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Hack Your Mind: 26 Health Experiments You Might Not Know About (And What They Mean For You)

There are tons of health and psychology studies that you’ve probably never heard of.

And there’s often a decades-wide gap (20+ years) between what science knows and what the public knows. That’s why I figured I’d write a beast of an article to help open your eyes behind some fascinating science behind “obvious” subjects.

Sometimes it’s not so obvious.

1 – Want To Get Someone To Stick To Something Or Change Their Behavior? Use Positive Reinforcement (Instead of Punishments)

B.F. Skinner was a well-known psychologist that developed a theory on  behavior and behavioral change. One of the big things he discussed was rewards/punishments and which one led to better long-term behavioral change.

Guess what he found? Positive reinforcement is superior to punishment because it not only results in a better (long-term) change, but also doesn’t have some of the negative side effects that punishments have.

Some examples:

  • Positive reinforcement – When a kid does her homework on time, rewarding her with a piece of candy. You are adding something desirable.
  • Positive punishment – Making a kid do chores because she didn’t finish her homework on time. You are adding something undesirable.
  • Negative punishment – Your teenager comes home after curfew, and you take away her phone for a few days and ground her. You are taking something desirable away.

What this means for you:

For people whose behavior you are trying to change, focus on the rehab/improvement aspect rather than the punishment. The “positive reinforcement” (the first of the three definitions above) results in the best long-term behavioral change.

Interesting tip: this is why the prison system doesn’t work.  Inmates are punished and not given any methods for rehabilitating their behavior. Some prisons are starting to catch on and offer cool things like creative internet usage as well as behavioral change programs like meditation.

2 – You Can Actually Become More Lucky

Surprisingly, people who view themselves as unlucky actually see fewer opportunities. The converse is also true.

A massive, 10 year study run by psychologist Richard Wiseman was done because he was curious about this whole “luck” thing from a scientific perspective.

Here was one of the experiments:

“I gave both lucky and unlucky people a newspaper, and asked them to look through it and tell me how many photographs were inside. On average, the unlucky people took about two minutes to count the photographs whereas the lucky people took just seconds. Why? Because the second page of the newspaper contained the message “Stop counting – There are 43 photographs in this newspaper.” This message took up half of the page and was written in type that was over two inches high. It was staring everyone straight in the face, but the unlucky people tended to miss it and the lucky people tended to spot it.”

He repeated multiple experiments and the outcome was always the same. “Unlucky” people missed the opportunities right in front of their faces. Why?

When he studied the unlucky people further, he found that in personality tests they were very tense and high-anxiety. Apparently his research had also shown that anxiety disrupts peoples ability to notice the unexpected.

So the unlucky people literally were trying too hard to look for other things, were becoming tense and anxious, and were missing out on the “luck” all around them.

Lucky people, as it turns out, have a few main qualities:

“They are skilled at creating and noticing chance opportunities, make lucky decisions by listening to their intuition, create self-fulfilling prophesies via positive expectations, and adopt a resilient attitude that transforms bad luck into good.” Wiseman says.

What this means for you:

Wiseman found that in order to cultivate luck, there are a couple key things you should do:

  • Vary up your routine = more opportunity and chance encounters
  • Listen to your intuition
  • Expect yourself to be lucky (and you will be)
  • Slow down, relax, and have more fun. Tension and anxiety impede your ability to see opportunity around you.

View a PDF of some of his studies here.

3 – Want To Quit Smoking? Give Yourself a Massage When You’re Craving a Smoke

One study done in the journal of preventative medicine found that smoking cravings were reduced by self-massage. In the study, twenty adult smokers were either in the control group or the massage group. The treatment group was taught to give a self massage (one on the hand, one on the ear) during three cravings a day for a month.

By the end of the study, the self-massaged group had smoked fewer cigarettes per day than the control. They also self reported fewer feelings of anxiety and improved mood.

Another study found that going for a walk had a similar effect.

