If you’re more of the lone wolf type we have some good news for you: You may be a genius.
According to a 2016 study by researchers at Singapore Management University and the London School of Economics, those who exhibit high IQ scores experience lower life satisfaction when they socialize more often. And that means those smarty pants types likely choose to spend more time alone.
To come to this conclusion, the team analyzed survey responses that were part of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health. That survey, Inverseexplained, measured life satisfaction, intelligence, and health.
In total, the team looked at the responses of 15,197 individuals between the ages of 18 and 28. The data showed that while spending time in dense crowds (for example, at a party) leads to unhappiness. However, socialization with close friends typically leads to happiness. Unless, of course, the person exhibits high intelligence.
These contradicting feelings may all be thanks to our hunter and gatherer ancestors. The authors, Inverse reported, explained the findings with the “savanna theory of happiness.”
WATCH: Research Says: Your Mother Influenced Your Intelligence
Research Says: Your Mother Influenced Your Intelligence
Were you the kind of kid who always aced math tests, could memorize historical facts with ease, and recite Shakespeare back to your English teacher like it was a piece of cake? Well then, it’s time to thank your mother.
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“The savanna theory of happiness is the idea that life satisfaction is not only determined by what’s happening in the present but also influenced by the ways our ancestors may have reacted to the event,” reporter Sarah Slot wrote. She added, “evolutionary psychology argues that, just like any other organ, the human brain has been designed for and adapted to the conditions of an ancestral environment. Therefore, the researchers argue, our brains may have trouble comprehending and dealing with situations that are unique to the present.”
In plain speech, this means that while our ancestors got to spend more time with close friends and family in less densely populated areas, we modern humans are stuck being surrounded by strangers all the time thanks to the population boom over the last several thousand years.
“In general, more intelligent individuals are more likely to have ‘unnatural’ preferences and values that our ancestors did not have,” researcher Satoshi Kanazawa told Inverse. “It is extremely natural for species like humans to seek and desire friendships and, as a result, more intelligent individuals are likely to seek them less.”
Beyond an intelligent person’s preferences to be alone, the team also found that smarter people were less likely to feel that they benefited from friendships. Again, this may be because our ancestors tended to benefit from group thinking, while our more intelligent ancestors were able to solve problems alone.
So, next time you feel like bailing on plans with your friends to stay in and watch a movie alone go ahead and do it. It’s the smartest decision you’ll ever make.
“How can we be sure that people see the same color when they look at something?” – Henrietta, age 12, Market Harborough, UK
In fact, we can’t be so sure that we do all see the same colors. What colors we see depends not just on how things are in the world around us, but also on what happens in our eyes and our brains.
If you and I look at the leaves of a tree, we might both say that they are “green.” But could it be that you see them as green, while I see them as a color closer to your brown, or maybe even your purple.
Let me explain. The eyes sense light, and we can think of light as being made up of many waves of different lengths. The shortest wavelengths we can see give us the color violet, while the longest wavelengths give us red.
There are also lots of wavelengths we can’t see, which create colors we can’t even imagine.
Most of the objects we can see around us don’t make light themselves. Instead, light from the sun, the moon, or man-made lamps hits them.
Depending on the object, some wavelengths of light will bounce off, while others will be taken in. When we look at an object, our eyes sense the waves of light that have bounced off it.
You might think that if the color of an object is decided by the wavelength of light that bounces off it, everyone would see colors the same. But there’s more going on inside the human body, which affects how people see color.
Cells and Cones
The backs of our eyes are covered with a thin layer of cells, which respond to light. Cells are the building blocks of all life. The cells in the back of our eyes, which help us to see color, are called cones.
Most people have three kinds of cones in their eyes — S, M, and L cones —and each of these only senses light waves of a certain length.
When a long wave hits an L cone, it seems to fit into it, like a key in a lock. The cone then shouts out to its neighbors that it has caught some light, so we say that it’s active.
The L cones only care about long light waves, so they won’t catch any short or medium ones: those go to the S and M cones.
When light hits the S cones and they become active, we call that “blue”; when it’s the M cones, we see “green”; and when it’s the L cones, we see “red.”
