Ever wonder why it’s easy to call forth self-discipline one moment, but difficult in another? Several years ago, researcher Dr. Roy Baumeister, a professor of psychology at the University of Florida, pondered the same question. To understand why self-discipline can be elusive, Dr. Baumeister and his team ran an experiment: they wanted to know whether or not self-discipline was like a muscle—something that could be weakened with overuse. To test this question, they brought a group of hungry subjects into their lab and had each subject enter into a room with a bowl of cookies and a bowl of radishes on a table. They told half of the group not to eat the cookies, but instead to eat the radishes. The other group could eat whatever they wanted. (They all ate the cookies.) Then, immediately following this experience, the subjects were brought into another room, where they were asked to complete a complex math problem. In actuality, the math problem was insolvable—the researchers were actually measuring how long the subjects persevered in trying to complete it.
Lori Shridhare, guest blogger
One late evening in August 1990, I sat alone in the Bologna train station in northern Italy, frustrated that I had missed my overnight train to France. I was winding down my summer of backpacking through Europe and my last year as a teenager. Hot and sweaty, I had no choice but to take a local train with no sleeping cars for the hour-long journey to Milan, then several more hours to Lyon. I climbed aboard the crowded train and sat in a car with a priest and three women. As I settled into my seat, Walkman hugging my ears, a tall, distinguished twenty-something young man sat in the remaining seat across from me. His wavy blondish-brown hair curled behind his ears, with strands falling along his designer glasses. What stood out most to me were his clear aqua eyes, his suspenders strapped over his lavender button-down shirt, and his sharp nose. He looked like a European fashion model, and I hoped he’d be sitting across from me all night.
How meditation can help you be a better friend.
Meditation has long been celebrated for all it can do for us, among the benefits: lower blood pressure, reduce stress, help us sleep, and even possibly help us lose weight. But a recent study also found that meditation might help us be better friends and partners. Researchers at Emory University in Atlanta found that many participants who had practiced eight weeks of meditation showed significant improvement in their ability to identify the emotions of people in photos based on their expressions. That is, they were more in tune with the feelings of others.
The other day at the end of a vinyasa yoga class I did my usual thing of plopping down and gearing up for Savasana with no blanket or sweater to get warm and cozy. Being in a large, chilly room, I sensed that I might need extra warmth but paid no mind. The teacher, Andrew, prompted us to “Take this time to allow the hard work to land, and nurture your self in resting pose.” Upon hitting the deck and doing my utmost to actually get comfortable—doing a brief body scan to relax myself—I lay there wondering why my need to be self-sufficient had, yet again, left me bare-skinned and frigid, trying to relax my shivering bones into Corpse pose.
Being somewhat small in stature, and a good-natured vata/pitta, my tendency is to be high energy and cold most of the time. Andrew started to walk around the room, his soothing voice gently guiding the group into a restful state, and asked anyone who might want a blanket to raise their hand. I pondered his offer and observed myself as I refused to raise my hand, even though I was chilly and unable to settle comfortably into Savasana.
Every relationship has its milestone moments—the ones that not only change the course of one’s life but also perhaps even more significantly for a chef, change the look of one’s kitchen! Yes, I did it. I made the ultimate sacrifice for love this past weekend as I bade a fond farewell to my beloved six- burner, deep red Bertazonni range (and having total control of my kitchen) and moved in with my fiancée, Jim.
We’d decided on the plan months before, and for the past few weeks I’ve been clearing out the old: organizing and packing up a life lived 16 years in one place. And then came moving day. In a blink of an eye every knife, pot, pan, bowl, spatula, whisk, and tea accoutrement was packed away out of site only to reappear hidden deep inside a box stacked high in the middle of what was to be their new home– at least for some of them. Ah, mergers! Unlike our previous cohabitating experiences with our first spouses when we were each young and less encumbered with stuff, Jim and I faced the daunting equation of adding one home to one home and producing “one” home!
Let me simply say that I didn’t just fall off the mat. Recently, confronted with life on life’s terms, I plummeted, plunged, and wildly tumbled, losing all foothold to the practices that give me perspective and trust. There is good news in this tale though I found my way back relatively quickly. But, in this breach, I endured much self-inflicted struggle and pain.
This story is canine-related. My dogs, Lucy Kay Doodle and Zac Joey Doodle, are gifts of love and growth for me. In their fuzzy, larger-than-life Muppet-ness, they bring me such lessons.They are shiny mirrors into which I see my behavior, recognize my strengths and growth, and see beyond my old patterns of limited thinking. Simply put, my dogs are my teachers. They help me grow.
Lorraine Cannatta, guest blogger
My decision to study Ayurveda evolved out of a family trauma. My son, Jacob, and his wife and daughter were visiting me and my husband, Peter, in the summer of 2005 when Jacob became severely ill. He was hospitalized and put on life support. The doctors were unable to determine a diagnosis, which made treatment difficult. For several days, we were unsure whether he would speak again, or even awaken. One or more family members were with him around the clock.
After 11 days in the critical-care unit, Jacob came home and began his recovery with us. Today, we are blessed to have him well. Though we were never able to get definitive evidence, we believe inhaling mold while renovating his newly purchased home caused what is called a “whiteout” of the lungs—when the alveoli constrict so tightly there’s no longer any space for air to pass.
Rubin Naiman, PhD, is the sleep and dream specialist and clinical assistant professor of medicine at the University of Arizona’s Center for Integrative Medicine, directed by Dr. Andrew Weil. He maintains a private practice and provides consultation and training internationally. He is author of Healing Night and, with Dr. Andrew Weil, Healthy Sleep, and creator of The Sleep Advisor, a software program addressing sleep disorders. www.drnaiman.com
Q Describe what you do in 15 words or less.
A I teach about the tree of daily life being rooted in the ground of nightly sleep.
Though there are, of course, exceptions, research (and Hollywood) have shown that we tend to surround ourselves with people with whom our financial standing is comparable. There are some simple reasons for this, including the logistical fact that as adults, many of our friends are work colleagues or neighbors. On an emotional level, surrounding ourselves with those who do about as well as we do reduces the probability of experiencing envy and jealousy.
A recent study published in the journal Science, however, questions the notion that being the least advantaged people we know leads to dissatisfaction. For more than 20 years, a research collaborative that included economists and sociologists from the University of Chicago and Harvard tracked 5,000 families in five major American cities—including New York, Chicago, and Boston—that had moved out of poor neighborhoods to more affluent ones. The researchers’ hope was that living in the more well-off areas would lead to better jobs and higher incomes for the families. Though that didn’t happen, researchers did find that these families reported being much happier than those who had stayed within their original community—even when they didn’t make more money themselves.