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Get Outside to Improve Your Mental and Physical Health

Written by Scott Moses.

A typical person in today´s industrial society spends the vast majority of his or her time indoors and in front of some sort of screen. From the time they wake up until the time they go to bed, the only moments that they are outdoors is while they walk from their cars to their offices and vice versa. Children who are somewhat active might be outdoors more often, but much of that time is dedicated to organized sports activities on a manicured lawn.

Very rarely do any of us, neither children or adults, spend quality time in the natural world of forests, rivers, marshes, and the like. Our need to control the natural settings of the world around us has led us into avoiding contact with the natural world that doesn’t have concrete sidewalks and close cut lawns.

In this article, originally written by the outdoor blog LiveOnceLiveWild.com, we dive deep into this topic and explore the price of not engaging with the outdoors.

The Price That Comes with Lack of Contact with the Natural World

Because of the insulated environments that define our everyday life, most of us have absolutely no idea how the natural world sustains us. We may think that water comes from a tap while never having seen the river or spring that feeds the municipal water system. From our consumer mindset, food comes from the shelves of the local grocery store instead of from the complex and intricate relationships of soil organisms that give fertility to our crops.

The lack of contact with the natural world has caused us to forget how our lives are ultimately dependent on the ultimate world. The enclosure of our lives in the world of screens, shopping malls, and infinite comforts and luxuries has also indirectly led to some of the global crises we collectively face. When you don´t come into contact with the natural world, there is very little incentive to protect it.

Physical Health Benefits that Come with Being Outside

Lack of contact with the natural world has also led to a number of serious physical health problems. Obesity, heart disease, diabetes and dozens of other problems are tied to the sedentary, screen-filled lives that define our everyday living. While signing up for a membership at your local gym will certainly help you get the exercise you need, the treadmill simply doesn’t compare to a walk through the woods.

Getting outside into the natural world brings a number of important physical health benefits. For starters, Vitamin D is notoriously missing in the majority of foods that we eat. We should be getting between 80 and 90% percent of the Vitamin D that we need from the sunshine. That, however, requires us to be outside during a part of the day. Your morning walk through the woods doesn’t only give you needed exercise, but it will also get you the vitamin D you need for bone growth, cell growth, inflammation reduction and neuromuscular and immune function.

Furthermore, being outside actually makes exercise easier and more enjoyable. Everyone knows that we need to exercise, however, those early morning visits to the gym can seem like drudgery. One recent study found that being surrounded by the color green actually makes exercise easier as it lessens the sensation of exertion.

Mental Health Benefits that Come with Being Outside

The health benefits of spending time outdoors aren’t just reduced to physical benefits. Rather, there are a number of important mental health benefits of spending time outside. Spending time outdoors helps to increase your brain function and makes it easier to concentrate. It also increases your creativity production, which is essential for young, school-age children.

In our stress-filled society, it can be hard to find a balance between work and rest. Most of us live between deadlines, and the effects of stress on our physical and mental well-being our easily seen in the increasing amount of people suffering from anxiety and panic disorders. Spending time outdoors has been proven to lower stress levels and even lower your heart rate.

Finally, there is something inherent in the human being that responds with happiness to things that are ultimately good for us. Spending time in the natural world is obviously healthy, both physically and mentally. When we take time out of our busy lives to enjoy the natural world, a feeling of deeper and more meaningful happiness becomes a reality.

Get Outside for Happier, Healthier Life

We need to find ways to escape from the bondage of screens, walls and carefully controlled environments in order to take advantage of the physical health and mental health benefits that come with being outside. Even a short walk every morning through the woods will prepare you mentally and physically for a healthier lifestyle.

A Message from the Calm to the Angry

Written by Bryan Caplan.

Dear Angry Person,

I can tell that you’re angry at me again. I think I understand your complaint, though I have trouble understanding why this specific issue is upsetting you on this specific day. But based on past experience, asking for clarification will only make you angrier, without helping me avoid your future anger. As usual, then, I plan to appease you.

But in the silence of my mind, I’ve got a question for you. In all the years we’ve known each other, how many times have I expressed anger at you? By my count, the answer is … zero. Question: Do you think that’s because your behavior is above reproach? Do you imagine I’m entirely satisfied with the way you’ve treated me? Well, I’m not. Your emotional abuse aside, you’ve failed to meet my expectations more than once.

So why haven’t I ever raised my voice at you? Indeed, why do I normally act as if everything you do is unobjectionable? Seven main reasons.

