Perspective Changes Everything

No matter what it is that you are doing with your life right now, at one point or the other, you may have experienced a moment in which you were not completely engaged with the task at hand, or maybe your mind wandered off to a variety of places. This is normal, my friend. In fact, it’s a part of being human. Not every high school student will be amazed by the immense knowledge their teacher will bestow upon them. Not every Fortune 500 company worker will appreciate the seemingly overwhelming projects their boss will assign them. Let’s be real. Different individuals have distinct interests that are more than likely tend to carve out their realities into the most pragmatic way possible.

Let’s start with a basic and painfully simple question: Have you ever felt like NOT doing your homework and doing what you love instead (if it’s not homework)?

As cheesy as it sounds, what if you loved your homework? No, really. What if you had such intellectual pleasure from reading seven poems by William Blake in British Literature? What is you were truly amazed by all the natural phenomena in the universe that physics could govern? What if you viewed every single thing in life (including homework, tasks, and the things you love) with the same state of awe? This curiosity could take one so far, that he or she may not even be bothered by the simple act of homework. What may first seem like an infinitely long list of tasks to do may eventually become a simple pebble in the grass that one can kick away. The goal of being extremely efficient with one’s time, energy, and resources may as well be accomplished.

Ask yourself: What is your definition of a genius? Is it simply someone who memorizes 1000 SAT flash cards front and back, or is it someone that truly enjoys learning about the human body and actually understands conceptual information? It is clearly the second person, unless you consider a “genius” to be someone with a merely strong neural circuit.

Perhaps the most famous quote to put this into perspective is when Einstein says: “The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination.”

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Picture adapted by the Imaginary Foundation. 

Imagination is what governs intellectual pleasure and allows for curiosity to grow into one’s natural state of being. It opens up infinite possibilities through which one could probe the “adjacent possible,” as Steven Johnson refers to it. Moreover, imagination and curiosity intermingle with each other to form serendipitous encounters with new ideas, that could potentially be applied to produce more dopamine in the brain, and an overall rewarding experience. It is all about perspective, though. If one were to view their work in such a way that poses an interesting challenge, or captivating puzzle to be solved, then that work would not be considered “work.” To become high-performance individuals, we could transform our realities by simply having a childlike state of wonder for whatever we study or learn. Jason Silva, the futurist and performance philosopher explains this in the most interesting way, referring to the fruit of curiosity as a “mindgasm, or an exhilarating neurostorm of intense intellectual pleasure, fully revelatory understanding of a certain topic, involuntary contractions of brain muscles, usually accompanied by the overwhelming sensation of truth proximity, visionarism, and the state of awe.”

The only challenge that remains is to experience these heightened state of awareness more frequently.

Changing perspective on our work lives may be a daunting task, as it requires a lot of patience, diligence, and more importantly, the willingness of the person to redefine his or her intentions and expectations. However, it is certainly not an impossible task. Through meditative techniques such as Mindfulness, one could achieve this flow state in a reasonable amount of time. Yoga and challenging physical exercises can also produce these results. Regardless of the method chosen by the individual, being curious is really a magical remedy for having the motivation, or drive to achieve something meaningful in life.

Inspiring Videos – The Ecstasy of Curiosity by Jason Silva

 

Wiring Shapes Personality

Recently, I caught an article about how introverts and extroverts differ neurologically, and how they respond to neurotransmitters such as dopamine and acetylcholine. So, a lot of times you may wonder, why do you overstimulated whenever there is a crowd (talking to introverts here) or anxious when you’re alone (my fellow extroverts)?

The answer is, your brain is wired differently, and therefore you have a different personality. It’s not as complex as it sounds. Trust me. We all obviously have similar brain structure, because we are after all, a part of the same species. However, a recent study published in the Journal of Neuroscience found that introverts have larger and thicker gray matter in the prefrontal cortex, compared to their extrovert counterparts that have thinner gram matter in the same area. So, what does this mean? It essentially describes why introverts tend to visualize abstract concepts, overthink situations, or just cautiously approach situations in general, while extroverts tend to live in the moment with a carefree attitude.

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Not only are the brains of introverts and extroverts structured differently though, but they are also neurochemically quite different in terms of response to neurotransmitters. While introverts and extroverts have equal amounts of dopamine in their brains, the dopamine reward network in the brains of extroverts is far more active than in the brains of introverts. Dopamine, being the pleasure chemical, is more conducive to the needs of an extroverted personality, but this may vary according to unique individuals. For introverts though, the neurotransmitter called acetylcholine, which also serves a pleasurable chemical in the brain, allows them to turn inward for good feelings. It essentially provides them the ability to stay focused on an individual task for an extended period of time. Thus, both introverts and extroverts have distinctive neurological qualities that may help define or dictate their behavior. It’s crazy how much the brain dictates or influences not only our body’s physical condition, but also our personalities!

Read http://www.medicaldaily.com/how-extroverted-are-you-brains-gray-matter-may-lead-two-personality-types-325064 for more info!

