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Both negative & positive emotions can be functional or dysfunctional

Unpleasant, negative emotions can be highly functional. For example, anxious hypervigilance in a dangerous situation can keep me on my toes, very aware of potential threats and more able to react rapidly and appropriately. Healthy anger when I am being taken advantage of can help me respond strongly and assertively to protect my rights. In her book "Productive & Unproductive Depression" the psychotherapist Emmy Gut suggested that even depression can at times be functional. She wrote " ... in the wilderness in which the human race developed its current genetic characteristics, individuals who had the capacity to respond to dangerous or otherwise significant circumstances with an adequate set of emotions, and acted accordingly, had a better chance to survive, to have children, and to raise them than individuals who were deficient in that respect."

Savouring – initial thoughts

Back in my post of January 5, I mentioned that I was looking at Sonja Lyubomirsky's book "The How of Happiness". On pages 73 to 77 of the book she describes a ‘person-fit' exercise to help readers decide which happiness-boosting activities to work with initially. I came up with a whole load that appealed to me, and that mostly I was somewhat familiar with. There are a couple of activities that focus particularly on being present - on ‘flow' and on ‘savouring' (spelt ‘savoring' in this American book).

Drink lots of water: an urban myth

The Christmas edition of the British Medical Journal usually has a series of light-hearted articles in it. Last month's copy was no exception. In one of the articles, entitled "Medical myths" (Vreeman & Carroll 2007), the authors wrote "We generated a list of common medical or medicine related beliefs espoused by physicians and the general public, based on statements we had heard endorsed on multiple occasions and thought were true or might be true. We selected seven for critical review". The first myth critiqued was "People should drink at least eight glasses of water a day". Searches on Medline and Google apparently yielded no hard evidence supporting this advice. There are many sources stating that it's good health practice, but they could find no worthwhile evidence to back it up.

Does healthy lifestyle really make much difference?

In an earlier post (January 3, 08), I looked at how common sense isn’t common, at least for healthy behaviours. Only about 3% of the population are ticking all the right boxes for non-smoking, alcohol use, exercise, weight and diet. This is interesting and maybe surprising, but does it really matter much?

Common sense isn’t common

Common sense isn’t common, at least with healthy behaviours. The vast majority of us know that we should eat sensibly, be a reasonable weight, exercise regularly, not abuse alcohol, and avoid smoking. Do you know what percentage of people actually follow all this obvious advice? A survey (Reeves and Rafferty 2005) of over 153,000 US adults in 2000 found that only 3% ticked all four boxes when asked if they didn’t smoke, were a healthy weight (body mass index, calculated as weight in kilograms divided by square of height in meters, 18.5 to 25.0), consumed 5 or more portions of fruit and vegetables daily, and exercised in leisure time for at least 30 minutes, 5 or more times per week (this includes brisk walking).

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