Why? Both giving the self massage and going for a walk helped break the habit cycle of smoking.  This is almost word for word how I explained “why all diets fail and why you don’t need a diet to lose weight.”

What this means for you:

Don’t rely on willpower to break bad habits or create new ones. You’ll fail (and there’s ample research backing that up).

Instead, study the nature behind how habits form and how to break them. Check out the guide we’ve got here.

4 – Can’t Sleep But You’ve Tried Everything? Stop Playing Fruit Ninja and Turn Off Your iPhone and Computer Earlier

Tried everything to help fall asleep?  Reducing your coffee intake, exercising, meditating, reading a book – But none of them have worked?

Because of the increasing amount of time most of us spend in front of screens, researchers were curious what effect LED backlit screens (computers, iPhones, etc) would have on people that were exposed to them in the evening.

They were curious what effects (if any) there would be on melatonin, alertness, and cognitive performance.  In essence, they wanted to see what effect it would have on people’s circadian rhythms and whether or not it would affect the natural sleep cycle of a person.

As it turned out, a 5 hour evening exposure to LED Backlit devices (versus a non LED backlit device) elicited a “significant suppression of the evening rise in endogenous melatonin and subjective as well as objective sleepiness.”

What does this mean for you?

If you’re having trouble falling asleep quickly, or sometimes can’t fall asleep until 1 or 2 in the morning (no matter how tired you are), try a two week experiment where you don’t use any backlit devices after 9 pm (or earlier).  This will allow the natural rise of melatonin in the evening which will help stimulate that sleepy feeling and allow you to pass out quickly.

5 – Unhappy Or Having a Bad Day? Smiling (Even If You Don’t Mean It) Actually Triggers The Release of Hormones That Make You Happy 

Ever have a crappy day that you just can’t seem to shake?  There’s actually a pretty easy way to get a boost of happy hormones.

Smile.

Even if you don’t mean it.

A study done in the journal of personality and social psychology found that people who simply make a “smiling face” experienced increased positive moods. 

Be careful though – the opposite is true too – frowning faces decreased mood even when the people started off in a good mood.

Bonus points? The researchers also noticed that looking at your expression in the mirror dramatically strengthened the effect, particularly for the negative expression (it more than doubled the effect).

What does this mean for you?

If you need a pick me up in the morning, a Buddhist monk told me an exercise where you basically wake up, make the biggest smile you can conjure up, and say “Thank you. Time for a new day.” For the non-spiritually inclined, hop on over to youtube and watch a funny video that will start the day off with a good laugh. Those 5 minutes will carry with you throughout the entire day.

6 – Are You Focusing On the Big Things or Small Things in Life? It May Make All the Difference In Your Happiness

The Association for Psychological Science produced a 2010 research report providing evidence that “money impairs people’s ability to savor everyday positive emotions and experiences.” 

Researchers sought to test if wealth affected peoples ability to “savor” — “the ability to enhance and prolong positive emotional experience.”

In one test, where they gave people a piece of chocolate, they found that people “primed” for wealth spent a significantly shorter time eating it and exhibited reduced enjoyment compared to participants not exposed to wealth.

What this means for you:

It may sound obvious: happiness, by and large, comes from enjoying the many small things.

So how can you start enjoying the small things if you’re one of the people who doesn’t focus on enjoying that one piece of chocolate?

Just take longer to eat / experience it. Treat it like a fine new wine you are testing out.  Smell it. Take a small bite. Swish it around in your mouth. Let it dissolve on your tongue. Researchers in the study found that one of the most obvious characteristics of the wealth-primed folks was this: They just spent less time eating the chocolate and engaging in experiences.

7 – Looking At Fast Food Logos Actually Makes You More Impatient and Prone to Short-Term Thinking 

This study is really mind blowing.

A study done in 2012 at the University of Toronto found that exposure to fast food logos and advertisements actually makes us more impatient in behaviors outside of eating.

