Monday, April 16, 2007

Staying healthy to stay focused

My nose is a torrent, my head is a pressure-cooker and my lymph nodes are a series of warzones.

Maybe it goes without saying, but I haven't gotten much studying in today.

From an experiential point of view, we know that when we over-stress our body -- through studying, physical exertion, emotional tumult, etc. -- our body eventually gives way. In order to get the most from our bodies, say to study for exams, we must treat our bodies with respect.

More and more research is finding that our mental states have a direct or indirect effect on our health. Even thinking about exercise can make you healthier.

On the negative side, stressing over exams can weaken your immune system. I have seen and am currently experiencing illness that comes from mismanaging my stress.

So then what should we be doing to show our bodies the respect they diserve?

R-E-S-P-E-C-T (find out what it means to me)
  • Eating good food regularly.
    • I would like to emphasize the good and the regularly parts. Your body needs clean fuel to run smoothly. So fill up on premium, not macaroni and ketchup... again.
  • Sleep.
    • In Scientific American Mind (Oct 2006), they describe how German neuroendocrinologist Ullrich Wagner demonstrated how sleep promotes insight. (Excerpt in the comments section.) Basically, if you look at a problem, take a little nap, you will have more insight.
  • Stay calm and breathe.
    • We all need oxygen to function, don't forget about breathing. Although a little stress can be helpful to learn, too much and you will block those neural pathways.
  • Keep yourself in check.
    • Every once in a while, just ask yourself: How am I doing? Look at your posture. Check your breathing. Are you tense? Even starting to shake a little bit? Once you realize that you aren't doing so hot, it is time to take a little break. Self-awareness is key.
For the most part, you may know these tips, but it doesn't hurt to get a reminder now and again. And trust me, it is much easier to take preventitive measures to ensure your good health, then to deal with the consequences afterwards.

I'm going to go lie down now; I'm waiting for some night-time Dimetapps to kick in.

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At 2:31 AM, Blogger Joshua Hwang said...

Scientific American Mind (October 2006): The Eureka Moment

Many studies have shown that important insights come in dreams or follow short naps. The famous example of Fredrick August Kekulé von Stradonitz, who in the late 1800s is reported to have said he discovered the round shape of the benzene ring after working in the lab for hours, then dreaming of a snake swallowing its own tail. Commercial production of benzene sparked the rise of the fossil fuel industry.

Neuroendocrinologist Ulrich Wagner of the University of Luebeck in Gernany has demonstrated that sleep promotes insight. He gave subjects sequences and two logical rules for manipulating them. But the sequence could also be solved by using a simple "hidden rule" that the test takers might discover as they worked. The examinees practiced problems and were then told to take a break before they had discovered the trick. Some slept during the interlude and others did not. When they returned to do more problems, the individuals who had slept found the hidden rule much more often than subjects who had not. Wagner attributes the improvement to a process of consolidation of information that takes place in the hippocampus during sleep; new data are connected with knowledge already in memory.

At 8:43 PM, Blogger Princess Haiku said...

You are right about a good diet and plenty of rest helping with the learning process. Is my understanding that there are brain supplements that help too.


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