Last week’s post on marketing took me in an interesting turn this week. I stumbled on an article on NPR highlighting a past but very provocative study that I’ve been toying with for a couple of days now. Having spent years researching the placebo effect, Alia Crum, a clinical psychologist and researcher for Columbia Business School, was intrigued by the possibility that food could also be subject to certain physical placebo-generated outcomes. She wondered if our beliefs about a food or drink could influence the effects it physically elicited in us. After all, if what we believed about a sugar pill could make a measurable difference in our physiological functioning, why would a food product be any different? And on that note, weren’t we all being constantly fed (pardon the pun) elaborate messages about the food we bought? Did the variety of labels and claims somehow weave themselves in our mental fabric enough to not only impact our consumer behavior but maybe our body’s responses themselves?
So often we associate the two together – health and crisis. You can’t blame us really. The headlines brim with the concept weekly. Newscasts run their stock video of obese or frail forms walking down a city street. I have something else in mind here, however – inspired by some friends and readers who I’ve talked to lately. Their stories run a gamut of scenarios from cancer diagnoses to divorce, personal loss to geographic moves to name just a few. The underlying commonality of them all, of course, is major life challenge and/or transition. Upheaval of this magnitude has a way of knocking us out of our orbits. Emotionally disoriented and fatigued, we can feel out of sync, stuck in an oddly passive or at least awkward pattern. Life can feel like it’s happening around us. Even our routines can feel foreign as we navigate days with an unusual detachment. So often we talk about crisis as something solved outside ourselves. We turn ourselves over to a team of physicians and specialists in a health crisis. In times of loss or transition, we access resources, including – again – professionals. While I wholeheartedly believe in availing oneself of every benefit possible, I think something else critical gets lost in shuffle. How do we care for ourselves during crisis?
We all have days when our motivation is less than sprightly. We stayed up too late the previous night. We’ve had a busy week with work or family duties. We’re worn out after trying some new fitness experiments. The snow and cold are getting on our nerves. There are plenty of good reasons to take a day off from exercising. An overabundance of physical or mental stress, after all, can deplete us without adequate recovery. Plus, some days we just want to wallow in some abject, Grok-style leisure. As healthy hominids, we’re entitled, yes? All this said, what about the times when a day on the couch becomes a couple weeks – or couple months? What if we’ve, in fact, spent much of our lives on the couch (or office chair, driver’s seat, etc.) and are trying to make our way out of the sedentary trap? If this kind of chronic inactivity describes your lifestyle of late, consider this post for you.
So often we talk about how to get beyond the limiting, even destructive identities we create for ourselves or have been imposed on us in our lives. The fact is, no one should feel beholden to a definition that hampers their self-actualization or undercuts their physical or emotional well-being. That said, what if we examined the flip side of this equation? We often assume a fixed identity is something that works against our greater good, but what if – under the right circumstances – it can be a positive, grounding influence that helps circumscribe our daily decisions in a healthy way? Consider reader Steve’s thought-provoking comment on a post from this past summer regarding “The Uses and Abuses of Guilt”:
It’s opening day at the ballpark. You’ve been waiting for this for many long, cold months. Some of your favorite people are with you. It’s a beautiful day. You’re off work. Life is good. You ate before you came because, having decided to go Primal, you know to prep yourself. That said, a few innings into the game the beer is looking good and your tap water – not so much. “Surely, one can’t do that much damage,” you think. “It’s the season opener, for Pete’s sake.” Two more innings later, you’re hungry. You’re caught up in the fanfare. You’re mildly jealous of the friends around you and their “devil-may-care” eating habits. You watch the vendors making their way around the sections. You conjure up the concession stand menu in your mind as you remember it from last year (or a few years before). The inner negotiation begins. Which is the least of all evils? (And what’s coming around the soonest?) You settle on a hot dog because you don’t feel like getting up and missing any of the game. Five bucks later you’re settling in with your snack, even pushing the envelope on how much of the bun you’re going to eat. A few minutes later it’s all gone except for the tell-tale smear of mustard on your lip. Though your team eventually won the day, you’re not faring as well. Your stomach turns funky that evening. You feel that old familiar bloating. Even the next day you admit you’re in recovery mode. You realize then, you’re going to need a better “no” plan next time.
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