 

Delaying Gratification

As a society, we are constantly bombarded with so much information about how the world functions, and what we need to be doing in order to keep up with it. Even high school students are constantly engaged in what seems to be an endless cycle of compulsively checking social media and notifications for mindless entertainment. But perhaps the most important question is: How can we get rid of these meaningless distractions and focus on the bigger picture? More importantly, how can we learn to delay our immediate gratification reward system that is set up by the dopamine neurostorm in our brains, to actually achieve something far more substantial to us?

I was watching a recent TED talk the other day about procrastination and the speaker, Tim Urban brought up a really good point. He talked about how deadlines make us prone to willingly finish a certain task in a timely manner, even if it isn’t completely timely (writing a ten page essay the night before it’s due)! Although this phenomena seems pretty obvious in theory, not many people realize it as this occurs to them. Think about it: When you’re given a deadline for an assignment at school, you’re going to have to get started on it eventually if you are at all concerned about your grades. However, there are so many aspects of life that don’t have deadlines such as exercising, meditating, reading leisurely, or playing with kids that go unnoticed when missed. No wonder it’s harder for people to establish these routines than it is for them to complete a given task! Anyhow, Tim Urban talks about the “panic monster” as it comes in whenever there’s an imminent deadline, and plagues the person with fear if they don’t complete the work. The main point of his TED talk is not to encourage people to avoid procrastinating, because that’s not exactly possible unless you’re superhuman. The message is, in fact, to think about those things that you are procrastinating on and whether they are worth spending the effort and energy on for a long-term gain!

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The thing is, there’s always going to be that monkey in our heads that tells us that it understands how important a task is, but how binge-watching videos on YouTube or scrolling through Twitter is somehow more conducive to our needs. The trick is, to understand what we want the MOST in our lives, and how we can plan our day-to-day lives fulfilling that desire. It goes back to the ancient wisdom of giving up what you want now, to achieve something far greater and substantial in the future. Although this is easier said than done, I’ve noticed that the more time and effort you spend visualizing that long-term desire, the nearer it seems and it’s no time before you actually get there and achieve it!

I hope this article wasn’t too cliche! Just wanted to throw some wisdom I acquired out there! Thanks for reading. (:

Tim Urban’s TED Talk

Derek Siver’s on Keeping Goals to Yourself

 

A Tribute to Oliver Sacks

“Every act of perception, is to some degree an act of creation, and every act of memory is to some degree, an act of imagination.”

Oliver Sacks

Oliver Sacks, a renowned writer and neurologist passed away yesterday at the age of 82 due to his ocular melanoma, as many of us may know by now. Not only was Sacks a physician, but he was also a brilliant writer, polymath, humanist, musician, and a weight-lifter. Perhaps one of the most interesting qualities Oliver Sacks possessed was his intellectual curiosity that really sparked a light through which everyone realized his profound insight on subjects such as psychology or cognitive science. He ultimately took medicine to the next level, by melding science into the art of storytelling!

“Music can lift us out of depression or move us to tears- it is a remedy, a tonic, orange juice for the ear. But for many of my neurological patients, music is even more – it can provide access, even when no medication can, to movement, to speech, to life. For them, music is not a luxury, but a necessity.”

Check out these books by Oliver Sacks:

  1. Musicophilia
  2. Hallucinations
  3. Awakenings
  4. On the Move
  5. The Mind’s Eye
  6. An Anthropologist on Mars
  7. The Island of the Colorblind

What Are You Going to Do With Your MD?

When I started out this blog, I deliberately geared it towards young pre-meds or high school students who thought they wanted to be pre-meds in the future. Over the past year, a variety of people, including people who were already in the medical field starting reading it, and that felt so gratifying. The fact that a young high school teenager like me could reach out to such a vast crowd was quite amazing! However, the aim of this blog post is to commence thought-provoking questions in students who aim to be MDs or Doctors of Medicine in the future.

So it’s 2015, and the Medical School Admissions process has changed dramatically. They no longer want robots that could solve an organic chemistry equation in 30 seconds, or rocket scientists who can develop ground-breaking technology, although that would be neat. They want students who KNOW what they WANT to do with their medical school education! Even though this sounds painfully obvious, there are numerous students I see apply each year, in hopes to get in, not for themselves but for their parents, or simply for the label of being a physician. At the end of the day though, you want to be able to look at yourself and say, “Wow, I am actually ecstatic to be who I am..” So, the underlying question is, “What do you want to do with your MD?” I haven’t been through the medical school admissions process myself, but from what i have researched and read upon, medical schools will be interested in knowing what an applicant wants to offer to the school, or any institution, hospital, or country for that matter. Of course it is crucial for the applicant to be well-rounded, but it all comes down to what you are going to give back to the community, if you even intend to!

medical degree now what

Here is a list of ideas I came up with for what I would do with my MD:

1) Doctors Without Borders – If you’re a person who doesn’t mind taking a few risks to save dozens of lives on the field in different countries, this is suitable for you. Also, if you’re interested in using your expertise to serve the purpose of helping others through a humanitarian cause, or simply love traveling, you may want to check it out. Although this job is not as easy as I make it sound, people have done it successfully! Here is a link to the kind of health care professionals this organization looks for : http://www.doctorswithoutborders.org/work-us/work-field/who-we-need

2) UN Volunteers – UNV is a great organization associated with the United Nations that recruits volunteers from different areas of health care to help combat diseases in developing countries and help out with preventive measures and workshops. This kind of work builds up strong experience so when you apply for a UN Medical Officer position or some other high-rank job within the UN Medical realm, it can come in handy. Here is a link to the UNV page: http://www.unv.org/en/about-us.html. Here is the general UN Career Page: https://careers.un.org/lbw/home.aspx?viewtype=SC.

