Sunburned and scared: Fear motivates positive health behaviors, study shows

2 Jul
Photo courtesy of Wikipedia Commons

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia Commons

“A little sun never hurt nobody,” has always been one of my mottos growing up in the Sunshine state.

When I was a child, my somewhat peculiar father would always tell us that sunscreen was no good.  A frequent reader of  “all-natural” health books, he was convinced that the chemicals in sunscreen were the culprits of skin cancer, not the actual UV rays.

As children, my siblings and I were accustomed to the yearly “this-is-the-worst-sunburn-of-my-life” summer burn. I remember sleeping on my back all night unable to move. But my pink skin would heal and each sunburn after that was “harmless” and didn’t hurt. I didn’t necessarily believe my father, but I did like the look of a sun-kissed glow,  so I didn’t protest.

But, as I am getting older, I’m paying much more attention to how I will look in 10 years, and I’ve gotten better at wearing sunscreen. Still working on the reapplying part.

I don’t want to have wrinkles at 30 years old.

But then again, my years as a lifeguard and swim instructor are bound to catch up with me someday.

A new study found that I’m not alone in my motivation to wear sunscreen.

Researchers at the University of Buffalo found that the fear of skin cancer (and maybe premature wrinkles) is what motivates people to wear sunscreen, not statistics about the likelihood of developing skin cancer. Emotions play a key role in the summertime positive health behavior of slathering on protective lotion.

“Most health behavior studies don’t account for the more visceral, emotional reactions that lead people to do risky behaviors, like eat junk food or ignore the protective benefits of sunscreen,” said Marc Kiviniemi, lead researcher and assistant professor of community health and health behavior at the University of Buffalo.

Kivineimi and his team analyzed data from the National Cancer Institute.  Fifteen hundred random participants who had never had skin cancer were asked how often they used sunscreen and how much they feared skin cancer.

“Our research looked at the interplay of emotions and facts in decision making– that is, how do cognitive and affective risks jointly work to influence behavior?”  Kiviniemi said. “The nature of their interrelation as an influence on behavior has not been examined until this study.”

Kiviniemi said the results of the study can aid public health professionals in raising awareness about skin cancer and the importance of sunscreen use.

“These findings show that clinicians might want to think more about feelings when encouraging people to use sunscreen,” he said. “In addition to providing educational information about risk, encouraging people to consider how they feel about cancer and how worried they are about it might inspire preventive behaviors.”

But there are many different ways to induce this type of fear, and researchers still have more questions regarding the right amount of fear to influence positive health behavior.

Kiviniemi’s next project is to examine the same relationship among other behaviors such as getting a colonoscopy and using condoms.

“This study is important because most of what we do in public health communications focuses on spreading knowledge and information,” he said. “By not addressing emotions, we’re potentially missing a rich influence on behavior when interventions don’t address feelings.”

Future of global water conservation: sewage to treatment to tap

11 Jun
Lana Nasser is a junior studying public relations student at the University of Florida. She enjoys writing personality profiles, feature articles, blogging about skincare and beauty, and learning about the field of sociology.

Lana Nasser is a junior studying public relations student at the University of Florida. She enjoys writing personality profiles, feature articles, blogging about skincare and beauty, and learning about the field of sociology.

Editor’s note: This is part of a series of contributing bloggers beginning their careers as journalists/public relations professionals at the University of Florida. Please see my earlier post about getting journalists excited about science writing early on.

By Lana Nasser

The idea of drinking reclaimed wastewater may be off-putting to some, but as technology sophistication increases, people might not be able to tell the difference.

Due to the growing necessity for water in the United States and around the world, scientists are considering alternative and more sustainable methods of providing drinkable water, like reclaimed wastewater. Reclaimed wastewater is water that has undergone extensive treatment through advanced water technologies like reverse osmosis and multi-step filtration.

“Psychologically, a human being says, ‘Yuck! I don’t want to drink treated sewage,’” said Joseph Delfino, professor in the department of environmental engineering sciences at the University of Florida. “In most places where they get water out of a river, they’re already drinking water that has been through industries, people, animals, but we tend to disregard it.”

