Health and Humanity

January 23, 2016 12:00 am Published by Leave your thoughts

New Year’s Resolutions
According to Wikipedia, A New Year’s Resolution may be defined as follows:

“A New Year’s resolution is a tradition, most common in the Western Hemisphere but also found in the Eastern Hemisphere, in which a person makes a promise to do an act of self-improvement or something slightly nice, such as opening doors for people beginning from New Year’s Day.”

Whilst opening doors is often admirable and may be desirable: I would humbly suggest to the readership that we should, instead, start 2016 off with some ‘navel gazing’. But before we do so, let us contemplate, visually, what perhaps we all need more of, ie.: time and space to think, and what this might enable us to achieve’

Figure 1: Time To Think

Navel Gazing and Exercising our Little Grey Cells
In a recent discussion/debate with sporting medical colleagues, on the ‘fit versus fat’ debate: I was accused of ‘navel gazing;’ when I put forward the opinion that being mindful of exactly what we eat was perhaps more important, for the biopsychosocial (BPS) health (Figure 2) of the general population, than watching the scales too closely or obsessing about sporting personal bests, in addition to keeping active as we stride through life. I am interested in what the optimal level of exercise is, in relation to our BPS health and in terms of longevity and ageing. Whilst elite athletes are by definition extremely physically healthy at that point in their lives, there is no convincing evidence that this translates to longevity or an abundance of BPS health in the longterm.

Now I must confess, the term ‘navel gazing’ and the context it was used in by my colleague gave me far more impetus for thought than the debate topic itself. I must also confess that the term was outside my vocabulary and/or thinking at that time; and I apologise to those readers who are totally au fait with both the term and its implications, and feel I am labouring the point. But, whilst the valued opinions of my colleagues did indeed challenge my little grey cells: on whether a slim-sporty person is invariably a healthy one; or indeed more generally, whether surrogate makers of biological health such as body mass index or sporting performance are particularly useful when considering the health of the populations; my navel gazing re navel gazing continued long after’

Figure 2 Engel’s Biopsychosocial Paradigm (Corrected)

So to me, the aforementioned term immediately generated the following: gazing through one’s belly button; into one’s centre, and perhaps even into one’s soul; and mainly looking (too far) into oneself rather than outside it. I think what my colleague was trying to suggest was that for a group of sports medical practitioners, we should concern ourselves chiefly with the many benefits of exercise rather than straying into the fields of psychology, the social and behavioural aspects of fitness and ‘fatness’ or nutrition’

The Elephant And The Blind Man: intra- versus Inter- observer; extrospection

Whilst confining oneself to an area or areas of expertise is of course a sound principle: a problem with my colleague’s suggestion in the context of optimising the health of an individual or indeed the health of world populations; is that there is a risk that we may only achieve a partial view of the situation, as per the well known Jain/Indian story of the elephant and the blind men’

Figure 3 The Elephant And The Blind Men

In healthcare/ medical research we often talk about inter- and intra-observer error: the former relating to different individuals interpreting something differently from each other; and the latter relating to the same person interpreting something differently in time and/or space. The problem in the above story was inter-observer error, or rather that with the tools available to them (chiefly their hands): the blind men could achieve only a partial view of the elephant. However, if they had worked together a more complete perspective could have been achieved. Perhaps the blind men in the story: by acting, or rather perceiving, in isolation; were navel gazing in the truer sense. And perhaps they should have had a more extrospective approach to life.

An intro-extro-spective approach in 2016
I would like to suggest three simple (in theory at least) and interrelated resolutions for 2016 and beyond, which may be to the benefit of ourselves and indeed the greater good. This threefold approach centres upon finding yourself (introspection) and applying that for the greater good (extrospection).

1. Try to find more time and space for yourself: to enable introspective mindfulness and meditation plus extrospection.
2. Hence, learn to think critically and logically for yourself. As an example, consider your finances both introspectively and extrospectively.
3. Gaze into your navel; and thenceforth eat as clean (figure 4) as you can, as much as you can’

Figure 4: The Clean Eating Concept