5 Scientific Secrets To Naps That Will Make You Happier And Smarter

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Eric Barker  -  

For many of us, more hours of shut-eye at night just doesn’t seem to be in the cards. Is there anything we can do? Yes.

Naps. Wonderful, glorious naps.

They’re not a full-on substitute for lack of sleep but they can do much more than you think and in less time than you’d guess.

Without them, you’re going to be a mess. Here’s why.

 

Wanna Be Dumb And Ugly?

Lack of sleep not only makes you ugly and sick, it also makes you dumb: missing shut-eye makes 6th graders as smart as 4th graders.

And if that’s not enough, lack of sleep contributes to an early death.

Via Night School:

Starting in the mid-1980s, researchers from University College London spent twenty years examining the relationship between sleep patterns and life expectancy in more than 10,000 British civil servants. The results, published in 2007, revealed that participants who obtained two hours less sleep a night than they required nearly doubled their risk of death.

Maybe you think you don’t need all that much sleep. You’re wrong.

Less than 3% of people are actually 100% on less than 8 hours a night. But you feel fine, you say?

That’s the fascinating thing about chronic sleep debt. Research shows you don’t notice it — even as you keep messing things up.

In her TED talk, Sara Mednick, author of Take a Nap! Change Your Life, gives the rundown:

Now here’s the part you’ve probably never heard:

Eight hours might not even be enough. Give people 10 hours and they perform even better.

Via Power Sleep:

Timothy Roehrs and Thomas Roth at the Sleep Disorders Research Center of the Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, Michigan, have demonstrated that alertness significantly increases when eight-hour sleepers who claim to be well rested get an additional two hours of sleep. Energy, vigilance, and the ability to effectively process information are all enhanced, as are critical thinking skills and creativity.

I know what you’re thinking: 10 hours a night? I don’t have time for that. I barely have time to read this post.

Is there a compromise?

Naps.

Can closing your eyes for a few minutes really make that much of a difference? Keep reading.

 

NASA Says You Should Sleep On The Job

Research shows naps increase performance. NASA found pilots who take a 25 minute nap are 35% more alert and twice as focused.

Via Night School:

Research by NASA revealed that pilots who take a twenty-five-minute nap in the cockpit – hopefully with a co-pilot taking over the controls – are subsequently 35 per cent more alert, and twice as focused, than their non-napping colleagues.

Little siestas helped people across a whole host of measures. Improved reaction time, fewer errors…

NASA found that naps made you smarter — even in the absence of a good night’s sleep.

Via Dreamland: Adventures in the Strange Science of Sleep:

If you can’t get in a full night’s sleep, you can still improve the ability of your brain to synthesize new information by taking a nap. In a study funded by NASA, David Dinges, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania, and a team of researchers found that letting astronauts sleep for as little as fifteen minutes markedly improved their cognitive performance, even when the nap didn’t lead to an increase in alertness or the ability to pay more attention to a boring task.

Study after study has shown naps boost learning.

Via The Little Book of Talent: 52 Tips for Improving Your Skills:

Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, found that napping for ninety minutes improved memory scores by 10 percent, while skipping a nap made them decline by 10 percent. 

And naps make you happier. Studies show we can process negative thoughts quite well when we’re exhausted — just not the happy ones.

Via NurtureShock:

Negative stimuli get processed by the amygdala; positive or neutral memories get processed by the hippocampus. Sleep deprivation hits the hippocampus harder than the amygdala. The result is that sleep-deprived people fail to recall pleasant memories, yet recall gloomy memories just fine.

What’s not to love? I know. You’re busy. You’ll just have another cup of coffee. Sorry, research shows naps beat caffeine.

So how do you nap the right way? How do you get the results you want with minimal effort? Here’s what science says.

 

The Perfect Nap For You

Whatever your limitations and desires, there’s a nap for you. Looking at research from Richard Wiseman and the WSJ, here’s a breakdown.

Which one describes what you need?

1) “I Just Need To Be More Alert And Focused”:

Take a 10-20 minute nap. You’ll get a boost in alertness and focus for 2 hours or more, pay off a little sleep debt and even reduce blood pressure.

2) “Brain No Working. Need Smartz”:

Consider a 60 minute nap. You’ll get all the benefits of the 10-20 minute nap while also improving memory and learning.