3) UNICEF – Here’s another humanitarian organization that hires professionals such as medical doctors to serve domestically, or internationally: http://www.unicef.org/about/employ/index_careers.html.

4) Community Events – No matter where you live, there are doctors almost everywhere that are willing to offer free medical services to the poor or the uninsured. See if that fits your niche.

5) Writing Health Policies – This can’t be done without additional training such as aquiring an MHA or Masters of Health Administration, but it can be a rewarding career! After all, if you were assigned to write health policies for a developing country, or even the United States, that would be a huge responsibility and a gratifying one as well.

Although some of these prospects mays seem out of reach for you, there is still SO MUCH out there that you could possibly delve into. The number of possibilities within the field of medicine itself is amazing! This may not even be an eighth of them, but I hope this article serves to motivate you to think about what it is that you would do with your medical degree, if you were to pursue it!

Can We Defy the Process of Aging?

Recently, I was going through a chapter called the “Physiology of Aging” from my Environmental Physiology course on the Stanford website. This chapter intrigued me specifically because although it is amazing how dramatically our life expectancy has increased over the past centuries due to modern medicine, there are still some factors beside allopathy that could greatly affect our aging. In this section of the course, I watched a video of one of the professors go to the MIT AgeLab to try on AGNES, which is essentially a suit in which anyone can experience the deficits and incapabilties involved in the process of aging. The effects were so profound, and they seemed impossible to observe over the gradual lifespan of an adult. The video eventually showed how the professor wearing the suit lost motor, visual, flexibility, strength and dexterity skills. It actually got to the point to where I really felt sorry for elder people whom I have always assumed to have the same faculties I have. I obviously did not think old people could do everything but I did not realize it was that bad either!

mit agnes agelab

On the brighter note though, the point of the video was to show the natural physical effects of aging in a normal person, not an immensely active and healthy person. The video also showed a brief interview with a 79-year-old sprinter! This guy still performs a lot of his work manually, even though he could use machines and has taken up the hobby of sprinting at such a late age. Despite that, he is in optimal health. He is essentially decreasing his chances of developing a myriad of devastating health disorders such as hypertension, abnormal blood lipids, or type 2 diabetes. With that being said, the professor also mentioned the lady who lived till she was 122, breaking the life span record so far, Jeanne Calment. Although her secrets included olive oil, chocolate, wine and a lot of humor, there is a far more convincing observation about this:

As human beings, we have literally transcended our biological drawbacks through biotechnology and new means of improving the human condition. This doesn’t just include the use of scanners or machines to detect cancers and kill them. This also includes the mere fact that a good number of us have given significant value to having a healthy lifestyle. Another words, a lifestyle rich of mindfulness, productivity and vitality. Moreover, factors such as physical activity can make such a big difference in the end, as it can enhance repair mechanisms in the body, slow the rate of cognitive decline associated with aging, and literally stretch out telomere length on ends of chromosomes, associated with longevity. In fact, the benefits are so copious that it is too difficult to even mention them all! Regardless, we should definitely take pride in the fact that we have expanded our life span out so much by just modifying a few things here and there, and if we continue to do so, we can go even farther!

A Generation Plagued by “Stress”

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Stress, is an immensely overrated, and overused term to describe conditions of students, working professionals and even homemakers today. It seems that we give stress too much of a negative connotation. However, stress can be fun and exhilarating too!

Recently, I was reading this article Clifton B. Parker about looking at stress from a different perspective than usual. This was published on the Stanford website at http://news.stanford.edu/news/2015/may/stress-embrace-mcgonigal-050715.html

Essentially, the Stanford psychologist, Kelly McGonigal expresses how stress can actually make people smarter, stronger and happier they simply look at it from a positive perspective. An integral message this article conveys is that we all know we have to encounter stress at some point or the other in life, and therefore, we should embrace it and live with it, rather than run away from it. In fact, those who can thrive under high stress conditions, are really the ones who have made it!

As I was thinking about this very idea about stress, an important realization occurred. In the field of medicine, health care workers have to work hard under stressful conditions to make sure their patients can be in better shape. As premeds, medical students, or even residents, we are going to have to deal with so much trauma, stress, negativity, apathy and inferiority in our profession. Thus, there is really no point in looking at this path as a stressful, and debilitating one.

This article mentions studies being done in which people show that their lives have been more meaningful with stress. Moreover, psychologists prove that stress can make a person stronger, more compassionate, and resilient over time, granted the person takes stress in the right approach.

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Go check out Kelly McGonigal’s TED Talk on How to Make Stress Your Friend for more info: http://www.ted.com/talks/kelly_mcgonigal_how_to_make_stress_your_friend?language=en