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!
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,
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
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!
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
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!
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?