Some people have more or fewer than three kinds of cone cells in their eyes. Some people — we can’t be sure exactly how many — have four kinds of cones. But for those of us with three, we can’t really imagine how they might see the world.
Many people only have two kinds of cones — these people are often called “color blind.” Color blind people don’t see things in black and white; they just have trouble telling the difference between red and green — both could look sort of brown to them. Dogs also only have two kinds of cones, so they probably also have trouble seeing differences between red and green. But some animals have amazing color vision.
For example, bees can see shorter wavelengths than humans and use this ability to find the sweet nectar in flowers. The Mimulus flower petals have a dark-colored “path” to guide bees down to the nectar, which humans cannot see at all.
Seeing With Your Brain
But it’s not just our eyes that see — it’s our brains. We say we see different colors because of how our brains learn to link the signals they get from the eyes with the names of different colors. When a baby points at a ball and her father asks, “Would you like to play with that green ball?”, she learns to associate the color she’s seeing with the word “green,” and she will soon call things of a similar color “green” as well.
Many other things can affect how your brain sees color, including the season, what you looked at before, or the position of your body. Try this experiment to see for yourself:
Lie down on your left side for five minutes with your eyes shut. Now, close your left eye and open your right eye. Then switch eyes. Do things look different when you’re using different eyes?
When you laid on your side, more blood went to the lower (left) part of your head and body, and this makes the colors you see with each eye look different.
Can we be sure that people see the same color when they look at something? Not at all — while the cones in our eyes suggest we’re seeing something similar, it’s likely that we all see just a tiny bit differently.
Is happiness a choice? No… and yes. In The How of Happiness, psychologist Sonja Lyubomirsky says that 50 percent of happiness is genetically predetermined. In terms of happiness, you are what (half of) you are.
But that leaves 50 percent of your level of happiness largely within your control: Health, relationships, career, goals, activities…
Which means that even if you have an inborn tendency to skew to the gloomy side, you can still take scientifically proven steps that will make you happier:
Intuitively, we know that. It feels great to help someone in need. Not only is that fulfilling, it’s a reminder of how comparatively fortunate we are — which is a nice reminder of how thankful we should be for what we already have.
Plus, receiving is something you cannot control — if you need or want help, you can’t make other people help you. But you can always control whether you offer and provide help.
And that means you can always control, at least to a degree, how happy you are — because giving makes you happier.
2. Actively pursue goals.
Goals you don’t pursue aren’t goals, they’re dreams, and dreams make you happy only when you’re dreaming.
Pursuing goals, though, does make you happy. According to David Niven, author of 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.”
So be grateful for what you have, and then actively try to achieve more. If you’re pursuing a huge goal, make sure that every time you take a small step closer to achieving it, you pat yourself on the back.
But don’t compare where you are now with where you someday hope to be. Compare where you are now to where you were a few days ago. Then you’ll get dozens of bite-size chunks of fulfillment — and a never-ending supply of things to be thankful for.
Why? I’m no researcher, but clearly the more you enjoy what you do and the more fulfilled you feel by it, the happier you will be.
In The Happiness Advantage, Shawn Achor says that when volunteers picked “one of their signature strengths and used it in a new way each day for a week, they became significantly happier and less depressed.”
Of course it’s unreasonable to think you can simply do what you love. But you can find ways to do more of what you do best.
Delegate. Outsource. Shift the products and services you provide into areas that allow you to bring more of your strengths to bear. If you’re a great trainer, find ways to train more people. If you’re a great salesperson, find ways to streamline your administrative tasks and get in front of more customers.
Everyone has at least a few things they do incredibly well. Find ways to do those things more often.
You’ll be a lot happier. And probably a lot more successful (in whatever way you choose to define success.)
4. Make a few really good friends.
It’s easy to focus on building a professional network of partners, customers, employees, connections, etc., because there is (hopefully) a payoff.
Make friends outside of work. Make friends at work. Make friends everywhere.
Make real friends. You’ll live a longer, happier life.
