Saturday, February 12, 2011

"Mind your HEALTH" Dr. C. S. Foo

THERE is a curious little abstract area in the head that determines whether an individual soars with excellence or flaps the wings of mediocrity in life.

This is the trigger zone for many of the decisions we make on a daily basis. It houses passion, determination, commitment, and greatness, but also shares seats with negative emotions, insecurity, fear, prejudice, etc.

It’s in the mind

That non-anatomical entity we call the mind is the conscious part of the brain.

“Mind your language” – speak with consciousness. “Mind your step” – be extra wary not to trip. “Mind your head” – avoid decapitation (by an awkwardly low ceiling fan). “Mind your health” – to prevent future turmoil.

Minding involves conscious control. The mind is like a lawn, with flowers and weeds growing side by side, and like any garden, needs tending. We have to mind the mind, plucking out the wild plants; otherwise, we lose control of directions, goals and dreams.

Weeds of carelessness, a “could-not-care-less attitude”, procrastination, and inertia to action breeds poor health, financial turmoil, and much unhappiness.

The appreciation of certain stimuli is represented by specific areas in the brain. Sight is beheld by the rear (of the brain of course). Taste, smell, touch, and hearing are discerned by different areas on the side of this distorted organ.

What lies in front is the complex processing centre for thoughts, emotions, memory, reasoning, abstract thinking, etc, which also houses the centre of consciousness.

Unfortunately, squatting here, there is a prison for the inmates of negativity, fear, insecurity, and hopelessness.

Taste it, feel it

Taste is the only sensation that fires off excitatory signals from the unconscious to the conscious mind, inducing a constant overwhelming inspiration of the highest degree. Most other impulses bypass this area of conscious awareness and evaporate into nothingness, with no drive or reason to change directions, no spark of inspiration for the day.

If one steps on a nail, the sharp metal pierces the skin and stimulates the pain receptors, which send a current to the pain centre in the brain. Consequently, the body reacts violently to escape the distress, without having to channel to the conscious part of the brain for risk assessment.

The transition between true health, false health, and poor health is gradual and incurs no discomfort to the sufferer. As there are no signals of distress, a sense of false security prevails and action is lethargic at best.

The international colour code for electrical wiring is brown for “hot” and live, blue for neutral, and green for earth. Perception and reaction are often ill understood but can be likened to an electric wire that connects the sensory areas of the brain to the conscious mind. The live wire is only functional when it connects precisely to the terminal of reason in the mind, the “why” zone. Once there is contact, the bulb lights up, like a bright idea.

More often than not, it is the green wire that hooks up to the neutral zone, where nothing happens. Worse is when earth is connected to a landfill in which pessimism and negativity pile on each other, augmenting fear of change.

Fleeting ideas of intention that flash on and off like blinking lights does naught for illuminating the dark. However, if the right switch in the “why” zone is thrown, a new light shines on the path towards new disciplines, perhaps to shed the pounds, to control blood sugar, or reduce cholesterol levels.

Ultimately, it is the commencement of action that counts.

Activate the ‘why’ zone

A Rolls Royce needs maintenance, but does one have a service programme for the body? Are you living your life by accident (waiting for incidents to happen), or by design (having a health strategy)?

When a baby is born, so very often, the cute little miracle is deprived of the caress of the mother’s bosom and given a hard plastic bottle to nurse on. When the child grows older, the milk is exchanged with a bottle of coke. With the dawn of adulthood, the beer bottle takes over, and as the wheels of misfortune continue to turn, one may have to find sustenance through a bottle of intravenous fluid, reflecting on regrets of the past.

If exercise can give an additional five years of health, would one not be interested? If exercise, lifestyle, dietary modifications and taking the right supplements can offer 10 or more years of enhanced living, would one not embrace it?

If the picture is still hazy, it is because the “why” zone is rusted and clouded by cobwebs. With a little clean up, there should be better connectivity with the live wire.

Cigarette packaging carries pictures of lung damage so grotesque that it makes the seasoned pathologist squirm. Visual image at best is carried up to the occipital lobe where it dissipates with no impact. The “why” zone is not activated because the desire to smoke overwhelms the perceived danger.

Unless something significantly dramatic occurs, like being a survivor of a nasty heart attack or severe bronchitis, there is no trigger for change. A smoker will continue to smoke, a drinker will continue to drink, a heart will continue to be attacked.

We hear of the typical sponsored radio message that goes like “Heart disease is the No.1 killer in Malaysia. Exercise, eat healthily, reduce stress, and do not smoke and drink. Act now!”

That lyric has been sung for the last two decades, but heart disease is still the chart-topper. The song never touched the “why” zone. I should know as I, too, serenaded that ballad for the greater part of my career to impervious minds. Unless the “why” zone gets connected, there is no U-turn.

Despite herculean efforts to take action, change is usually inconsistent. Have we not heard of the diet plan that failed? Or someone who tried to stop smoking but quit trying to quit?

The final link to success in better health, wealth, or happiness is sustained commitment, not just for a day or a month, but daily.

If we do the right things today and everyday, we need not spend all of tomorrow rectifying yesterday’s mistakes. A health plan that works will add another decade of good years to life, but one has to work on the plan. A parting caution of D.I.Y. is that, if the wrong plan is chosen, a short circuit can electrocute the “why” zone, resulting in permanent damage.

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