changes, transformation, change, transitioning, health, fitness, self, true self, identity, logic, philosophy, science, psychology, neuroscience, soul

Transformation, Identity, and the “True Self” Myth

I am an ever-changing bundle of elements, emotions, thoughts, and experiences.

In 2011, Julian Baggini wrote about the problematic concept of true self in “The Ego Trick”.

He talked with Jnanamitra, who has lived as a man and a woman: “I feel like I’ve lived several lifetimes these days. It’s very weird to look back at my childhood and have a sense of that being me.”

Baggini showed how Neuroscience and Psychology have studied humans and brains, and brains with injuries, dementia, mental or physical illness, and there is no part of the brain, body, or body chemistry which is the essential or controlling section.

The world’s religions have never shown definitive proof of a “soul” nor have never agreed on where it is before birth, during life, on life support, or after death.

 

“For my part, when I enter most intimately into what I call myself, I always stumble on some particular perception or other, of heat or cold, light or shade, love or hatred, pain or pleasure, colour or sound, etc. I never catch myself, distinct from some such perception.”

– David Hume, Treatise of Human Nature, Book 1, Part 4, Section 6.

 

Nothing is permanent, be it identity or biology. 

Fashions and hairstyles change, beliefs change, relationships change, information changes. People do things like have cosmetic surgery, and can then later have their breast implants removed.

This morning I read about a new book in which 30 transgendered people voice their regrets on their transitioning.

That book appears to have a political and/or religious agenda, but the fact remains that people exist who regret making such changes.

I support those who want to change.

I support those who regret changing.

changes, transformation, change, transitioning, health, fitness, self, true self, identity, logic, philosophy, science, psychology, neuroscience, soul

Between the old and the new

 

How much of “you” is “you”?  Or are you a cliché?

 

Are you a geek, Goth, hippy, punk, leftie, conservative, clean-eater, Christian, alternative, party girl, introvert, runner, backpacker, dissociated, wine mom, meat-lover, foodie, or muso?

 

Do you even feel lost because you’re not any kind of social stereotype?

 

changes, transformation, change, transitioning, health, fitness, self, true self, identity, logic, philosophy, science, psychology, neuroscience, soul

No “true self”

 

I am an ever-changing bundle of elements, emotions, thoughts, and experiences. 

-Zenmode.

Social group pressure has something to do with desire to change and not change in any direction. We have a survival instinct to want to be part of a tribe for protection. Doubts also arise that are affect the flux of self/identity and feeling of belonging within a tribe. Religion, politics, fashion, family, health.

In 2019, James Fell writes about “The Willpower Myth: How Identity and Values are the True Regulators of Behavior”. In his new book on health and fitness, he explains that the alleged concept of Ego Depletion caused by a supposed draining of “willpower” has now been discredited by science.

I have issues with the concept of having a “true self”, but I like how James Fell brings up “identity change”.

Change definitely happens by questioning your thoughts, attitudes, and values, and turning small efforts into positive habits.

 

“Challenge your thoughts. Don’t believe everything you think.”

-Zenmode.

 

By making some sort of change every day, I quit smoking, lost 35 kg (80 lbs) and have maintained my goal weight nearly 3 years, gone from couch to running 3 marathons, and have been alcohol free 11 months.

In 2019 I’m hoping to keep changing, learning, adapting to new information, and thriving.

walking, decluttering, cleaning, minimalism, work, changes, fibonacci, transformation, weight loss, health, happiness, sustainability

An Adaptive Spiral

Turning small efforts into daily habits results in beautiful things.

 

NEAT (Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis) is the term for activity other than purposeful exercise. E.g. Walking, cleaning, trips to the fridge, playing with your kids, etc.

 

NEAT accounts for a higher percentage of your daily energy expenditure than intentional exercise even if you work out 5-6 hours a week.

 

Increasing your NEAT can make a huge difference to your health and environment.

 

  • Wear comfortable shoes: You’re not in pain or grumpy; better relationships; better posture; you can walk around without hindrance; more NEAT.
  • Bring your lunch to work: Saves money eating out, and you can spend the rest of your lunch hour walking / doing errands.
  • Wear a backpack rather than carry a shoulder bag: You’re more inclined to go for a walk; you walk more easily and quickly; you don’t hunch one shoulder to keep a bag on it (my physiotherapist pointed this out and now I see people with lopsided shoulders everywhere).
  • Bringing lunch and drinks to work means more trips to the office kitchen: Saves money; more NEAT.
  • Put dishes away one at a time: NEAT; and it also doesn’t increase power bills.
  • Put laundry away one item at a time: NEAT!
  • Walk your office mail to admin on another floor instead of putting it in your floor’s mail-out tray: Saves admin staff having to carry it or forget it, and I get more floors climbed.
  • Walk to the shops when you need something (rather than waiting till you have a long list then drive).

