Thursday, December 13, 2012
Television may be hazadorous to your health
'Every hour spent sitting watching TV knocks almost 22 minutes off your life.'
Are you sitting comfortably? Then get up, because sitting is killing you; the conclusion of two studies widely reported a few weeks back:
1. one suggested that, after the age of 25, every hour spent sitting watching TV knocks almost 22 minutes off your life
– twice the impact of one cigarette.
2. The other found that the average adult spends 50-70% of the day sitting down, with the most sedentary among us at vastly greater risk of disease and early death.
To make sure I was sitting with good posture I bought an ergonomic chair. Its seat resembles a saddle, so instead of slouching, you perch.
Now I don't sit for too long, because it's too uncomfortable.
After a few weeks, I realised that something intriguing had happened: I'd switched my default state.
Standing or strolling was now my automatic, baseline behaviour; sitting was something I actively "did".
This notion of adjusting your defaults turns out to be a surprisingly useful way to think about other kinds of habit change.
It becomes easier to resist the siren call of the web and social media, for example, if you come to see "not being online" as the default state, and "being online" as the active, chosen one – something you sporadically choose to do, then stop doing.
It's also the spirit behind the idea the productivity blogger Thanh Pham calls "clearing to neutral":
the habit, after any activity, of clearing up the equipment involved – dirty pans, work files – so they're ready for next time.
Gradually, tidiness becomes the default, mess the anomaly, and the good habit happens without thinking or effort.
This idea goes deeper: "adjusting your defaults" is one way that the meditation teacher Jon Kabat-Zinn defines the goal of mindfulness meditation.
Being lost in thought is the default state for most of us; adjusting your defaults involves not ceasing to think, but rather making "present-moment awareness" the default, with thinking as the activity you choose to do when it's useful.
Posted by Robert Lewis and Jennifer Hodson