Vol. VII No. 27 - Tuesday
July 1 - July 7, 2008



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by Saichon Paewsoongnern


Chiang Mai FeMail
HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Your personality - is it linked to your lifespan?

Fun and frolics with a Swiss Ball!

OPINION

 

Welcome to this week’s Femail page! We’ve noticed recently how the music, art, drama and literary scene is opening up in the city these days, with many more and more varied events than when we first arrived! Classical concerts, both instrumental and vocal, jazz, modern, swing - even a new group dedicated to early music! As regards art-so many talented people seem to be here now, with galleries showing their work; representing drama we have, hopefully, our own theatre company in the Gate Theatre. Ballet - we have two major academies here. Writers as well - everything cultural seems to be on the upswing. Surely it’s time for an annual, two or even three-week city wide music, drama, literary and art festival, with visiting as well as resident stars, although we shudder to think or the organisational skills it would take to put it together! And the sponsorship…but think of the tourists it might attract to the “Edinburgh of Northern Thailand”! Also, local charities and NGOs could benefit. Know any serious local entrepreneurs, ladies?
We also noticed, in the Pattaya Mail this week, that Pattaya City provides a rather large budget to feed and take care of stray dogs who are rounded up and sent to a number of privately owned dog pounds. The city admits that it has a problems, (don’t all Thai cities), with stray dogs, but at least takes some responsibility for their welfare. This is good. Pattaya city authorities are also planning to set up a stray dog centre themselves, when a suitable location is found, and are advising people to have the dogs sterilised at their Public Health Centre. At least, it seems that they are trying. We have no idea what happens here in Chiang Mai, but we have our suspicions that the above agenda does not apply. If not, why not?

Your personality - is it linked to your lifespan?

Urban myths abound about different personality traits and their effect on our lives, but until recently there has been very little research into their possible effects on the timing and cause of our deaths! Recent data emerging from various universities and research centres seems to suggest that how we are as people has far more relevance than was previously thought on how long we will actually have to be those people!
Much of the recent research seems to centre on how our immune systems react to stress - no surprise there then, but some of the findings related to that fact are themselves somewhat surprising, although exactly how our personality traits themselves lead to either resistance to disease or increased vulnerability seems to still be a mystery.
One of the most surprising results indicates that cheerful, happy people, usually thought to survive longer, are actually more likely to die early, perhaps because they do not take life seriously enough to protect themselves against its knocks, either emotional, financial or physical, and become unable to cope when things get tough. If “it’ll be all right in the end” is your favourite saying, maybe you’d better think again!
The aforementioned urban myths suggest that impulsive people are more likely to be involved in various types of accident; this may well be true, but the serious risk to this personality type’s health is actually stomach ulcers. Such people, it seems, who also may be less able to control their eating, may overreact to stress, causing excess stomach acid, and inevitable peptic ulcers. Particularly when they haven’t controlled their eating of a fat-rich 6 course meal with accompanying wines - any impulsive Hi So ladies here should perhaps take note!
A somewhat “not rocket science” research result is that anxious, worrisome people may well find themselves the victims of high blood pressure. Research shows that, again, this tendency is probably down to stress hormones. If anxieties become phobic, the risks of serious and possibly fatal cardiovascular complications increase. Anxious types tend to have a greater tendency to smoke, but such behavioural issues are not the whole picture as regards the risk to health, which might be some comfort to those few of us who are still on 2 packs a day!
This next result is obvious - urban myth confirmed, then - optimistic people really do live a lot longer than pessimists. Optimism, it seems, increases the will to live, and also to have a good time doing so by socialising, which may lower the levels of the stress hormone cortisol, even if it does raise the weight of the average optimistic socialite! Optimism is also great at protecting the immune system and guarding against psychological stress.
Pessimists, on the other hand, have real problems - as expected, they have a 20% increased risk of dying earlier , as well as an increased risk of developing Parkinson’s Disease, although the reasons for that are, at present, unclear, as there are also genetic predispositions to consider. Seems like the pessimists amongst us are absolutely right - they have everything to be pessimistic about!
Shy people, it seems, have an increased vulnerability to viral infections, although the research report on this one did note that the research itself was carried out with animals, not humans. Apparently, gregarious types have more active lymph nodes than shy types, and therefore more ability to fight off infections. So, if you have a shy dog, expect heavy and regular vets’ bills, which may cause you to become anxious or a pessimist, which may result in your early demise…
Extrovert people, however, because of their efficient coping strategies and the resultant lower levels of stress hormones, are looking good in the studies, as they are much less likely to have heart problems, and if they do get sick, they will recover more quickly. They are, however, more likely to become overweight. The more extrovert a person, the better they cope - but we’re not sure how seriously Western-style extrovert behaviour would go down here in Chiang Mai!
Perhaps not…
Neurotic behaviour patterns are not good news, as they are associated with many illnesses such as asthma, heart disease, headaches and stomach ulcers. Lots of self-blame and lack of adequate coping strategies leave such people open to even more stress and therefore increased vulnerability to disease. Many neurotic people also suffer from depression, which is known to lower the efficiency of the immune system.
Conscientious people, on the other hand, enjoy the personality which is most strongly linked to a long lifespan, possibly because such people manage to avoid risks by thinking ahead, and by maintaining healthy behaviour patterns. We suspect that they may not have as much fun as the extroverts, though!
Aggressive personalities have the most negative prognosis of all the personality types, although non-aggressive types exposed to their behaviour might consider this a good thing… Aggression and hostility result from an excessive and fast mental and physiological response to stress hormones, causing increased blood pressure and heart rate, and resulting eventually in cardiovascular problems. Abnormal and often chronic inflammation of body tissues also causes problems, including an inability to heal quickly, and is linked to a number of potentially fatal diseases. Regularly recurring bouts of severe depression are also the hallmark of this unfortunate personality type.
Quite seriously, the above is the result of careful research, and also seems to have that aura of plain common sense which so much modern research, (particularly when it’s undertaken for commercial reasons), lacks. Which, of course, does make the whole concept of the link between personality and lifespan interesting - but perhaps we’d better resist the temptation to analyse our friends’ personality traits along the line above by asking for their entire medical histories!