The researchers found that unconscious exposure to fast-food “symbols” will automatically:

  1. Increase participants reading speed, even when there is no pressure
  2. Increase preferences for time-saving products (despite the other qualities of the product)
  3. Reduce people’s willingness to save and will lead them to prefer short-term immediate gain, over long-term financial security

You know that old saying, that you’re the product of the 5 people you hang out with the most?  This is kinda similar. You’re the product of many of the things you’re exposed to on a daily basis.

When I help people shift their diets for long-term success, I tell them one of the secrets is to develop the habit of never setting foot in the middle aisles of the grocery story – where the packaged stuff is.

What this means for you:

Sometimes we are what we’re repeatedly exposed to.  When I was a kid, I never had problems focusing or paying attention in class. But when I was 12, this little bastard called “the internet” was invented, and along with it, “computer games” and “AOL.”

Literally — almost overnight — after playing on the computer for 3-6 hours a day, 7 days a weekend, my attention span became that of a fly. Believe it.

Surround yourself with the right kind of people, and the right kind of environment, and it’ll often produce the right mindset. The converse is also true – you can cultivate the right mind set, and to a certain extent it will influence the people and environment around you.

The secret to long-term weight loss, or success in any endeavor,  is more about creating good habits than investing massive effort or time. Read more about how to do this.

8 – You Aren’t “Born” And Stuck Pre-Disposed to Being Unhappy or Happy. You Can Always Change it 

Think you’re doomed to be depressed your whole life, or that happy people are “naturally” like that?

A long-term German study gave us some extremely obvious findings in the field of positive psychology and happiness: your daily life and economic choices influence your long-term happiness a hell of a lot more than your “genetic set point.”

No shit.

So instead of passing on your latte, maybe you should take it instead.

What this means for you:

Several practices have been shown to boost happiness and produce long-term changes in the brain: Meditation, exercise, and investing in social relationships are some of the big three.

If you need that happiness boost, invest in these three regularly, and your natural happiness “set point” will be higher.

9 – As It Turns Out, Exercise is An Insanely Good Long-Term Buffer For How Resilient You Are to Stress

This was a pretty interesting study I found in the Journal of Neuroscience.

This particular study (which was done with mice) took two categories of mice: alpha male mice that were aggressive and territorial, and some weaker mice.  The weaker mice were divided into two groups: ones that exercised on a hamster wheel and had cool tubes to explore and run around in before the experiment, and ones that didn’t get to exercise/explore.

They then would put the two mice together in a cage for 5 minutes. The weak mice would cower and go into the corner to submit.  But over time, the weaker mice started acting fidgety and squeamish — they were literally getting stressed out and anxious.

Researchers then put the mice into a maze to test their decision making ability. The mice without the hamster wheel/exercise were freezing or just hiding in corners and not moving. Their actual decision making ability was halted and affected by the stress and their “anxiety-like behavior.”

But the mice that were given the wheel, including other tubes and things to run around in before the experiment, exhibited “Stress-resistant” behavior.

What this means for you:

When many of us are constantly exposed to repeated stress, experience shows it often leads to anxiety or depression. But what science hasn’t quite figured out is why some people are more susceptible than others.

In the study, researchers later found out that the mice that had exercised before being stressed actually showed a quicker adaption to their stressful environment. Even just a 30 minute brisk walk has the potential to pro-actively protect you against the stresses and anxieties of life. Do it.

10 – Meditation (Physically) Changes the Structure of Your Brain. Yes, Splinter Was Right.

Not a big “believer” in this whole meditation thing? Science finally jumped on the bandwagon and did some studies on it.

They found that regular meditators had actually grown expanded structures in the brain. Yep, the pre-frontal cortex (the part of the brain dealing with our self control, decision making, and certain aspects of our personality) actually became thicker in the people that meditated.

Another perk: regular meditators (with as little as 5 minutes a day) will improve their baseline level of happiness. So just by regularly meditating you actually improve your default happiness meter in the morning. Sweet.

For those of you that want to start the habit, check out my ultimate guide to succeeding in just about anything (Habits 101).

What this means for you:

Aside from warding off depression and boosting happiness, meditation will help prevent you from becoming a crazed douchebag if life stresses you out. Other drivers on the road will appreciate it.

