Archives for March 2012

Automaticity, Behavior Change Made Easy?

There is a concept in behavioral research known as automaticity.  The general concept is that there are behaviors that can occur without actual conscious choice, without thinking.  There is also some suggestion that we can influence selected behaviors to become automatic.  Wouldn’t it be nice if simple behaviors such as getting enough rest, eating right, and getting regular exercise could be programmed through the process of automaticity?

I have seen some research that automaticity could be induced by exposure to words.  The first experiment that I became aware of involved students who were asked to unscramble sentences, picking four of five given words.  As an example a student was given  “she, him, at, worried, always”, which could become “she worried him always”.  The students thought this was the experiment, but the real interest was observing what happened next.

They were asked to go down the hall to ask another professor for instruction.  When they got to the professor, the professor was to be talking to another student, and they were never going to stop talking to each other.  The question was how long did it take for the student who just unscrambled the sentence to interrupt.  Unknown to the students, there were two groups of sentences that were being unscrambled.  One group was given all positive words, like kind, tolerant, patient etc.  The second group was given all negative words to work with like,  impatient, unkind, angry etc.  The act of unscrambling the words was called priming.  What the researchers found was that those students who were “primed” with the negative words interrupted sooner than those students who were primed with the positive words.  This suggest that words that we are exposed to consciously can have an effect on our behavior subconsciously automatically.  Hmmm???

So this got me thinking; in a digital age that require passwords all day (like our phones) that we can set ourselves…  Why not use words that would set positive intentions.  That way as we use passwords they would be bathing our consciousness with words that would encourage positive or desired behaviors.  Repeating words such as diligent, courage, health, success, order, can’t hurt and there could be a big payoff.  In fact we should be paying closer attention to our “word diet” over the course of the day.  We may find that we are often planting words that are not helping us.  Just some food for thought : )  Time to change my passwords…

1 Minute? Really? That I can do : )

Historically, we have been taught that  for health benefits you need anywhere from 40-60 minutes of exercise most days of the week.  This changed a bit to say that it does not have to be formal exercise but any type of “physical activity” that gets your heart rate going.  Well, there seems to be another change developing.  Some researchers have published studies that suggest that if you exercise for 1 minute at 80% of your maximal heart rate (220 minus your age), rest for a minute, and then repeat this for a total of 10, 1 minute sessions, that this is equivalent to working out for 40 minutes.  This is really good news, especially for those who find it hard to get in 40 minutes of exercise in the course of the day.  This was talked about in a recent New York Times article.  Its called High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT).

Hearing (reading) this info, I decided to take this a little further.  Knowing other research that states that your don’t have to do your exercise (40 minutes) all at one time, I wondered what would be the benefits of exercising for 1 minute per hour over the course of the work day.  I tried it one day, only doing 3 sessions (my legs were hurting too much from the dynamic squats which was my chosen exercise), and I think there is great potential.  I could do this in my work clothes, did not sweat, and the brief mental break helped me maintain focus on my work.  This strategy could also be of benefit for all of the women that have trouble working out because of concerns for their hair.

I am going to stick with this strategy until my legs build up for me to tolerate the activity over the course of the day, and report back.  For those reading this, why don’t you give it a try and let me know what happens.  Of course those who have concern for their heart need to start an exercise program gradually.  Also, its always a good idea to share such plans with your doctor.

An Apple a Day?

Yesterday morning during work I decided to take a break and eat an apple.  There was nothing unusual about the apple or the taste.  Shortly after eating it I felt very flushed, warm, unusual.  It caught my attention and I wondered if it has something to do with eating the apple.  I was feeling like my parasympathetic system was over exited possibly due to a pesticide.  I decided to do an Internet search to see which foods likely had the greatest pesticide residues.  I was led to several sights that discussed this topic.  Most reference the “the dirty dozen”, a list of the foods that have been found to have the greatest amount of pesticides, and the “clean 15”, foods with the least.  Much of this information seems to come from the Environmental Working Group.  At the top of the dirty list?  Apples.

