7.7.18

5 Ways Modern Life Makes Us Sick



It's a no-brainer that the way we live nowadays is so different from our more primal days, so much that, were any of us taken back to those times, death would be more likely than survival. The same could be said about the reverse, but the lifestyle that humanity used to have was better suited for us. After all, we'd evolved around it.

When speaking of illness, there are two factors to consider, the physical and the mental. If we're dealing with a hierarchy of needs, though, and there is a hierarchy for everything, then we see that, to survive, the physical must be taken care of first.

5: Lights on




One of the main things that we lost with the arrival of civilization and technology is that of the natural cycle of the day, from campfires and torches to the screen on your cell phone. The world is getting brighter, and it's less expensive as we go along. Places which have never been lit are getting illuminated, and where there is light, it can shine far into the night depending on how late businesses close.

There are a few unintended effects on the environment beyond actual pollution. Insects can get attracted to buildings and leave their ecosystems. Sea turtle hatchlings go towards the light and can get snatched up by predators before reaching the sea. Trees bloom out of season, which leaves them vulnerable.

Humanity also pays a price. We sleep later and with less quality because melatonin is disrupted by artificial light. In fact, the way we rest has changed, for we used to sleep in two periods of around four hours that were separated by one hour or two of a near-sleep state, and it's a pattern that we acquire when we remove light pollution.

4: Just five more minutes


Speaking of sleepless nights, it's one of those issues where the health benefits are insurmountable, and at the same time, it can be devastating if you don't get enough. With our fast-paced, high-pressure lifestyle, some of us can barely find the time to sleep, and even when we do, we can struggle to get there. 

You'll have a harder time focusing on simple tasks, and that goes for general function in your brain, and that can lead to accidents if you're not careful. You'll be forgetful. Your mood will be volatile, so mind your manners. Since your hormones are all messed up, you'll also be hungrier and it'll be harder to control yourself. 

There have been recent findings that sleep deprivation can also induce suicidal thoughts. Granted, this is if you already have depression, but it's like adding gasoline to a fire that you're trying to put out, especially considering that some depressed people have a lot of trouble getting to sleep in the first place. 

3: Pour some sugar on me





The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn't exist and then convincing it to eat more sugar. If you live outside of the United States, then this isn't as much of a problem, but it's still an issue. 

A study published in JAMA found that adults who consumed over 10% of their daily calories from sugar were at a higher risk of heart disease and other conditions. Main sources of sugar were soda, juice, desserts, and candy. They also found that the more sugar you consumed, the more total calories you ingested in the long run, which seems like a no-brainer until you remember that sugar in itself has addictive properties. 

The lack of protein, fiber or any other nutrient that could come with sugar is also worrying. Empty calories are to be avoided if you want to lose weight, after all, or you'll still be hungry after finishing even a full meal if you're not careful. The average American eats over three times the daily limit for sugar, so it might be a good idea to check your habits and see what you can change about them. 


2: Just a little mad


As society gets better at remembering everything you do, it's less likely that you can lash out and get rid of any negative feelings in a quick manner. Instead, what most people do is hold it in. There's a sweet spot which will help you think more rationally, but it's hard to stay there. 

Anger is bad for the heart, and I'm not being metaphorical. Heart disease has a correlation with pent-up anger that never sees the light of day. If you can use it to be more productive and actually face your issues, then you'll get resolution and the effects on your health will be the opposite. This goes beyond any cardiovascular disease, for example, strokes can come from anger. Your immune system is affected as well. 

Anxiety and anger go hand in hand. If you have Generalized Anxiety Disorder, then this just makes it worse, and more difficult to handle. Depression comes as a next step, and their relationship is pretty much the same. Try and find a way to let your rage and grudges go, and you'll find yourself just feeling better and living a longer life. 

1: Idle legs are the devil's plaything




Sitting. It can be comfortable, especially if you're overweight, better than just standing around all day, right? Well, no. It's not just about the lower amount of calories that you burn when you're on your ass, or its correlation to obesity, or its correlation to high blood pressure, or its correlation to high blood sugar, or its correlation to high cholesterol levels, it also puts you at risk for cardiovascular disease. 

If you're sitting over eight hours a day with no other physical activity, then you're just as likely to die as an obese smoker. Try to change small things about how you go through your workday. Get a standing desk. If you can't, take a rest from sitting every half hour. Stand up while watching T.V., talking on the phone, reading a book, playing games. Just the amount of calories that you can burn alone is reason enough to get off your caboose and walk around a little, even if it's just in circles.

There isn't any way we could revert back to the system that we used to have before modern life kicked in. The truth is that this has been gaining momentum for thousands of years, and it's likely that we'll come to adapt to it biologically given enough time, but meanwhile, it's a good idea to get a natural rhythm of sleep, watch your anger, and just stand around for a while instead of sitting around all day. 

Further reading:






4.7.18

An Introduction to Synesthesia



Synesthesia is pretty close to a superpower. Think about sense. How we process the world impacts the way life itself can feel. Go to a concert with a blind person, deaf, and normal person, and they'll all give you wildly different accounts of what they went to do. That goes for just about anything. Sight, hearing, taste, smell, touch.