11 – Trying to Get Fit, Lose Weight And Cut Some Fat? Try 4 Minutes of Cardio Instead of 45.

Tabata training is a form of high intensity training that has gained a big following ever since the literature finally made its way down to the hands of the lay folk.

In this Japanese study, sports researchers had two groups: people performing “steady state cardio,” like riding a bike, 5 days a week for 1 hour each day.

The other group also did 5 workouts a week, but they did a total of 4 minutes of working out: 20 seconds of high intensity training, followed by a 10 second rest, repeated back to back for 7 sets.

After the 6 weeks, two things were compared:  How much it improved the test subjects’ VO2 max (how efficient your body is at transporting and using oxygen), as well as their anaerobic capacity.

The results? The “steady state cardio” didn’t improve anaerobic capacity at all. While the Tabata interval improved it 28%.  Also, Tabata had improved the VO2 max much more noticeably than in the steady state cardio group.

But what about the fat & weight loss!?

Okay, in one 15 week study, the two groups compared were again “steady state cardio” and then high intensity interval training (like tabata).  The high intensity group compared to the steady state group showed significant reduction in total mass loss, fat mass, and insulin levels. = Win.

What this means for you:

  • If you’re pressed for time, consider high intensity workouts that can take less than 10 or even less than 5 minutes. You will see the same results (or even better) as if you were going for a 45 minute run.
  • Warning: High intensity workouts are not easy and are not ideal for absolute beginners. To avoid exerting yourself until you projectile vomit, try lengthening the rest periods to 20 or more seconds (workout to rest ratio of 1:1, or even 1:2).

12 – Intrinsically Motivated People Not Only Are Happier, but Actually Earn More Money in The Long Run 

People often think the super ambitious are the ones who end up being the super successful. As it turns out, the best predictor of long-term financial success is not the degree of ambition — it’s how intrinsically motivated the person is.

People who work for external rewards often out-perform their peers in the short-term, but in the long-term they are often unhappier and even less successful.

Daniel Pink in his book Drive, talked a bit about why people who are intrinsically motivated perform much better in the long run:

An intense focus on extrinsic rewards can indeed deliver fast results. The trouble is, this approach is difficult to sustain. And it doesn’t assist in mastery — which is the source of achievement over the long haul. The most successful people, the evidence shows, often aren’t directly pursuing conventional notions of success. They’re working hard and persisting through difficulties because of their internal desire to control their lives, learn about their world, and accomplish something that endures.

What this means for you:

Particularly for 20 somethings, instead of focusing on how much you can earn in a job, find something that strikes a balance between a paycheck and something that intrigues you.  Choosing a job based on the money can seem like a great decision in the short-term, but wait 3-5 years and tell me if you’re still as pumped to wake up in the morning as you were before.

13 – Are You Competitive, Aggressive, Impatient, And Feel a Sense of Urgency, Like Life is Passing You by? You Are Killing Yourself (Literally)

Meyer Friedman was a cardiologist in San Francisco, and in the 1950′s he noticed similarities in his patients prone to heart disease.  It wasn’t just the obvious like diet or exercise, but how they led their lives.  These patients demonstrated:

“A particular complex of personality traits, including excessive competition drive, aggressiveness, impatience, and a harrying sense of time urgency. Individuals displaying this pattern seem to be engaged in a chronic, ceaseless, and often fruitless struggle — with themselves, with others, with circumstances, with time, sometimes with life itself.”

These people had a vastly increased chance of developing heart disease than other people – even people who had the same physical characteristics, exercise regimens, diets, and genetic histories.  Trying to figure out how he wanted to categorize this group and present it to the scientific community, he called it ” Type A.”

What this means for you:

It’s true what people have been telling you: you’re gonna give yourself a heart attack if you don’t relax.

Find some time to take a deep breath, sit down to a cup of coffee and chat with a friend, or consciously fight the urge to drive to work like a crazed axe murderer.