But be warned: 60 minute naps cause grogginess.

3) “I Want It All, Baby”:

Take a 90 minute nap. This allows your brain to experience a complete sleep cycle.

You’ll get the full whack: increased alertness, memory, learning, creativity and performance — with no post-nap grogginess.

4) “I Don’t Know What I Want But You’ve Scared Me Into Napping And I Don’t Have Much Time”:

Go with 10 minutes. It beat 5, 20 or 30 minute naps in a comparative research study.

5) “I don’t have enough time to tell you how little time I have”:

No nap is too short: “A 2008 study showed that even a nap of a few minutes provided benefits. Just anticipating a nap lowers blood pressure.”

Got more questions? I have answers:

  • When is the best time to nap? Salk Institute researcher Sara Mednick generally recommends you nap approximately 6-7hrs after waking.
  • Trouble falling asleep? Write down any worries and think positive (but not exciting) thoughts. Trying too hard to sleep is counterproductive.
  • Worried you won’t wake up in time? Richard Wiseman recommends a cup of coffee immediately before napping. The caffeine will kick in 25 minutes after you lay down.

 

Sum Up

We’d all be better off with 10 hours of sleep a night — but that’s not going to happen for most of us.

Naps can boost performance and help make up for some of the problems sleep deprivation can cause.

Learn the sleep secrets of astronauts here and a neuroscientist’s recommendations for the best way to use caffeine here.

In the meantime, see if you can sneak a nap this afternoon. As Groucho Marx once said:

Anything that can’t be done in bed isn’t worth doing at all.

Join 45K+ readers. Get a free weekly update via email here.

Related posts:

4 Things Astronauts Can Teach You About A Good Night’s Sleep

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Too Busy? 7 Ways To Increase Leisure Time, According To Science

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Eric Barker  -  


Feeling overwhelmed? Are you constantly running from thing to thing but never getting it all done?

When researchers survey people, they say they’re too busy — about everything.

Too busy to make friends, date, sleep, have sex, to go on vacation… or  to even have lunch.

Via Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time:

In surveys, people say they’re too busy to make friends outside the office, too busy to date, too busy to sleep, and too busy to have sex. Eight in ten Britons report being too busy to eat dessert, even though four in ten say dessert is better than sex. We’re in such a rush that the typical sound bite for a presidential candidate has been compressed from forty seconds in 1968 to 7.3 seconds in 2000. Remember those unused vacation days? People say they’re too busy to take a vacation and too busy for a lunch break.

“The average high school kid today experiences the same level of anxiety as the average psychiatric patient of the 1950s.”

And being this busy isn’t healthy — in fact, neuroscientists have found it shrinks your brain.

Via Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time:

…the prefrontal cortex. It is the key to human intelligence. In its size and complexity, it is, in short, what distinguishes humans from animals and makes us who we are. And, Ansell says, what she and other neuroscientists are finding is that when a human feels pressed for time, rushed and caught up in the overwhelm, that yellow blob does something alarming: It shrinks.

How did we get here? How did this happen?

I have an answer but it’s going to surprise you and might even make you angry…

It’s all an illusion. You have more free time than you ever did.

Do I sound insane? Keep reading.

 

You’re Not Busy. You Just Feel Busy.

John Robinson is the leading sociologist who studies time use. His colleagues call him “Father Time.”

Looking at time diary studies he shows that globally we all have more leisure time than ever.

Via Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time:

He insists that although most Americans feel they’re working harder than ever, they aren’t. The time diaries he studies show that average hours on the job, not only in the United States but also around the globe, have actually been holding steady or going down in the last forty years. Everybody, he says, has more time for leisure.

So why do we feel like we’re overwhelmed even though we’re not? Partly, it’s because our time is so fragmented.

Switching between checking email, making dinner, watching TV and finishing that report is more mentally draining than doing one at a time.

Via Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time:

“It’s role overload,” she explains. “It’s the constant switching from one role to the next that creates that feeling of time pressure.” When all you’re expected to do is work all day, you work all day in one long stretch, she says. But the days of the mothers she studied were full of starts and stops, which makes time feel more collapsed.

Multitasking is killing us. And the best part?

