Writing Real World Research has been fun and also a lot of work. I read a lot more research than I end up writing about. Academic writing is no easy read and I am eternally grateful to those researchers who manage to slip a little joke in here and there. Some papers are so dense that even if the topic is compelling, my eyes cross and I can’t hack my way through them. I have no one to blame but myself—I decided to focus this blog on research. Sometimes I hate myself for choosing a theme that so often forces me in way over my head.
Still, one of the perks of being a writer is that I get paid for finding out stuff I want to know. Reading and writing about research has taught me all kinds of useful things which, as the blog title suggests, I can take into the real world.
So to reflect on the past year, here is some of the stuff I learned writing Real World Research in 2011 that has been most useful to me.
I learned a lot about body image and how it affects my eating. I learned the lovely phrase “observer’s perspective” as it relates to body image—how we tend to look at (and judge) our bodies from the outside, as an observer might, rather than inhabiting them and appreciating them.
Now, when my thinking starts slipping into, “Ugh, I my thighs look fat and gross,” I catch myself and turn it around to, “All that yoga has made me strong and flexible.” And because I learned that the more loving and forgiving I am towards my body, the more likely I am to be able to lose weight, I have good reason to change the way I talk to myself.
A related lesson is how often we use cues that have nothing to do with our bodies to tell us when to stop eating. So now when I’m being mindful (and that’s a work in progress), I don’t keep eating until my plate is clean or the TV show I’m watching is over. I eat until I’m no longer hungry.
I also learned some good stuff about spending time with my computer. I have excused myself from shame over the time I spend with online games because casual gaming has a lot of benefits, including easing anxiety and depression. I like unwinding at the end of the day with a few thousand games of Bubble Spinner or Tetris or Angry Birds. This used to embarrass me. Now I figure it’s no big deal. It might even be good for me, sort of.
I’ve also started ignoring people who look down their noses at those of us who enjoy Facebook. Facebook is not the end of civilization, nor does it seem to interfere with real world relationships.
Research into sports has helped my writing because it confirmed that, as I’d suspected, trying too hard can be counterproductive. Athletes who overthink tend to choke, and so do I. My best writing flows, it isn’t forced. If I find myself working too hard, I step away and do something else. (Perhaps a little Bubble Spinner.)
Speaking of writing, I used to think listening to books was somehow inferior to reading them, until discovering that it’s easier to visualize scenes when we’re listening than when we’re reading. So one is not better than the other, they’re just different. Now I always have two books going at once: One to read, one to listen to.
I was relieved to learn that old dogs can in fact learn new tricks, if we set our minds to it. Getting impatient with ourselves doesn’t help anything. So what if it takes us a little longer than it might take a younger person? Life isn’t a race. And sometimes we don’t learn stuff because we don’t really care about it, not because we are incapable of learning it. That’s kind of nice to know, isn’t it?
And finally, while there’s not anything I can do about this, I felt 300 times better about myself when I learned that some people just don’t have good facial recognition skills. Really, you have no idea how stressful social situations can be when they involve encounters with people who recognize me, but whom I can’t place. I never realized that some people are better at recognizing faces than others, and just knowing this makes me feel less like a social loser.
I love information. In my experience, having the facts is always a good thing, even when the facts aren’t great. They give you something solid to work with. I hope those of you who have been visiting this blog regularly have also learned things that you’ve been able to put to use in the real world. And I’ll keep at this, fighting my way through research papers, gleaning what I can about why we do the things we do and how we can do them better, and sharing what I learn here.
Happy New Year, everyone, and thanks for reading.