Currently, many scientists are studying public perception of recycled water.  Shane Snyder, professor of environmental engineering at the University of Arizona said that if people trusted the treatment process, they might understand that recycling water is unavoidable.

Professionals in the field, like Snyder, hope that public opinion will begin to change.

John Million, an environmental engineering graduate from the University of Florida agreed.

“There are technologies and practices that can take wastewater and treat it to be used again by humans,” he said.

How does wastewater become drinking water?

First, water undergoes advanced primary treatment, where it is separated from large particles. The water then goes into sedimentation tanks where chemicals are used to make scum rise to the top and primary sludge fall to the bottom. Once 80 percent of the solids have been removed and the water is separated, the wastewater is clean enough to be released into the ocean.

The second step is extensive filtration. During this step, bacteria are added to the primary treated wastewater. These bacteria help ingest organic chemicals.

Finally, the water is filtered again to remove any other remaining solids.  It is then disinfected with chlorine.

It is no secret that there are readily available technologies able to make reclaimed water drinkable through various procedures, but this expensive and energy intensive process raises questions of sustainability.

“If we throw enough money at it, we can treat anything to better water to drinking water quality. The issue is, is there a sustainable way to do it?” said Paul Chadik, associate professor in the department of environmental engineering at the University of Florida.

Due to the current need for diverse sources of potable water, some states around the nation are already drinking reclaimed water. The Orange County Water District in California opened a $480 million state-of-the art water reclamation facility in 2008. This facility is claimed to be the largest in the United States, and costs about $29 million a year to operate.

Resources that treat wastewater also require extensive backup systems in case of emergency.

“In our current system, if the plant were to break down, you would be able to drink it without having an adverse reaction. But if you drink wastewater that is improperly treated because the plant has broken down, it would be detrimental,” Chadik said.

In terms of reliability, Chadik believes that large numbers of efficient and readily available backup systems would be needed to take effect without delay in times of crisis.

In many places around the nation, precious resources like groundwater are being used for purposes in which treated wastewater could be used instead.

“Most of the drinking water we have is used to water lawns and flush toilets,” Chadik said. “That water doesn’t need to be very pure. It would be more sustainable to take our wastewater and use it to irrigate land that needs it.”

Americans spend billions of dollars every year treating water to drinking water quality when only about 10 percent of it is used for drinking or cooking. The rest of it is flushed down the toilet or drain.

The growing use of recycled wastewater for purposes such as irrigation, landscaping, industry and toilet flushing is an efficient way to conserve the fresh water resources we have left.

“Nature has done its thing historically for as long as the planets been around so things go up and down, but of course we’re here and we’re the one animals species that pays attention to things,” Delfino said.

Related links:

UF Water Reclamation Facility

Gainesville’s recycling questions answered

11 Jun
Brynn Huzzen have grew up in Gainesville, Fla. and is now a journalism major at the University of Florida. She has a strong passion for helping animals and the environment and hopes to be able to use the  skills she is learning at UF to later protect the world we live in. The research she did for this article really opened her eyes to the impact of waste on the environment and how important it is to recycle. I truly believe that if everyone in Florida participated more in environmentally friendly

Brynn Huzzen  grew up in Gainesville, Fla. and is now a journalism major at the University of Florida. She has a strong passion for helping animals and the environment and hopes to be able to use the
skills she is learning at UF to later protect the world in which we live. The research she did for this article really opened her eyes to the impact of waste on the environment and how important it is to recycle.

Editor’s note: This is part of a series of contributing bloggers beginning their careers as journalists/public relations professionals at the University of Florida. Please see my earlier post about getting journalists excited about science writing early on.

By Brynn Huzzen

While researching the recycling and hazardous waste disposal facilities in Gainesville, I realized how much information they have that the majority of people living in Gainesville do not know.  I asked many people to contribute questions about local recycling or waste disposal and did my best to find answers to them, with the help of Steve Joplin, solid waste manager for The City of Gainesville.  Below, he answers all of your submitted recycling answers.