1. Nobody’s perfect. I take a moderate amount of bad behavior for granted and count myself lucky it’s not worse.

2. Assessing behavior is surprisingly ambiguous. Real life is not a math exam. While bad behavior plainly exists, even decent people frequently see the world differently – an insight that inspired game theorists to develop the notion of trembling-hands equilibria. In such an environment, interpreting people’s actions charitably is advisable – especially people with a long, admirable track record.

3. While getting angry often changes behavior for the better, getting angry also often changes behavior for the worse. Net effect? Unclear.

4. Getting angry is far from the only way to change behavior for the better. So in the subset of situations where anger is an effective motivator, you still have to ask: Does it motivate better than these alternatives? The answer, once again, is unclear.

5. Even when anger is the best short-run strategy, it damages long-run relationships. And I value these long-run relationships more than I value winning any specific dispute.

6. Getting angry clouds your thinking, leading to intellectual and moral error. And two of my chief life goals are being right and acting rightly.

7. All else aside, getting angry is aversive for me. I don’t “love to hate” anything or anyone. I wish to live in harmony with others, especially people I know personally.

As I rattle off these points in my head, I nervously visualize you getting angrier. So as usual, I’m not going to tell you what I’m really thinking. Still, after making full allowance for reason number two, here’s a harsh truth: when you kill the messenger, your ignorance is culpable. Your obliviousness to my concerns is a vice. Calm People like me deserve better.

Sincerely,

Calm Person

Originally published at EconLib.org.

Why I Don’t Relish Leftist Rage

Written by Bryan Caplan.

Since the election, several people have privately asked me, “Well, whatever you think about Trump, don’t you at least enjoy the attendant outrage of the left? At least that must make you happy, right?” Don’t I want to see them choke on their own rage? Not at all.

In my misanthropic youth, the answer would have been a resounding yes. But in all honesty, I put away such childishness years ago. I have a rich, full life that affords me ample opportunities for pure joy. I have no need to seek out joy sullied by anger. And again in all honesty, I wish everyone else felt as I do. Living through this disgraceful election, and then seeing partisan pundits double down on their disgraceful behavior afterwards, just discourages me. This is especially true when I’m sympathetic to the conclusions of practitioners of the disgraceful behavior. Reasonable, fair-minded disagreement gives me hope; unreasonable, unfair agreement just creeps me out.

What about the unreasonable and unfair? Don’t I want to see them choke on their own rage? Not at all. To give me pleasure, they would have to display a far rarer reaction: heart-felt repentance. All of the following would be music to my ears:

1. “Forgive me, for I have allowed my emotions to cloud my judgment. From now on, I’ll strive to be calm when I analyze politics.”

2. “Forgive me, for I have apologized for dishonesty, demagoguery, and half-truths. From now on, I’ll prize truth over political victory.”

3. “Forgive me, for I have trolled, stating arguments I know to be flawed in order to aggravate others. From now on, nobility comes first.”

4. “Forgive me, for I have advocated collective punishment of groups I dislike, even though I know most members of these groups are innocent. From now on, I will make a special effort to treat members of groups I dislike justly.”

5. “Forgive me, for I have advocated government coercion, even though it’s far from clear that leaving people alone would lead to worse results. From now on, I embrace the presumption of liberty.”

If any of these mea culpas come my way, I’ll be delighted and grateful – and never say, “I told you so.” But if repentance remains rare – as I firmly expect – I won’t let it get me down. Any observant person who turns to politics for happiness is doomed to dismay. I have my Bubble, and it is enough.

Originally published at EconLib.org.

Ten Principles Important to Me

Written by Rudd-O.

As part of my process of self-discovery, I’ve outlined ten principles that are important to me, and the reasons why they are important:

  1. Consent / nonaggression, because nonconsensual actions (aggression) are evil.
  2. Loyalty, because disloyal people have caused me a lot of pain.
  3. Truth, because living a lie hurts sooner or later.
  4. Pay yourself first, because you can’t properly help others until you yourself are okay, and for that you need to help yourself first.
  5. Joy, because a life without joy is depressing.
  6. Virtue, because living a life of vice is destructive and causes pain.
  7. Effort, because easy things may be pleasant, but everything in life worth attaining requires effort.
  8. Perseverance, because life sometimes throws challenges at you that will demoralize you, and if you let that happen instead of persevering, good opportunities will extinguish themselves.
  9. Learning, because the more you know, the better prepared you are to attain what you want in life.
  10. Integrity, because a life of integrity gives you the most powerful reason to be proud of yourself: you choose to do the right thing, with probity, honesty, rectitude and decency.