5. Actively (and regularly) count your blessings.
According to one study, couples who expressed gratitude in their interactions with each other experienced increased relationship connection and satisfaction the next day — both for the person expressing thankfulness and (no big surprise) the person receiving it. (In fact, the authors of the study said gratitude was like a “booster shot” for relationships.)
Of course the same is true at work. Express gratitude for employees’ hard work, and you both feel better about yourselves.
Happy people focus on what they have, not on what they don’t have. It’s motivating to want more in your career, relationships, bank account, etc., but thinking about what you already have, and expressing gratitude for it, will make you a lot happier.
It will also remind you that even if you still have huge dreams, you have already accomplished a lot — and should feel genuinely proud.
6. Embrace the fact that (more) money won’t make you happier.
Money is important. Money does a lot of things. (One of the most important is to create choices.)
But after a certain point, money doesn’t make people happier. After about $75,000 a year, money doesn’t buy more (or less) happiness. “Beyond $75,000…higher income is neither the road to experience happiness nor the road to relief of unhappiness or stress,” say two Princeton University researchers on the subject.
“Perhaps $75,000 is the threshold beyond which further increases in income no longer improve individuals’ ability to do what matters most to their emotional well-being, such as spending time with people they like, avoiding pain and disease, and enjoying leisure,” the researchers speculate.
Think of it as the bigger house syndrome. You want a bigger house. You need a bigger house. (Not really, but it sure feels like you do.) So you buy it. Life is good…for a couple months, until your bigger house is just your house.
The new always becomes the new normal.
“Things” provide only momentary bursts of happiness. To be happier, don’t chase as many things.
Instead, chase more experiences.
And most importantly: Remember, fifty percent of how happy you are lies within your control.
See happiness as a choice — and start doing more of the things that make you happy.
Parents worry that their daughters constantly seem pressured and stressed. Turns out, most are. Studies show an alarming increase in anxiety and stress experienced by girls starting at age 10 and through college.
If you have a daughter, you know: They are under enormous pressure to do well in school, to be socially engaged and accepted, to look good—anyone of which can at times cause what feels like crippling stress or anxiety.
According to new Pew Center research, 7 in 10 teens see anxiety and depression as a major problem among their peers ages 13 to 17. Pew notes, “Girls are more likely than boys to say they plan to attend a four-year college…and they’re also more likely to say they worry a lot about getting into the school of their choice.” The Center’s research confirms “a larger share of girls than boys say they often feel tense or nervous about their day (36% vs. 23%, respectively, say they feel this way every day or almost every day).”
Adding to and percolating beneath those stressors are worries about bullying, drug addiction and alcohol use, relationships with boys, and, understandably, school shootings and what feels like a constant barrage of negative news. For young girls, many of whom are prone to overthinking a situation or incident, the pressure can feel relentless.
Ask any young lady you know and she may tell you she feels anxious at a party or she’s stressed by a disagreement she had with her best friend. She might be terrified by a speech she has to give in class or a test she doesn’t feel prepared to take. Or, she could be nervous about what she will see the next time she opens Snapchat or Instagram. She might be stressed or anxious about an upcoming athletic competition or musical performance, or what to do about a boy who is pursuing her (or isn’t).
If you have a daughter, you have to be asking yourself, “How can all this stress and anxiety be good, even beneficial?” As a parent in the trenches and the recipient of the outbursts, meltdowns, sulking or silent treatment, you have to also be asking yourself, “How can I help effectively?”
Stress and Anxiety are “Fraternal Twins”
Your daughter may hate feeling stressed or anxious; she may see these strong responses only as a plague. But, they’re not necessarily a bad thing. It’s important to first understand how stress and anxiety play a role in anyone’s day-to-day functioning. Although stress and anxiety often merge in people’s minds and are used interchangeably, parents can help their daughters use both to their advantage.
Know that these “negative” emotions and the body’s natural response to protect itself, can actually be harnessed for good. Lisa Damour, author of Under Pressure: Confronting the Epidemic of Stress and Anxiety in Girls refers to stress and anxiety as “fraternal twins…they are both psychologically uncomfortable.” She defines stress as “feeling of emotional or mental strain or tension;” anxiety as “the feeling of fear, dread, or panic.”