Why is it that there are some apartment complexes in Gainesville that do not recycle?

“There should not be any apartment complexes in Gainesville that don’t recycle. All multi-family units are required to provide convenient and accessible recycling of all designated recyclables (everything recycled in the residential program). Our inspectors should be checking each apartment complex at least once a year to make sure they’re in compliance with the mandatory recycling ordinance. If [residents] know of any apartment complexes that aren’t offering recycling to their tenants, we would like to have the names or addresses of those places.”

 Why is the recycling in apartment complexes not regulated better? For example, residents have seen maintenance men dumping recyclables into the dumpster.

“If residents have seen maintenance men dumping recyclables into garbage dumpsters, that probably means the apartment complex isn’t providing enough recycling containers to handle the amount of recycling being generated there. We have the authority by ordinance to require the complex to provide additional recycling containers if we can document that what they currently have is insufficient. We frequently need help from the residents to deal with this issue since we either need a witness who saw maintenance throwing away recyclables, or we need to have one of our staff witness it. If an apartment resident will alert us to this activity we can usually do something about it, and we can keep the source of the information anonymous.”

 Does it matter if glass or canned recycling is rinsed before it is put in the bin?

“Yes, it does matter if glass and cans are rinsed.  All recyclable materials should be clean for processing.  Recyclable materials that are not clean may be considered contaminated and therefore be thrown away.”

 What sorts of green initiatives/recycling programs are local businesses implementing?

“All businesses in Gainesville for whom designated recyclable materials make up 15 percent or more of their waste stream are required to recycle. Some businesses do the minimum amount needed to comply with the ordinance; others look for ways to recycle everything they can. For example, although Gainesville doesn’t currently require food scraps to be recycled, a number of businesses in town either have an arrangement with someone to collect and compost their food scraps, or they compost them themselves. We also have at least one paint & body shop that recycles its plastic automobile bumpers.”

 What kinds of plastics are recyclable and what can people do with the ones that are not recyclable?

 

“All plastics in the category of bottles, jars, jugs and tubs are recyclable in Gainesville.  Some types of plastics such as Solo cups and clear plastic clamshell containers are not recyclable in our system because it is not economically feasible due to the lack of markets for the material in the area.”

 Is it okay to recycle cardboard that is treated in plastic like for frozen food items?

“Yes, pasteboard from the frozen food section is recyclable in our system.”

 Where can I dispose of Styrofoam?

“During the holidays some stores will even take the formed Styrofoam because of the high mailing demand at those times of the year.  Publix will take their Styrofoam veggie trays to be reused.”

 What types of batteries need to be taken to a hazardous waste facility?

“Regular disposable household batteries are no longer hazardous and can be thrown away.  However, other batteries such as the NiCad or rechargeable batteries are hazardous and will need to be taken to the Household Hazardous Waste Collection Center, 5125 NE 63 Ave, 334-3440. Examples of batteries to be taken to the HHWCC are:  car, boat, lawnmower and lawn equipment batteries.  The smaller [hazardous] batteries are watch and hearing-aid batteries, along with all the household batteries that are rechargeable. Another hazardous material of interest is the fluorescent light bulb.  This type of light bulb has mercury in it and should be taken to the HHWCC. “

*Note – Keep in mind that garbage and recycling service does not handle hazardous waste so therefore all hazardous waste must be taken to the HHWCC.”

 

If you have any questions, contact Steve Joplin, joplinsh@cityofgainesville.org, solid waste manager at The City of Gainesville.

Eat, love and die. The short, but meaningful lives of love “bugs”

9 May

lovebugs_other_lg

If you live in Florida, you’ve probably already noticed that the second annual swarm of love bugs is here again. So I felt this was an appropriate  repost. If you already haven’t read more about these pesky creatures and why their important to our ecosystem!

Summer Science explained: 

Summer Science explained is a new blog series on Layman’s Terms Media. Each week, phenomena that are unique to summer time will be broken down and explained. I am currently taking suggestions for topics, so if there is something you’ve always wondered about feel free to contact me and pitch an idea!

