Thursday, May 21, 2009

Keeping Track - Being AwareJust

Just noticed last post was too long ago. My attention was on finger temperature sensing and handwarming. Paying attention, a sustained narrow focus, foiled my intent of maintaining a regular posting habit. Thanks to a New York Magazine article, "The Benefits of Distraction and Overstimulation", we're back on track.

Here's a teaser:

"The most promising solution to our attention problem, in Gallagher’s mind, is also the most ancient: meditation. Neuroscientists have become obsessed, in recent years, with Buddhists, whose attentional discipline can apparently confer all kinds of benefits even on non-Buddhists. (Some psychologists predict that, in the same way we go out for a jog now, in the future we’ll all do daily 20-to-30-minute “secular attentional workouts.”) Meditation can make your attention less “sticky,” able to notice images flashing by in such quick succession that regular brains would miss them. It has also been shown to elevate your mood, which can then recursively stoke your attention: Research shows that positive emotions cause your visual field to expand. The brains of Buddhist monks asked to meditate on “unconditional loving-kindness and compassion” show instant and remarkable changes: Their left prefrontal cortices (responsible for positive emotions) go into overdrive, they produce gamma waves 30 times more powerful than novice meditators, and their wave activity is coordinated in a way often seen in patients under anesthesia."

Gallagher stresses that because attention is a limited resource—one psychologist has calculated that we can attend to only 110 bits of information per second, or 173 billion bits in an average lifetime—our moment-by-moment choice of attentional targets determines, in a very real sense, the shape of our lives. Rapt’s epigraph comes from the psychologist and philosopher William James: “My experience is what I agree to attend to.” For Gallagher, everything comes down to that one big choice: investing your attention wisely or not. The jackhammers are everywhere—iPhones, e-mail, cancer—and Western culture’s attentional crisis is mainly a widespread failure to ignore them."

Early in research on biofeedback involved book reviews. One set from BioFeedback Without the Machines: A Strategy for Living (Paperback) by George E Soroka (Author) sticks.

Product Description Review
Biofeeback Without Machines helps readers to learn to live without stress and build their life to success. ""Biofeedback without Machines means that we can become the instruments of dramatic and positive change in our own lives. The most significant thing we learn from biofeedback is that we can reclaim the creative process as our own, and in this way develop a truly effective strategy for living based on self determination."" Mike Marchetti, Ph. D. Physicist

The first customer review:
"The technique this book teaches can be summed up in two words: "just notice." That's it. So, if you are looking for technique, there it is. You don't need to buy the book." sharply contrasted with that of the third reviewer:
"This book is a great disappointment. One would guess from the title that this book has something to do with biofeedback without machines. Wrong. This book mainly deals with the author's theories of life. I did not particularly care." made a mental mark that still influences what appears here. Biofeedback, or the generalized content statement beneath the masthead, depends upon personal awareness. While brainwaves are a dramatic view of what is going inside your head, it is certainly not the only doorway. Pay good attention to yourself.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Keeping Track of Yourself - Easy Works

Wii Fit data logging is a motivator for me. A body measurement is a daily goal and the results are habit forming. The system got a daily Yoga habit started, but I rarely go back to the balance board for a check up anymore, the internal check in is more meaningful. The need for a notebook for daily logging contrasts with the automatic record-keeping of the Wii.

One of my weight/BMI graphs:

During the blank period, it was easy to keep a weight log. The variation during the day fluctuated but a pattern was easy to see. With the Wii, an explanation for the 2-3 pound shifts at the same time each day are not easy to explain and cross-checking with the digital scale is hard to reconcile. Point is the long term patterns are most important and you can't see them if you don't keep track.

There are lots of ways to keep notes and how to record feedback of the instruments available is a major issue. I think your cell phone will be a bigger help in the near future, but LifeHacker suggests some other resources until the future arrives. See: Six Easy Ways to Graph Your Life.