Sunday, November 12, 2017

The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg

Its been long since I blogged about a book or read any book worth blogging. As it happened, a book club was formed in our office and nominations for your book were given and voted. As fate would have it the book I voted came on top and I was nominated as one of the facilitators to summarize the book for our office audience so they can dwell deeper it they like it. "The Power of Habit", I voted for this book in hopes that it would help me create the habit of waking up early and change my YouTube watching habit. Turned out to be a good choice, I enjoyed this book as much as I'd enjoy a well written fiction!

Any Habit can be better understood when looked through The Habit loop: Cue > Routine > Reward. Cue triggers the habit, Routine is the action performed and Reward satisfies your craving . Habits automates our brain, so we need not concentrate on every aspect of a repetitive action : we are not thinking hard on the route to take, traffic, rules to follow on our daily commute to office.

Habit is relatively easy to form but cannot be eradicated, we'd always crave for the reward. The Golden rule is to keep the same Cue and Reward but change the Routine (action) : Most people smoke(routine) to relieve-stress (reward); meditation or exercise can be used as replacement routine as they also release stress buster hormones.

Some habits triggers chain reaction of changes and creates new habits and eventually snowballs into life changing experience, these kind of habits are termed "Keystone habits" : In an office with flexible office hours and tight deadline it will be hard to establish a good work life balance. But if working hours are mandated in office, employees will have to come on time. So they have to wake up early > more early morning fresh air > relatively traffic free ride > most energetic time period spent in office translates to productivity > leaving on time > more family time in evening  > better life style.

Knowing the habits can be changed is not enough and thus the author provides his personal formula to change a habit. (override routine)
1. Identify the routine you want to change : as it is readily visible
2. Experiment with rewards : do minor tweaks in reward to see if your craving is satisfied.
3. Isolate the cue : what is the cue that sets up routine in motion? mostly it will fall in any of the following five categories,
    a) Location : Office
    b) Time : 4:30 pm
    c) Emotional state : Bored
    d) Other people : When colleagues comes/leave office or bay or Skype
    e) Preceding (previous) action : Did stretches, Sent mail and so on
4. Step up plan that goes on to explain minute detail : Everyday I'll wake up at 6 am, for this I'll set three alarm clock away from my bed, I won't hit snooze, I will brush and drink water, wear my sneaker and go jogging for 30 minutes.

For the simplest idea of changing the routine instead attacking the whole habit and offering a memorable 4 step formula, I'm giving this book above 3.5 in spite of being sort of self-help book which I hate most.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Living on with Back pain

April 2016, it is 11 am in the morning and I'm still not in the office, in fact, I'm still in bed. It is not a weekend, I have to be in office but I can hardly get up from my bed, can hide no more. I called it off, took a cab to an orthopedic hospital, my dad accompanied me as I did for him when he almost broke his spine. First I tried sitting, then lying in the back seat, it was getting terrible by moments and every move I made trying to ease my pain only increased it.

By the time I reached the hospital, I wanted to call for a wheelchair, but I was also not ready to give up on my willpower or self-esteem, worst I could lose all the money in the pocket. As I guessed, I was sent for no questions asked x-ray costing 600 and then advised for physiotherapy for 5 days which would cost 150 every day, topped this with transportation (cab) charge, pain relief medication and consultation charge of 300 on first and last day; total crosses to 3000.

Evidently, I care too much about money still I stuck to the advice of the doctor, because living with lower back pain is horrendous. On the third day of physiotherapy, I made the change to my transportation my cousin dropped me and my friend would pick up, both in bike and not in a car. After physiotherapy, I wanted to step out of the hospital so I can stand beneath tree shade and enjoy some breeze of nature and dust of civilization. I wore my old bathroom sandal that didn't offer any grip on the shiny tiled floor, given my awkward walk attributed to back pain I was destined to fall anytime.

The fall happened when I stepped out, I managed to not hit my butt hard, but enough to undo all the physiotherapy; my pain had reset to day zero. I sat on the steps as I fell, holding my posture and loud cry that I wanted to make, it took me 2 minutes to even open eyes. I was still there sitting, none from hospital cared to ask, I'm their patient sitting on the steps and not leaving... then it stuck me they think I'm resting, so did I.

I didn't return to hospital after that for back pain, I took good amount of rest and started to exercise my back through yoga and tried to make correct posture as I sat or lay down. Flashback 4 more months, I started using a moped to commute to office instead of public transportation that demanded 4 km walking every day. Could be the lack of walk but I was told that its not the absence of jogging/yoga/exercise/gym that contributes to back pain, but it is continuous sitting without minor breaks.

I was not brought to knee on day zero of lower back pain, I suffered tolerable amount of pain for more than a month. I believed it would go away it just didn't, the pain exponentially increased to a point where getting up from bed seemed impossible. Here are some advice that I can offer if you are suffering or if you don't want to ever be affected by lower back pain before age catches up.

  • Move. Your body is not designed to sit about, move around often; even short breaks are fine but long sitting is not acceptable even if you are planning to follow it with long moving
  • Hold your posture while sitting, standing, walking or even lying down.
    • Sit with your spine erect, it is fine if you have to look up a bit stop looking down. (your phone is your enemy)
    • Stand with your spine straight
    • Walk with correct shoe, take real care while you jog or run
    • Lie down facing ceiling, if possible don't use sponge like bed flat surface is best. If you have lie on your side give appropriate support to head so neck is not burdened. Try to not lie on stomach
  • Don't lie in bed for long even if you have back pain, it only worsens. Start slow roll to edge of cot and get down, use arms and legs to support spine while getting up or down from bed.
  • Don't give too much attention to pain, do small job like folding cloth, doing dish.
  • Get a warm bath, it is relaxing. Some say cold ice pack helps too (never tried)
  • Do yoga: I know the name Baba Ramdev sort of strikes funny bone but this one really help me. Think the guy who dubbed has a lot of personal vengeance against Ramdev, some humor is good I guess

Disclaimer : In no way this write up supports not going to hospital. (I just happened to realize with enough and slow movement I can tolerate pain, lying down limp made things worst).  These are stuff that worked for me, some might not work for you consult specialist doctor if your pain doesn't decrease. The yoga video that I have linked here is good for novice, but don't push the limits, you might flatter real bad. 

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