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The bugs we love to hate

Miss Plecia is all dolled up. She has been stuffing herself full of organic material and nectar in her swampy-syle pad for the past 20 days with hopes of finding her lifelong mate. Continue reading

A Day in the Life of a Sea Turtle Biologist

29 Apr
Kristina Orrego is a  third-year journalism student at the University of Florida. Her interest in writing a feature story about a sea turtle biologist comes from having a passion and love for animals. Her career goal is to become a journalist at an online publication and write about important social issues and economics. In her spare time, she enjoys reading and cooking.

Kristina Orrego is a third-year journalism student at the University of Florida. Her interest in writing a feature story about a sea turtle biologist comes from having a passion and love for animals. Her career goal is to become a journalist at an online publication and write about important social issues and economics. In her spare time, she enjoys reading and cooking.

Editor’s note: This is part of a series of contributing bloggers beginning their careers as journalists/public relations professionals at the University of Florida. Please see my earlier post about getting journalists excited about science writing early on.

By: Kristina Orrego

For Blair Witherington, the beach is more than just a place where you can lay out a blanket and soak up some sun. It is in his field where he has the privilege and opportunity to interact with the animals he considers the most fascinating.

Witherington, a researcher with over 24 years of experience as a sea turtle biologist, worked with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Fish and Wildlife Research Institute since 1992. He recently accepted a new position as part of the faculty at the University of Florida, where he will be working for the Archie Carr Center for Sea Turtle Research.

This job will have him mostly stationed at Disney’s Animal Kingdom in Orlando, where he will be a part of the Kingdom’s conservation team continuing to research and do hands-on work with sea turtles.

His work as a researcher has allowed him to travel all over the world, participating in projects in the Atlantic Sea, the Florida Keys, the Sargasso Sea, located in the middle of the north Atlantic Ocean, and the Gulf of Mexico.

I recently caught up with Blair to learn more about his daily work as a sea turtle biologist and also what kind of advice he’d offer anyone who is thinking about entering this line of research.

Q. What is a regular day of work for you as a sea turtle biologist?

A. “A regular day isn’t always as exciting as one might think,” he said with a laugh. “A regular day is probably me sitting in front of the computer, trying to make sense of the data we’ve collected in the field. But every once in a while we have days in the field where we’re collecting that information and we’re out with the animals themselves. That’s always pretty exciting. But to tell you the truth, the times of discovery, when you’re really finding something out that is interesting to you or to anyone else… those are the times in front of the computer, as odd as it may seem. We go out into the field and we catch sea turtles in a lot of different ways and we see what they do, but it’s only after you sit down and try to make sense of the data that you really discover what’s going on, where you really find out how sea turtles live their lives, how many there are, and what their threats are.”

 Q. What are your favorite aspects of your job as a sea turtle biologist? What is the most rewarding thing about what you do?

A. “I enjoy discovery, as I was talking about. I certainly like going out in the field. It’s nice to, sort of, reinforce what you learn back in the lab and in front of the computer with what you see out in the real world with turtles. We test them in lots of different ways, and it’s kind of fun, really. It’s a challenge. We go offshore for 50 to 100 miles and catch young Yearling turtles out in the Sargasso out on the surface of the open sea. We also go to places like Florida Bay and catch much larger turtles. We catch them by hand… and these are 250-pound turtles. We follow them in boats and then jump into the water and grab them ‘and take them in for questioning’ so to speak. So that’s a challenge and interesting. I’d say probably my favorite part of the job is interpreting science for other people. I really like sharing stories about findings, sharing stories about sea turtles, because that’s the way that we save them. We get people to understand sea turtles. We get people to follow-up with them, and to know what each one of us needs to do in order to have sea turtles around in the future. It’s one thing for us to understand sea turtles, but if we don’t share that with anyone else, they’re not going to get saved.