14 – Unmotivated? Don’t go to Youtube for Motivational Videos. Do This Instead

Daniel Pink in his book Drive sought to figure out what truly motivates people.  He wanted to re-assess the age old belief that if you want more of a behavior, you reward it. If you want less of a behavior, you punish it. The old carrot and stick method you use to train your pet dog.

He ended up finding out that “carrot and sticks” only work when a task is extremely boring and straightforward. Like data entry. Caveman work.

But in virtually every other task, extrinsically motivating people with rewards, like money, almost always decreases their performance long-term.

So what about motivation?  Pink found that three things are the essence of motivation:

  1. Autonomy – behaving with a full sense of volition and choice (“I want to be doing this”)
    1. Develop autonomy by choosing what task, when you want to do it, how you do it, and who you do it with
  2. Mastery - the desire to get better and better at something that matters
    1. A study of 11,000 industrial scientists and engineers working at companies in the United States found that the desire for intellectual challenge (the desire to master something new and interesting) was the best predictor of productivity.
  3. Purpose – Why are you doing what you do? It’s infinitely more powerful than asking what you do.
    1. Why are you doing what you’re doing?  Are you getting healthy because you want to look good for a family reunion, or are you doing it because you don’t want to die an early death and want to see your kids grow up? The why is powerful.

What this means for you:

Instead of constantly trying to motivate yourself watching fitness transformations online — find your why. Why are you doing this? Deep down, what’s the reason? Find something important.

And then when you implement it — make sure it has the three principles mentioned above: Autonomy, Mastery & Purpose.

15 – Life-Long Couch Potato? It’s Never Too Late…

A Swedish study done in 2009 found that beginning regular activity at 50 can save your life.  The study kept track of 2,205 men for more than 20 years beginning at age 50. The men were divided into two groups based on exercise levels.

Initially, 5 years in, death rates were lowest among the guys that exercised. However, some men only started exercising between the age of 50 and 60 — and after 10 years of consistent exercise, their death rates were as low as the guys who exercised the entire time.

The effect was as pronounced as quitting smoking.

What this means for you:

Don’t use the cop out “it’s too late” for anything. Starting now will make a difference.

Another cool story: T.T. Liang, a famous tai chi instructor, was a gangster who was involved in drugs, prostitution and the underworld lifestyle. Around his mid 40′s he contracted an STD from his sketchy sexual activity and also contracted tuberculosis.

He started practicing Tai Chi (because not much else was working), and after a few years his tuberculosis went into remission. Despite the fact that his organs were shot from constant drug use and other diseases, his daily practice of tai chi helped him to live past the age of 100. It’s truly never too late.

16 – Want to Stick to a New Diet, Get Your Kid to do His Homework, or Try to Get Your Employees to Work Harder? Don’t Use Incentives

You might not want to use incentives (especially financial) if you want someone to change their behavior long-term.

Think about it like this: the longer that you pay your kid to take out the trash and to do his chores, the less intrinsically motivated he becomes in the long run — and the more he requires that reward to keep doing it.

In 2009, scholars at the London School of Economics analyzed fifty one studies of corporate pay-for-performance plans. Their conclusion? “We find that financial incentives… can result in a negative impact on overall performance.”

People become more engaged in the short term, but long-term this has been shown to destroy intrinsic motivation. Higher incentives lead to worse performance long-term.

What this means for you:

If you want to stick with a diet long-term, don’t keep telling yourself “okay, just get through this workout and you can eat the cookie.” You’re only going to keep relying on the cookie more and more as time goes along.  No cookie, no workout.

Want your kid to start doing sports or something physical? Rather than saying “You can have a sleepover this week if you go to soccer practice,” find a sport the kid actually likes. Otherwise you’ll be stuck in the same situation every parent is – bribing, cajoling, or manhandling your kid into going.

Are you the boss? Tired of lazy ass employees that are just soaking up a paycheck and investing the least-amount-of-time-possible? Rather than offering them increased pay, offer them increased work perks, like:

- More freedom (Work from home)

- Less pressure (Results Only Work Environment [ROWE]) – “No checking in or out. Just get the work done.”