 

One of my realisations was to just stop whining to others to do tasks and just get off my butt and do them myself. No arguments; better relationships!

 

More NEAT meant decluttering, and more space!

 

All this NEAT led to feeling better, doing more purposeful exercise, eating according to my calorie limit, losing weight, running, feeling better, round and round…

 

An adaptive spiral.

 

Today I was thinking that NEAT is sort of like doing the “right” thing:

 

 

  • You walk to the bin instead of leaving rubbish on the table – more calories burned; tidy house.
  • I just walked two sides of a triangle along the path instead of taking the short cut across a carpark – safer; more calories burned.
  • I walk the long way to & from work – less carbon emissions; save money; more calories burned.

 

 

Doing the “right” thing has so many benefits!

Losing 80 lb / 35 kg using My Fitness Pal (easy calorie-counting app), running, and participating in community discussions led me to not having drunk alcohol since January 31 2018.

Not drinking meant not needing as much time in bed trying to sleep. Now I sleep more soundly and don’t wake as often, which means I have more time to do nice things.

On Thursday after my run, study, and drawing, I still had lots of time to spare before my last day of work for the year:

  • I put away some things I’d left in the hall after doing some rearranging around the house.
  • I walked to the hardware shop and bought some picture hooks and hung prints of my son’s artwork properly in my yoga room (his room when he comes home).
  • I tidied my room and wiped down all the surfaces free of dust.

And when I came home, it all looked lovely and I was facing 12 days holiday!

 

As each day passes, we can make appropriate and sustainable growth, change, and habits that beautify the overall picture. 

 

An adaptive spiral.

 

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drinking alcohol in moderation

Less alcohol

I drank 2-3 large drinks a day pretty much every day for many years.  At the start of 2018, I had 3 of my running friends do alcohol-free months which made me start to think I should really take on a new challenge.

Then another friend wrote about “Being kind to Tomorrow You”. He made me realise that not drinking is a lovely, sympathetic gesture towards the person we are now, and whom we will wake up as.

I don’t look at a day without alcohol as a punishment for drinking too much.  A night off is a treat for Tomorrow You. You’ll wake up without guilt about last night’s drinking, and without a headache or hangover.  A night off will be an achievement you can be proud of all day.

On February 1 I decided I’d take it one day at a time and see how I went.  One day led to the next, and soon it was my birthday.  Instead of celebrating with a drink, I felt it would be a more significant occasion if I didn’t drink on my birthday for the first time in 30 years.

I also celebrated other milestones (decluttering my room; running my first 50 km run) without drinking.  I found I was enjoying my “streak” and my natural highs much more than a couple of hours “buzz” then many hours feeling crap.

I’ve now passed the 9 months alcohol-free mark.

I always felt “fine” as a daily drinker, but I didn’t know how much better I could actually feel!

  1. No guilt, fear, or foreboding about what the drinking is doing to me.
  2. Sleeping soundly.
  3. Better memory.
  4. Huge boost in creativity.
  5. No mood swings.
  6. Better relationships.
  7. More money!

 

I have an app set up, “Nomo”, which tells me I’ve already saved over $1,600 by not spending the $40 per week I used to spend on alcohol.

I am not an alcoholic. I read this yesterday, by an alcohol-free woman who has made and is making big changes.

She writes:

“Somehow, I made it. The odds were overwhelmingly against me – as I kept reading and being told. Some fanatics declared ‘once an alcoholic always an alcoholic’ and I realised that was why so many people cannot beat the stigmas and are overwhelmed before they even start.” Hello Sunday Morning

Sure, it can be helpful discussing not drinking with like-minded others, especially considering that:

 

“From school, to uni, and at work, at sports and weddings, funerals or even community events – it’s always been a prolific and revered part of any social connections.”

But thinking you’ll always be fighting a permanent part of your being seems very unhelpful and defeatist.

I choose to think that alcohol is a form of chemistry that can be fun… for a while, but it has side-effects that snowball with consumption, and increased consumption is one of those side-effects.

Don’t blame it on yourself. Blame the alcohol chemistry.

