Would an instruction manual make better sleepers of us all?

Monday, 25 May, 2015

Instructions for falling asleep, because sometimes I think we all need a refresher on the topic. So, no smartphones or tablets after lights out, that’s one step for ensuring a good night’s sleep.

Not a big problem for me though. What I really need is to shut off the flow of thoughts and ideas that churn through my mind. But moving on.

Here’s one for people who feel they fall into the insomnia category, don’t sweat the potential loss of sleep, just lie back, relax, and let sleep happen. Probably easier to say than do, but perhaps there’s something in it:

But sleeping better is not just about those presleep moments, the “falling” part. It requires a certain degree of daylong mental and physical discipline. Above all, beware the psychology of insomnia, which Winter describes as a self-¬≠perception problem of this sort: “Ed from accounting is the tall guy, Joanne is the cute girl, and I’m the one who does not sleep.” Sleep is not a bus stop; if your 10 p.m. bedtime passes by and you’re still awake, don’t fret. Trust that sleep – an innate physiological need, like hunger and thirst – will come. No one, especially children, should be given the impression that they are “bad sleepers,” Winter says.

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Together we’ll break the stigma of doing things alone

Monday, 25 May, 2015

Back in the day when I used to write far more film reviews than I do now, I’d often be going along to the movies by myself. Often these would be morning, mid week screenings, and numerous times I’d just about be the only person in the auditorium, but I’d still make sure my notepad and pen were prominently visible.

After a time though, I became less concerned by the apparent stigma of being alone at the movies, even it were for work purposes. Even so, it’s still unlikely that you’d see me at the movies on Friday or Saturday nights, alone. Any other day, any other time, no problem.

But that’s where I might be letting the team down. You see, if more people did more things by themselves, such as going to a film solo, the easier it becomes for everyone else to do likewise. Put another way, it’s better to go and do something, even if that means doing so alone, rather than staying home potentially doing nothing.

But the best way to get rid of the stigma of doing things in public alone is probably for people to just start doing it more. “We need the norms to shift a little. We need for people to think it’s a gutsy cool thing to have fun on our own,” said Ratner. “Someone needs to start the new trend.”

And regarding film screenings in empty auditoriums, and why bother showing them if no one’s there, the cinemas are obliged to feature a movie as advertised, regardless of how many people are, or aren’t, seeing it. I have it on good authority that film distributors actually go around at random to make sure that’s happening.

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Distracted for enlightenment’s sake, thanks to our smartphones

Thursday, 21 May, 2015

So all those people on buses, trains, at cafes, walking in the park, and in queues at the supermarket, gazing at the screens of their smartphones, are not so much doing so because their device makes for a distraction, but because they are seeking information, or knowledge, of some sort at least.

Others may prefer to call it the pursuit of enlightenment, and it’s something we can only do when we’re by ourselves, usually, or some of the time at least, and that therefore serves as justification enough for choosing to stare at a smartphone screen while supposedly isolated.

Even if we are surrounded by people, some of who may not even be strangers. That’s the persuit of enlightenment, by way of a smartphone. Yes, that sounds pretty good to me.

In The World Beyond Your Head, he explores how we got to what he calls a “crisis of attention”. His starting onslaught is no less challenging a task than an assault on the “Enlightenment self”, because, it seems, it is the isolated self that permits distraction. Immanuel Kant is frequently taken to be the epitome of the 18th-century philosophical Enlightenment, and Crawford blames him for constructing its notion of the self as an isolated being for whom true knowledge can arise only from solo enquiry.

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Completing the purity test is a test in itself

Friday, 15 May, 2015

Here’s a blast from the past… The Unisex, Omnisexual Purity Test, something I remember taking, or beginning to take, in 1999. I don’t know how many people would have completed the test, given it consists of five hundred questions, but it likely gets right to the core of one’s modesty when that happens.

There is now a slightly easier to take version of the test. In the late 1990s we had to record our answers on paper. Paper? Talk about cruising the electronic frontier that was the information superhighway, hey?

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There’s definitely no logic to bathroom behaviour

Thursday, 14 May, 2015

Even though it is probably not recommended meal time reading, this sort of information has to be useful to someone, why else go to the bother of collecting it? I refer to this research into the… bathroom habits, antics, tics, and much more, of people.

Stalls become a temporary hideout. According to a classic paper about bathroom rituals, bathroomgoers “may lay claim to any unoccupied stall in the bathroom,” but “once such a claim is laid, once the door to the stall is closed, it is transformed into the occupying individual’s private, albeit temporary, retreat.’ Talking across stalls is a definite no-no – unless you’re female, in which case, according to these authors, it acts as a confessional in a sacred place.

