Under Construction

For those of you who may have been wondering about the status of this blog, it is officially under construction. I recently landed a new job working in a school, and coaching, which has taken up most of my time. Additionally, the little bit of free time that I do have is now dedicated to writing for a website (girl-karma.com). So, as you can imagine, I am pretty busy, and do not currently have time to write posts. I hope to start back up sometime in the near future, but right now I am focused on enjoying my new role at a high school in San Francisco!

Photo retrieved from smartgrid-forum.com.

Use your imagination

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My grandfather recently pulled out an old gem from his archive of artifacts collected throughout his seventy-four years of life. Though I am no longer an athlete, he thought the following manuscript may be useful to me; if not for anything else, “it could be the subject of a blog post,” he said. Nonetheless, he handed me a draft copy of An Introduction to Mental Training for the Competitive Athlete, by Donald M. Ronan. Ronan worked with my grandfather as a guidance counselor at West Islip High School in New York. He was an All-American football player at Syracuse University, drafted by the NY Giants in the 1950s. Due to his death in the late 1980s, his book was never published.

Contrary to my current “retired college-athlete” status and my negative attitude toward self-help books, I found several aspects of Ronan’s writing to be useful, particularly in terms of how mental training applies to everyday experiences. Ronan establishes himself as a down-to-earth writer by offering his views on psychology early on. He writes, “many theories in psychology can neither be proved nor disproved…if something works for you…use it. If it doesn’t work…discard it.” As someone who spent four years at Northwestern studying psychology, I’d have to agree with the guy.

The main topic of Ronan’s writing concerns cybernetics, which is the science concerned with all matters of communication and control within axiomatic systems (systems based on precise probabilities) with special reference to self-controlling or adaptive systems. In simpler terms, cybernetics concerns the neural pathways of the brain. Every time we experience an event, we create new neural pathways into the grey matter of our brain, or if this is a repeated experience, we strengthen the neural pathways already programmed into our brain. Is there a practical method of replaying the successful experiences rather than the failure ones, thus strengthening the neural pathways, and in turn making them become reflex actions? The answer is yes.

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Remember when you were a kid and your parents, and perhaps kindergarten teacher, encouraged you to “use your imagination”? Their advice actually comes in handy during our adult years. If we can successfully visualize favorable outcomes for ourselves, we can build upon existing neural pathways, and in turn reach our goals in life. According to Ronan, the best time to practice visualization is during the time that one is in his alpha state. Otherwise known as a meditative state, the alpha state occurs when we experience a feeling of well-being and have a sharpened awareness of our thoughts and sensations; brainwave activity that is most conductive for mental picturing. We are generally in our alpha state just before falling asleep.

Ronan articulates three simple steps for optimal visualization in the alpha state: relaxation, concentration, and mental picturing. Overall, the power of self-image psychology lies within visualization: you can perform consistently in a manner that is compatible with the way you see yourself. Perhaps when you are lying down to go to sleep at night, you will remind yourself to visualize the person you want to be the following day. You will replay your recent successes, and pay little attention to your failures, in turn strengthening the neural connections that are most useful to your prosperity.

As Ronan would agree, once an experience, an idea, or a belief about ourselves is incorporated into the mind, we will act and perform like the sort of person/athlete we picture ourselves to be. So why not choose to see yourself in a positive light rather than a negative one? Think about it.

Photos retrieved from liveandlovework.com & optimushealth.com

Nana’s Fish Tacos

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We had the most amazing fish tacos in honor of my sister’s last night in New York (she is now in LA until Christmas!). Though she is a fantastic cook, my Nana had never made fish tacos before. Nonetheless, she put her sous chef to work (my Poppa) and delivered one of her best meals yet. Her secret was definitely the fresh fish, which Poppa tirelessly fried while we all downed our tacos. Check out her recipe below!

What You’ll Need

1 pound tilapia fillets (slice into serving size pieces)

McCormick Cumin, ground

McCormick Seafood Fry mix

1 egg

Red Onion

Tomato

Avocado

Lettuce

Lime

Shredded Mexican cheese

Sour cream

Taco shells

1 jar of tartar sauce

1 jar of medium salsa

Chopped cilantro

Directions

1. Dip each piece of fish in egg, then dip into the batter (1 tablespoon McCormick Cumin, ground + ½ cup McCormick Seafood Fry mix). Fry in canola oil (make sure the oil is hot before you start frying, and don’t overcrowd the pan!).

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2. Prepare the toppings of your choice (red onion, tomato, avocado, etc.). Finely chop each ingredient, and put into separate bowls.

3. Enjoy with Nana’s special sauce (1 jar of tartar sauce +1 jar of medium salsa +chopped cilantro)!

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Adapted from mccormick.com

The Sapphires

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“What is this, Dream Girls Two?,” my sister sarcastically asked. To be honest, I was not crazy about watching my mom’s movie pick, The Sapphires, either. Nonetheless, upon completing this fantastic film, our expectations were far exceeded. Chris O’Dowd, or as you probably know him as, “the guy from Bridesmaids,” stars in a film about love, prejudice, and loss.

