Tag: lifehacking

RIP, Seth Roberts

RIP, Seth Roberts

I am very saddened to learn of Seth Roberts untimely death on April 26th 2014. Unlike many of the people listed below, I did not know Seth personally, that is, I never met him in real life.

Online, however, Seth actually took the time to contact me a couple of months ago when I had cited him in a post recommending honey before bedtime on this blog. He was very interested in knowing more about my experiments, and I found it a great honor that someone as accomplished as him would take the time to contact random strangers with few proven credentials for advice.

Back then, and to this day, this says a lot to me about what kind of person Seth must have been to the people who really knew him.  It is not every day that you meet someone who treats everyone, from every walk of life, equally. I don’t, if I must be completely honest, and I don’t think I have ever met anyone who truly does yet.

But Seth absolutely seemed to me like someone interested in getting to know everyone on equal terms. At least the few email correspondences I had with him leads me to think so.  He was also someone with unconventional ideas about how to hack life. I have experimented with many of his ideas myself, and will continue to live my life in the same vein that I imagine Seth did.

I don’t have a category on my site that matches news like these, so I am putting the post under spirituality. I do this because Seth was, although unknowingly,  a spiritual teacher  of sorts of mine – understood in the sense that to me being spiritual means being able to look outside the box of conventionality. Seth obviously did, and I will spend the rest of my life trying to do so too.

If you do not know who Seth was, take a look at his blog. Although he won’t be able to contribute to our collective knowledge further, his blog as well as his book are still very valuable resources for those interested in self-experimentation and in lifehacking.  I will leave you with links to posts by people who actually knew Seth well. (Borrowed from Tucker Max).

Tucker Max

John Durant

Richard Nikoley

Ryan Holiday

Ben Casnocha

Nassim Taleb

Was this post meaningful to you? If so, I always appreciate comments, likes and shares. Thanks!

‘Insignificant’ changes matter

‘Insignificant’ changes matter

At first I wanted to title this post insignificant improvements matter. Then I thought about how all change matters, also the insignificant deterioration that sometimes happens.

If I come up with an excuse for not meditating one day, I know I’ll be that much more likely to build on that excuse the day after that. So I strive to keep those minor and ‘insignificant ‘ slip-ups from happening too often.

Anyway,  I want to address those seemingly insignificant improvements in what follows. Because the sum of those hundreds and thousands of small positive changes you make will one day add up to very big and significant changes. Changes that you would have never dreamt of happening.

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The mother of all lifehacks: Rewiring your brain

The mother of all lifehacks: Rewiring your brain

The other day it dawned on me that most “self-help” articles have a lot of good advice about what to do in certain situations, but most of the time they never get to explaining the mechanisms behind our behaviours. The brain’s reward system is one of its oldest bits, and its therefore not something we have any control of on a conscious level. 

A warning, though, It’s not something I know a whole lot about myself because I’ve avoided spending the energy and time on it, but I think knowing how the brain’s reward system works will be of great benefit to you for the rest of your life. Here’s a short introduction to the subject.   

Basically, the reward system is responsible for driving our feelings of motivations, rewards and behaviour. You can say that it reinforces certain behaviour. The photo below (taken from Wikipedia) shows how the brain’s reward system releases (transmits rather) dopamine and other neurotransmitters (like endorphins and serotonin) between neurons when we engage in behaviors that we are evolved to respond positively to.

File:Soa 014 large.jpg

Drugs like cocaine, not being “natural” enforcers, will overstimulate the release of dopamine to an extreme degree, which quickly causes tolerance, and thus addiction. Basically, the same thing happens with food and sex etc., just on a level that the brain was better built to handle. Every time you engage in a behaviour that causes the release of dopamine the particular neural pathways associated with the behaviour will strengthen and you’ll crave that stimulation even more.

In modern society we’ve developed a lot of “enhanced” natural (and unnatural) enforcers that we should be aware of are hyperstimulating to our brain’s reward system. Take a cookie. You’d never find something as high on calories, fat, and sugar in the natural world as a cookie, and its therefore easier to become addicted to a cookie than to say a banana. You can say that our brain will make us crave the most the things that’ll stimulate the release of dopamine/other transmitters the most – and as an effect we crave the things that are less stimulating less.  

And the brain doesn’t differentiate between something “natural” and something “unnatural”. This is why movies and television shows work and why (to be stereotypical) men might prefer action movies while women might be more inclined to like romantic comedies. It has a lot to do with our genetic programing (how we were wired from birth) but luckily also with which pathways we have strengthened ourselves during our life so far.  

For example, computer gaming is an example of a hyperstimulant, which is why some of the most hardcore gamers might have difficulty with finding the outside world exciting. If such a person wants to be more outgoing and social he’ll have to quit his gaming habit. To begin with, stopping your compulsive behaviour completely is necessary since you will then regain your ability to find pleasure in other activities, but eventually you might be able to return to doing it on a more casual basis.