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Peter Thiel and living as if today will last forever

Wednesday, 13 May, 2015

Live every day as though it’s your last… it’s certainly sage advice, but is far easier to say than it is to follow through on. US entrepreneur and venture capitalist Peter Thiel, has another idea, live every day as though it’s going to go on forever, one that makes more sense, I think:

People always say you should live every day as though it’s your last. I sort of have taken the opposite tack, where I think you should live every day as though it’s going to go on forever. You should treat people like you’re going to see them again in the future. You should start working on projects that may take a long time. And so I want to live every day as though it’s going to go on forever.

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Change your password, change your life, boost your productivity

Wednesday, 13 May, 2015

If you work somewhere that requires you to change your passwords on a regular basis, say monthly, and stipulates the new code not too closely resemble the previous, and consist of letters, including one in uppercase, numbers, and special characters, you may find yourself sapped for inspiration after a time.

Why not then devise a password based upon a goal you are trying to achieve, as Mauricio Estrella, a creative director and designer, did… talk about killing two birds with one stone:

One month later, my dear exchange server asked me again to renew my password. I thought about the next thing I had to get done. My password became Quit@smoking4ever. And guess what happened. I’m not kidding you. I quit smoking overnight. I have a ton of witnesses who could not believe how I did it. I had tried books, e-cigarettes, patches, etc. Nothing worked, but this one trick did.

Thanks Christine.

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You can go to your own funeral, even be late to it… for a price

Monday, 11 May, 2015

Simulating one’s own death, together with a funeral, and burial or cremation, seems to be a somewhat popular undertaking, no pun intended, in some parts of Asia, with participants prepared to pay out thousands of dollars to partake of the… experience:

Another venue called Lingxin, located in Shanghai’s Putuo District, began offering its own experiences last April, in which patients participate in a slightly more rigorous iteration of the Korean Coffin Academy. According to the Chinese newspaper the Global Times, at Lingxin, clients may pay upwards of $4,000 for treatments in which they walk through rooms where videos are projected on the walls, disembodied voices reminding their audience of the insignificance of material possessions. They’ll also experience intense day-long meditation and counseling sessions, fake burials, and writing their own epitaphs.

Rather than just for seeing what it’s all like, some practitioners of these experiences also hope that people will gain a greater appreciation of dying and death, and of life as well.

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A suit may suit my way of thinking but wearing one doesn’t suit me

Friday, 8 May, 2015

“Putting on formal clothes makes us feel powerful, and that changes the basic way we see the world”, says a recent study into the topic. Perhaps I ought to wear my suits more often? But here’s what did surprise me. Suit wearing encourages people to think more abstractly, as opposed to concretely.

Well, I’m all for abstract thinking, but I didn’t think in a million years, that a suit would inspire such thought processes. Abstract processing is also useful for dealing with harsh on the job criticism, and making certain financial decisions.

That said, at work, when some have to wear suits, there are some specific implications when attire flicks on abstract processing. “If you get a stinging piece of critical feedback at work, if you think about it with a concrete processing style, it’s more likely to negatively impact your self-esteem,” says Michael Slepian, another one of the paper’s authors and a professor of management at Columbia Business School. Slepian added that thinking about money with an abstract processing style might lead one to skip impulsive purchases in favor of smarter, long-term savings behaviors.

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Most people are not mind readers. Most people forget this

Thursday, 7 May, 2015

Frequently we fail to articulate our thoughts fully enough, or sometimes even just merely outline them, in the belief that others already know what we’re thinking, or what we want. How’s that meant to work anyway?

It’s something called the “the transparency illusion”, and it means many of us do not realise we are not making ourselves as understood as we thought we were, says US psychologist Heidi Grant Halvorson.

Most of the time, Halvorson says, people don’t realize they are not coming across the way they think they are. “If I ask you,” Halvorson told me, “about how you see yourself – what traits you would say describe you – and I ask someone who knows you well to list your traits, the correlation between what you say and what your friend says will be somewhere between 0.2 and 0.5. There’s a big gap between how other people see us and how we see ourselves.” This gap arises, as Halvorson explains in her book, from some quirks of human psychology. First, most people suffer from what psychologists call “the transparency illusion” – the belief that what they feel, desire, and intend is crystal clear to others, even though they have done very little to communicate clearly what is going on inside their minds.

Over do the communication is one solution. At least others will understand you far better that way. And people who communicate clearly tend to be generally happier as a result.

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