What are yours?

Originally published at Rudd-O.com.

Screw Finding Your Passion

Written by Mark Manson.

Remember back when you were a kid? You would just do things. You never thought to yourself, “What are the relative merits of learning baseball versus football?” You just ran around the playground and played baseball and football. You built sand castles and played tag and asked silly questions and looked for bugs and dug up grass and pretended you were a sewer monster.

Nobody told you to do it, you just did it. You were led merely by your curiosity and excitement.

And the beautiful thing was, if you hated baseball, you just stopped playing it. There was no guilt involved. There was no arguing or debate. You either liked it, or you didn’t.

And if you loved looking for bugs, you just did that. There was no second-level analysis of, “Well, is looking for bugs really what I should be doing with my time as a child? Nobody else wants to look for bugs, does that mean there’s something wrong with me? How will looking for bugs affect my future prospects?”

There was no bullshit. If you liked something, you just did it.

Today I received approximately the 11,504th email this year from a person telling me that they don’t know what to do with their life. And like all of the others, this person asked me if I had any ideas of what they could do, where they could start, where to “find their passion.”

And of course, I didn’t respond. Why? Because I have no fucking clue. If you don’t have any idea what to do with yourself, what makes you think some jackass with a website would? I’m a writer, not a fortune teller.

But more importantly, what I want to say to these people is this: that’s the whole point — “not knowing” is the whole fucking point. Life is all about not knowing, and then doing something anyway. All of life is like this. All of it. And it’s not going to get any easier just because you found out you love your job cleaning septic tanks or you scored a dream gig writing indie movies.

The common complaint among a lot of these people is that they need to ‘find their passion.’

I call bullshit. You already found your passion, you’re just ignoring it. Seriously, you’re awake 16 hours a day, what the fuck do you do with your time? You’re doing something, obviously. You’re talking about something. There’s some topic or activity or idea that dominates a significant amount of your free time, your conversations, your web browsing, and it dominates them without you consciously pursuing it or looking for it.

It’s right there in front of you, you’re just avoiding it. For whatever reason, you’re avoiding it. You’re telling yourself, “Oh well, yeah, I love comic books but that doesn’t count. You can’t make money with comic books.”

Fuck you, have you even tried?

The problem is not a lack of passion for something. The problem is productivity. The problem is perception. The problem is acceptance.

The problem is the, “Oh, well that’s just not a realistic option,” or “Mom and Dad would kill me if I tried to do that, they say I should be a doctor” or “That’s crazy, you can’t buy a BMW with the money you make doing that.”

The problem isn’t passion. It’s never passion.

It’s priorities.

And even then, who says you need to make money doing what you love? Since when does everyone feel entitled to love every fucking second of their job? Really, what is so wrong with working an OK normal job with some cool people you like, and then pursuing your passion in your free time on the side? Has the world turned upside-down or is this not suddenly a novel idea to people?

Look, here’s another slap in the face for you: every job sucks sometimes. There’s no such thing as some passionate activity that you will never get tired of, never get stressed over, never complain about. It doesn’t exist. I am living my dream job (which happened by accident, by the way. I never in a million years planned on this happening; like a kid on a playground I just went and tried it), and I still hate about 30% of it. Some days more.

Again, that’s just life.

The issue here is, once again, expectations. If you think you’re supposed to be working 70-hour work weeks and sleeping in your office like Steve Jobs and loving every second of it, you’ve been watching too many shitty movies. If you think you’re supposed to wake up every single day dancing out of your pajamas because you get to go to work, then you’ve been drinking the Kool-Aid. Life doesn’t work like that. It’s just unrealistic. There’s a thing most of us need called balance.

I have a friend who, for the last three years, has been trying to build an online business selling whatever. It hasn’t been working. And by not working, I mean he’s not even launching anything. Despite years of “work” and saying he’s going to do this or that, nothing actually ever gets done.

What does get done is when one of his former co-workers comes to him with a design job to create a logo or design some promotional material for an event. Holy shit, he’s all over that like flies on fresh cow shit.

And he does a great job! He stays up to 4:00 AM losing himself working on it and loving every second of it.

But then two days later it’s back to, “Man, I just don’t know what I’m supposed to do.”

I meet so many people like him. He doesn’t need to find his passion. His passion already found him. He’s just ignoring it. He just refuses to believe it’s viable. He is just afraid of giving it an honest-to-god try.