Multitasking doesn’t even work. It makes us less efficient even though we feel we’re getting more done.

In fact, it makes you dumber — effectively stupider than being drunk or stoned.

Via Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time:

No two tasks done simultaneously, studies have shown, can be done with 100 percent of one’s ability. Driving while talking on the cell phone slows reaction times and awareness to the same degree that driving over the legal alcohol limit does. And the distractions from too many things going on at once hamper the brain’s “spam filter” and the ability to distinguish between relevant and irrelevant information. Or, as one British study found, multitasking makes you stupid— dumber than getting stoned.

Ed Hallowell, former professor at Harvard Medical School and bestselling author of Driven to Distraction, says we have “culturally generated ADD.”

Via CrazyBusy: Overstretched, Overbooked, and About to Snap! Strategies for Handling Your Fast- Paced Life:

Having treated ADD since 1981, I began to see an upsurge in the mid-1990s in the number of people who complained of being chronically inattentive, disorganized, and overbooked. Many came to me wondering if they had ADD. While some did, most did not. Instead, they had what I called a severe case of modern life.

Why do we do this to ourselves? In recent years being busy has become a status symbol.

When you ask anyone what they’ve been up to, what’s always the first word? Busy.

Via Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time:

Psychologists write of treating burned-out clients who can’t shake the notion that the busier you are, the more you are thought of as competent, smart, successful, admired, and even envied.

So what can we do about it? Here are seven things experts recommend:

 

1) Write It All Down

What’s the first step toward killing that overwhelmed feeling?

Do a brain dump and write everything down that’s on your mind. Writing reduces worry and organizes your thoughts.

Via Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time:

“Right now, you need to free up all this energy that’s being consumed by worry.” She told me to take out a piece of paper, set a timer for five minutes, and write furiously about absolutely everything that was bugging me… “If your to-do list lives on paper, your brain doesn’t have to expend energy to keep remembering it,” Monaghan said.

More on the power of a notebook here.

 

2) Prioritize Or Die

Repeat after me: you cannot get it all done. And some things are more important than others.

So you need to prioritize or you will have a clean garage but get fired from your job.

Decide what is important and do that first. Otherwise you may never get to what really matters.

Via CrazyBusy: Overstretched, Overbooked, and About to Snap! Strategies for Handling Your Fast- Paced Life:

At the heart of making the most of life today is the ability to treasure and protect your connections to what you care most about: people, places, activities, pets, a spiritual connection, a piece of music, even objects that are dear to you. But you must not have too many connections or none will flourish. Pick the ones that matter most to you and nourish them religiously; make that your top priority in life, and you can’t go wrong.

More on the power of work/life balance here.

 

3) Make Things Automatic

Things that are habitual don’t tax your willpower. The more activities you make into habits, the less overwhelmed they will make you feel.

Build routines and habits so that you’re not deciding, you’re just doing.

The secret to getting more done is to make things automatic. Decisons exhaust you:

The counterintuitive secret to getting things done is to make them more automatic, so they require less energy.

More on how to build great habits here.

 

4) Work Like An Athlete

We were not designed to go 24/7. We were designed to sprint, rest, sprint — just like an athlete.

You sleep in cycles and your mind naturally works in cycles. Alternate hard work with breaks to be at your best.

Via Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time:

We ignore the signs of fatigue, boredom, and distraction and just power through. But we’re hardly doing our best work. “We’ve lost touch with the value of rest, renewal, recovery, quiet time, and downtime,” Schwartz told me. It’s hardly a wonder, then, with the pressure of long hours, putting in face time, and the constant interruptions of the modern workplace, less than 10 percent of workers say they do their best thinking at work.

More on working like an athlete here.

 

5) Switch To Singletasking

Forget multitasking. That’s what causes the feelings of burnout and it’s not effective.

Discover what your peak hours are and protect them.

Focus on the most important thing of the day. No interruptions, email or calls.

Via Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time:

Terry Monaghan sought to train me to work in pulses. The idea was to chunk my time to minimize the constant multitasking, “role switching,” and toggling back and forth between work and home stuff like a brainless flea on a hot stove. The goal was to create periods of uninterrupted time to concentrate on work— the kind of time I usually found in the middle of the night— during the day.