Because stress and anxiety have become epidemic for young girls doesn’t mean stress and anxiety can’t be helpful—even good—especially if we reframe them as tools for moving in the right direction, instead of bad feelings that hold us back. Damour makes these points to keep in mind as you assist your daughter:
It might be easier to run away at the first sign of stress or anxiety. But, by teaching our daughters to face stressful situations, we help them build resilience.
Stress and anxiety are byproducts of stepping out of one’s comfort zone. Operating beyond their comfort zone helps girls grow, especially when taking on new challenges.
Analyzing an anxiety-producing situation with daughters helps them better evaluate if they are over reacting to how bad it is or underestimating their ability to deal with it.
Dr. Damour documents just how profound and weighty that pressure is at the same time she delivers strategies to alleviate the pressure. She reassures parents that stress and anxiety can be a positive to help girls learn to take upsets and setbacks in their stride.
Transition Time Needed
In guiding your daughter, Dr. Damour recommends you think of your daughter’s brain as a snow or “glitter” globe turned upside down. The adolescent brain needs time for the “snow” to settle before it can think straight.
Once a parent understands how the adolescent brain functions, it is easier to allow your daughter transition time before rushing headlong into “bailouts” or making comments that are unproductive. This approach is valuable in the middle of an immediate “crisis.”
The transition time may be when your daughter races home after school, clearly upset, and heads to her room. Give her the space she needs and when she emerges discuss the situation or predicament she feels she’s in and options she might have. Allow her to complain, then ask her what she thinks might help…or happen. The goal is have her understand that her stress or anxiety is in Damour’s words, “only a thought or only a feeling.”
As we know dismissing her fear or avoidance isn’t the right path, strive to help her brainstorm her own solutions. Ask for ways she thinks she can handle or solve the problem. You will be surprised at her ability to figure it out with your composed guidance.
It’s Not About Rescuing Your Daughter
As parents our first instinct is to bail out our daughter. And, considering how strong these anxious emotions can feel, it’s natural to feel compelled to swoop in and save the day. We want nothing but comfort and painlessness for our children. This, however, can lead to a parent becoming a crutch. We may make an excuse so she doesn’t have to take the test she says she can’t pass, or have her stay home from a party because some friendship drama may be afoot, or even let her skip out on a recital or a play rehearsal or performance she committed to, all to protect from these endlessly stressful or anxiety-provoking situations that have created a meltdown.
Who hasn’t at times been at a loss in how to help? In her book, Dr. Damour offers parents a roadmap to step in and alleviate some of the pressure, but not in ways that parents are prone to believe are helpful.
Helping her avoid a situation will likely make the problem worse. Avoidance is only temporary relief. At some point, she’s going to have to face the test, face the boy, talk to her friend, join the conversation on Facebook, or perform in a recital or on an athletic field.
Instead of rushing to smooth the path to whatever a daughter’s conflict, drama, or worry of the moment, in most situations, parents can pause and lead them through it. Realize it’s better help to step back, calm their own alarm system, and encourage your daughter to find alternatives, think about what might happen, and come up with solutions she feels that can handle or execute. Guide her to form long-lasting habits that empower her to handle her stress and anxiety instead of trying to erase it altogether (which, as we know, won’t happen).
Tamping Down Perfectionism
Gently steer your daughter away from perfectionism if she leans in that direction. This is one common route to anxiety in the first place. The idea of being perfect particularly doing well in school is a toxic pressure that both society and parents place on their daughters, Dr. Damour points out. It’s time for parents to help their overly stressed daughters pull back on the time and intensity she may be devoting to academics.
Under Pressure not only helps calm parents but also gives them the tools to be supportive when daughters face obstacles. The work done now will help build resilience for the inevitable upsets they will face in the future. I highly recommend this book.
Working out at the gym got a lot easier the day I realized the sweat served a higher purpose. I’m 43, and have three kids under eight years old, so if I want to be around—healthy and active—for my grandkids, I better put the work in now or face regret later.
Activities that aren’t inherently joyful, like clocking time on a treadmill, get better when done in service of something bigger.