I don’t know if the apple was responsible for my symptoms, but I will pay greater attention to these list and try to buy organic when its a food on the dirty list.   The other alternative is to use a fruit/vegetable wash like “Fit”.

cleanWhat are the “clean 15″ : Onion , Avocado, Sweet Corn, Pineapple, Mango, Asparagus, Sweet Peas, Kiwi, Cabbage, Eggplant, Papaya, Watermelon, Broccoli, Tomato, Sweet Potato



peachThe “dirty dozen” fruits and vegetables: Peaches, Apples, Bell peppers, Celery, Cherries, Nectarines, Strawberries, Kale, Lettuce, Imported grapes, Carrots, Pears.  I would not say that these fruits should not be eaten as there are clearly health benefits, but it may be best to go organic or make sure that you use a fruit/veg wash like “Fit”.


EWGs Methodology:


The Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides ranks pesticide contamination for 53 popular fruits and vegetables based on an analysis of 51,000 tests for pesticides on these foods, conducted from 2000 to 2009 by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the federal Food and Drug Administration. Nearly all the studies on which the guide is based tested produce after it had been rinsed or peeled.

Contamination was measured in 6 different ways:

  • Percent of samples tested with detectable pesticides
  • Percent of samples with two or more pesticides
  • Average number of pesticides found on a single sample
  • Average amount (level in parts per million) of all pesticides found
  • Maximum number of pesticides found on a single sample
  • Total number of pesticides found on the commodity

For each metric, we ranked all of the foods based on their individual USDA test results, then normalized the scores on a 1-100 scale (with 100 being the highest). To get a commodity’s final score, we added up the six normalized scores from each metric. The full Shopper’s Guide list shows the fruits and vegetables in order of these final scores.

The goal is to include a range of different measures of pesticide contamination to account for uncertainties in the science. All categories were treated equally; for example, a pesticide linked to cancer is counted the same as a pesticide linked to brain and nervous system toxicity, and the likelihood of eating multiple pesticides on a single food is given the same weight as the amounts of the pesticide detected or the percent of the crop on which pesticides were found.

The EWG’s Shopper’s Guide is not built on a complex assessment of pesticide risks but instead reflects the overall pesticide loads of common fruits and vegetables. This approach best captures the uncertainties of the risks of pesticide exposure and gives shoppers confidence that when they follow the guide they are buying foods with consistently lower overall levels of pesticide contamination.


“Believing Is Seeing”


Don’t Let Your Beliefs be a Barrier to Your Reality (true story)

It was a normal day, I was not rushed, I was not fatigued, nor was I on any “mind altering substances”. I walked into the clinic where I worked, and from a distance noticed that a black chalkboard had been placed on the door behind the nurses station.  The previous months had seen many structural changes in the clinic, so I was not surprised to see something unfamiliar.  It just made no sense to put a blackboard on this door.  It was so odd to me that I needed to take a closer look.  So I walked over and stood there, about 1 foot away from the door, shaking my head in disbelief.  I reached out my hand to touch the blackboard all the while  thinking  “this is really a waste of time and resources.”  I then had one of those Alice in Wonderland or Matrix like experiences, as my hand went through the “blackboard.”  This was a very weird feeling, which lasted 2-3 seconds.  I then realized that there was no black chalkboard on the door, but an opening in which to place a glass window (which did make sense).  When I initially viewed the door from a distance, I was on an angle, and with the light off inside the room, the space appeared dark.  I then came to the wrong conclusion, that there was a blackboard on the door.

What fascinated me about this experience was that while I thought that there was a blackboard, all I could see was a blackboard.  After I realized that there was no blackboard, I could easily see objects inside the darkened, room such as a chair and table with a few scattered items.

On this day I learned two valuable lessons; 1) seeing is not believing as much as we see what we believe, and more importantly 2) my belief was a barrier to my reality.  It wasn’t until I challenged my belief that my true reality became apparent.  This reminds me of a teaching from the book Secrets of  Millionaire Mind.  The author makes the statement that while there is a difference in knowledge between where we are and where we want to be, the reason that we are not there today has more to do with knowledge that we have, that’s wrong.

I wonder if I have other beliefs that are serving as barriers to my reality, beliefs about myself, those around me, and the environment that I live in.

Be careful of your beliefs, for they may be a barrier to you reality.