After I spent a few minutes beating myself up for my stupidity, I decided to have a good laugh and drop the matter. Fortunately for me, I arrived during break and there was a spot right up next to the stage.
I was there for Kelly McGonigal's workshop based on her book, The Willpower Instinct.
Also fortunately, there was very little asana. I hadn't realized how much of a workout I'd gotten the day before and my shoulders were a bit stiff from all the planks and down-dogs.
There is definitely a lot of material to ponder. Dr. McGonigal teaches a course at Stanford based on the subject and her publisher has been getting the book a lot of airplay recently. After leading the conference class she ran across the street to do a CBC interview.
Who hasn't heard of the Fight and Flight response by now? It paralyzes the long-term reasoning capacity of the pre-frontal cortex to deal with immediate threats. It also floods the body with a deadly chemical cocktail. While a great defense for dealing with tigers in the jungle, it is not meant for daily activation. Instead we need to cultivate a different reaction to our modern day stressors. Let's call it the 'Pause and Plan Response', when heart rate and breath rate are synchronized and a physical state is created where you are alert and prepared for action. One of the best ways to create the state is to synchronize breath with movement: walking meditation, slow flow.
- Whatever you do, don't think about the white polar bear! Trying to 'block' thoughts is a self-defeating strategy.
- "Surfing the urge" of a craving is a more successful strategy than trying to avoid the craving in the first place: notice, accept the craving, breathe and give your body the chance to pause and plan, broaden your attention and look for the action that will help you achieve your goal.
- Beating yourself up for giving into temptation seems to cause escalation of the problematic behaviour (studies of addiction & compulsive disorders show after wallowing in self-hate the subjects then end up seeking comfort in the very substance or behaviour at the root of the problem... otherwise known as the "what the hell effect").
- Inference of goal preference or 'goal-switching'... if the main thing motivating self-control is the desire to be "good", when told they are doing well or feeling "good" about themselves, people will "give in" to their self-defeating behaviour... permission is granted to go against the bigger goal for the temporary reward of the thing or object being denied.
- Respond to setbacks with self-compassion.
- It's a given by now that trying to shame yourself or others into good behaviour totally backfires. But at the same time, we should stop chasing self-esteem and learn self-compassion.
- Self-compassion is not to be confused with self-indulgence or lower standards.
- Keeping a self-compassion journal for only 7 consecutive nights improved overall happiness scores even six months later.
McGonigal spoke about small interventions with big outcomes to the Googleplex earlier this year: