• All posts,  Self development

    The fear of missing out

    Right now, at this very moment, in your nearest town or city there are people having fun. No matter whether it is late afternoon or early morning, somebody somewhere is doing something exciting, novel, or naughty. Indeed, across the world millions of people are doing things right this moment far more exciting than reading this blog. You are missing out. We live in a world of opportunity. Gone are the days when most people lived out their lives in a pattern predetermined by the nature of the small community into whose clutches they were born. We can choose to live our lives in myriad ways. We can choose to spend…

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    Our love of distraction is stealing our time

    We are all terrified of silence. Not just the sort of silence that is the absence of sound, but the sort of silence that takes shape when we sit in front of a blank screen, ready to write something from scratch. Or when we shut off the TV, and try to settle in front of a textbook to revise for an exam. Or when we sit down to work out which pension plan to get. We get an itchy, twitchy feeling at such times. Our minds start throwing out helpful thoughts like, “did you remember to turn the dryer on?” and “oh, isn’t this experience hard? I should tweet about…

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    Being mindful is great, but who is going to teach you?

    Last week, on a fine sunny day, I saw a woman teaching her grandson to ride a bike in the park. I say ‘teaching’ but in fact neither teaching nor learning were in evidence. She gave him no advice of any use other than ‘put your feet on the peddles and go’. She was patient and encouraging. Her love for the little boy was obvious to all who had eyes to see. But as a teacher of the fine art of bike riding, she was bloody dreadful. After quite some time, the little boy got off the bike rather angrily and said “you do it then!” There was a momentary…

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    Mindfulness meditation: Reinventing the wheel?

    “You’re just reinventing the wheel! This has all been said before! What’s the point?” Some people imagine that inspiration comes from nothing, that creativity is like a sort of psychological Big Bang. It doesn’t. It isn’t. Scientific ideas evolve over time, and they’re often based on earlier, non-scientific ideas, at least to start. Take the atomic theory — the idea that the stuff we see around us, be it water, tables, or cats, is made of little particles. The idea was first talked about in ancient Athens. But, and this is the crucial point, the ancient philosophers also had a bunch of other ideas about how the world works that…

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    Mindful eating helps your brain control appetite

    As a psychologist, I probably shouldn’t be surprised, but I still am. I remember drawing hugely complex diagrams of the nervous system for my masters degree, showing all the nerves going into and out of the brain, making contact with virtually every organ and system of the body. I know, intellectually speaking, that the nervous system, and thereby the brain, is hugely influential in everything the body does, but I still can’t help it. I just figure if you were inventing a machine that needs fuel, you’d have a fairly simple fuel gauge — a little meter that says “stomach full, well done”. Nope. I’ve written in other posts about…

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    Full on water — re-learning what your stomach feels like when it’s full

    Portion sizes have increased hugely over the last forty years. Lisa Young and Marion Nestle published a great study in American Journal of Public Health in 2002 showing that cookies were twice the size they had been thirty years prior, and that a portion of pasta now had roughly twice the number of calories compared to its 1970’s counterpart. Some things hadn’t changed much, but overall, food manufacturers are clearly trying to get us to eat more and more of their products. And why wouldn’t they? They want to make money. There are two responses to this rising pressure to eat more. Marion Nestle is valiantly fighting the good fight and…

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    Dealing with cravings by surfing the urge

    Surfing that craving might help you lose weight Craving sweet, fatty, or otherwise unhealthy food might be one of the biggest hurdles that trip up those of us on the path to a healthy weight. Food cravings are a perfectly normal part of life. It’s rare you come across someone who says they never ever have a strong desire to eat some particular food. Lucky b*******s! For the rest of us, there’s urge surfing. “What is this magick of which you speak?” I’m glad you asked. Gordon Marlatt coined the phrase ‘urge surfing’ in a chapter he wrote for a book on achieving behaviour change published in 1994. It’s a…

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    TV makes food taste bland

    Last week I suggested a few simple rules to follow if you want to change your eating habits for good. Key to these rules was the idea of paying attention to what you’re eating. We humans are actually pretty awful at paying attention to what we’re paying attention to. That is, we think we’re paying reasonable attention whilst actually we’re not. You might have seen a video of one of the classic experiments demonstrating how rubbish we humans are at paying attention. Try watching the video below, for instance… In videos like this, people generally only notice the gorilla walking casually across the scene about half the time. We really…

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    The un-diet

    You’ve just got to groove with the food man. In previous posts I’ve explored how traditional weight-loss diets don’t work, how relying on nutritional labels might not help us as much as we think, and how being overly restrained probably leads to binges and over-consumption. So what’s the alternative? Clearly, cutting out ‘unhealthy’ foods completely doesn’t work (that’s partly what we mean by ‘restrained’), and eating piles of junk food isn’t going to make anyone slim. In an unhelpfully concise nutshell, the alternative is ‘the middle way’. Having spent a couple of years reading research findings and conducting my own research on eating, I feel more strongly than ever that…