You’ve Never Seen Your Face in the Flesh

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Unless there is a condition I am not aware of, in which some humans have snail-like eyes, none of us have ever really seen our faces. Yeah, Yeah we have looked in mirrors, seen pictures of ourselves, seen videos of ourselves. But you were looking at your reflection, your likeness on paper, or your likeness reproduced on celluloid or digitally.

This doesn’t really have any consequences as far as I can tell. I highly doubt that mirrors, water, and many types of recording devices are lying in terms of representing the way your face looks. I just thought that was an interesting thought. Never will I gaze upon my own face without a medium. Never can I stare into my own eyes directly. 😛

What if We Only Age Because We Expect to Age?

For our intents and purposes, space-time exists: that is, the same space may appear different depending on the time, and the same time may be different depending on the space. But does time by itself exist?

What if we have a lot more control over ourselves than we think? The power of thought has seemed to heal people on many occasions. The placebo effect has people feeling better all the time. Meditation, prayer, positive thinking: these all lead to individual improvement, that seems to come from within (or at least not an earthly force). So what if believing the biggest lie ever told, that we have to age, has actually cased the self fulfilling prophecy?

Suppose we only age because we expect to age. We count the years, we count the days, we dread the affect aging will have on our skin, our brains, our energy levels. Have we accepted aging as an inevitability, and therefore adjust our own self image day by day, which adjusts our outward image, and indeed, our fate? What if we put a little less emphasis on age, seeing as we don’t really even understand time? What if we are doing this to ourselves, and everyone joins in because it has been proven time and time again that people do age?

Interestingly I started writing this before I saw an article that talks about the age we feel being related to how much longer we will live. The study asked 6,500 adults averaging 66 years old how old they felt. Then the study tracked those participants over an eight year period. “About 14 percent of the young-feeling adults died during the follow-up, versus 19 percent of those who felt their actual age and 25 percent of those who felt older”.

Now how much does this really suggest about age? I don’t really know. It could be simply that those with certain conditions leading to earlier death could already feel the toll. But the research did account for those who were already sick, and died within a year of the study. So could it suggest that feeling young really does promote health?

In a sense, that sounds obvious. If you feel young, you are probably more likely to go get some exercise. But perhaps you are also more likely to dangerously push your limits? Either way, the study gives a great reason to think and feel young, which could actually have the effect of slowing aging.

We all know people who look and act way younger than their age. They all have different theories on how they did it: lots of exercise, the right kind of food, love, joy, meditation. But what if every one of those was more or less a placebo effect? All these people had to do was feel younger, and think younger, and their aging process was slowed? Would this not account for why there are so many formulas for anti-aging, but no real answer? Perhaps all you have to do if adopt a relatively healthy practice that you believe will make you live longer, happier, and healthier, and it will be so.

I haven’t ruled out this possibility, that our minds have greater effect on our beings than we understand. It seems the power to heal could rest within us. So then what else do we have the power to affect using only our minds?

Addicted to Happiness: The Brain is Your Dopamine Dealer

I decided to see if there was any science behind the fact that I love vacations (I know, who doesn’t?) and it seems to alter my brain activity. What I found suggests that, like many other enjoyable things, more dopamine is released when you are on vacation enjoying yourself. You see, I may actually be addicted to vacationing.

In the past, dopamine rewarded humans by being released to promote survival. Psychology Today uses an example of a berry patch being found, which promoted survival for primitive humans. So the next time they saw a berry patch, or something that last time led to a berry patch, dopamine is released. This ensures the brain is rewarding things that will help you survive.

But it is not always like that these days, probably because it is so easy to survive. An alcoholic gets a dose of dopamine when he sees a bar, and a doctor when he finishes a surgery. I get a dose of dopamine when I explore a new city. But if I always went to the same city, my brain would not release as much dopamine, so I would need to find a new place to explore in order to get the old “high”.

I made this from Caribbean shells that I picked up in February on my cruise, and first vacation of the year. I attached them to a piece of palm bark from Georgia on my way home from my last vacation of the year. Even though I can't always be on vacation, I can bring back the memories and feelings when I see my little creation.

I made this from Caribbean shells that I picked up in February on my cruise, the first vacation this year. I attached them to a piece of palm bark from Georgia that I found on my way home from my last vacation of the year. Even though I can’t always be on vacation, I can bring back the memories and feelings when I see my little creation.

This is the same thing that happens with setting, working towards, and accomplishing goals. Each of these things encourages your brain to release dopamine, thus helping you on your way to “survival”. When I talk about this small goal/ large goal paradigm to promote happiness, this is the scientific explanation behind it.

Everything that makes your brain release dopamine will inevitably get old, or run its course, which is why you need to always have different types of goals you are working towards and accomplishing. Once you accomplish a goal though, your brain is going to want another. Otherwise, the absence of dopamine will make you feel sad. That is why it is important to diversify your goals, and your hobbies.

Work goals should not be your only source of dopamine, because then you might not be happy when you are at home. And hobbies cannot be your only source of dopamine, because then you will become irritated in other settings. The Psychology Today article points out that we need to make peace with our “unhappy” brain chemicals in order to reap the full benefits of the “happy” chemicals like dopamine.

Eventually your brain will be rewired to the point where it knows it can survive the unhappy chemicals. It is like replacing instant gratification with long term rewards. If you can wait it out, and weather the boring or unhappy times, the dopamine reward in your brain will be that much better when it comes.

If the chemistry behind your feelings interests you, check out the Psychology Today article. It also talks about the other “happy chemicals” that course through your brain. If dopamine equals success, serotonin equals importance, oxytocin trust, and endorphins “brief euphoria that masks physical pain”.

