Geeky wellbeing favourites: August
Why the world isn't as shit as you think, plus the usual yoga science highlights
It is tempting to think that the world is really shit right now. We’ve just come out of a pandemic, with no idea of what’s around the corner and what to expect in the winter. We’ve got a war going on, with no end in sight and an impact on food and fuel supplies. A consequent cost of living crisis. And climate change really going strong, with ridiculously high temperatures, extreme weather and wild fires.
This is all rather depressing, isn’t it? Which can really impact our wellbeing.
And yet, in reality, the world is a much better place than it used to be – without the need for toxic positivity.
A few years ago I read a book that really surprised me, and if you haven’t read it already I would strongly recommend it. This book is called “Factfulness: Ten reasons why we’re wrong about the world – and why things are better than you think”, and it explores our inherent bias to see the world as a much, much, much worse place than it actually is. It probably has the best opening line to any book I’ve ever read (I read it at least 2 years ago and I still remember it, and if you know me at all you’ll know my memory with these things is atrocious).
One of the reasons behind this is our negativity bias – negative events stand out much more than positive events. This is likely an evolutionary adaptation that may have helped our ancestors survive. (silly case in point that other yoga teachers will relate to: I came across a 3 star review of my class. It was mostly not about me but about the studio, and I dwelled on it all evening. It didn’t really matter that all my other reviews are 5 stars!).
Not convinced? Have a go at this worldview test and see how many misconceptions you have about the world too. And play around with the online tools on the Gapminder website, especially this biases.
If you prefer video, there’s a wealth of TED talks by the author of Factfulness, which you can check out here.
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I really enjoyed this yoga nidra practice, which uses the Himalayan Institute body scan. It’s also inspired me to come out of my body scan comfort zone and experiment with my own teaching.
Yoga science highlights
Yoga nidra is not sleep, at least not based on EEG measurements. Measurements were taken from 30 participants at the start of the study (baseline), after 2 weeks of daily yoga nidra practice and after a yoga nidra practice itself. A challenging read (blog post coming soon) but useful if you are interested in yoga nidra brain wave research.
Are yoga and qi gong the same when it comes to health benefits? This systematic review of the published literature does seem to suggest this, although the authors do caveat that there are few decent studies, especially for Qi Gong, and would like to see studies directly comparing the two (so would I!). Useful review of the health benefits of both practices and how they may be achieving these benefits.
Yoga vs aerobic exercise to quit smoking, which should you choose? In this small study 30 smokers were asked to abstain from smoking (and caffeine and alcohol) for 3 days. Both yoga (light intensity asana, meditation and pranayama) and aerobic exercise (stationary bike) were effective at reducing the negative mood (crankiness) that is associated with not smoking (or drinking coffee and alcohol), but only yoga was effective at reducing cravings. I’m still not giving up coffee!
From the blog
Content from July, plus other posts you may have missed on biases and more.
Let’s talk about pain – Apparently I have really high pain tolerance. Is it because of my red hair, or does yoga have anything to do with it? Dissecting the science of yoga and pain.
Is yoga guilty of perpetuating the ‘natural is best’ fallacy? Am I? In the yoga world, we have a tendency to prefer and promote a preference for all things natural. Are we partly to blame for perpetuating this myth?
What having a vitamin B12 deficiency taught me about behavioural science. What behavioural science can teach us about changing our habits and adopting new (and healthy) behaviours.