Similarly, we are programmed to seek out sexual activity, in the end, in order to reproduce. Of course, we are not consciously walking around thinking ‘oh, I really ought to reproduce’ but the neurotransmitters released during sex are rewards for engaging in sexual behaviour with that being the ultimate end on natures side of things.

Building on what I said about movies before, the brain doesn’t know the difference between the naked girl on your bed and the naked girl in the internet porn video. All it knows is that porn offers a great variety of naked women. During an hour on the internet you can see more naked women that your ancestor could in a lifetime. Porn, therefore, is another hyperstimulant, which is the reason why I decided to quit it entirely.

Gaming, porn, Facebook, the internet in general, sweets, and a bunch of other hyperstimulants will desensitize you to the otherwise great effects of more natural stimulants like bungee-jumping, socializing,  sex, fruit etc. People are not on Facebook all day long because they are lonely, people are lonely because they are on Facebook all day long!

All of this is why I am cutting down on and quitting as many hyperstimulants as possible. If you quit eating cookies (and refined sugars in general) an apple will taste better; if you quit porn you’ll find yourself ten times more attracted to and motivated to approach the women in your surroundings; if you spend less time on Facebook, the internet, watching movies etc you’ll find yourself more inspired to go out and meet new people. And the list goes on with a bunch of other hyperstimulants.

Anyway, that is all for now. Look on this post as an introduction to the subject. I am going to write a lot more posts about it once I’ve researched it more thoroughly. I truly believe understanding the brain’s reward system is the best way to real and lasting changes. I hope you all have a good weekend!

Yours sincerely,

Jacob

Adendum:

While the above is about possible negative effects of hyperstimulants, I’d like to add that understanding the brain’s reward system, even a little bit, has also gotten me to ADD certain “hyperstimulants” to my life. For example, the Philips goLite stimulates the release of the neurotransmitter Serotonin, which is thought to be a general contributor to feelings of well-being and happiness. Release of Serotonin is naturally stimulated by (sun)light but since the winters are long and dark where I live I could be in a lack of Serotonin during that time of year. The goLite is a little “sun” on your desk, and only 15-30 minutes a day has proved very beneficial to me. Anyway, just thought I’d add that there are also many POSITIVE hyperstimulants out there.

How I deal with seasonal affective disorder (SAD)

How I deal with seasonal affective disorder (SAD)

For years I’ve suffered from seasonal affective disorder or SAD for short. Partially because of the short days of winter and partly because of the clouded sky that comes with the season in my neck of the woods (I live in Scandinavia). This year I’ve been affected by SAD once more even though I’ve taken precautions to battle the looming melancholy back in autumn.

One thing I did was to buy the Philips Wake-up-light that I mentioned in the inaugural post. In short it’s an alarm clock that wakes you up with a slowly increasing light instead of a sound alarm as most alarms do. It’s a very gentle, natural way of waking up and the wake-up-light is a good way to make sure you get some light early in the morning.

I liked the Wake-up-light so much that I also went out and bought the Philips Golite blu which is more of a typical SAD light. Two great things about this product are its blue light (the spectrum of light that our body responds to the most) and its portability. I mainly use it at my desk at work but you can basically take it with you everywhere you go.

Another thing that I’ve noticed making a difference in my mood are vitamin pills  and especially fish oil tablets. This is more of a general than a seasonal thing though, at least for me. I don’t eat my pills on an as strict schedule as I would like, however, so making habits out of things like taking your pills is something I will talk about a lot on this blog.

All in all I think my current biggest problem with the winter is the fact that I have to get up and go to work before the sun goes up. It’s not really a natural thing for humans (at least not for me) to be up and about when there is no sunlight outside.

A long-term goal of mine has been to wake up early on a regular basis, like at 5 AM. For reasons that I might go into more in another post, I think this will be a part of the ideal day for me. As I said, however, I hate waking up when it is dark outside.

Therefore I’ve been implementing another rather extreme approach this last couple of weeks of eliminating much of my morning schedule and wake up as close to having to go to work as possible. I have breakfast at work and shower the night before. It’s far from a perfect thing to do but it does help me in that my miserable morning is now so short that it has little chance of affecting my mood for the rest of day.

I am also noting the rising and setting times for the sun throughout January and February. Where I am at our day gets 2-3 minutes longer every day at the moment. January 1st the sun went up at 8.39 AM and February 28th it will rise at 07:03 AM. It’s a fun game and knowing that things will be more to your liking sooner than later makes it easier to live with – I will even say that I am now making sure to get the most out of the dark days now that I know they will soon be gone. Yes, the short days have their advantages as well.

Actually the last thing has probably made the most difference in the way I handle winter. Having schedules, goals and sub-goals make life that much more easy instead of having to wander without a clue of where you are going.