Once you’re free of the alcohol, you’re free to be whatever you want to be.

I found it easier to quit rather than to moderate, or have regular days off, with a disclaimer.  The way I “quit” was by thinking I’m not quitting forever. I can drink whenever I want. I choose not to for now.  I felt that the occasional drink is how I became a daily drinker. It’s too hard to drink then quit, repeatedly, considering how hard I found it to quit for one day for all those years.

Thanks for reading.

The “Silly Season” is coming up.  Instead of letting it all go to shit, how about checking in here and discussing ways to be prudent and moderate?

If you have quit, or are able to moderate your drinking, maybe others reading would like to hear about it.

 

How to quit smoking and get your shit together

Set aside a weekend for it. Prepare yourself for a really crappy Saturday. Get yourself some sleeping tablets for Saturday night.

Gear up for a couple of weeks beforehand, smoking normally. Have your last cigarette on a Friday night.

On Saturday, instead of getting up for a cigarette every half an hour, get up and do some tidying each time you have a craving.

Tidying, not thinking

Instead of sitting around thinking and letting your brain’s repetitive cigarette cravings torment you, keep your body busy so your brain has other activities to occupy it.

  • Wash stinky, smoke-smelling clothes.
  • Wipe down or mop ashy surfaces.
  • Hide ashtrays and lighters.
  • Go shopping to buy nice new drinks if you associate habitual drinks with cigarettes.
  • Clean pet areas.
  • Go for a walk to buy cleaning supplies and enjoy your breathing on the way.

 

I did this 4.5 years ago, and that weekend, I did and put away 7 loads of washing and did so much spring cleaning! A sparkling house and a new me!!

Relief

Saturday will have been easier in comparison than what you were dreading. You’ve probably got through plenty of bad days. If you know a really tough one is coming, you’re prepared.

Just do it and get that one crappy day over with. It’s hard, but it’s always going to be hard, and never going to get easier, so just fucking do it, then it’s done.

Come Sunday, the worst is over, you’ll feel proud of yourself, your future will be brighter and the day will be easier.

 

Within 6 hours

Your heart rate slows and your blood pressure becomes more stable.

Within a day
  • Almost all of the nicotine is out of your bloodstream.
  • The level of carbon monoxide in your blood has dropped and oxygen can more easily reach your heart and muscles.
  • Your fingertips become warmer and your hands steadier.

Quit Australia

 

Keep tidying. You may feel tired, but be happy, this is your crappy but transformative weekend that puts health money in your future bank.

You’ll sleep better Sunday night, and by Monday, you’ll know you’ve won the battle.  Any urges to smoke that pop up are just brain farts.  Challenge those thoughts. Don’t believe everything you think.

 

Melbourne Marathon 2018

My first marathon (Aug 2017) and my 50 km run (June 2018) both went without a hitch. Melbourne Marathon Sunday 14 October 2018 was a bit more humbling.

The bad:

  1. At 25 km, it was hot and my throat felt like it was closing, and I had trouble getting enough oxygen. I had chest pains for a minute, with a heartrate spike of 195. I had to do walk/run/walk/run to finish the marathon, and couldn’t talk without the throat constriction happening.
  2. I had to walk in an event and I’ve always prided myself on never needing to walk.
  3. I wanted to prove in an official, big marathon, I was better than average, but I finished 1552 of 1826 women. 114 of 145 in my Age Group.

 

The good:

  1. Digestion was fine beforehand, and then only needed the loo at 20 km.
  2. Fuelling and hydration were great. Also tipped water on my head every 3 km drinks station.
  3. I knew when to walk when necessary.
  4. I took a nice photo of my club friends, Caroline and Carolyn.IMG_8084
  5. I got to run the F1 Albert Park circuit and take a selfie in pit straight.
  6. A man with a below-knee prosthesis passed me after that and I thought it was so cool l quickly took a picture.IMG_8068
  7. I had an awesome weekend away in the city on my own with only a couple of anxiety pains, when a few years ago I’d never dreamed I’d do anything like this.
  8. I was a 29-year smoker and 35 kg overweight 4.5 years ago, and have come a long way.
  9. Met up with lots of running friends I’ve made since starting running & parkrun 3 years ago.
  10. Ambrosia-like handful of jelly beans from a spectator at 26 km that kept me amused for 4 km.
  11. There were all ages, genders, and sizes around me near the back of the pack.
  12. 13% didn’t finish at all! I feel sorry for them, but that makes me feel luckier.
  13. Talked with a Spartan at 36 km (he’d run MelbMara 10 times) and he was saying we were doing well in the heat.
  14. At 32 km, a spectator offered me Minties. The motto is “At moments like these, you need Minties”. Of course I said yes. And I enjoyed that Mintie till I finished it just before the end.
  15. I didn’t need First Aid!
  16. I f*&%ing finished my third marathon!

