One important idea we need to master in order to become healthier for ourselves and the environment is to be more mindful of our actions. No one really wants to do that. Takes time. Takes energy. Kinda boring. For sure, knowing how to weigh one choice against another takes a little something every day. That’s why very few succeed! If you’re becoming a BL&G reader or are a participant in one of our programs, you get the idea. Congratulations! You’ve learned that it takes some brain work and you’re still with us! There’s alot of information available as to how we should be more mindful and what we need to be more mindful about. But let’s not blahblahblah about that this time. I want to share with you today how we know when we have succeeded. That’s right–how do we know when we are successfully mindful in a way that will gain significant results for our health? We’ll get there, but come with me for a little story first, won’t you?
When I was in an entry-level college psychology class, we did a simple study on brain waves. Do you know much about them? Well, it’s not my specialty, but bear with me. Our brains contain billions of neurons and they communicate using electricity. In fact, there are so many signals getting sent at one time, that the amount of electrical activity can be measured using electrodes on the scalp. (That’s what I got hooked up with freshman year.) Anyway, our mind regulates its activity with impulses of various frequencies that go with different brain ‘states.’ The brain states are named beta (conscious alertness, agitation, tension, fear), alpha (physical and mental relaxation, aware), theta (reduced consciousness), and delta (reduced consciousness or sleep). In the biofeedback study, I was asked to consciously go into an alpha state from the normal, everyday beta state using mental relaxation techniques. I knew when I had succeeded because the machine connected to my scalp emitted a burbly, buzzing sound when I entered alpha. The frequency of electric impulses had shifted to the the corresponding alpha range.
I’m not suggesting to hook you all up with electrodes. What I’m suggesting is that you need to find your own “biofeedback” methods that are your own clear signals that you are succeeding in getting into a state of mind and daily action that create good outcomes for your well being. Now, the guidelines issued by the federal government, medical authorities, and others (we reference them like crazy around here) are important. But we’re not cookie cutter robots. We’re individuals with more differences and unique characteristics that I’ll ever have time to fully appreciate. [But I will try to talk about that in another article soon. You really are fascinating.] And so, I’m talking about your knowledge of how these things work for you based on your own trials and tests in your own life. I am really, really sorry to break it to you, but these guidelines only work if you make them your own and apply them in the way that works for you.
OK, here’s one of mine. It’s really personal, but, you all share stuff with me, so here goes: The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans published by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in 2015 recommend the equivalent of 2 cups of fruit daily and 2 1/2 cups a day of vegetables with a certain color spectrum over the course of the week. OK, guys, if I eat that much fruit there gets to be a mix of sugar in my system that makes me more susceptible to…..just say it… beast infections (there, I told you). Also, fruit doesn’t stick with me and I’m hungry, like 20 minutes later. To solve the satiety issue, combining most fruits with a protein tends to give me….other problems. So….I eat more vegetables and some small bits of dried fruit to get the right balance. My biofeedback? I don’t get those personal GI-related problems and my weight stays more constant. Are you starting to get it? This application of a guideline takes time and trial. Guess what else? Your body changes with time and with seasons, so we have a continual and constant laboratory environment. And that’s just nutrition (one of our several dimensions of well-being)!
So you see? You can’t just take or leave any of these guidelines at first blush!! You gotta try stuff and see what works for you! By the way…that beta state? It’s the ideal one for learning new information, staying calm, and increasing beta-endorphin, norepinephrine, and dopamine, all of which are linked to feeling good and thinking clearly. So what? Make sure that when you’re learning stuff, you have a little fun, relax, and know that everything can be made your own with time and practice. I think this is really helpful to remember if you start to cringe because someone is throwing yet another health guideline at you (Check it for truth using credible resources, ok? We got you started under Resources.) One big cue to learn more is if your inner rebel starts to yell.
I know that you can create your own biofeedback cues so that you become mindful of when your behaviors and actions are doing you good and when they are working against you. I promise to keep adding to this BL&G. And I’d love to hear from you, your thoughts and experiences about becoming mindful. In the meantime, keep an open mind and become your own best judge of your actions.
I’m counting on you to take good care of yourself until next time!