Sunday, May 16, 2010

The Why Of Winning In The Game of Life

Epicurean Delights...

It tends to sneak up on you without you realizing it. Yet it has a deeper impact on your well being than you may realize. This post is all about why stress is bad for you and why it's important to live your life to the fullest.

Without realizing it, stress is also linked to pleasure seeking behaviour. This nearly consumed me last year, and I kick myself now for not realizing it sooner. So how did it nearly destroy me? Read on...

It cannot be quantitatively defined, but over time, it can consume you by affecting you in the most subtle of ways. You will find that you have less motivation and drive to interact with other people, and you will also derive less pleasure from things that used to bring you pleasure (either religionistic or hedonistic. Since it creeps up on you so slowly over time, you tend not to notice these changes until you overcome the source of your stress.

Studies have shown that the lower you are in the social ladder, the higher your stress levels will be. In one study involving baboons, lower ranking monkeys had less dopamine in their brains (a feel good neurotransmitter). They didnt derive pleasure as much as the dominant monkeys did from even mundane daily pleasure such as eating a banana. A depressed monkey so to speak. But it didnt stop there. They even had more clogged arteries compared to the dominant ones. They were sad, sick monkeys.

Yes yes, I know you are human and how can a monkey study apply to you? Well, that study has been replicated in humans! Britain is a first world egalitarian nation where people receive the same healthcare regardless of their position in the social ladder. Their public health system is excellent. A study has shown that amongst british civil servents (even those working in the same department), officers holding dominant positions were far less stressed then lower ranked officers. The high ranking officers felt good about their jobs in general, while many low ranking ones loathed to go to work in the morning. On the long run, the low ranking ones seemed to suffer from more chronic diseases such as heart disease and type II diabetes too! 2/3rd of the world's population has H. pylori in their stomachs, and it has been associated with stomach ulcers. However, statistics are also now starting to show that having the bacteria alone may not be the cause of stomach ulcers, you also need to be under a certain amount of stress that depresses your immune system - giving the bug a chance to cause stomach ulcers. It does not stop at your gut. Stress affects your brain too. You would probably know that you are less sociable when you are stressed, but did you know stress has been proven to reduce your ability to learn and absorb knowledge? Rat studies even show that it shrinks brain cells! Especially in the hippocampus, the place where thoughts are integrated into memories.

And that is why it is important to be the absolute best that you can be. Life is competitive, and to the winners go the spoils, and we're not just talking about money here. Wealth, romance and social standing count too (if you broke a leg, how many people will offer to take you to the hospital without you even asking?), and being a winner in life contributes to all of that. Anyone who says anything otherwise is either trying to fool you into complacency, or hasnt yet faced the reality that is the world we live in, or is in plain simple denial.

Stress And The Pitfalls Of Hedonism.
(this section continues from the previous post)
Once upon a time, I had a rather severe eating disorder. My weight dropped to 45kg. I still do not know exactly why I started eating less than 1300kcal a day, but now I have reason to believe that stress had a big part to do with it.

There was once a time that I was so socially isolated I started to lose interest with the prospect of holding a conversation with another human being. It's ironic now looking back at it, but at the time, I had not desired what I needed most to have a healthy mind.

This is where hedonism comes in to the picture. You see, when people are stressed they tend to turn to things that bring them pleasure. Entire populations can become increasingly religionistic or hedonistic depending on the circumstances. We see this in the event of increased affluence (USA during the 70s as a result of industralisation.), or war and suffering (Palestine used to be very very liberal before Israel came along - women wore skirts and nobody blinked at the patrons of bars). On an individual level, poor ugly people tend to turn to religionism while affluent pretty people tend to turn to hedonism. Exceptions exist for both scenarios, but I contend that this the norm. A poor ugly fvck like me should have turned to religionism, but for some reason turned to hedonism instead. Im not saying either one is good or bad (i sort of have experience with both) but I my case, I very nearly succumbed to hedonistic pleasures.

Running away from stress, I was overwhelmed by hedonistic stimuli derived from first person shooters (a type of computer game). In 2009, I played about 500 hours of these games, with 332 hours of teamfortress 2 alone (yes, i have proof of this!). There were of course other hedonistic stimuli such as TV serials (Family Guy, South Park, How I Met Your Mother), porn, and facebook (yes, fb it's an addiction people!), but all in all, if I had failed my course in 2009, first person shooters would have been to blame. It's my biggest addiction ever.

I need to switch to other hedonistic pleasures that are less prone to devaluing human interaction. Such as coffee, laser tag and the creation of epicurean delights. These hobbies actually promote human interaction.

Study seems to have a very positive effect on my social life. The more I study the more I naturally enjoy and derive pleasure from human interaction. It doesnt make much sense at first, but when you think about it, study displaces the time spent on computer games, facebook, serials and porn. That means that I derive less pleasure from those hedonistic pastimes. This makes me more sensitive to the pleasure derived from social interaction. And that, I why I feel like talking to people more when I study alot.

If what I've blogged about so far holds true, then my personality should genuinely change for the better over the coming months. I am already having alot more motivation and genuine interest in my work. A genuine interest in other people should ensue. It cannot be faked, and as a prelude to empathy it is like the glue that holds social networks together. So yeah, I hope to become more sticky over the coming months ;-)

We'll see how it goes.

Yes I know that the picture is so unrelated but damnit i really feel like having banana leaf rice but where the hell in melbourne could you find such authenthic cusine that wouldnt cost like AUD10 (RM30) and isnt far far away and only open till 9pm? The meal in the picture only cost AUD2 btw...


  1. Are you saying there is a place in Melb to get banana leaf rice? The thought makes me happy...

    On the post: The first half (discussing studies and stress) is very interesting and informative.

    The second half is a little unclear: I think you're saying that stress causes people to turn to sources of pleasure (in other words.. procrastinate :) ), but that some people will dive into games, and others, religion?

    Seems fair. As for my own experience.. I barely play any games these days (much more study now).. but I admit that social interaction could be fairly difficult in the past when the only topics i had to talk about were TF2 and... TF2. And fallout 3.

    Also, just be happy you didn't get into WoW ;)

  2. I heard from someone that there is a place near flinders. Pricey though...and they dont use real banana leaves.

    Glad you found my post informative =D

    Yup, that is my observation. I used to be in a very conservative boarding school (even the cafeteria was gender segregated) and I witnessed this tendency to turn to religion in the face of stress first hand. Since coming to australia, basic human nature hasnt changed one bit. Livin it up at the nott and partying and other hedonistic delights are abound.

    Being geeks, we turn to TF2 =P

    Oh btw a new engie update is about to be released:

    WoW would have been the end of me. I could see the headlines already: Student dies in room after playing WoW for 72 hours non stop. Body was discovered weeks later after his mother inquired about his whereabouts. He has no known friends.

  3. Really? Ill have a look around. Went to a banana leaf place in Malaysia, and it was pretty awesome. Pity no real leaves though.

    Unfortunately I won't have a chance to play the engie update since my desktop doesn't have an internet connection anymore, but ill check the vids/reviews.

    WoW: Haha... actually that's pretty accurate. Except your guild 'friends' will be like: "Hey.. Chode missed the raid??" And then you'll be booted from the guild. That's pretty much WoW.