It’s like a nerdy kid walking onto a playground and saying, “Well, bugs are really cool, but NFL players make more money, so I should force myself to play football every day,” and then coming home and complaining that he doesn’t like recess.

And that’s bullshit. Everybody likes recess. The problem is that he’s arbitrarily choosing to limit himself based on some bullshitty ideas he got into his head about success and what he’s supposed to do.

Another email I get all the time is from people wanting advice on how to become a writer.

And my answer is the same: I have no fucking idea.

As a kid, I would write short stories in my room for fun. As a teenager, I would write music reviews and essays about bands I loved and then show them to nobody. Once the internet came around, I spent hours upon hours on forums writing multi-page posts about inane topics – everything from guitar pickups to the causes of the Iraq War.

I never considered writing as a potential career. I never even considered it a hobby or passion. To me, the things I wrote about were my passion: music, politics, philosophy. Writing was just something I did because I felt like it.

And when I had to go looking for a career I could fall in love with, I didn’t have to look far. In fact, I didn’t have to look at all. It chose me, in a way. It was already there. Already something I was doing every day, since I was a kid, without even thinking about it.

Because here’s another point that might make a few people salty: If you have to look for what you’re passionate about, then you’re probably not passionate about it at all.

If you’re passionate about something, it will already feel like such an ingrained part of your life that you will have to be reminded by people that it’s not normal, that other people aren’t like that.

It didn’t occur to me that writing 2,000 word posts on forums was something nobody else considered fun. It never occurred to my friend that designing a logo is something that most people don’t find easy or fun. To him, it’s so natural that he can’t even imagine it being otherwise. And that’s why it’s probably what he really should be doing.

A child does not walk onto a playground and say to herself, “How do I find fun?” She just goes and has fun.

If you have to look for what you enjoy in life, then you’re not going to enjoy anything.

And the real truth is that you already enjoy something. You already enjoy many things. You’re just choosing to ignore them.

Originally published at MarkManson.net.

How to Memorize Information More Effectively

According to experts, learning by rote is almost useless – it doesn’t make you smarter or help to learn the necessary data. That’s why scientists have developed more efficient techniques, through which you can “negotiate” with memory and get awesome results.

Methods Based on Subconscious

#1 Multi-sensory Perception

Every person reacts differently to stimuli that are at the core of perception. By irritating sensors on skin, we distinguish between cold and heat; by activating tongue receptors, we feel the taste. Accordingly, the greater the number of sensors we engage, the better the perception of information, regardless of its form:

  • For example, if you need to remember the names of exotic birds, try not only to read their names but also watch the pictures and even listen to singing or watching correspondent videos. Well, if it happens that you touch the bird, you’ll never forget it!

#2 Linking to the Art Objects

The art can greatly stimulate our subconscious, so why not to use it to one’s advantage? An effective memorizing will occur if the information is linked to music, sculpture or any other masterpiece. In this case, the subconscious opens a special gateway to remember the data.

#3 Repeating Before Going to Bed

Learning right before sleeping is another effective way to enhance the process of remembering. When we sleep, our subconscious mind synthesizes information. Accordingly, while the person is sleeping, the brain is more likely to work on memorizing information and be able to quickly remember.

These three methods are very effective when it comes to subconscious. But there are also techniques that work directly with the consciousness and memory. Let us examine them right now.

Methods Based on Conscious

  • Write down negative thoughts. This trick is very effective although it may seem unpleasant as it suggests writing negative events and thoughts on the paper before studying the material. Alas, our mind is greatly focused on negative things, so all you have to do is to follow the negative flow with something valuable.
  • Rely on nature. Not for nothing that many students prefer to learn the material in the open air. Nature increases perception by 20%. If you are unable to go outside, enjoy pictures of beautiful nature, and only then proceed to learn.
  • Speak louder. If you need to learn foreign words, then they try speaking clearly and loudly. This will increase memorability by 10% when learning by heart.
  • Add a bit of expression. As I have said, the more senses involved, the deeper the perception. Emotions, gestures, and facial expressions will help you to quickly memorize information, terms, and foreign words. Moreover, it will make learning more interesting!
  • Use a voice recorder. Listen to the records in transport, before bedtime and at night. Although you will “sleep,” your brain will work. The amount of information, in this case, can be unlimited.
  • Move when learning. Movement increases brain activity, so you’ll be able to better and faster learn what you need.
  • Change the working environment. Let’s suppose you need to quickly prepare two reports. The best way to cope with such a task is to do each report in a different room. Thus, the information will not be mixed when recalling.
  • Write down the first letters of the key words. To quickly and accurately remember any information (e.g., a song), write it down and then write down only the first letters, trying to reproduce the missed parts.
  • Rhyme. Create a phrase from the first letters of the text.
  • Use Cicero’s technique. If you can’t remember some objects, represent them in familiar surroundings. For example, to remember foreign words, fit them in your bedroom. This will allow you to create strong associations that will unmistakably point to the recalled word.
  • Sleep enough. The more you sleep after studying the material, the better you will remember it.

