I find listening to music a great help when it comes to meeting deadlines, so it stands to reason – wouldn’t you think – that the same music can prompt athletes, or those undertaking demanding exercise, to push themselves:
Intense, highly demanding exercise has many health benefits and one signal drawback. It can be physically unpleasant, which deters many people from beginning or sticking with an intense exercise program. An encouraging new study, however, suggests that listening to music makes strenuous workouts feel easier and may nudge people into pushing themselves harder than they had thought possible.
Might it be possible to slow down ageing by way of a… live-in placebo of sorts? I heard of this story sometime ago, but in 1981 eight men, aged in their 70s, spent five days living in surrounds converted to convey the impression that it was 1959.
At the end of their stay, the men were tested again. On several measures, they outperformed a control group that came earlier to the monastery but didn’t imagine themselves back into the skin of their younger selves, though they were encouraged to reminisce. They were suppler, showed greater manual dexterity and sat taller – just as Langer had guessed. Perhaps most improbable, their sight improved. Independent judges said they looked younger. The experimental subjects, Langer told me, had “put their mind in an earlier time,” and their bodies went along for the ride.
In addition to living twenty years in the past, it seems giving up soft drink may also be a good idea, when it comes to slowing down ageing.
In brief: For many (although not for everyone), the caffeine in coffee stimulates muscles in the colon causing peristalsis, the contraction and relaxation of intestinal muscles that causes bowel movements. For those who suffer from workplace bathroom anxiety (I count myself among them), the morning cup of coffee is a strange ritual that begins with pleasure and then devolves into shame, anxiety, and fear. The gut- and sphincter-clenching, nerve-wracking need to finish one’s personal business before someone else enters the bathroom, the obsession with one’s shoes being recognized, irrational fear that our coworkers will giggle and whisper or worse, pointing and laughing.
Then there were the depictions of a young woman, who worked at a fast food restaurant, being sexually assaulted, and the blind adherence by her manager to various instructions being issued by a man on the telephone, claiming to be a police officer.
To make matters worse, it transpired that the man was behind no fewer than seventy similar such incidents, usually targeting US fast food industry workers. In other words, no one had realised he was a serial perpetrator, and tried to issue any sort of warnings about his behaviour, or so it would seem.
Curmudgeons may not be the most popular of people, but they have a way of getting what they want. They’re also not half bad at honing in on the smaller details that other people, those usually in a more positive frame of mind, tend to miss.
Feisty personalities, although unpleasant, can be tremendously effective. The psychological agility we’re advocating here would expand your repertoire to give you access to the tougher, more direct, and sometimes more effective approach. You’re probably avoiding this strategy because you think that being negative is, well, negative. You may think that aggressive, hostile, or downright mean people are generally jerks and you don’t want to run with that crowd. The good news is that a whole range of negativity – of beneficial negativity, mind you – has nothing to do with being a jerk.
It happens too often, we agonise over a decision, and then tear our hair out when it becomes apparent we chose the wrong course of action. It could be then that looking into a mirror should be part of the decision making process… seemingly the larger the pupils of our eyes at such a time, the more likely it is we are making the wrong choice.
This is because pupil size is a measure of a person’s arousal: the more aroused they are feeling, the wider their pupils are and the worse they perform on the test. As with many things in life, the ideal level of arousal for most tasks is somewhere in the middle: when people’s arousal levels are low they are bored and when they are too high, they can’t concentrate.
There’s nothing worse, this I know from years of trials and tribulations, than arriving too early, or for that matter, too late, to a party. So, what’s the happy balance in this regard? For an average size sort of gathering, arriving around seventy minutes late, seems to be about right:
The median number of guests at each party was 23 people. When we look at parties with 23 or fewer attendees, the median arrival time – that is, when the middle person showed up at the party – was 29 minutes late. For parties of 25 or more – your ragers, throw-downs, events with a keg – the median arrival time was 70 minutes after the designated start time.
The size of the gathering makes a difference though, the smaller the bash, the more promptly you should arrive.
It may come as some comfort to those of us who are not billionaires, that life as a billionaire is not always beer and skittles, or caviar and private jets, as the case may be. In fact, life for the super well off may very much be caviar and private jets, but it is often devoid of some of the simpler pleasures, and that it seems, can be a drawback. Apparently.
“Mark Zuckerberg will never get to bum around a foreign country,” Graham writes. “He can do other things most people can’t, like charter jets to fly him to foreign countries. But success has taken a lot of the serendipity out of his life.”
Hard work aside, is our success, be it personal or professional, out of our hands? Does it come down to luck, or to the people we know? The part of the world where we live, seemingly, looks to hold some sway in this regard:
People in developing economies were far more likely to say that “having a good education” and “working hard” were 10/10 in terms of importance. That appears to be something of a paradox, since many respondents in those same countries also claimed that “giving bribes” and “being lucky” were very important. Although people in wealthy countries also think diligence and education are important, a smaller share of respondents gave those factors top marks in determining their lives.