More on how to use your best hours here.

 

6) Live in OHIO

Not the state. It’s an acronym: Only Handle It Once.

That email you’ve opened sixty times today, unsure of what to do with it? Stop it.

Make a decision. Reply, trash it or set a time to properly deal with it.

Revisiting unimportant things over and over is a huge time and energy thief.

Via CrazyBusy: Overstretched, Overbooked, and About to Snap! Strategies for Handling Your Fast- Paced Life:

OHIO: only handle it once. When it comes to a document or journal or any concrete item, try your best to 1) respond to it right away, 2) put it in a labeled file, not a pile, or 3) throw it away. In the majority of instances, choice “3” is the best.

More on how to be efficient with the onslaught of email here

 

7) Have Leisure Goals

Ironic, right? Most of us think about “leisure” as doing nothing. But that’s a dangerous way to view it.

Research shows we’re happier when we accomplish things (playing tennis with a friend vs. flipping TV channels.)

And given our habits, we’re prone to start checking email and firing up the usual 17 things we multitask on.

So set a goal for leisure. When you have a fun thing to accomplish, you can singletask on relaxing.

Via Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time:

Roger Mannell, a psychologist at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, has directed perhaps the only lab studies of leisure time. His research has found that when people have a sense of choice and control over what they do with their free time, they are more likely to get into flow, that engrossing and timeless state that some call peak human experience. “Part of the problem with leisure is that people aren’t quite sure what they really want. They don’t know what leisure time is for them,” Mannell said. “And they never slow down long enough to figure it out.”

More on how to make your free time more awesome here.

 

Sum Up

Just because the other people at the office are overscheduled and the other parents are doing 1000 things doesn’t mean you need to.

We all only have 1440 minutes a day. Accept you can’t do it all, focus on what’s important and do that well.

We’re all jealous of the people who are calm and cool under pressure. Be that person.

Next time someone asks how you’re doing, don’t talk about how busy you are. Don’t get sucked into thinking busy means important.

Busy doesn’t make you important. Doing the important things you need to do makes you important. 

Join 45K+ readers. Get a free weekly update via email here.

Related posts:

How To Achieve Work-Life Balance In 5 Steps

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How To Achieve Work-Life Balance In 5 Steps

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Eric Barker  -  

Achieving work-life balance can look impossible. And, frankly, it seems like it’s getting harder.

In the ten years from 1986 to 1996 work-life balance was mentioned in the media 32 times.

In 2007 alone it was mentioned 1674 times.

Via The ONE Thing:

A LexisNexis survey of the top 100 newspapers and magazines around the world shows a dramatic rise in the number of articles on the topic, from 32 in the decade from 1986 to 1996 to a high of 1674 articles in 2007 alone.

The Onion jokingly implies that the only way to achieve effective work/life balance is to not have a job:

That’s hysterical — because it’s not remotely realistic. So what actually works?

 

You Need To Draw A Line

I’ve posted plenty of research on productivity, time management and procrastination — but that’s not the issue here. Not at all.

Those are hacks that help you be more efficient but in the modern world you are getting 25 hours of to-do’s thrown at you every 24 hours.

Thinking that if you spend enough time you will “get everything done” is an illusion. You will never be “done.”

The happiest people are not people who don’t have a care in the world. Those people are bored.

Research shows the happiest people are busy — but don’t feel rushed.

Anxiety is reduced by a feeling of control. And what do studies say about work-life balance? Same thing — a feeling of control is key.

You have to draw a line. You must decide what is important and what isn’t. 

How do you draw that line? By asking yourself one simple question a few times a day.

 

“What’s The Most Important Thing For You To Do Right Now?”

The main problem people have is they try to do it all and treat everything as important.

You can’t do it all and everything is not equally important.

So how do you determine the most important thing for you to do right now?

 

1) What Are Your Values?

Clay Christensen, Harvard Business School professor and author of How Will You Measure Your Life?, knows what he values.

Watch from 34:55 to 38:50:

He works Monday to Friday. Saturday is for family and Sunday is for God. Period. No work on the weekends. No exceptions. No matter what.

Clay knows what’s important to him, drew a line and probably doesn’t suffer from many work-life balance worries.