 

Fun and frolics with a Swiss Ball!

John Bailey
I am constantly amazed at how the simplest ideas can be the most effective, which is one of the reasons I am attracted to progressive resistance training with the use of free weights! It now gives me great pleasure to introduce you to another very simple idea - the Swiss Ball. If you haven’t already seen the Swiss Ball, on sale cheaply here at most of the superstores around town, imagine a very large beach ball inflated to high pressure. It will amaze you how many exercises you will be able to perform using just this simple piece of equipment! The whole point, of course, is that whatever you are doing, you have to maintain your balance and in doing so must use those core strength muscles about which I have previously written - many times. Exercises range from the simplest, just sitting on the ball and holding your balance, to some absolutely mind-boggling balances - for example, on one knee!
Try this one for size - simply sit on the ball with your shoulders relaxed and your arms loose at your side. Now lift a leg, keeping your back straight and knee slightly bent. Now change legs in a controlled manner, balance again, hold, and change legs again. You will feel all the muscles in the area of your waist come into play in order to maintain your balance. Now repeat, lifting your arms out to the side, then stretch them up above your head. Not easy, is it! However, with practice you will soon become competent. Balance and stretch is the basic idea.
Do try this one at home - the embarrassment quotient when you fall off for the tenth time in the privacy of your own living-room is far less than it would be at the gym! Swiss Balls come in at least three different sizes - it’s important that you choose the right size for you. Test, if possible, by sitting in a relaxed manner on a properly inflated ball, with your feet flat on the floor - this is correct. You will probably find a pamphlet, (hopefully in the English language as well as in Thai), with your new purchase, which will explain other exercises, illustrating the basic positions. Practice and persevere, you’ll soon get used to it. Next week I will describe some of the more complicated and advanced procedures. In the meantime, happy landings!


OPINION

If you read last week’s CM Mail report of the hard-hitting documentaries about the plight of the Mekong River and its immediate environment made by the recent graduates from the IMMF programme, you may realise why this subject was chosen for this week’s Opinion. I recently received details of an environmental group in Chiang Mai - the name reveals its purpose - Living River Siam. What I read horrified me in the light of what I knew already from the IMMF projects. It would seem that the present government is keen to re-introduce water diversion projects and dams whose original schemes were rejected as being poorly planned or overly destructive to natural resources and the environment. One of the reasons given for these reinstatements was that “hydro-electric power will help to mitigate climate change”.
Excuse me? Wasn’t it the World Commission on Dams who announced that reservoirs emit up to 28% of the total global output of the greenhouse gases carbon dioxide and methane, with tropical reservoirs being most to blame? Not to mention, of course, the vast amount of electricity needed to operate the pumps and generators themselves. Add to that the 300,000 tonnes of CO2 released by the .destruction of 2,300 hectares of pristine jungle, (together with its species), involved in one of the proposed developments, the Salween/Yuam Bhumibol Dam, and the thousands of tonnes of the same gas which will not then be absorbed by those trees. Is there anybody out there???
The waters of the Mekong are shared by 6 countries - those of the Salween by three. No single country - not even China, whose damming of the Mekong within their own borders has resulted in what is amounting to an environmental disaster further downstream, not only for aquatic life, but also for the livelihoods of the communities who rely on the river - has the right to commandeer common resources to the detriment of other countries. Previous schemes which were allowed to proceed have proved disappointing; communities who were displaced have not yet received adequate compensation or land replacement.
A requirement of the new 2007 constitution is that such schemes must undergo a Health Impact Assessment; none of the re-introduced projects would appear to have complied. If the Salween/Yuam Bhumibol Dam project does go ahead, one result will be more water flowing down Chiang Mai’s own Ping River. Remembering the severe floods in the city several years ago, this may be a very mixed blessing indeed.
Lastly, history speaks on this very subject. Before the city of Chiang Mai was founded by the great King Mengrai, another site to the south at Wiang Kum Kam, also close to the Ping River, had been chosen to be the monarch’s “New City”. It was devastated by annual floods - its ruins have been partially excavated, and can be seen today. Legend has it that the severity of the annual floods was the result of the diverting of the Ping around the city. Will we never learn?



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