Growing With the Seasons

Life is lived in phases and your personality shifts with the seasons.

During the Spring and Summer seasons, you might find that you go out more and socialise more often, or that you exercise a lot more, and that you travel quite a bit.

During the Autumn and Winter months, you might notice that you tend to read more and immerse yourself in other, more introverted activities.

The changing seasons bring out different aspects of your personality and it would be wise to appreciate and honour these changes.

Now that we’re in the thick of Autumn, many people may be going into monk mode or nerd mode, delving into more introverted activities.

And that’s absolutely fine, in fact I’m going through something similar myself.

Think of Autumn and Winter as a time where you gather energy for the future Spring and Summer months where you will expend this energy.

And with the blossoming of trees with the beginning of spring, you too will blossom.

Here’s a video by Elliot Hulse that captures this idea:

Periods of immersion and periods of maintenance

As your personality and energy level shift through the seasons, you’ll also be alternating between periods of immersion and periods of maintenance.

In the Summer, you’ll be expending energy on outdoor-type activities such as exercise, social gatherings, travelling. It’s likely that these areas of life will be the areas you’ll be devoting significant attention to, that you’ll be immersed in. This is a period of immersion.

With total immersion to focus on your own tangible goals comes a certain short term sacrifice. After all, you’re investing your time and attention and focus into one area while decreasing all of the above in a different area.

The way I see it though is that if you invest your time into, say, travel, you’re raising your value so that when you’re in the mood to start partying and hanging out with friends, you’ll have a suitcase full of memories and stories to tell.

On the flip side, activities like reading may be put on hold, and though you might not be reading consistently, you won’t totally give it up and will maintain that area of life every now and then.  This is a period of maintenance.

Whatever season it may be or whatever phase of life you may be in, enjoy the phase you are currently going through.

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Mood Follows Action – How to Fake it Until You Make It

Imagine you’re in a funk, going through a slump, having a lazy day.

And for the life of you you can’t be bothered to do anything.

Ultra-endurance Athlete and author of “Finding Ultra” Rich Roll highlights that the common default mental position is to let a slump pass and just wait until you feel better.

But what Rich advocates is to take action in spite of how you feel.

So how do you shift how you feel about a scenario?

1.Take action in contrast to that feeling.

Be cognisant of the temporary nature of your current emotional state and realise that it is merely a ‘feeling’.

It is merely a feeling that can be easily reverse-engineered into something else.

Mood follows action. By taking action in contrast to that feeling is how you shift how you feel about a scenario.

And your brain will rise to the occasion.

2. Show up, especially when you’re uninspired

Even when you’re not feeling productive and can’t be bothered to do any work or if you’re feeling unmotivated to go to the gym for a workout – just go.

Just show up.

As Woody Allen once famously put it:

“Eighty percent of success is showing up.”

Just by showing up, you’re putting yourself into a productive, motivated mood.

Because even if you go to the gym while uninspired, the context of the gym itself will inspire motivation in you.

This ties in with pre-game rituals, like putting on your gym clothes before going to the gym just to summon that motivation to go.

A prime example of this is Scott Adams, author of the Dilbert cartoon-strip, who puts on his gym clothes before leaving his house, getting inside his car, and driving off to the gym for his workout.

It gets him in the zone. I talk about these concepts in an earlier post.

3. Improve your posture, change your breathing

By improving your posture, you can actually breathe better.

How?

Simply because your lungs are no longer pressing onto your diaphragm once you straighten up.

Why is it important to breathe better?

Strongman and Youtuber Elliot Hulse puts it this way:

“Breathing is the stimulation, both energetically and physically, of the intelligence in your unconscious, in your body, in your viscera.”

Elliot says that when you posture yourself like someone who feels good about themselves, you drive specific stimulation into the nervous system, and the nervous system immediately relays this to the brain.

It is an immediate feedback loop between body and mind.

In fact, Harvard researcher Amy Cuddy has shown that if you strike a V-pose, you can increase your testosterone levels by 20% and decreases your stress hormone levels just in 2 minutes.

Posture and depression

If you’re feeling a bit down, your body will follow and start slouching.

Feeling down or depressed isn’t just a mental thing, it’s physical as well.

In other words, depression has an embodied element to it.

This is also why if you’re having a crappy day, you should find some reason to smile.