 

IMG_0578

The doctor I saw about my marathon “episode” said she didn’t think it was exercise-induced asthma / bronchioconstriction. Probably just one of those things in marathons when you push your body to its limits. Long run, high heart rate spike, needing lots of oxygen, hot conditions, no shade. She said to just see if it happens again on a 30ish km run in the cool, and if so, she’d refer me to a sports clinic.

But a once-off like this sounded like my body’s fairly normal reaction to tough conditions at the time. If it was asthma, I wouldn’t have breathed easier after walking a minute or two.

 

I learned a lot this time. Looking forward to doing a Winter marathon next time!

 

The final words go to mention that through all of this, I knew I was kicking off a 24 hour relay “Run For Dennis (aka KeepRunningFatboy)” with My Fitness Pal friends and needed to run for about 5 hours to fill my slot. Dennis Ley ran over 25 marathons in his inspiring life that was cut short in August.

 

I had to keep running.

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Reasons to run

If you make comparisons, you might feel inadequate for being slower than another runner or you feel empty with no goals if you’re ahead.

If you find and know your own internal reasons why you run, others can’t stop you from enjoying running.

My reasons may or may not intersect with yours.

  • It all started with going faster than a walk.
  • To find beauty in nature.
  • To find beauty in strength.
  • Art. Taking photos, writing and talking about insights from running.
  • parkrun. Where do I begin?
  • Big-ass goals. Striving for achievements, and mini-goals and daily achievements along the way.
  • Curiosity, learning, data, statistics, science.
  • Friends. I’ve made more real friends in 3 years of running than I have in a lifetime.
  • Endorphins, and the runner’s high.
  • Weight management and earning more calories for yummy food.
  • Health. Blah, blah, blah, yes, it’s almost a cliché that running’s so good for you, but deep down I ecstatically love those annual “clear health” check-ups that ease many fears.
  • Aspirations towards Sisu. In Finland, Sisu is a unique trait that means consistency and resolute determination. It’s an epic quality of stamina and perseverance, of courage in the face of extreme hardship.
  • Zenmode.

Know your reasons and know they’re yours and you can run happy.

The psychology of running

They say, “Dig deep” on a tough run, but how do we do that? Here are strategies for dealing with critical situations.

You can use these for yourself or alter them to suit your method.

  • If I get too breathless, I will run at a pace that feels like I can run forever.
  • If I’m staring at the ground and feeling weighed down, then I will look up to try and find a nice photo subject.
  • If I want to quit early, then I will focus on completing a mini-goal or route section so I feel hopeful.
  • If I worry about my time or pace, I will remember my fundamental goal is to stay healthy so I can keep running.
  • If my shoulders get tense, I will rotate my arms to ease the ache.
  • If my legs/hips/calves hurt, I will count to ten and practice good form.
  • If I am really struggling, I will “Embrace the suck”.

We can face That Dark Place on a tough run, as I’ve seen someone call it. We shouldn’t be going there every run. It’s probably best to only do it every couple of weeks to avoid burnout. Most training runs should be run easy.

But when you expect a run to be tough and you have contingency plans and strategies for critical situations, you create psychological endurance.

You will probably think negative or defeatist thoughts. Here are ways of digging deep when that happens.

  • Wear a symbolic item that reminds you of your strength and/or why you run.
  • Visualise completing your goal.
  • Remember friends’ compliments about your determination/commitment.
  • Use your senses: Hear the crowd’s encouragement or nature; see the interesting route; taste/drink some water/fuel; feel your skin to make sure you’re sweating and not dehydrated, feel the breeze.
  • Remember overcoming a great obstacle in your life. Think outside the run – remind yourself you can do this, you’ve done other hard things.
  • Swear, and let your monkey feelings out.
  • In a training session, remember the purpose of the workout and remember that performance is improved by trying hard.
  • In a race, remember your training, and how you’ve built up to this. Let it all fall into place.

Being prepared to face That Dark Place can help. Visualise a certain point in the route (e.g. 32 km) and rehearse seeing yourself overcome negativity at that point by remembering these strategies.

You don’t need to leave it all up to luck on the day.