Marshmallows What Can Teach You About Physical Therapy
Years later, Mischel and his team followed up with
Back in the ’60s and ’70s, a well-known psychologist namedWalter Mischel set out to study the development of children’s capacities for delayed gratification with his famous experiment known as the“Stanford MarshmallowTest.”The procedure for the study was deceptively straightforward. Participating kids, usually between the ages of 4 and 6, were seated in a room devoid of distractions. In front of themwas a plate with a treat of their choice: an Oreo, pretzel stick, or, of course, a lone marshmallow. Researchers told the tykes that they could eat the treat if they wanted, but there was a catch: If they waited 15 minutes without giving into temptation, they’d be rewarded with a second treat. Then the researchers left the room and observed the kids through a one-way mirror. Many of the youngest children chomped down their treat mere seconds after the researchers left. Others seemed to summon up reserves of intense focus, staring down the marshmallow as if it were an adversary on the battlefield. Some older kids shrewdly deployed strategies to distract them from the taunting sweets, singing songs over and over or simply turning around and facing the other way. But in the end, about 70 percent of kids broke down and scarfed their treat, despite their best efforts to resist.
On the other hand, just as many eat that marshmallow, they head home after a long day at work, and instead of stretching their hamstrings or doing their prescribed squats, they plop down on the couch and turn on their DVR to catch up on“Game of Thrones.”Patients who slip into these bad habits spend months neglecting their exercises and ultimately end up just barely above where they started, still suffering from pervasive pain. Maybe they get their act together or maybe they continue reinforcing their marshmallow-eating habits until insurance stops paying for their treatment. They may reluctantly leave the practice without resolving their problem. The willpower needed for recovery isn’t a given. Truly, it acts like the muscles in your legs, strengthening when you work to build good habits and weakening when you don’t. We do everything we can to encourage and motivate our patients. We want them to realize the goals they set out to accomplish when they first came to the institute. But in the end, it’s up to them. The question is, do you want two marshmallows later or one now? — Dr. Michael Russo
the parents and academic advisors of the 653 participants in the marshmallow experiment, who by then were in high school. In the results, Mischel saw a striking pattern: The larger subset of kids, the ones who couldn’t wait 15 minutes for an additional treat, were more likely to have behavioral problems or struggle in school. Though he was reluctant to draw a direct line from the results of the experiment, one thing was clear: The willpower to delay gratification was correlated with a greater level of success in life. Of the hundreds and hundreds of patients we treat at New Jersey Institute of Balance, many are like those little kids chomping down the marshmallow after only a few minutes. We go through a battery of exercises and techniques at the practice. We then prescribe them a regimen of stretches and exercises to do at home. Many patients, dedicated to a full recovery, keep their eyes on their original goal of being able to golf or run or just live pain-free again, and diligently complete their home exercises every single day. Over months of directed effort, these patients usually make a full recovery and move on with their lives, proud of their accomplishments and their lack of pain.
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Extracurricular Overload Every parent knows that a poorly organized tangle of kids’ activities is a recipe for amigraine. As school starts up again, so does sports season, and your kids’extracurricular ambitions pile up like the falling autumn leaves. Don’t let yourself get burned out. Here are some tips on how to stay sane in themidst of the extracurricular whirlwind.
How To Demystify Your Kids’ J mpacked Schedules
Consolidate all your scheduling, jotting, and activity-tracking into one system. Let’s get one thing straight: You can’t afford to be scrawling“Abby piano lesson rescheduled 9/21”on the first scrap of paper you come across. That doesn’t mean you have to be hyperorganized, but it does mean that you need to keep your entire calendar in one place, whether that place is Google Calendar, a fridge whiteboard, or the old-fashioned standby: a calendar with a lighthouse on every page. One particularly attractive option is the Cozi app (cozi.com), which not only consolidates an entire family’s calendars, but allows you to include to-do lists, shopping lists, recipes, chore checklists, andmore.Whichever systemyou choose, keep it updated. Its word is law. Formparent alliances. Those soccer practices Jacob’s going to? There are other teammates there, and they have parents shuttling themaround, just like you are. Set up carpools—Noah’s momdrives thembothTuesday while you’ve got Thursdays—tomanage scheduling conflicts between your kids and drastically reduce the time you spend as a chauffeur. To simplify the process andmake sure everyone’s on the same page, check out the Carpool-Kids app at carpool-kids.com. It’ll let you directly invite other parents and set up weekly or one-shot carpool schedules. Learn Healthy Coping Mechanisms That Put You in Control D aling With Stress
Maintain balance. You almost certainly will need to say no to additional extracurricular activities every now and then. Sure, simultaneous baseball, football, and soccer seasons might seemhealthy and fun for your kid, but you need to consider your own needs, as well. Many parents give their children free rein over what to choose, but limit activities to one or two per season. Johnny wants to do underwater basket weaving? Strange choice, but sure—though he’ll have to abandon either fencing or ice hockey. Make sure you weigh each child’s needs equally, and keep the rules the same for each of them. ways to deal with stress. Instead, find unique, healthy coping strategies. Focus on what makes you feel calmand in control. Avoid, Alter, Adapt, and Accept Some stressors are predictable. Learn how to predetermine your reactions by choosing to avoid, alter, adapt, or accept. Avoid people or situations that stress you out. Talk about your feelings instead of bottling themup, create a balanced schedule, reframe your problems, look at the big picture, and practice gratitude. It’s critical to look at the glass as half-full and learn to forgive. Make Time for Relaxation Nurturing yourself is a necessity, not a luxury. If youmake ample time for self-care, you will be in a better place to handle life’s stressors. Give yourself options like going for a walk, calling a good friend, journaling, or reading a book. Live a Healthy Lifestyle In addition to regular exercise, there are other healthy lifestyle choices that can increase your resistance to stress. Eat a healthy diet; reduce caffeine and sugar; avoid alcohol, cigarettes, and drugs; and get enough sleep. Stress is unavoidable, but it doesn’t have to dictate your life.With stress management techniques, you can avoid chronic stress, reduce your stress levels, and live your life to the fullest.
