NEWS:

By Clive Lindley-Jones | January 7, 2011 2:47 pm

Happy New Year!

I thought we might start the year off with the fashionable topic of nudging. Not the nudge, nudge wink, wink variety so exquisitely (and painfully!) displayed all those years ago by Erik Idle of Monty Python fame, but rather the way in which the government wants to change the way we think and behave.

I must admit that I have not  yet read the seminal book on the subject by Richard Thaler that is required reading in government circles,  so more about this in due course, when I have. However I wanted to start the year with this theme thinking more of how we can nudge ourselves towards the outcomes we want.

Here is a micro example to get you going. At the end of the long and happy Christmas and New Year break, on the evening of the 3rd, I determined to get back to my regular Tuesday morning exercising slot at 7 am the next day. To ensure more likely compliance, I took my gym clothes and trainers  and put them on and near my towel rail to be warm and handy when I got up. Suspecting that I might have grown rather accustomed to slumbering longer into the day and there might be some element of reluctance, I was just taking a simple and tiny step/nudge towards ensuring the outcome that I knew was, ultimately, desirable, if not always certain.

So these are some thoughts, to get you thinking, how might you nudge yourself and your family into happily taking the best option available?

This is the time of year that many people want to get themselves into shape and loose their winter spare tire. And yet millions of us find it very hard to fit exercise into our days or to limit our food intake in both quantity and quality. With a staggering 76% of men and 68% of women between 55 and 64 obese, some of us clearly need all the nudging we can give ourselves!

One simple way of nudging yourself towards lower food intake is to avoid that big  inviting pot on the table that begs you to have a second helping! Instead, try serving up the meal on smaller size plates,  knowing that is your lot. All sorts of ideas of comparisons can be found regarding portion control.

But a useful rule of thumb is to try and eat around a palm size portion of  complex carbohydrate and protein together with each meal with as much green leafy vegetables as you want. That way you limit the negative glycemic effects, keeping the glycemic load of each meal within limits.

Another healthy nudge is to try and wangle some physical exercise into each and every day. If you are on the move and have no time to fit in that specific physical activity into your day, try walking to the shops, more racing around with the kids, running up the escalators, doing some yoga at the back of the plane, stopping every hour at your computer for a Korean-factory-style stretch session to wake your self up. There are so many ways to nudge your body into the activity it actually thrives on and might once have craved, but perhaps has given up asking for.

The main target is to have fun, just keep happily nudging yourself towards health. But make it fun and happy, avoid the guilt trip. Get curious about what works for you.  And if these hard times of economic squeeze are making you miserable and you have a good love companion, remember some boffins (editor's translation: this is tabloid-speak for ordinary academics) at Warwick University have calculated that, surprise, surprise, the more active your sex life, the happier you are likely to be. According to their research, increasing the frequency of sexual intercourse from once a month to once a week brings a similar level of contentment to an extra £30,000 in the annual household income.

So whatever you may think of the new trend for governmental nudges, there is no harm in using this interesting idea to nudge yourself towards the places you want to arrive at.

Watch out for more on nudges in future months.

Here is a little clip on the important role of vitamin D, especially at this dark time of the year when so many suffer from flu. Are you getting enough to keep the flu away?

Only connect, said E.M. Foster. While this blog is an example of the myriad ways we can now connect to each other, so much can be on screens of one kind of another - great, but no substitute for face to face, deep, fierce (i.e. authentic),  possibly warm, direct or at least candid communication and appreciation - as Susan Scott CEO and Founder of Fierce Inc. says on her excellent newsletter that a friend copied me into.

She helpfully reminded us of a poem by one of my favourite poets, David Whyte:

Loaves and Fishes

This is not
the age of information.

This is not
the age of information.

Forget the news,
and the radio,
and the blurred screen.

This is the time
of loaves
and fishes.

People are hungry
and one good word is bread
for a thousand.

Scott says:

Hence, a few good words: "Thank you." "I apologize." "I love you (value you, appreciate you)." "What is your perspective on this?" "What are you seeing that you feel I am missing?" "Say more about that." "What do you think we should do?" "I want to talk with you." (versus — I need to talk to you.)

So, more ways of nudging ourselves towards that which is likely to give us what we probably really thrive on: true, deep, connection. If you are an introvert, try nudging your self a little towards that extrovert behaviour. Don't worry, you won't loose all the good things about your style of being, but you do risk ending up with a few more friends and a little more happiness.

And so, finally, to my book of the month.

Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman's Search for Everything
by Elizabeth Gilbert

Not perhaps my normal recommendation, and as a film not to be recommended, but after some rather dismissive and ill-informed comments from me, I was persuaded, by one of my insightful daughters, to recant and give it a go last year.

The result being a happy holiday read. Plus, I can now see why this book has garnered eight million or so readers. The primary reason, I suspect, is only partly to do with the subject matter, more to do with the fact that Ms Gilbert is an amusing, stylish, candid and accomplished writer. Another reason so much was lost in the film version.

While some, who have probably not read it, look down on it as a self absorbed, spoilt woman's inner quest, of marginal interest to most, certainly of none to the male sex. Actually it is an amusing, well-written account of an inner journey that is funny and absorbing in turns. OK it might be slightly too contrived in its structure to be totally, 'as it happened' but that is her privilege as the author to tell us what she wants in what order. That said, it can be read with enjoyment and insight, by anyone, of either sex, with a nodding acquaintance with their own heart and soul and a wish to nourish both.

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