It actually does make you happier.

cartoon_charlie_brown-depressed

There is a lot of science behind this cartoon.

People who experience depression also exhibit characteristic postures and movement that are an integral feature of their depression experience. 

Examples of embodied components of depression include reduced walking speed, smaller amplitude of vertical movements of the upper body, and hunched postures that elicit feelings of depression. 

As professor of Psychology Graham Davey, P.h.D puts it:

“These embodiments are not just reflections of inner feelings, they comprise an integral part of the depression experience because attempts to directly modify these postural features of depression also relieve the experience of depression.” 

This is why exercise is good to combat depression, not only because it chemically alters your brain but also because it eliminates poor postures that contribute to the embodied depression experience. 

We are however we act

What we do influences what we think.

“[W]e are designed to become in reality however we act. We fake it until it becomes real. Our core personality doesn’t change, but we quickly adopt the mannerisms and skills associated with our new status and position.”

-Scott Adams, How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big

A mood is just a mood, forever fluid and changing.

Take charge by acting in spite of how you feel and you will make great strides to changing your mood.

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Social Influence: An Essay (Part 2/2)

So far in part 1 of this essay, we have looked at majority influence of a group on an individual.

However, there are also everyday social influences that occur on an individual level between people.

Most importantly however, these techniques are deliberate forms of social influence, whereas the aforementioned in part 1 were implicit forms.

These everyday influences include: the door in the face technique (e.g. Cialdini et al, 1975), the foot in the door technique (e.g. Dickerson et al 1992), and lowballing (e.g. Cialdini, 1974).

Door-in-the-face

When we consider the door-in-the-face technique, Cialdini et al (1975) illustrated its social influence qualities.

In this experiment, the researchers approached university students with a huge request of whether they would like to chaperone a group of juvenile delinquents to a zoo.

83% denied the offer. However, when the students were asked if they would like to sign up as counselors for minimum of 2 years – no one agreed.

When presented with the follow up ‘zoo offer’, 50% agreed.

This is an example of offering a huge request that will inevitably be declined but will lead to an acceptance of a much smaller request.

Foot-in-the-door

Another form of deliberate social influence is the foot-in-the-door technique, which requires individuals to express a small initial commitment that would influence them to partake in a larger commitment.

Dickerson et al. (1992) showed the effects of this influence in their experiment. In this study, the aim was to investigate if students could be influenced to conserve water in dormitory showers.

The researchers used this technique by approaching students on campus in a US university to sign a poster on conserving water. Those that did, were asked to be surveyed (a survey which was designed to make them think deeply about their water usage).

Then, there shower times were monitored. It was found that those that had committed to both poster signing and survey had shorter showers by 3.5 minutes across all over students.

This study shows how a small request can lead to a larger commitment and is an effective form of deliberate social influence.

Lowballing

A final influence technique is that of lowballing.

Cialdini (1974) demonstrated this technique in a university setting where he asked first year psychology students to volunteer for a study on cognitive and that it would commence at 7am.

24% agreeds to this. In another group, the same proposition was made, but the time wasn’t given. 56% agreed.

However, when the time was then presented to them (that the experiment is at 7am) and were told they could still back out – 95% of the students still appeared for that experiment.

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Social Influence: An Essay (Part 1/2)

In this essay, the definition of social influence will be looked at along with the forms of such influence (incidental and deliberate). Focus will be placed on why people conform (e.g. Deutsch and Gerard, 1955).

Everyday examples of deliberate social influence will be presented in the form of compliance techniques namely the door in the face (e.g. Cialdini et al 1975), foot-in-the-door (e.g. Dickerson et al 1992), and low-balling (Cialdini, 1974).

Then, the various social influences dictated by particular group dynamics will be discussed.

These types of group dynamics can be divided into scenarios where individual psychology is influenced by the group (e.g. majority influences) and scenarios where groups are influenced by individual psychology (e.g. minority influences.)

In the latter case, we can further categorise the influences into group identification (either by cooperation or competition, Tajfel, 1970, or even prejudice, Macrae, 1994)) and majority influence such as conformity (e.g. Sherif, 1936; Asch, 1951) and obedience.

What is social influence?

Social influence pertains to the change of beliefs, attitudes, and values of a person being influenced. This influence is either deliberate (i.e. explicit feedback regarding how to behave) or incidental (i.e. implicit).