You have more control over stress than you think. Stress management is about taking charge of your lifestyle, thoughts, emotions, and the way you deal with problems. Nomatter how stressful your life seems, there are steps you can take to regain control. Identify Sources Chronic stress is hard to recognize. Look closely at your habits and excuses. Do you explain away stress as temporary? Do you define stress as an integral part of your life? Do you blame your stress on others? If you don’t recognize your role in creating or maintaining stress, you will never be able to control it. Find Healthy Strategies Withdrawing from loved ones, bingeing on food or alcohol, procrastinating, and sleeping toomuch are all unhealthy
THE HISTORY OF Physical Therapy
Though physical therapy clinics are commonplace these days, it wasn’t always this way. Since the early 20th century, the field has steadily grown, and today it is universally recognized as a vital science in the medical field. The origins of physical therapy date toWorldWar I, when civilian women known as“reconstruction aides”were tasked with rehabilitating wounded soldiers and getting themback to the front lines. They were essentially the first precursors tomodern physical therapists. After the end of the GreatWar, Mary McMillan spearheaded the formation of the AmericanWomen’s Physical Therapeutic Association, along with 274 charter members, all women. The following year, the name was changed to the American Physiotherapy Association, and the organization began to welcomemen into its ranks. By the end of the 1920s, over 1,000 therapists weremembers of the APA. Since then, the field expanded rapidly, particularly during the polio epidemic andWorldWar II. The organization was renamed once again in the 1950s to the American Physical Therapy Association, amassing over 15,000members by the end of the decade.
are over 229,000 physical therapists in the workforce, with 34 percent growth in the field projected over the next 10 years. As more andmore people turn tomanual therapy to help them live their lives pain-free, physical therapy continues to grow and flourish.
Now, there are over 200 fully accredited physical therapy programs in the U.S., with dozens of specializations. According to Data USA, there
Winning Apple Crisp
Have a Laugh!
(Recipe courtesy of tasteofhome.com.)
• • • • •
1 cup sugar
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1 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons cornstarch
¾ cup rolled oats
1 cup water
1 cup packed brown sugar 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract Vanilla ice cream, optional
½ cup butter, softened
4 cups chopped, peeled apples
1. Heat the oven to 350 F. In a large bowl, combine the first four ingredients. Cut in butter until crumbly. Press half of mixture into a greased 2½quart baking dish or a 9-inch square baking pan. Cover with apples. 2. In a small saucepan, combine the sugar, cornstarch, water, and vanilla. Bring to a boil; cook and stir 2minutes or until thick and clear. Pour over apples. Sprinkle with remaining crumbmixture. 3. Bake 60–65minutes or until apples are tender. Serve warm, with ice cream if desired.
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INSIDE This Issue
Extracurricular Overload Dealing With Stress
The History of Physical Therapy Winning Apple Crisp
Put Positive Thinking to Bed
Why This Way of Thought Isn’t What It’s Cracked Up to Be Put Positive Thinking to Bed
Can the power of positive thinking change your life? Bookstores brimwith self-help books written to guide readers toward positive thinking and countless websites claim to do the same. But what is positive thinking? Essentially, it’s shutting out negative thoughts. One website, tinybuddha.com, says,“Negative thoughts drain you of energy and keep you frombeing in the present moment. The more you give in to your negative thoughts, the stronger they become.”
In reality, the biggest factor at play when it comes to positive or negative thinking may be stress. Stress comes with its fair share of negative consequences. Stress can influence overall health, both mentally and physically. If you are stressed, chances are you are not in a good mood and, by extension, are thinking negative thoughts. And this presents another problem with positive thinking. Anne Harrington, Franklin L. Ford Professor of the History of Science and director of undergraduate studies at Harvard, and author of “The Cure Within: A History of Mind-Body
This sentiment is ironic considering the Buddhist philosophy of detachment (or non-attachment) suggests that one should let negative thoughts and emotions enter the mind, but not dwell on them, so they pass with the moment. Research into the subject agrees. In the 1960s, researchers studied grief —or the lack of it. When people attempted to suppress grief, it took them longer to recover fromwhat caused the grief in the first place.
Medicine,” says, “It’s just as stressful to keep up a performance of positivity as it is to [keep up] a bad mood. It’s very stressful to be inauthentically upbeat all the time.” So, what can you do? Let yourself think negative and positive thoughts. Don’t dwell on the negative, and let it run its course. Then, turn your attention to your sources of stress and do what you can to minimize them.
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