Is this effective for everyone at every company? No. But you have to start with knowing what matters most to you and drawing a line.

 

2) What gets you disproportionate results?

Face it: often you start by doing whatever happens to be in front of you. But proximity does not equal priority.

In his book The ONE Thing, Gary Keller applies the “Pareto principle” to the workday:

Most of us get 80% of results from 20% of the work we do. So focus on that 20%. 

What really creates progress vs treading water? What gives disproportionate results? Do that first and most frequently.

 

3) What’s the thing only *you* can do well?

If someone else can do the laundry at home, let them do it. If someone else can do the filing at work, let them do it.

But if you’re the parent, you need to be at the parent-teacher conference and if you’re the sales lead you need to be at the sales meeting.

Via The Effective Executive: The Definitive Guide to Getting the Right Things Done:

All in all, the effective executive tries to be himself; he does not pretend to be someone else. He looks at his own performance and at his own results and tries to discern a pattern. “What are the things,” he asks, “that I seem to be able to do with relative ease, while they come rather hard to other people?”

Management guru Pete Drucker says focus on the things that only you can do. Delegate, outsource or neglect the rest.

 

4) What’s most important right now?

You feel good when you check a lot of things off your to-do list. But were they things that are most important and urgent? That’s what matters.

Via The Decision Book: 50 Models for Strategic Thinking:

As the Eisenhower Matrix above reveals, just because something is urgent doesn’t mean it’s important.

And being important doesn’t necessarily mean it’s urgent.

And as Clay Christensen points out, it’s all too easy to put off important family time for urgent work deadlines.

If you’ve been neglecting your loved ones recently, work might be urgent but not important while family is both important and urgent.

 

Sum Up

So how do you deal with work/life balance? Here are some key ideas:

  1. Everything is not equally important. Do fewer things and do them well.
  2. Decide what your values are — and which ones take precedence.
  3. Do the things that get disproportionate results.
  4. Focus on the things only you can do.
  5. Do the important things which must be done now.

It’s not simple and it won’t be resolved tomorrow but you can get much, much better at this with time.

What’s the most important thing to remember?

You can do anything once you stop trying to do everything.  

Join 45K+ readers. Get a free weekly update via email here.

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How To Be More Satisfied With Your Life – 5 Steps Proven By Research

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Eric Barker  -  

I’ve posted a lot about the research around how to be happier. But being satisfied with your life is something a little different.

Daniel Kahneman, Nobel Prize winner and author of Thinking, Fast and Slow, gave a TED talk where he explained the two pretty well:

Happiness is being happy in your life. We experience it immediately and in the moment.

Life satisfaction is being happy about your life. It is the happiness that exists when we talk about the past and the big picture.

There’s plenty of information about the former — but what about the latter?

What can we do to not just be happy in the moment, but to feel satisfied with our lives?

Here’s are five things research says can make a difference for you:

 

Friends

Having a lot of close friends boosts life satisfaction by nearly 20%.

Via 100 Simple Secrets of the Best Half of Life:

Having more close friendships was associated with a 19 percent greater life satisfaction and a 23 percent greater sense of optimism. – Richburg 1998

In fact, having a better social life can be worth as much as an additional $131,232 a year in terms of life satisfaction.

Like your neighbors? That’s a double digit boost in life satisfaction too.

Via 100 Simple Secrets of the Best Half of Life:

Positive feelings about neighbors have been found to be associated with a 16 percent greater life satisfaction and a 25 percent lower likelihood of experiencing feelings of loneliness. – Prezza et al. 2001

Why does religion — any religion — make people so much happier?

It’s the friends that a religious community provides. A group of ten supportive friends seems to be the magic number.

Via The Secrets of Happy Families: Improve Your Mornings, Rethink Family Dinner, Fight Smarter, Go Out and Play, and Much More:

After examining studies of more than three thousand adults, Chaeyoon Lin and Robert Putnam found that what religion you practice or however close you feel to God makes no difference in your overall life satisfaction. What matters is the number of friends you have in your religious community. Ten is the magic number; if you have that many, you’ll be happier. Religious people, in other words, are happier because they feel connected to a community of like-minded people.

But it’s not all about what you get from friends; giving is extraordinarily powerful too.