They are all released by our brains to promote survival, though congruent with my theory, our brain is essentially still serving cave man needs. That is why it is important and beneficial to understand our brains, so that we can usher them into the modern era, and make them work for us, instead of being a slave to our brain chemicals.

Did I Accomplish My Vacation Goals?

Before I went to Florida I wrote down a short list of things to accomplish, just to get me into vacation mode. Overall I think I did pretty well. Let’s go through it point by point to be official.

  • Starting conversations with strangers was pretty easy. I knocked this off day 1 in Savannah, and then kept going through the rest of the vacation.
  • Find out someone’s unique philosophy on life. I am going to call this one accomplished, because I did get some good perspective. Think of this: depression is a luxury. I’m not trying to minimize anyone’s suffering, and there are some real reasons to be depressed. But general short lasting depression could be considered a luxury in the sense that you have time to be depressed. Most people starving to death trying to scrape together enough food don’t have time to be depressed. They may think, I’m sad, I’m in pain, but they probably won’t be thinking, “what does it all mean?”
  • Not only did I get to the coast, I got to two coasts, the Gulf and the Atlantic (in Georgia). I also flew over the Gulf of Mexico in a small plane.

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  • So I may take a technicality on the foraging goal. I found a few wild edibles, but I didn’t actually forage any. My cousin has a bunch of bamboo in her yard, and I’ve had bamboo in some Thai dishes. But when I looked up bamboo, turns out there are over 1,000 varieties, and only about 15% are edible. They all may be fine if treated properly, but I didn’t want to take the risk this time. I did however find some edible glasswort on the beach in Georgia on my drive home. I didn’t pick any, but now I know for next time.
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Glasswort

 

  • Got a picture of the sign that warns you to use the historic steps in Savannah, at your own risk.
  • I’m going to use this as my picture of something Florida. Turns out bamboo burns really well. But I think I was being a little prejudiced when I said I wanted a picture of “something Florida”. I didn’t see anything that bad. But I did go to an auction where the specialty item for the night was frozen food. And a dancing, singing, mechanical 4 foot tall Santa sold for over a hundred dollars.

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  • I don’t think I did anything that redneck. I really failed on this front in fact. I could have at least ridden my cousin’s horse without a saddle, or grabbed an ATV for a ride through the mud. Well I’ll be back there in February, hopefully I will get to go mudding then. (I got a pedicure, which is essentially the 100% exact opposite of doing something redneck…)
  • I accompanied my cousin to a horse supply store that is 3 minutes from her house, which she had never been to. But I figured I would use the roller skating rink for this accomplishment: to go somewhere nearby my cousin had never been. I went with her to her friends’ daughters’ birthday party. Roller blade rentals were $3, and after making sure I would not go down hard in a heap, I thoroughly enjoyed gliding around the rink for an hour. It was probably the first time I rollerbladed in a decade.
  • Eating something unique to the area: I totally blew this one out of the water! I tried raw oysters and alligator from Apalachicola, a coastal town on the pan handle. I also tried home made (and hunted) venison summer sausage, and deep fried turkey. I enjoyed all of it, though the turkey tasted the best. I guess it is hard to make something taste bad when you deep fry it in a vat of oil. I still didn’t try boiled peanuts, but I hear I’m not missing much.
  • As for doing some suggestions from the comments, as I’ve mentioned, I ate gator. But I also went to the Pirate’s House in Savannah.

And that is that. It was kind of fun checking things off the list. Maybe I will make up a sort of scavenger hunt adventure to do over the holidays in order to try to capture the vacation feeling while at home.

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Wait, Why Did I Leave 80 Degree Sunny Florida?

I am now back in the desolate tundra that is wintertime New England. It was a great trip. I realized how much easier it is to drive around in most of the country. Straighter roads, fewer people, and you can keep an eye out for the cops from a longer distance. No exaggeration, I saw more revenue collectors cops during the hour or less I spent driving through New York than the entire rest of the trip. Seriously.

From the radio, you would think there were only five songs ever written, two by Taylor Swift. Quite the percentage. But it was a good drive; my Mustang made it, and now has over 230,000 miles on it… time for an oil change. Here are a few highlights from the last couple days of my vacation.

My Aunt and Uncle were kind enough to take me on a trip in their plane up to Apalachicola on the pan handle. I felt like a little kid I was so excited. The only other time I have been in a plane that small was when I went parachuting.

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My Aunt (a lawyer) said they call these doctor/lawyer killers because they are affordable enough, but when you’re busy with work, you don’t get a lot of practice. Her husband was flying this time.

 

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See how legit I am: I even had the headset. (It was really loud without those noise canceling headphones)

 

Flying low, approaching the Apalachicola airport

Flying low, approaching the Apalachicola airport

Hard "likker", or as we would say in New England, Hahhd Likka.

Hard “likker”, or as we would say in New England, Hahhd Likka.

I tried raw oysters (not bad, but next time I'll probably have them cooked)

I tried raw oysters (not bad, but next time I’ll probably have them cooked)

I also tried alligator puff pastry. Tasted like chicken.

I also tried alligator puff pastry. Tasted like chicken.

...might have come from this guy.

…might have come from this guy.

And finally on my drive home near Savannah, I couldn't resist one last stop to soak up the sun. Here is the little piece of paradise where I ate lunch.

And finally on my drive home near Savannah, I couldn’t resist one last stop to soak up the sun. Here is the little piece of paradise where I ate lunch.

Tomorrow I will go through my list of goals to let you know how I did. 🙂