- Total autonomy in their projects — “Here’s the project, figure out how to solve it. I won’t be hovering over you.”

17 – There’s no Compelling Evidence to Show That Small, Sustained Changes in Calorie Intake Will Produce Long-Term Weight Loss

 

Remember that saying a few years back? Just reduce your calories by 500 a day and you’ll lose “XYZ” weight in “XYZ” amount of time.

As it turns out, the New England Journal of Medicine briefly spoke about how this “model” (which is 50 years old), was derived from short-term experiments that were A. Short term and B. Performed on men on diets of <800 calories a day.  In reality, there is a whole host of compensatory changes that will occur (you will naturally change your energy expenditure, for example), which completely skew the long-term effects.

The original study suggested that a person walking 1 mile per day (and thus burning 100 calories), will lose more than 50 lbs over a period of 5 years. But when tested, it came out around 10 pounds.

What this means for you:

Don’t give up your afternoon coffee thinking you’ll lose weight down the road. You’re better off going for big wins and switching to the right foods that will produce sustained weight loss.

18 – The More You Chase “Happiness” the Harder it is to Find

Research presented in Psychology Today gave us a somewhat obvious finding:  when you don’t focus on happiness (and instead, just do things you enjoy) happiness comes as a positive side effect.

“Happiness doesn’t have to be the be-all, end-all, argues Todd Kashdan, a psychologist at George Mason University. What about curiosity or a sense of purpose? “Trying to make happiness your objective in life is problematic,” Kashdan says. Your mood can be thrown off by the weather, circadian rhythms, and other external factors, but you can pursue your passions, for example, which gives you the power to boost your long-term well-being.”

What this means for you:

If you’re unhappy day to day and are stuck reading 355 Ways to Find Happiness, you’re better off simply doing activities you enjoy, and hanging out with groups you feel “at home” in.  Happiness will come by itself.

Sometimes it sounds counter intuitive — it’s lost, so we should look for it. But there’s plenty of research showing that searching for happiness (like success) is the absolute worst way to find it. Rather, they are natural side-effects.

19 – Think You’ll Lose Weight by Exercising And Not Changing Your Diet? Think Again

Zen Stones

If you’re thinking you can “just burn it off” after eating crappy food, you’re in for a rude awakening.

A 2009 study in the British Journal of Sports medicine had overweight people on a 12 week exercise regime (5x a week) without changing their diet.

The results? They lost about 5 pounds — however, 26/58 of the participants only showed an average weight loss of about 2 pounds. That’s more than 50% of the participants! (3 months of working out for 2 pounds lost?!)

Just from a practical perspective, let’s say you eat a cookie that is 100 calories.  What if you wanted to exercise and burn it off? A 200 pound guy at moderate intensity on a stairmaster would need to workout for 10-15 mutes. What about 250 calories of a soft drink?  40+ minutes.

There’s the other thing too: exercising increases your appetite.

What this means for you:

This is all the long way of saying what I often tell our readers: your diet is 80% of your success. Whether you want to gain muscle or lose weight (or both), place way more emphasis on the proper foods.

20 – Chronic Constipation or Have IBS?  Don’t Increase Your Fiber – Reduce it.

This one I ended up figuring out through a lot of years of experimentation, but there is ample research backing it up.

For those of you who are chronically constipated — IBS suffers, people with crappy diets, or other “unknown” folks, please pay attention!

Reducing your fiber will dramatically reduce your symptoms and get the… ahem… good stuff going.

A 2012 study showed that stopping or reducing dietary fiber intake reduces constipation and it’s associated symptoms.

People who reduced their fiber completely went from having 1 bowel movement every 3.75 days, to one bowel movement every day.

People who reduced their fiber intake a bit went from having 1 bowel movement ever 4.19 days, to one bowel movement every 1.9 days.

I also unfortunately have a lot of personal experience (And can verify that this has saved my life).