Are you mentoring a young person? It’s 4 times more predictive of happiness than your health or how much money you make.

Via 100 Simple Secrets of the Best Half of Life:

Age, income, and health are four times less likely to predict whether a person is happy than is whether the person feels he or she is having a positive effect on a younger person. – Azarow 2003

(More on how to make and keep friends here.)

 

Have A Life Story

Research shows that meaning in life comes from the stories we tell ourselves about our lives.

Ever tried writing that story down? People who do are more than 10% happier with their lives.

Via 100 Simple Secrets of the Best Half of Life:

People who wrote about the history of their lives were 11 percent more likely to feel happy with their lives and 17 percent more likely to feel optimistic about the future. – Yamada 2000

Knowing your family tree gets you a bump in satisfaction as well.

Via 100 Simple Secrets of the Best Half of Life:

People who were interested in their family and ethnic histories were 6 percent more likely to feel satisfied with their lives. – Mowrer and McCarver 2002

Children who know the stories of those who came before them have higher self-esteem and a sense of control over their lives.

Via The Secrets of Happy Families: Improve Your Mornings, Rethink Family Dinner, Fight Smarter, Go Out and Play, and Much More:

Marshall and Robyn asked those questions of four dozen families in the summer of 2001, and also taped several of their dinner table conversations. They then compared the children’s results to a battery of psychological tests and reached some overwhelming conclusions. The more children knew about their family’s history, the stronger their sense of control over their lives, the higher their self-esteem, and the more successfully they believed their families functioned.

(More on how to shape the story of your own life here.)

 

Have Goals

People with goals are nearly 20% more satisfied with their lives.

Via 100 Simple Secrets of the Best Half of Life:

People who could identify a goal they were pursuing were 19 percent more likely to feel satisfied with their lives and 26 percent more likely to feel positive about themselves. – Krueger 1998

Those who are passionate about something score higher across the board on positive psychological indicators.

Via Ungifted: Intelligence Redefined:

Elderly individuals who were harmoniously passionate scored higher on various indicators of psychological adjustment, such as life satisfaction, meaning in life, and vitality, while they reported lower levels of negative indicators of psychological adjustment such as anxiety and depression.

Goals doesn’t mean you need to win an Oscar or make a million dollars.

A consistent amount of minor success produces much more satisfaction than occasionally bagging an elephant.

Via The 100 Simple Secrets of Successful People:

Life satisfaction is 22 percent more likely for those with a steady stream of minor accomplishments than those who express interest only in major accomplishments. – Orlick 1998

Not seeing the success you’d like? Don’t give up. Having grit was associated with more life satisfaction.

Via 100 Simple Secrets of the Best Half of Life:

The capacity to continue trying despite repeated setbacks was associated with a more optimistic outlook on life in 31 percent of people studied, and with greater life satisfaction in 42 percent of them. – Meulemann 2001

(More about setting goals the right way here.)

 

Money Isn’t The Answer

The more materialistic people are, the less satisfied they are with their lives.

Via 100 Simple Secrets of the Best Half of Life:

Among participants in one study, those whose values were the most materialistic rated their lives as the least satisfying. – Ryan and Dziurawiec 2001

Spending more money on gifts made holidays less enjoyable.

Via 100 Simple Secrets of the Best Half of Life:

Among parents studied, greater expenditures for family gifts actually reduced satisfaction with family holidays by 2 percent. – Kasser and Sheldon 2002

Having meaning in your life increases life satisfaction twice as much as wealth.

Via 100 Simple Secrets of the Best Half of Life:

Those with a modest income who felt there was meaning in their lives were twice as likely to experience life satisfaction as were those who were wealthier but who felt that their lives lacked a sense of meaning. – Debats 1999

(More on the things proven to increase happiness here.)

 

Keep Growing

No, I don’t mean eat more cookies.

Have you seen changes in what you believe over the past few months? That’s a good thing.

Via 100 Simple Secrets of the Best Half of Life:

People over forty who could identify at least one change in their viewpoints or behavior in recent months were 8 percent more likely to feel hopeful about the future and 5 percent more likely to say they were generally in a good mood. – Grossbaum and Bates 2002

Older people who continue to read and learn are much more satisfied with their lives.