The same can be said of cleaning out one’s closet. Satisfying, yes, but the buzz is too fleeting to be self-sustaining. It’s only when decluttering is reframed as a piece of a larger, more significant puzzle that it sticks.
Without a bigger picture in mind, our actions are often dictated by “What’s more pleasurable in the moment?” rather than “What’s better in the long-term?” In the moment, the consequences of most choices are insignificant. It makes little difference, on a particular day, if you opt to stay on the couch rather than hitting the gym, but over the course of a year, the negative results from this repeated decision will compound.
An intentional life is one marked by long-term thinking that leads to beneficial short-term decision-making. First, decide what you want. Then, decide—every day, in ways big and small—how to get there. Have the ends in mind, and the means will become clear.
Determining the ends, however, is not always easy.
What makes Netflix so appealing—the quantity of programming—also makes it hard to decide what show to watch. The same quandary applies to life, but the stakes are obviously far greater. There are countless ways to live, values to prioritize, and experiences to optimize for. However, because there’s no clear path to follow despite the abundance of options, it’s easy to bounce aimlessly through life like a tumbleweed.
One of the best ways to live a fulfilling, intentional life, and direct one’s actions toward a beneficial end, is to adopt an “ism” operating system. Some “isms,” such as materialism and consumerism, have proven to be harmful and should be avoided. Others, such as minimalism, lead to smart decision-making, contentment, and happiness.
Years ago, when I first stumbled across the notion of minimalism, I bought into the idea that a life with less could lead to more. Like many, I began my journey by eliminating the low hanging fruit of plentiful and obvious excesses from my life. Over time, despite how satisfying purging could be, I came to realize that minimalism is not an end in itself. The process of decluttering, detaching, and deemphasizing materialism is simply a step on the road toward something more significant. Minimalism is a mechanism to create space and time for what really matters.
The Real Secret to Happiness
For thousands of years, people have grappled with the big question of “What really matters?” What, among the many alternative ways we can choose to spend our finite time, will bring us happiness?
Recently, another batch of smart people have attempted to answer these eternal questions, and their conclusion reinforces something that most of us intuit.
According to Harvard’s Grant & Glueck Study, which tracked more than 700 participants over the course of 75 years, the key to long-term happiness and fulfillment comes down to a single factor: the quality of our relationships.
The root of happiness is not money, fame, or good looks—it’s the people we choose to surround ourselves with and how well we nurture our relationships with them.
Robert Waldinger, director of the Harvard Study of Adult Development, explained that: “The clearest message that we get from this 75-year study is this: Good relationships keep us happier and healthier. Period.”
As with most things in life, when it comes to building good relationships, quality is more important than quantity. Indeed, practicing minimalism is as important in curating relationships as it is in decluttering a closet.
In the 1990s, British anthropologist and researcher Robin Dunbardetermined that we are only capable of having a finite number of people in our social sphere—150 at most—due to the size of our brains. Any more, and it becomes impossible to manage one’s social network. This theory is known as “Dunbar’s Number.”
Dunbar went on to conclude that while we can form, at most, 150 loose relationships, we only have the capacity to form close, meaningful relationships with approximately five individuals.
The takeaways from the Grant & Glueck Study, and Robin Dunbar’s research, are both hopeful and daunting. Hopeful in the sense that our capacity to lead happy, fulfilling lives rests on our capacity to forge close bonds with merely five individuals. Daunting in that most can appreciate the challenge posed by nurturing just one close relationship over a lifetime.
Nonetheless, despite how hard it may be, the reward is worth it. As Booker T. Washington once said, “Nothing ever comes to one, that is worth having, except as a result of hard work.”
The Payoff from Positive Relationships
The benefits of having close, healthy relationships with members of one’s immediate family are self-evident. A safe, secure, and loving family results in happy, independent children and parents who derive the satisfaction of having completed a job well done. The payoff from social and professional relationships may be less obvious, but are no less important. Consider the following historical examples of people leveraging close relationships into meaningful success:
In the 1920s, Ernest Hemingway moved to Paris to join a group of expatriate, “Lost Generation” writers, including Gertrude Stein and F. Scott Fitzgerald, who had taken up residence in the Left Bank. They hung out at cafes, argued about politics, caroused late into the nights on the streets of Paris, and produced some of the greatest works of literature of the 20th Century.
