Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Drinking From a Firehose?

Are you glued to your smartphone? Do you feel as if you're slugging your way through a data fog? Do you feel you have way too much information—so much so that it makes it hard if not impossible to weed out what you need, what is true, or even what is right for you? You're not alone—not by a long shot. Most of us are suffering from what back in 1970 in his book Future Shock,  Alvin Toffler termed “information overload.” And, that was 42 years ago.

Today the amount of data being stored doubles every 18 months (The Economist). We have emails to answer, social networking to manage, texts and tweets requiring our immediate response, and YouTube videos to pass on to our virtual friends. Then we have the office, where we attend meetings, make decisions, work too hard for too little. We make time for home, our families and a literal deluge of needs to be met. If you’ve heard the phrases, data smog, cognitive overload, information fatigue syndrome, and time famine, you are familiar with information overload. You can probably also relate to the fact that the term “wired” is now defined as both “connected to the internet,” and “frantic, high, and unable to concentrate.”

And, now, let's add wellness and well-being to the mix. Information overload can result in feelings of anxiousness. Research shows that multitasking actually makes us less productive (except in the production of stress hormones, which goes up). Other symptoms include increased cardiovascular stress, impaired judgment, weakened vision and increased blood pressure.

How much information do we need to be satisfied, yet not left feeling stuffed—sort of like the portions we often find on our plates. We know we don’t have to eat it all. What if we think of the overwhelming amount of information in terms of useful portions, using reasonable discretion in terms of how much we digest and how often, rather than choking on too much?

And, like with our nutritional choices and decisions, all the information we’re faced with isn’t necessarily true. Are potatoes really evil? Is milk good or bad for you? How much sodium really is too much? Sorting out the conflicting reports is a form of information overload all by itself.

Consider what might happen if we start to ration our information intake. What happens if we “unwire” ourselves from time to time? In our Team Esteem Challenges we talk about making “modest but meaningful changes,” in reference to lifestyle behaviors and choices. Using the food analogy, in the same way we require food, yes, we need information. But, just as with food, we need to remind ourselves that we have control over the information we let into our lives. 

Now,  just as with our nutritional choices, where information is concerned, all information and all calories are not created equal. But, if we put a little less on our plates, we still benefit from a balanced meal—without the extra calories. Social psychologists point out that an individual’s consciousness is formed over time by the information and stimuli experienced. Do you really want to think of your consciousness as the result of data glut?  

As an alternative, by being mindful of our information overload, what do you think might happen by deciding to "decrease quantity, and increase quality?" It’s an interesting question, and one we can each answer for ourselves. We’d like to hear some of your solutions.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Own The Day

Wouldn't you agree that self care is an investment that pays back—with dividends? Consider for a minute that putting yourself first isn't an act of selfishness—but rather an important component of living a full life. Making our own needs a priority (including our health and wellness needs), means we avoid the cost of self-denial—and the costs are high. By failing to put our own needs first, we're assuming that those around us are willing to give to us as we give to them. But, all too often they don't. The result is additional physical and psychological stress.

Maybe it's time to think about how you can take small, yet meaningful steps to reduce stress, and put more focus on your own needs. This is not to say we don't consider the needs and feelings of others, but at the same time, focusing on our own needs as well means practicing acts of healthy selfishness. And, if you feel you can't put yourself first, start out by at least putting yourself on an equal footing with those you love, work with and care for. Small choices may seem insignificant on an individual basis—but they can add up to new-found joy and freedom—and at the same time, reduced stress and better health.

Write it on your heart
that every day is the best day in the year.
He is rich who owns the day, and no one owns the day
who allows it to be invaded with fret and anxiety.

Finish every day and be done with it.

You have done what you could.
Some blunders and absurdities, no doubt crept in.

Forget them as soon as you can, tomorrow is a new day;

begin it well and serenely, with too high a spirit
to be cumbered with your old nonsense.

This new day is too dear,

with its hopes and invitations,
to waste a moment on the yesterdays.

- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Tomorrow, start the day by giving to yourself, and watch the positive domino effect. Aren't you worth that investment in self?

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Yes or No . . . Diet Soda? How About Those Artificial Sweeteners?

According to the American Dietetic Association, the average American consumes 22 teaspoons each day of added sugar. That's 16 calories per teaspoon, 352 calories per day and 2464 calories per week.

The source of much of that added sugar--soda. A 12-oz can of sweetened soda contains around 150 calories and 9 of those 22 teaspoons of sugar. The American Dietetic Association points out that substituting one diet drink each day for a sweetened soda can save 4500 calories per month, along with the potential of about one pound of weight loss per month. What they don't point out is . . .

  • In that diet soda, you're ingesting the equivalent of five packets of artificial sweetener.
  • You're also increasing your risk of osteoporosis, pancreatic cancer and diabetes.
 Research shows that diet sodas do not facilitate weight loss. Neither do sugar free foods, many of which are only slightly lower in calories than their regular counterparts. The reason, according to a Purdue University study, is that artificial sweeteners do not turn on satiety signals the way sugar, protein and fat do--meaning we don't feel full and continue eating. 

Armed with this information, consider this from the Center for Science in the Public Interest: Pepsi is being sued by a Madison County, Illinois man claiming to have found a mouse in his soft drink. That's bad enough. Pepsi's defense is worse--they say it's not possible the mouse was in the can when it was sealed, because it would have disintegrated from the acid in the soda.

This is what we are consuming. But do we really want to? Guess what happens when you drink a glass of water instead?