Via 100 Simple Secrets of the Best Half of Life:

People over the age of fifty who said they continued to learn about topics that interested them were 18 percent more likely to feel satisfied with their lives and 43 percent more likely to feel vital.  – Helterbran 1999

Keeping an open mind pays huge dividends as the years go by.

Via 100 Simple Secrets of Happy Families:

Studies focusing on the ability of people to maintain happiness as they age reveal that an openness to change in both family life and work life is associated with a 23 percent greater likelihood of maintaining high levels of life satisfaction. – Crosnoe and Elder 2002

But don’t change everything — maintaining strong core values is important.

Via 100 Simple Secrets of the Best Half of Life:

A willingness to compromise on trivial matters was associated with 62 percent more positive social relations, but a willingness to compromise on matters of values and personal vision was associated with 34 percent less life satisfaction. – Bargdill 1998

(More on how to make sure you never stop growing and learning here.)

 

Sum Up

Keep in mind the 5 ways to increase life satisfaction:

  1. Friends
  2. Have Goals
  3. Have A Life Story
  4. Money Isn’t The Answer
  5. Keep Growing

I really think that fifth one is key. If you can’t learn, you can’t improve.

As the Stoic philosopher Seneca once said:

As long as you live, keep learning how to live.

Join 45K+ readers. Get a free weekly update via email here.

Related posts:

Here are the things proven to make you happier

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What The Music You Love Says About You And How It Can Improve Your Life

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Eric Barker  -  

The Music You Love Tells Me Who You Are

Ever been a bit judgy when you hear someone’s taste in music? Of course you have.

And you were right — music tells you a lot about someone’s personality.

Research has learned a great deal about the power of music:

  1. Your musical taste does accurately tell me about you, including your politics.
  2. Your musical taste is influenced by your parents.
  3. You love your favorite song because it’s associated with an intense emotional experience in your life.
  4. The music you enjoyed when you were 20 you will probably love for the rest of your life.
  5. And, yes, rockstars really do live fast and die young.


But enough trivia. It also turns out music affects your behavior — and much more than you might think.

Studies show music can lead you to drink more, spend more, be kind, or even act unethically.

No, rock  and heavy metal don’t lead people to commit suicide — but it’s possible that country music might:

The results of a multiple regression analysis of 49 metropolitan areas show that the greater the airtime devoted to country music, the greater the white suicide rate.

Music is so powerful it’s even possible to become addicted to music.

But can we really use scientific research on music to improve our lives? Absolutely.

Here are 9 ways:

 

1) Music Helps You Relax

Yes, research shows music is relaxing.

I know, I know, obvious, right? But what you might not know is the type of music that helps people relax best.

Need to chill out? Skip the pop and jazz and head for the classical.

Via Richard Wiseman’s excellent book 59 Seconds: Change Your Life in Under a Minute:

Blood pressure readings revealed that listening to pop or jazz music had the same restorative effect as total silence. In contrast, those who listened to Pachelbel and Vivaldi relaxed much more quickly, and so their blood pressure dropped back to the normal level in far less time.

(More things that relieve stress are here.)

 

2) Angry Music Improves Your Performance

We usually think of anger as something that’s just universally bad. But the emotion has positive uses too.

Anger focuses attention on rewards, increases persistence, makes us feel in control and more optimistic about achieving our goals.

When test subjects listened to angry music while playing video games, they got higher scores.

Via The Science of Sin: The Psychology of the Seven Deadlies (and Why They Are So Good For You):

What Tamir and her colleagues found was that people preferred to listen to the angry music before playing Soldier of Fortune. Faced with a task in which anger might serve a useful function, facilitating the shooting of enemies, participants opted for an anger boost. What’s more, listening to the angry music actually improved performance…

(More on how to boost productivity here.)

 

3) Music Reduces Pain

When ibuprofen isn’t doing the job, might be time to put on your favorite song.

Research shows it can reduce pain:

Preferred music was found to significantly increase tolerance and perceived control over the painful stimulus and to decrease anxiety compared with both the visual distraction and silence conditions.

(More research based tricks for reducing pain here.)

 

4) Music Can Give You A Better Workout

What’s the best thing to have on your iPod at the gym?