 Q. How would you compare yourself now to when you first started out as a sea turtle biologist?

A. “I think, as is the case of most students, when I first began I thought I knew a lot. Now as I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that I don’t know very much at all. I’d like to think I’ve learned a lot, but the more I learn, the less I realize I really know. I’ve come to realize that the world is a very large and complex place, and it’s a struggle to really make sense of it. There are a lot of mysteries still [when it comes to sea turtles] and every other thing Earth. Over the years I’ve learned a lot about sea turtles, their environment, the people who affect their environment and who can help save sea turtles. It’s a very complex relationship. The more I learn, the more complex it seems.”

 Q. So, you’d say that the connection between sea turtles and human beings is the most important thing you’ve learned over the years?

A. “Yes I think so. It’s easy to get discouraged about environmental issues sometimes. When I was young I was very optimistic and that’s one of the most important things about youth–youthful people are very optimistic and idealistic. I’d like to think I’m still that way. I struggle to be that way. You know, the more you learn the ugly truth, the more you can get discouraged, but you shouldn’t be. You should stay optimistic, idealistic, aim high, try to do the very best you can and solve problems. Even though there are very big problems there are solutions to them. And those solutions are going to come about with a whole lot of hard work. You’ve got to keep pressing ahead. I’ve tried to gain wisdom and not be discouraged by it. Tried to stay optimistic.”

Q. What sort of key advice would you give to someone who aspires to also become a sea turtle biologist?

A. “I would say to be optimistic, but don’t have such high expectations that you become discouraged when the going gets tough. Everyday is not out in the field, with the wind blowing through your hair and having fun with the animals that you find interesting. Sometimes it’s very mundane stuff– it’s entering data and doing analyses. You have to love all of that to persevere. Don’t have expectations that you’re going to be out in the sea every single day, that’s not going to be the case. You have to love every aspect of the work, including the mundane stuff– sitting back in front of the computer, trying to make sense of it all.”

Sweet success: UF researchers find key to sweeter, healthier strawberries

6 Apr
Paige Levin is a freshman journalism and political science student at the University of Florida. She enjoys writing opinion pieces and in-depth feature articles, and loves to discover people’s stories. Levin hopes to one day combine her passions for writing, government and politics to work in the nation’s capitol and bring the political information needed back to the people. Paige has been writing for about five years now, she is currently an intern for the Pledge 5 Foundation, and was previously the editor-in-chief of her high school newspaper.

Paige Levin is a freshman journalism and political science student at the University of Florida. She enjoys writing opinion pieces and in-depth feature articles, and loves to discover people’s stories. Levin hopes to one day combine her passions for writing, government and politics to work in the nation’s capitol and bring the political information needed back to the people. Paige has been writing for about five years now, she is currently an intern for the Pledge 5 Foundation, and was previously the editor-in-chief of her high school newspaper.

Editor’s note: This is part of a series of contributing bloggers beginning their careers as journalists/public relations professionals at the University of Florida. Please see my earlier post about getting journalists excited about science writing early on.

By Paige Levin

Whether they are tucked into a shortcake, whipped into a smoothie or sitting atop a yogurt parfait, there is nothing more enticing than a scoopful of juicy, red strawberries. But how many times have you bitten into a berry-laden treat, only to be left grimacing by a less than satisfying bitter burst?

You might be tempted to reach for the sugar to help sweeten your snack, which while tasty, isn’t beneficial to the waistline. Now, researchers at the University of Florida say they have found the compounds that promise a sweeter and healthier berry.

The study, conducted by the University of Florida’s Plant Innovation Program entitled “Strawberry Flavor: Diverse Chemical Compositions, a Seasonal Influence, and Effects on Sensory Perception,” identifies the 30 compounds in strawberries that give the fruit its distinctive flavor. This allows breeders to now create better tasting and possibly healthier varieties of strawberries.

One of the team members, Thomas Colquhoun said in the long term, six of the compounds discovered by Michael Schwieterman and his colleagues may allow scientists to create processed foods that taste sweeter while using less sugar, making the foods healthier.

“Our idea is to make our crops more flavorful and healthy for consumers so that our consumers eat healthier and eat more of it,” Colquhoun said.