If you experience difficulties with remembering the material, fell free to use to tricks above to your advantage and get more help from professionals. However, often the reason for the lack of understanding and “bad memory” is the unwillingness of a person to delve into the process. If you want to remember some important data, be sure to invest some efforts and time!

Compassion in the Midst of Madness

Written by Leo Babauta.

Whether you’re in the U.S. or not, the results of yesterday’s election can bring up some strong feelings — maybe outrage or depression, maybe elation and shock, maybe contempt for others.

In this crazy emotional time, I urge you to try a compassion practice.

Perhaps, like some people I know, you are angry about the outcome, and can’t believe your fellow Americans would elect the person they elected. Perhaps you’re feeling vindicated, and are unhappy with the way your fellow Americans have steered this country for the last eight years. Perhaps you’re not from the U.S., and you’re feeling scorn for Americans, or confusion, after the results of this election.

Whatever you’re feeling, it’s likely to come from a place of non-understanding. That’s not likely to help our community, locally or globally, nor will it help our own happiness. It can be a transformative practice to practice compassion right now.

The truth is, we each have personally experienced what the other side is going through. The results of the election represent the feelings of millions of other people — they speak in some way for our fellow human beings. We have each felt these emotions: feeling left behind, feeling frustrated, distrusting, powerless, angry, hopeful for change, disliking the change that we see.

Imagine yourself feeling those feelings, one at a time. Feel how difficult they are. Now imagine that someone from the other side is feeling those things.

See if you can feel compassion for a fellow human being for feeling them. Feel a connection to them, because you too have suffered through this difficulty. Feel a connection to all your fellow humans who are going through their difficulties right now, in the U.S. and around the world.

We are connected, even if we have immense differences. We live and work together, we feed each other and depend on each other, we support each other and share ideas, we all are going through immense change and struggle, we have struggles in our lives and feel helpless to change the world at large.

The other “side” might have a different worldview that causes them to vote a different way than you, to want different policies … but underneath, we all have the same tender hearts. And by finding this common ground, we can reconnect to each other in a compassionate way.

Originally published at ZenHabits.net.

Rethinking “Evil”

Editor’s Pick. Written by Scott Noelle.

If you watch the news (not recommended) you see people committing despicable acts of violence, and the general consensus is that these people who do evil… are evil.

Ironically, when you have decided that someone is evil, bad, or wrong, it’s easy to justify doing evil things to them. “An eye for an eye” makes everyone blind.

All this evildoing perpetuates the false belief that humans are inherently evil and would behave badly if not for our prohibitive laws and the constant threat of punishment.

In truth, humans are social animals, which means we’re evolved for connection, cooperation, bonding, and love. But we’re also evolved to kill our food, defend our kin, and feel anger when our autonomy is threatened.

In other words, aggression is a part of our nature that’s supposed to be aimed at our prey, our predators, and our challenges — not each other.

When we become violent toward each other, it doesn’t mean we’re evil, it means we’re confused and have we lost touch with our amazing capacity to create harmony.

Improve Your Groove

Today, whenever you feel interpersonal tension, conflict, or disconnection, notice that you are somehow judging the other person to be wrong, inadequate, threatening, or otherwise “bad.” (You may be judging yourself, too.)

Entertain a new thought:

They’re not “bad,” they’re confused. They’ve lost touch with Who They Really Are: powerful, free, creative human beings who would choose harmony if they could see a path to it.

How does this thought affect the way you respond to these people?

Originally posted in Scott’s Daily Groove email newsletter.

The Reality of This Moment

Editor’s Pick. Written by Leo Babauta.

As you sit here reading this, pause and expand your awareness beyond your computer/phone … what is the reality of this moment?

You’re reading, and there are a bunch of other tasks you want to do on your computer, yes … but there’s also your body. How does that feel? There’s the area around you, perhaps some people around you. There’s nature nearby.

Take a pause to become aware of the actual reality of this particular moment.

Read the full thing at zenhabits.net »