The weight room is no place to try new genres. Playing your favorites can boost performance:

The performance under Preferred Music (9.8 +/- 4.6 km) was greater than under Nonpreferred Music (7.1 +/- 3.5 km) conditions. Therefore, listening to Preferred Music during continuous cycling exercise at high intensity can increase the exercise distance, and individuals listening to Nonpreferred Music can perceive more discomfort caused by the exercise.

(More ways to improve your health here.)

 

5) Music Can Help You Find Love

Want to get the interest of that special someone? Put on the romantic music.

Women were more likely to give their number to men after hearing love songs:

…the male confederate asked the participant for her phone number. It was found that women previously exposed to romantic lyrics complied with the request more readily than women exposed to the neutral ones.


(More on how science can make you a better kisser here.)

 

6) Music Can Save A Life

Do you know the proper way to give CPR chest compressions? Turns out timing is key.

And how can you best remember that timing during an emergency?

Sing “Stayin’ Alive” by the BeeGees. Yes, I’m serious:

…Dr. John Hafner of the University of Illinois College of Medicine in Peoria had 15 physicians and med students perform the 100-compression procedure (on mannequins) while listening to the Bee Gees classic “Stayin’ Alive.” As Hafner reports in the Journal of Emergency Medicine, their mean compression rate was an excellent 109.1. Five weeks later, they repeated the exercise while singing the song to themselves as a “musical memory aid.” Their mean rate increased to 113.2. The medical professionals reported that the “mental metronome” improved both “their technical ability and confidence in providing CPR.”

(More things that can improve your health and happiness here.)

 

7) Music Can Improve Your Work — Sometimes

Does music at the office make you work better or just distract you? It’s a much debated issue and the answer is not black and white.

For the most part, it seems music decreases work performance — but makes you happier while you work:

…a comparison of studies that examined background music compared to no music indicates that background music disturbs the reading process, has some small detrimental effects on memory, but has a positive impact on emotional reactions…

That said, a little bit of music can make you more creative. If you have ADHD, noise helps you focus:

Noise exerted a positive effect on cognitive performance for the ADHD group and deteriorated performance for the control group, indicating that ADHD subjects need more noise than controls for optimal cognitive performance.

And music with positive lyrics makes you more helpful and collaborative.

(More on what will make you successful here.)

 

8) Use Music To Make You Smarter

There is a ton of evidence that music lessons improve IQ.

But there’s even research that says listening to classical music might boost brainpower as well:

Within 15 minutes of hearing the lecture, all the students took a multiple-choice quiz featuring questions based on the lecture material. The results: the students who heard the music-enhanced lecture scored significantly higher on the quiz than those who heard the music-free version.

(More on the most powerful way to easily get smarter here.)

 

9) Music Can Make You A Better Person

Need to soften someone’s heart? Maybe even your own?

Playing music can make you more compassionate:

In a year-long program focused on group music-making, 8- to 11-year old children became markedly more compassionate, according to a just-published study from the University of Cambridge. The finding suggests kids who make music together aren’t just having fun: they’re absorbing a key component of emotional intelligence.

Venezuela made music lessons mandatory. What happened? Crime went down and fewer kids dropped out of school:

A simple cost-benefit framework is used to estimate substantive social benefits associated with a universal music training program in Venezuela (B/C ratio of 1.68). Those social benefits accrue from both reduced school drop-out and declining community victimization.  This evidence of important social benefits adds to the abundant evidence of individual gains reported by the developmental psychology literature.

(More on how to be a better person here.)

 

Sum Up

So music not only says a lot about you, it provides a myriad of easy ways to make your life better:

  1. Music Can Help You Relax
  2. Angry Music Improves Your Performance
  3. Music Reduces Pain
  4. Music Can Give You A Better Workout
  5. Music Can Help You Find Love
  6. Music Can Save A Life
  7. Music Can Improve Your Work — Sometimes
  8. Use Music To Make You Smarter
  9. Music Can Make You A Better Person

Most importantly: Music makes us feel good, and in the end, that’s worth a lot.

Speaking of music that makes you feel good, ever wondered what English sounds like to people who don’t speak it?

Then you’ll love this song.

“An Italian singer wrote this song with gibberish to sound like English. If you’ve ever wondered what other people think Americans sound like, this is it.”

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