Colquhoun, an assistant professor in floriculture biotechnology and genetics, said the study is unique because it uses a very sophisticated type of psychophysics. Psychophysics looks at the relationship between certain physical stimuli, in this case strawberry variety, and the sensations they affect or cause.

For the study,  166 consumers between 18 and 71 years old  were recruited and asked to taste between three and five different varieties of strawberries. After chewing and swallowing a whole strawberry, panelists were asked to rate it based on overall taste, texture  and perceived intensity of sweetness and sourness.download (2)

Linda Bartoshuk, director of human research at UF’s Center for Smell and Taste, was in charge of the consumer taste panel. Bartoshuk compared consumer opinions using a method called cross-modality matching. This method combines the pleasure and sensory scales, making it possible to compare opinions fairly.

“It doesn’t matter what your scale is or what my scale is,” Colquhoun said. “We can compare those two things because they can be mixed and matched and weighted.”

By comparing the psychophysics data from consumer panels with biochemical data, Colquhoun said they identified 30 volatile compounds associated with flavors consumers enjoy. Within that, the study showed a group of six volatiles associated with perceived sweetness intensity, without the contribution of sugar.

“You’re actually sensing this volatile, and there is some sort of signal that is telling your brain what you taste is actually sweet, even though you’re not registering sugar,” Colquhoun said. “So what that indicates is that we may be able to reduce the level of sugar, increase the level of these volatiles, and the strawberry should be perceived as approximately the same sweetness.”

Eventually, those six volatiles may be used to lower sugar content in products like strawberry jam and yogurt, but for now, Colquhoun said this information is passed along to the UF strawberry breeder so that he can grow more flavorful strawberries. He added that more varieties with richer flavor and better health benefits should be hitting the markets within the next two years.

Paul Lyrene, professor emeritus of horticultural sciences, said he thinks the new information will only have minimal effects on improving the strawberry in the short term.

“I think all the information is good and worthwhile and sometimes helpful, but I do not believe that the studies are going to lead to any great breakthroughs in flavors of strawberries because the problem is really not at the molecular level, its at some other level,” Lyrene said.

The reason we currently have such poor-flavored fruit is not because of the chemistry, Lyrene said, but because flavor is given low priority in the marketing system.

“I, as a plant breeder, know exactly how to make my fruit taste better without really knowing any of the molecular biology of what happens,” he said. “I have, for example, varieties of blueberries that everybody says are better than what is being grown, but the growers will not plant them because they yield only half as much.”

Lyrene said other issues come from the fact that a crop has to have a lot of different features to be successful.

“It has to be resistant to various diseases. It has to yield well.  It has to be attractive in appearance for the consumer, and it has to be compatible with the modern packing and shipping methods,” Lyrene said.

The team’s research, which began with tomatoes, and is now expanding to include blueberries, peaches, citrus and culinary herbs.

“UF is a unique place because we have a huge team of very, very highly skilled breeders,” Colquhoun said. “What we can do is just go right down the line and help our breeders with our basic science and applied consumer science.”

What do hula-hoopers, big-wave surfers and composers have in common? A state of “flow”

19 Mar

270333_4710143305586_564870044_nFor those of you who do follow my blog, you may have realized I’m a pretty big hoop enthusiast, who also enjoys an everyday runner’s high.

 Although the physical benefits of running and spinning a circle on various parts of my body may seem obvious, it’s the mental state I’m in when I go on a 5-mile run, or do a freestyle hoop-dance to a 10-track playlist that brings me back after a long workday.

The constant to-do list engrained in my brain melts away, and in that moment, I am only thinking of the task at hand.

This mental state, coined by psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, is called “flow.” In short, flow means being completely engaged in a present moment, enjoying that action and letting all other stressors stay in the back of your mind. This state can be achieved by countless activities: playing chess, writing music, skateboarding, painting, and the list goes on. The main point is that the motivation to do these activities must come from within yourself.  But in order to enter this mental state of flow there are several components that must be met:

  1. The activity must have clear goals and objectives.
  2. The task must have clear and immediate feedback.
  3. One must have a good balance between the perceived challenges of the task and their perceived skills. A task too difficult may cause frustration.

