Tuesday, November 10, 2015

It's Been More Than Three Years... See What I Mean?

As part of one of my classes at college this semester, I took this online test showing which are my character strengths.  Out of 24 "virtues" or character strengths, after answer a slew of questions, the test calculates and puts into order your character strengths, ranking them from your strongest ones at the top to your weakest ones at the bottom.

BTW, this is not like one of those Facebook quizzes that tells you what gemstone you are based on the answer to five questions.  This is a legitimate and often used test designed by one of the founders of Positive Psychology, Dr. Martin Seligman.  Positive Psychology was a movement that began in the late '90's.  The basic premise of Positive Psychology compared with the previous school of thought is that rather than working toward curing people of their mental illness and restoring them to the baseline status, the goal should be giving everyone a sense of well-being... taking them beyond baseline into actual happiness and fulfillment, etc.

So this one test of character strengths is on the University of Pennsylvania's website entitled "Authentic Happiness".  To take this or other tests, you do need to provide an email address, but it can be made up if you like.  The test I took is under the heading "Engagement Questionnaires" and is called "VIA Survey of Character Strengths".  You may also be interested in checking out some of the other tests there.

Anyway, the top five results are considered your "signature strengths" and so on until you reach the bottom of your list which may be referred to as your weaknesses.

Now, before I go any further, I would like to share an analogy my professor gave regarding the top and the bottom characteristics that show up on your test.

She said that rather than become consumed with fixing the bottom character traits, work on strengthening and using the top ones. She gave the analogy of a sailboat. If there are leaks in the hull, yes, you have to do something to keep the boat from sinking, but just do what is absolutely necessary for that. Then concentrate on our sails (your top strengths) because those are what move you forward.

This felt like a relief to me as the ones at the bottom of my list were:
  • Bravery and valor 
  • Modesty and humility 
  • Industry, diligence, and perseverance 
  • Spirituality, sense of purpose, and faith 
  • Self-control and self-regulation 
I'm okay with bravery and valor being at the bottom.  Shrug.  I mean, I don't feel I have much control over that.  I am who I am.  

I can totally see that modesty and humility are at the bottom.  While I don't consider myself a braggart or the most immodest person around, I admit I can toot my own horn on occasion.

No surprise spirituality, sense of purpose, and faith are at the bottom.  I have almost no sense of spirituality, I feel the same way about faith, and as to sense of purpose... I suppose I'm always questioning, even at this late stage in the game.

The two that make me feel like a failure, though, are the lack of "diligence and perseverance" and lack of "self-control and self-regulation".

Then I try to say to myself, "Hey, you can't have ALL 24 character strengths at the top!  Something has to be at the bottom."

But upon examining my top five (er... I'll do top six because I feel #6 is a big part of me):
  • Love of learning 
  • Curiosity and interest in the world 
  • Creativity, ingenuity, and originality 
  • Gratitude 
  • Leadership 
  • Zest, enthusiasm, and energy 
I'm like, "How are THESE going to help anyone in the world?!  How are THESE making me a better person to be around?!  How are THESE showing any sense of alltruism or empathy?!"

I feel like my top character strengths are so self-involved and useless to humanity.

Now, I could see how in the hands of others, things like "learning, curiosity, and creativity" could be the catalyst for great scientific discoveries or things like that.  But in my hands... it was all squandered.  Probably because I lack "diligence and perseverance, self-control and self-regulation".  It's true, I have no discipline.

I could go on more about purpose of life and what not, but to get back to the reason for this blog (happiness through healthy living), I'm going to just say that I will have to attend to my sails in a bit but for now that leaky hole in the hull needs to be fixed even if it's a character trait that's as far out of reach as possible.

I am making a public proclamation of my determinism to do one thing in the next six months and one thing only (aside from everything else I have to do in life): I want to get as healthy as I can.

I have ailments.  Ailments I shouldn't be having in my mid-50's.

I may as well list them here so I can measure any progress:
  • stuffed up ears
  • tinnitus
  • eczema in the ears
  • eczema on my hands during stress
  • overweight (50 pounds... probably more like 40, but I'd really like to see what I would be like with 50 pounds gone since I've never been there as an adult, but even with 40 gone it'd be great)
  • I'm tired... all the time.  I get up tired, I'm tired during the day, I go to bed exhausted.  I need more energy.  This is no way to live.
  • hip pain that is becoming worse daily and scaring the crap out of me (no, I will not mention it to my doctor until I confirm whether or not it's weight related)
  • achy joints upon rising in the morning
  • occasional migraines (usually if I allow myself to become dehydrated)
  • chronic sinusitis
  • wrinkles (but that could be a combination of hereditary and environmental)
  • gray hair (could just be age)
  • thinning, frizzy hair (again, age?)
  • bad breath (no one ever says it but I feel like it must be true)
  • mental state (I feel less out of control with emotions when I'm eating healthy... if I have a lot of sugar or chocolate for any given amount of time I actually get depressed and/or really snappy and mean... like extreme PMS)
  • super hard to physically exert myself (I huff and puff after going up like only one flight of stairs... ugh)
  • neck pain and the start of a hump.... this freaks me out
  • pre-diabetic according to my last set of blood work
That's all I can think of for now but I'm SURE some if not most of these are related to the way I eat and/or don't exercise.

So can I pull out the self-discipline I need to accomplish this healthy 50 pound weight loss?

Can I force myself, somehow, to use a character strength that apparently doesn't belong to me?  

I really, really want to .  I'm an optimist.  I don't believe it when someone says a thing can not be done.  I'm that person who has to try it for myself and see if it's true, rather than taking the word of others.

So here I am at the start of a new journey... healthy, plant-based, whole foods eating that will include at least six months of self-regulation and self-control.

I have a fitbit account so it's easy for me to (at least at first) keep track of my food intake.  I don't want to be one of those people who's anal about writing everything down, but I want to do it at first for two reasons.
  1. When you write things down, you can't gloss over things.  Sometimes you actually have NO idea how much you've been eating and/or the crappiness of what you've been eating until you calculate it.
  2. I don't want to go too low on calories.  My goal is not to put my body into starvation mode and have it try to conserve fat, nor is it to drain myself of any useful energy throughout the day.  I do want to limit my calories to no more than 1500 a day, and I also want them to be useful calories.  By logging my food intake at first, I will get a better sense of my balance (fat vs protein vs carbs).  I'm not an extremist and I'd rather do this while staying perfectly healthy.
  3. I'm sort of an organic, gluten-free vegan when opportunity arises and with that much restriction of my diet I need to make sure I'm getting the right balance and all the components I need (re-reading Diet for a Small Planet).  Aside from me not wanting any animal products or wheat products, I also don't have a lot of time to make elaborate dishes daily.  
So there you have it.  I'll report in here as often as possible.  I'll share recipes (I do like making things up) and progress (hopefully there will be some).

Wish me luck... I'll need it!

And now I'm off to make breakfast which will be my version of oatmeal.

I pour some boiling water over steel cut oats and let them sit for a minute or two.  Then I add a small bowlful of thawed out frozen berries (organic, no sugar added) and a quarter cup or so of chopped nuts (walnuts, pecans or almonds... raw and organic).

There's no fat in that dish so it won't keep me long, but it's a good start and is rather yummy once you get past the fact that there's no sugar or maple syrup or any other kind of sweetener.  I feel sugar totally rids me of self-control so I'd like to keep my intake of it to a minimum.  More on that in later posts.

For now, here's to new beginnings (trying to ignore the fact that I've tried this "new beginning" at least a two hundred times in my life).

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