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Front-loading pain, blue blockers and music therapy
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1. Front-load the pain
Front-load the pain, Behaviors with costs unseen, Think before you gain.
This is possibly the best advice ever.
Most harmful behaviors are easy in the moment and have costs down the line while most beneficial behaviors are difficult in the moment and show benefits down the line.
This is why we tend to eat doughnuts and to not exercise. The first has no upfront cost, but high later costs. The later has high upfront costs and only later benefits.
If you can bring this later cost upfront, you avoid harmful behaviors. You frontload the pain that would naturally come later so you can make good decisions now.
For doughnuts for example, it would mean you put on a weighted vest to see how it feels to become fatter. Wear it for a couple of hours before eating the doughnuts. I bet almost nobody would still eat the doughnuts knowing they would have to carry that weight all the time as a result.
What this means for you? When you do something, think of what it will cost you later. Would you still do that behavior if you had to pay that cost right now? If not, then (obviously) don’t do it.
For example, if you want to eat a tub of ice-cream, there is no immediate cost. But it has significant negative effects in the long-term, such as obesity, diabetes, chronic illness. Do you want to pay them?
2. Can you differentiate a real smile from a fake smile?
One of the smiles below is genuine and the other is fake.
Do you know which smile is fake? Scroll to the end of this email to find out if you guessed right
Tips to spot a fake smile:
1. When people really smile, their eyes get a little squinty and small crows feet appear. No crows feet means it’s fake.
2. Real smiles often don’t show the lower row of teeth.
Studies show that high empathy people are better at spotting fake smiles.
They also tend to hate stock photos.
What this means for you? Look for eye squints and lower teeth to spot real smiles.
Which is the real smile? I am not going to make you read the whole newsletter to get the smile test result. The smile on the right is false.
3. Exercise is better for depression than drugs or counselling
A meta-review of 97 research papers which involved 128,900 participants found 150 minutes weekly of various types of physical activity (e.g. brisk walking, lifting weights and yoga) significantly reduces depression, anxiety, and psychological distress, compared to usual care of medication or counselling.
The higher the intensity, the higher the benefit. For example running provides more benefit than brisk walking. So you should push it.
The study found that at least 6-12 weeks of exercise has greatest benefits, much higher than shorter periods.
What this means for you? If you want to be happier, go and exercise.
4. Blue Blockers can improve sleep, but most are useless
Blue light blocking glasses can be a useful tool to regulate circadian rhythm. You can use them in the evening to prevent blue light and thus block its sleep disrupting effects.
They are far from perfect or sufficient. Powerful light will still stimulate your SCN to keep you awake even if you are wearing blue blockers. You should use them alongside light dimming measures.
On top of that, many people use them wrong. They use light blue-light blocking glasses all day long. This is the opposite of what they should do. You need to get blue light during the day and only eliminate it after sunset. Wearing blue blockers all day long is a big circadian disruption.
Besides these problems, blue blockers also suffer from a lack of standards. The Internet is full of products which claim to block blue light but don’t tell you how much. If a product blocks 10% of blue light, it’s useless. If it blocks 90%+ then it’s good. But for most products you don’t know this number. Not to mention few sellers provide any actual test data to prove the protection.
What this means for you? Look for blue-blocker glasses that claim 90%+ of blue light blocked. A clue is they are annoyingly orange. Anything yellow or transparent does not achieve enough light blocking. On top of that, there is this independent test of a number of such glasses. It compares many products with real measurement of blue (and adjacent) light hitting the eyes.
5. Music as brain pharmacology
“Parkinson’s Research Studies Show the Healing Power of Music” by Greg Rienzi for Johns Hopkins Magazine. This was a revelation for me. I had no idea music can have such profound effects.
The article recounts several studies where learning to play music improved Parkinson’s symptoms and quality of life. This is quite amazing. Take note however that it is people learning to play music, not merely listening to it. If you ever tried to learn an instrument, you know there is quite a bit of effort involved in this.
These YouTube clips also explore music therapy: “Alive Inside: A Story of Music and Memory Featurette” and “The Healing Power of Music: The Johns Hopkins Center for Music and Medicine.”
Such music therapy is not without pitfalls, such as making people confused when it triggers memories for which they lack the context. It’s very much still an area of continued research.
What does this mean for you? It’s not clear exactly how music impacts you. It is clear it’s an area to investigate for beneficial effects (both if healthy or suffering from a neurological condition).
6. Work expands to fill everything
Work expands with time, Set clear deadlines, save some time, For things more sublime.
Parkinson's Law states that work expands to fill all the time allotted to it. If you have a task and you have five hours, then you will do it in five hours. If you only have two hours, you will do it in two. This has limitations of course.
What does this mean for you? Set clear deadlines even when they are not imposed externally. It will help you save time. Time with which you can do something else.
“Why do we have differing levels of executive control over our minds? Why would we evolve to foil our own better natures? Because evolution isn’t directed. It’s not streamlined. We’re an attic stuffed with everything our ancestors found useful, even if it stopped being useful thousands of years ago.” Cory Doctorow, Walkaway
If you found this useful, let me know.
The ideal life is easy when you know what you need,