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi credited more satisfactory lives to those who regularly entered the state of flow.

In this digital age of constant distraction, entering a state of flow is becoming ever more difficult. Looking back, I think in my early writing days circa 1996, I would enter a state of flow while writing—in my Lisa Frank journal– what I had for dinner that night. I just loved the act of writing and putting my feelings physically on paper. But, with Facebook now giving noise notifications, writing has become one of my tasks that I flip through while reading email or sending a Tweet. Perhaps I need to go back to the pencil and paper (if I did this blog post may have been half of the length.)

When flow is achieved , productivity, awareness and learning all come more easily.  For this reason, Stephen Kotler, Jamie Wheal, and their team have started an initiative called the “Flow Genome Project.” Their project aims to map the genome of flow by the year 2020, and to discover how to reverse-engineer flow states. They credit the Montessori school movement with creating effective learning environments which incorporate elements of flow such by using “a prepared environment, auto-didactic materials, and multi-sensory progressive challenges, according to their website.”

“In training bodies and brains, and verifying our findings objectively, we will end up with a more precise and nuanced understanding of what peak performance looks like and feels like and be able to apply this knowledge directly to our lives and work in the world,” they conclude.

This similar idea is even making its way to local (for me, Florida) flow enthusiasts. Casandra Tannenbaum is launching a project called the Flow Arts Movement, which will bring flow arts such as hula hooping, poi spinning, juggling and the like to teach science lessons in areas such as kinetic energy.

“It is primarily focused on education, and cultivating a model for bringing flow arts into K-12 and afterschool classrooms as arts enrichment, integrated into any of the major curricular areas of formalized education,” Tannenbaum said.  “We are also spreading the model of family friendly, publicly accessible flow festivals to cities and communities throughout the states.”

Tannenbaum started hula hooping in 2001, she fell in love with how the activity made her feel, although she didn’t know the scientific term for it and began teaching and spreading the hoop trend throughout Florida, and is the organizer of an annual festival called Florida Flow Fest.

“Flow is winking at God,” Tannenbaum said. “It’s like a full body mind high, earth, the sun and stars, and all the planets aligned to give you exactly what you want, which is nothing more than the most clear and undiluted presence in the moment-to-moment chaotic dance of universal energy and light which is us, exactly, unrestrained and beautifully loving.”

So, a state of flow may be easier to achieve when you’re doing an activity which requires full focus, such as big wave surfing, where distraction could result in a wipeout. The same goes with all extreme sports which all require the athlete to be totally immersed in this state. Hoop dance is also one of these activities, because in order to create a seamless dance while manipulating an object takes complete concentration as well.  In short, because of this mental state that I enter while distance running or hula hooping, I use these activities to be a sort of meditation of sorts. These activities pull me away from my normal brain, which sometimes reflects an Internet browser page with too many open tabs.

This mental state can be entered during any activity, given the right conditions.

If an activity (yes, even writing on a deadline) meets these requirements, it is possible to enter this mental state as long as you are only focusing on that one task. (So having Facebook and Twitter open while writing a work report or research paper may inhibit flow). There are several benefits of flow to take into consideration:

Benefits of flow:

  1. Time passes quickly (Time flies when you’re having fun, or just really concentrated on one thing)
  2. What you’re doing feels important (mainly because you initiated the act)
  3. You’re not self-conscious
  4. Action and awareness comes together
  5. You feel in control (contrary to feeling stressed and not in control)
  6. Your mind feels rewarded.

“Enjoyment appears at the boundary between boredom and anxiety, when the challenges are just balanced with the person’s capacity to act, ” Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi says in his book on the subject, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience.

Check out more articles on the psychology of flow!

 

http://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/199707/finding-flow

http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/04/19/the-music-of-flow/

http://www.flowgenomeproject.co/x-prize-of-flow/

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