P.S. Low fiber diets won’t make you constipated either. 

What this means for you:

If you have IBS, or are chronically constipated, slowly reduce the amount of fiber in your diet. The easiest way to do this is to remove grains and refined flours.

For those of you normal folks who are blessed with a clockwork #2 schedule, increasing fiber will increase bowel movements. Consider yourselves blessed.

21 – Suffering From Chronic Knee Pain? Work on That Brazilian Booty (It’ll Fix it, For Good)

Another little tip I learned from experience fixing chronic pain: if you want to eliminate chronic knee pain work your butt out.

I had chronic knee pain for 5+ years. It actually started when I finally started becoming more active in my late teens and early 20s. I got into weight lifting and into martial arts, and having been an extremely sedentary guy before, it was apparently a huge shift for my body.

In any case, I had a lot of knee pain.

I’m also a pretty curious dude – so I spent hours researching anatomy and physiology to try and figure this crap out.

The one thing that made the difference? Working my butt out. As it turns out, your butt muscles (particularly the gluteus medius/maximus) are the main external rotators of your femur. Basically they keep the top part of your leg properly aligned. But the problem is that almost all of us have weak butt muscles because we sit all day — they are literally being stretched all day.

Unsurprisingly, in a study of female runners who had knee pain, the women with the most knee pain had the lowest gluteal activation.

What this means for you:

If you have chronic knee pain, start doing lunges and squats. They will actually save your knees. I will write a very in-depth, how-to guide soon, so stay tuned.

22 – Low Energy Throughout the Day? 3 Things You Should be Doing

Apparently low energy is the #1 reason people go to purchase supplements.  There are a few key ways to maintain energy during the day.

1. Eat more protein. Carbohydrates give steeper energy boosts and then energy crashes. Protein and fat will keep you energy stable throughout the day. So instead of grabbing some bread or a cliff bar for a snack, eat nuts or be a caveman and eat a turkey leg.

2. Eat breakfast. It will help get some glucose in your system (that your brain needs) and has been shown to improve performance and help with alertness.

3. See #4 – turn off backlit devices earlier in the day. If you’re messing up your sleep cycle by using lots of backlit devices, you’re also probably having a hard time waking up.

What this means for you:

There are some obvious things, like getting enough sleep, that impact energy. But there are also some less obvious things like what foods you should be eating. And there are some way less obvious things, like not staring into a computer screen until midnight, that will help regulate your energy during the day.

23 – Chronic Procrastinator? Telling Yourself “You Just Need to Figure it Out” or You’ll “Do it Later?” You’re Also More Likely to be Poor, Fat, And Unhappy

Apparently, procrastination is on the rise. Thank you modern society.

According to the study, the average “self-score” of procrastination has risen 39%.

Guess what the researchers said the biggest factor was in procrastinating? Temptation. How many distractions there are around you.

And that’s exactly why it’s getting worse.

“It’s easier to procrastinate now than ever before. We have so many more temptations,” the researcher said. “It’s never been harder to be self-disciplined in all of history than it is now.”

What this means for you:

It’s the bitter truth.  Turn off the tv. Turn off your iphone. Turn off your computer. Go into isolation and Get. Shit. Done.

24 – Want to Change Any Good/Bad Habit? Just Floss One Tooth.

In Charles Duhigg’s book The Power of Habits, he mentions one Dentist’s strategic move to get his patients to actually floss.

“Just floss one tooth.” He told them.

It worked. They developed the habit of just flossing one tooth, which became pretty automatic after a few weeks.  Flossing 20-30 teeth from day 1 violates the first rule of habit change… don’t do too much at once or you’ll guaranteed fail. It’s like 99% of people making New Years resolutions.

How many people are in the gym by March? Maybe less than 50%.  How many are still exercising by August? Maybe  1%.

What this means for you:

Whatever the habit is: not procrastinating, cleaning up after yourself, keeping a clean car — remember this: Just floss one tooth.

The dentist later had the person add another tooth, and then another, and gradually it included the entire mouth.