The latter type of influence can occur as a function of social norms. Social norms provide insight into why we conform, for example.

These norms inform others of the shared expectations of what a particular group believes desirable behavior is and it is these norms.

Social norms – two types of influence relating to norms

According to Deutsch and Gerard (1955), there are two types of influence relating to the social norms. These norms either serve an informational or normative purpose.

Informational influence is to reduce uncertainty, which leads us to accept information from others as evidence of reality (e.g. Sherif, 1936). Human beings have a desire for a definite answer, which is opposed to ambiguity and confusion.

They strive for cognitive closure (Kruglanski and Webster, 1996) which is characterized by urgency (e.g. attaining cognitive closure as quickly as possible) and permanency (this closure is maintained long-term).

Normative influence reflects the inherent need for social approval. Conformity occurs in order to build strong social relationships with group members.

Transmission of norms

Sherif (1936) conducted an experiment using the autokinetic effect to investigate the effect of conformity to a perceived group norm.

The autokinetic effect is an optical illusion where a fixed pinpoint of light in a completely dark room appears to move due to the eye movements of participants.

In this experiment, participants watched the light alone and estimated verbally how much this light appeared to move. After a number of trials, the participants had developed their own frame of reference with which they adhere to in their estimations.

Later, the experiment continued in groups of 3-4 where participants took turns in estimating how much the point of light moved. They used each other’s frame of reference, with all estimates being roughly the same.

A group norm had formed to which participants had conformed to once it was established.

Interestingly, when the participants were asked to repeat the task alone it was found that social influence of conformity still compelled the participants to based their estimations of the previously established group norm.

Hence, Sherif’s experiment shows how conformity can occur as a function of informational influence (Deutsch and Gerard, 1955) whereby people use the information of others as evidence of reality.

This is done in order to reduce uncertainty as we as humans strive for cognitive closure (Kruglanski and Webster, 1996).

This is due to uncertainty causing discomfort and confusion and humans will strive to reduce this uncertainty by achieving cognitive closure urgently (i.e. as quickly as possible) and permanently (i.e. for extended periods of time).

Conformity as majority influence on a minority in an ambiguous situation

What is the other reason that people conform?

Deutsch and Gerard (1955) suggest that normative influence (i.e. inherent need for social approval) is another reason. This influence compels us to conform due to an inherent need for social approval and group affiliation.

Conformity occurs as a function of building strong social relationships.

Asch (1951) conducted an experiment where majority influence was a factor in inducing normative influence in the form of conformity among individual participants.

In this experiment, 8 participants were gathered to enter a room, of which 7 were confederates. All participants were presented with two white cards.

On one there were three lines differing in length (a, b, and, c) and on the other there was one line which had to be compared with the lines on the card.

Out of 18 trials in the experiment, the confederates were asked to unanimously make a decision in 12 trials.

Over the critical trials, it was found that 75% of individuals agreed at least once and 32% conformed half of the times. This experiment showed the effect of majority influence over a minority.

Majority influence:
group affiliation and cooperation

However, studies have found that social influence occurs due to mere group affiliation and cooperation.

Tajfel (1970) conducted an experiment in which a group of boys that had previously known each other took part in a series of tasks.

The experiment required them to come into the lab and take part on an experiment on visual perception. One of the tasks required them to estimate how many dots there were on a computer screen.

Then, the participants were divided into groups depending on the performance in the visual task. They were segregated into two groups: under- and over-estimators.

Later, the boys assigned real money rewards to the participants with only knowing their group allocation (there was no real name, just a code).

Even though the group allocation was entirely arbitrary, the boys showed inter-group discrimination and in-group favouritism in their rewards.

That is, they gave less and gave more to out-group and in-group participants, respectively.

Majority influence: prejudice

The aforementioned experiment by Tajfel (1970) touches upon an important issue in everyday life and a majority social influence that occupies a curious position in the literature on social influence, namely prejudice.

Prejudice has been exhibited towards the outgroup in Tajfel’s study.

Macrae (1994) conducted a study on prejudice towards out-group as social influence.

In this experiment, participants were presented with an essay task to write about skinheads (this term was chosen for its political incorrectness).

Group 1 was asked to suppress their prejudices whereas group 2 was given no such instructions.

It was found that group 1 expressed fewer prejudicial views in their essays than group 2.