Set in 1968, the film follows four Australian Aboriginal women on their quest for stardom, which lands them smack in the middle of Vietnam during the war. O’Dowd plays their talent scout, and advises the girls to steer away from country-western, while simultaneously begging them to “make [their songs] sound ‘black-er.’” The girls quickly learn how to sing soul music, and are able to lift the spirits of the troops upon their arrival. However, the war is a complete eye-opening experience, one that leaves the girls with low spirits themselves. Does everyone make it? Watch to find out!

And if you still aren’t convinced, check out the soundtrack on iTunes. Jessica Mauboy’s voice is simply amazing.

Photo retrieved from wikipedia.com

Sleep on it

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Turns out the widely-known advice to “sleep on it” is actually worth listening to. Though most consider the time spent sleeping to be a mentally inactive period, it is arguably one of the most important phases of the brain’s activity. According to Penelope A. Lewis’ book, The Secret World of Sleep, the time spent sleeping is responsible for strengthening memory. More specifically, after learning new tasks or thinking about novel ideas, your brain will rehearse this newly acquired knowledge when you sleep. Additionally, your brain will organize all of the information you took in over the course of the day during the time you are asleep, and simultaneously will wipe out information that is not useful. Thus, by “sleeping on it,” your brain will undergo meaningful activity that could potentially be useful for discovering solutions to problems or combining factors to make decisions.

A second worthy piece of information found in Lewis’ book concerns the relationship between REM sleep and depression. REM sleep is particularly associated with strengthening emotional memories, and in many cases these memories are negative. A large proportion of depressed people have too much REM, which means that their negative memories are over-strengthened. Though further research on the topic is still underway, if scientists find a way to suppress their REM sleep, perhaps these people will feel less depressed.

Overall, we spend one-third of our lives asleep as humans. Lewis is further trying to understand why this is, and how it relates to memory. Therefore, her book represents only the beginning of her quest, and I’m sure we will continue to benefit from her research in the future.

Listen to Penelope Lewis’ interview with NPR here: Secret World of Sleep

Photo retrieved from barnesandnoble.com

Com-part-men-tal-ize

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Compartmentalize. Quite fittingly, this 5-syllabic word is defined as “divide into sections or categories.” Com-part-men-tal-ize. Though I’ve known about this word for a while, it was my therapist who first introduced me to the idea of applying this word to life. I am going to spread her words of wisdom concerning this word, so that you too may experience its virtue.

Compartmentalize your life.  A seemingly simple task, though a difficult routine to stick to. To “compartmentalize your life” means to mentally split up the many aspects of your existence into categories, and weigh them in terms of importance. Then, make an emotional rule for yourself: do not become too concerned with one piece of the puzzle that may not be as meaningful as another. This may sound a little confusing; let me offer an example.

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While going through a difficult time when playing division one lacrosse, I was able to compartmentalize. I personally designated lacrosse to represent only 25% of my life, and the other 75% to represent the amazing relationships I had (my family, friends, and boyfriend). According to these percentages, I could not let myself become upset all the time about lacrosse, because it represented only 25%. Put another way, emotions must be proportional to each percentage.

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These days, I continue to compartmentalize. I try to only designate 25% of my life to my career search, 25% to my two current jobs, and the remaining 50% to the meaningful relationships in my life. Today, I try not to get too stressed out about finding a “real job” and pursuing my dream career, because that aspect of my life is only 25%. Overall, percentages will vary based on what is relevant to you on a day-to-day basis.

This is a special piece of advice for all of the “type A” people out there, who are obsessed with organization. It helped me, and I hope it can help you. For now, I will continue to stress out about entering the real world, but hopefully only a minimal amount.

 What do you think? Will you compartmentalize?

Photos retrieved from ninepaths.com, underarmour.com, & imgion.com

True words of wisdom

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Case of the Monday’s? When things are going wrong, look to others who got it right. Below are a few of my favorites.

“The truth of the matter is your life is very much out of your control.” -Woody Allen

 

“We all have a better guide in ourselves, if we would attend to it, than any other person can be.” -Jane Austen

 

“Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.” -Mark Twain

 

“There’s only one Michael Jordan.” -Michael Jordan

 

“Character is higher than intellect. A great soul will be strong to live as well as think.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

“You’re my blue sky, you’re my sunny day. Lord, you know it makes me high when you turn your love my way.” -Allman Brothers Band

 

“I was born with an enormous need for affection, and a terrible need to give it.” -Audrey Hepburn

 

Photos retrieved from foglobe.com, biography.com, saisd.net, aweseomish.com, topics.nytimes.com, seatgeek.com & doctormacro.com