25 – How You View Your Job, Regardless of What Job You Have, is The Most Important Indicator of Job Satisfaction

A study done in 1997 looked at three groups of people in regard to how they viewed their work:

A) Work is a job. It’s something I do for financial reasons and is not really that enjoyable.

B) Work is a career. I’m focusing on advancing myself and getting to the next level.

C) Work is a calling. I’m focusing on how fulfilling this work is and how much it contributes to the world.

You know what the most interesting finding here was? There were doctors who viewed their work as a job. And there were doctors who viewed their work as a calling. There were also janitors who viewed their work as a calling, and others who viewed it as a job.

The only important thing to remember? Those who viewed their work as calling had incredibly higher rates of job satisfaction as well as life satisfaction, and often wouldn’t change anything.

The kicker? It was all a choice as to how they viewed their jobs.

What this means for you:

A famous writer once wrote (paraphrased): The most important revelation of the 20th century is that, just by changing our thoughts, we can dramatically improve the quality of our lives.

‘Nuff said.

26 – Low Testosterone? Leave Your Cellphone at Home

I was first curious about the cell phone / testosterone relationship when I heard Tim Ferriss do an experiment where he removed his cell from his pocket for a month and then tested his T levels.  There was a marked, noticeable change.

One study sought to understand how regular exposure to cell phones and “base stations” affect the human hormone system.

The conclusion? “Significant decreases in volunteers’ ACTH, cortisol, thyroid hormones, prolactin for young females, and testosterone levels.”

Another study showed that cell phone use negatively affects male sperm quality (markedly). 

And yet another study showed reduced serum testosterone in rats.

What this means for you:

I have yet to find a study showing more specifics on the phone usage numbers/where it was carried, etc. But for those of you with Testosterone issues, aside from the obvious ways to boost it (lift weights & eat the proper foods), you might not want to carry your phone around with you.

What on Earth Does All of This Mean for You?

I just gave you 26 things that may or may not cause you to think about how you live your life.  What in the hell should you take away from it?

There are a couple key trends:

The way 99% of humanity thinks is usually wrong. Assumptions that people have about diet, fitness, health, longevity, and psychology often “sound good” and logical until they’re tested.  If you’re trying to do something effectively, whether it’s parenting, exercise, or “improve your happiness,” don’t listen to your friends or Oprah magazine. They usually get it wrong. Start testing.

You can always change. Science has this bizarre way of yo-yo-ing with stupid back and forth studies. First the scientists say “your genes control everything.” Then some guy who was skinny his entire life becomes a bodybuilder and scientists say “Okay, so maybe you have some control over your genes.” You can always change, and no matter what change you want to make, there’s a systematic way to get there.

The key to succeeding in virtually everything lies in habits, not in willpower.  There were a few instances where I wrote about habits in this post. In my experience, and in my own observations, habits are the essence and foundation of life. If you want to be happier, more fit, or successful – the key doesn’t lie in grueling bouts of forced activity, but in creating minute habits that grow over time.

For more in-depth articles and info, get on the mailing list below.

– Alex

Images: Water , Mirror Tattoo Guy, Coffee Smiling Cup, Tea Set , Motivation , Money French Fries, Clover, Bluberries, Seagulls, Meditating Sunset, Couch Potato, Eggs , Light Show, Brazilian Butt, procrastination, sandwich, lego

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3 comments… add one

  1. Hello, I am the creator & © Copyright owner of the photo you are using for your #19 with the fire.
    I was never notified of it’s use here, nor gave permission.
    I have no real issue with you using it, but do require a link back to my URL for it’s proper use and it’s customary to ask first.
    Please either add a photo credit with link back to http://www.jeffwickliffe.com or remove the image.

    Thank you.

    Jeff

    Reply
    1. Hi Jeff!

      Apologies for that, must not have been searching in the creative commons on flickr. You should be all set – thanks for letting me know.

      Best,
      Alexander

      Reply
  2. I always look at this every couple months. Hope its always here

    Reply

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