a lot of creative organic play happening in the school yard during recess.  I think what’s happening are the same dull or painful games of my youth (including standing around in clusters determining whom to ostracize.)

Having children exposed to music is invaluable.  Even if one doesn’t see a value in culture, there is no denying the mathematical component of music education.  The same cross-disciplinary benefits can be had in visual arts (science) dance (biology) and theatre (history, English.)  I would argue that we can no more afford to raise a generation without math, science and language skills than we can, without a cultural education.  Future doctors, business people, public servants and parents, need more than test scores.  They need to understand the world in which they live and those that lived before them.  There is no better vehicle than the arts to make all of that come alive for a child.

I grew up during a glorious time of robust educational resources and an engaged artistically oriented community.  It is because of that great fortune, that I champion the same for children today.  My 5th grade play was The H.M.S. Pinafore.  Are any schools still performing Gilbert & Sullivan?  Do children even “get” the Simpons’ Pirates of Penzance references?  Are any schools still mounting any production that doesn’t involve head microphones, hair extensions and copious amounts of make-up?

Art is substantive.  If we want a generation of people who can discern between quality and clever marketing, we need to expose them to the real thing.  There is nothing wrong with fluff, but it is the peanut butter beneath it where the nourishment lies.  Ideally the arts should be integrated into the curriculum, and not seen as an “elective.”  Until that time however, I will shout from the rooftops with glee that children are learning embroidery!

 
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Posted by on December 7, 2011 in Childhood, Education

 

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