This showed that there was an obedience effect that had caused their suppression.

Interestingly, when the participants were asked to repeat the essay (without instruction), group 1 had experienced a rebound effect and had become significantly more prejudiced.

This study showed that it can be difficult to suppress a prejudicial idea and the attempt may lead to more prejudice.

Stay tuned for part 2 of 2…

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Three Ways to Improve Your Sleep

According to Dr. Mark Hyman, author of The Ultramind Solution, here are his tips on how to improve your sleep:

  1. Avoid stimulants like caffeine, sugar, alcohol, nicotine before bed.
  2. Try to go to bed at the same time everyday, ideally before midnight.
  3. Don’t watch TV or use your phone or laptop two hours before sleep.

Melatonin is a sleep hormone which is excreted by the pituitary gland when it is dark.

This hormone makes you sleepy, especially when you’re chilling in a dimly lit room.

However, if you watch TV or use your phone or laptop, you’re stopping the natural melatonin secretion from happening.

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The Truth About Sauna & Magnesium Supplements

Sauna

Chilling in the sauna is such a beneficial pastime.

It relaxes, detoxifies, and rejuvenates. It works wonders for your skin.

But perhaps most importantly, the sauna can activate two genetic pathways that curtail the stress of ageing, according to Dr. Rhona Patrick, ph.D in biomedical science and expert on nutritional health.

One of these pathways includes heat shock proteins which are activated by heat stress. These proteins decrease the rate of cell degeneration.

Interestingly, the effects of these proteins can extend for up to 2 weeks after going to the sauna.

It also activates a gene called Fox03 which is a gene that creates proteins that protect cells from inflammation and oxidative stress.

What this translates to is this: the more you go to the sauna, the lesser your risk of developing any form of cancer.

Magnesium supplements

It’s interesting how you want to do the best for your health and well-being by taking supplements, but if you’re just blindly taking them, you may as well stop and save yourself the time and effort.

Case in point.

I made the mistake of buying the wrong magnesium not once, but twice.

I’ll tell you where the mistake lies.

Both of my magnesium supplements had Magnesium Oxide (i.e. MgO), which is poorly absorbed by the body.

MgO supplements contain 60% magnesium but they’re less bioavailable and for this reason are poorly absorbed by the body.

On the other hand though, magnesium citrate supplements, which have 15% magnesium, are much more bioavailable that MgO and are a better choice for magnesium supplementation, according to a 1990 study published in the “Journal of the American College of Nutrition.”

Basically, using the better absorbed magnesium citrate is a better bang for your buck than supplementing on MgO.

Magnesium lactate and magnesium chloride are also more bioavailable and hence better absorbed than magnesium oxide.

Just goes to show that with anything, you have to get a deep understanding of what you’re doing and immerse yourself in the subject at hand.

Taking supplements blindly isn’t good enough, you’ll spend your money, spend the time taking them, but if you’re doing it wrong – nothing’s going to come of it.

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Why Caffeine is a Poison

It’s interesting how fruits and flowers have evolved to increase their chances of survival.

You know how roses have thorns at their sides?

Well, it’s a defensive survival mechanism to keep animals from eating them.

And the seeds in apples?

Apparently, just one apple seed has enough toxins in it to kill ants on an exponential scale (harmless for humans, though.)

And coffee beans?

The survival mechanism in coffee beans is caffeine.

To insects, caffeine is poisonous whereas for humans it gives us a nice buzz.

In fact, coffee mimics the same effects as dopamine, which explains that sense of euphoria we’ve come to know and love.

Is caffeine really harmless for us?

I love caffeine but short answer: it can be.

It’s a diuretic which means it flushes out water from your body, along with essential minerals like magnesium. Which is why if you drink too much coffee, you might notice that you’re eye or pinky finger might start twitching.

So replenish that magnesium init. Cause magnesium deficiency prevents your body from making serotonin.

It dehydrates you so replenish that water init.

But also, it causes your body to release stress hormones in your body.

When you ingest caffeine, it stimulates your nervous system in the same way that a lion charging at you to eat you would stimulate your nervous system (just on a smaller scale…)

If you’re an avid coffee-drinker, you might not feel the effects of caffeine but your body definitely does because it’s still producing stress hormones to fuel your body.

Caffeine also contributes to the premature ageing and damaging of the brain if not consumed in moderation.

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