Our senses can work together to paint a vivid picture of the world, but for most people, this is superficial. Food will taste better if you can smell it. You can predict how some texture will feel by sight alone. If you're in the wild, you'll rely on your sense of hearing because, by the time you actually see a predator, it'll be too late. We have more than those, of course, but today we're focusing on people who have a deep synergy between them.

Imagine running your hand over this bad boy

This is a tough one to diagnose, mostly because it's not a condition which gets in your way that much, and you could not even realize you have it until you realize that other people don't. Since it's something that always happens to you, then it never really seems off. Though some think of it as some sort of handicap, the truth is that synesthetes see it as a better way to perceive the world and even use it in organizational or creative endeavors.

There are two main forms of synesthesia. Projective synesthesia means that you see actual colors and forms when stimulated, and associative synesthesia you have a strong connection between the stimulus and whatever sense it triggers.




Seeing a letter or a number with a specific color or shade is the most well-known display of synesthesia, but there can be other variations. You can associate color with sound, for example, or you can see music projected on a "screen" in front of you, and even have a preference for a certain shape. Some see numbers as a point in space so 5 can be further than 8, but that'll be closer than 2. One of the least common forms of this condition is actually getting physical sensations that come from sound.

One of the more interesting ones has to do with sequences. You can associate a certain day of the week with one form of personality, some number might be a tranquil old man, some letter might be an irritating woman, but it's not been studied much.



A particularly strange one could be called an intense case of empathy if I've ever heard of one. Imagine that when you see somebody being tapped on the shoulder, you'll feel just as if they were tapping you. I wasn't kidding about the empathy either, it's been found to have a high correlation with this sort of synesthesia.

There are many more, at least 80 forms, if current research is to be believed, so it's likely that most of the population does have some variation of this, albeit one that's unknown or not highly researched. If you ever find yourself associating sights and sounds, numbers and colors, touch and shapes, or anything that isn't actually related, then pay attention, you might have some form of synesthesia.

Further reading

Wednesday is Indigo Blue

Psychology Today

Synesthesia’s mysterious ‘mingling of the senses’ may result from hyperconnected neurons

30.6.18

5 Ways Your Mind Can Trick You



Fallacies exist in every way, shape, or form, including the cognitive, which is the type we're focusing on today. They shouldn't be confused with logical fallacies, which you can either use to fool your opponents or avoid it to be a more legitimate debater, rather, these are tricks that your mind plays on you.

The mind is designed to make decisions as quickly as possible with the input that we have available. These mental shortcuts can be handy, especially in dire situations, but sometimes our mind just can't cope with different issues such as some overabundance of input, social pressure, or emotions. It's the same as stereotyping. Your mind needs to act quickly, but this can come at the expense of the best results from time to time.  Here are a few ways your mind can trick you. 

5: Confirmation bias




If you have some ideology or worldview, it's more than likely that you've fallen for this fallacy before. Facts are facts. Sometimes we can't get ahold of them all, but two plus two is four and that's always going to be the case. That doesn't mean we don't interpret them. 

Confirmation bias means that you'll generally prefer information that will confirm your beliefs, as well as ignore that which contradicts them. The United States, with both sides of the political spectrum defending their two candidates who have their own faults, while completely ignoring those faults, is an excellent example. 

4: Self-serving bias


"Thank God that the first twin survived, but damn you, doctor, for having let the other one die." That's the sort of sentimentality that this bias serves, but it's applied at an individual level, so when bad things happen, you'll blame others, but when good things happen you'll attribute it to yourself. You won blackjack because you're good at counting, but you lost that other hand because the damn dealer rigged the game.

There's what you can and can't control, and though sometimes you can come out on top due to your own merits, there are in fact many things that can propel you to greatness that are beyond you. That's not a bad thing, though, that's life. The same goes for failure. 

3: Actor-observer bias




This is the polar opposite of the last fallacy. You attribute your own actions to external causes but you believe that everybody else does exactly what they mean to do. You've got a bad lung because your parents weren't ever fit, but Jimmy can't run from one end of the street to the other because he's been smoking since high school. 

You may want to keep this in mind whenever you're out on the road because most cases of rage come from believing that the jackass in front of you is swerving or driving slow on purpose when there could be many more reasons that he's driving like a prick. He might be late, sick, or otherwise unaware of your presence. 

2: Anchoring bias


A handy tool for any good negotiator, this means that you'll be anchored to the first piece of information you get as a reference. If I tell you that my old beat up Honda goes for 13,000 dollars, then you'll think that I'm giving you a sweet deal when I sell it to you at 11,000, when the average price could very well be 10,000. This goes beyond business, though, and you can use it for any situation in which you need to be persuasive. 

1: Optimism bias




This is the mentality that you get whenever you enter a contest, go gambling, or play the lottery. You believe that things will go better for you than for anybody else, which can be too much optimism for your own good every once in a while. How long will you live? How smart will your children be? How successful will you be? If it were up to any of us, better than anybody else, but the reality is that averages exist for a reason; most people are around that point. 

If you're not going to check yourself with your doctor, you stop wearing your seatbelt, neglect your savings, or sabotage yourself in any other way, then beware, and build good habits again, because nobody's safe from misfortune. 

Whenever you make a split-second decision, stop and think why you did so, and what factored into it. Chances are that at a second thought, you'll find that your logic had some sort of error and it'll be better to reevaluate your choices. Don't let your mind trick you, and you'll be better off for it.