In the 1970s, young and brash directors Francis Coppola, Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, and Brian De Palma, known as the “Movie Brats,” took Hollywood by storm. They competed, collaborated, shared resources, worked on each other’s films, gave critical feedback, and formed friendships. They transformed an industry because of, not despite, one another.
A “tribe” of inspiring and supportive people can lift you up, hold you accountable, and inspire you to live to your greatest potential. As motivational speaker Jim Rohn famously observed, we are the average of the five people we spend the most time with. So choose wisely.
Implicit in this principle, of course, is the fact that it works both ways. If you fail to choose wisely, and surround yourself with people who exhibit behaviors and habits that are inconsistent with your own desires, you’ll have a hard time bucking the group’s standards—as unappealing as they may be.
For example, if you desire to lead a healthy and active lifestyle, you’ll be hard pressed to do so if your inner circle consists of couch potato friends who spend their days playing video games and eating junk food. On the other hand, if your friends are physically fit you stand a much greater chance of being fit yourself because the cultural norms of your group will influence your own behavior. Who you spend the most time with is who you are.
Find the Tribe that’s Right for You
Our instincts to fit in have ancient roots. For thousands of years, humans have lived in tribes in which it was essential to conform. To buck the tribe was to be shunned or cast out altogether, leading to great hardship. Modern culture is different, but from fraternities and sororities to sports teams and social groups, tribes still exist and still enforce social norms. Just ask a young college student who is pledging a fraternity whether participating in hazing rituals is optional if you doubt the existence of modern tribes and their codes of social conduct.
In this environment, faced with the expectations of a tribe, you have a few options: (1) conform to the rules of the tribe, (2) resist, or (3) find a new one.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with conforming to a tribe’s social norms—as long as those norms align with your own desires. If you’re living out of alignment with your desired values, and those around you are exemplifying the lifestyle you want to live, then the quickest way to get what you want is to surrender to the group’s standards. But often the opposite is true—you want something different than what the group demands. In this scenario, surrendering to the group is sacrificing the life you desire.
Another option is to resist the group, but this path is perilous. It’s hard enough to change one’s own thoughts and behaviors. Why take on the nearly impossible task of trying to change someone else’s?
The third way is to practice relationship minimalism, which is not always the path of least resistance, but is certainly the path of greatest benefit. Most people enter into relationships too haphazardly, or maintain existing ones by default. They rely on proximity or convenience to guide relationship decision-making, or are gripped by the inertia of the status quo.
Finding the tribe that’s right for you is not always easy. It requires careful consideration. Often it means making difficult decisions to part ways with those who don’t align with your values. But isn’t the payoff of lifelong happiness and fulfillment worth it?
There are people out there who can bring real joy to your life, who you can share meaningful experiences with, and who will be there to lift you up when you need it. Cultivate a tribe in which your desired behavior is the normal behavior. Surround yourself with people who are leading lives you want to live.
First, use minimalism to shed the extraneous excesses that clutter your home and your mind. Cast aside harmful “isms” that are detracting, not adding, value to your life and the lives of those around you. This will create the space and time necessary to tackle life’s more important issues.
Second, leverage your newfound mental bandwidth to think deeply about how you want to live your life. How do you want to spend your time? What makes you happy? What kind of person do you want to be?
Third, make the hard decisions necessary to part ways with toxic people in your life, and scale back ambivalent relationships to make room for new, better aligned ones.
Fourth, find people who exemplify the values and lifestyles you aspire to. Clusters of such people may already have found each other and formed groups—from book clubs to biking groups—centered around the activities and experiences that are consistent with your desires. Begin to engage.
Fifth, take frequent, consistent steps to strengthen budding relationships with members of your newfound tribe. Show up. Give back. Express gratitude. Let your guard down. Be generous. Find your people, then never take them for granted. You’ll become a transformed and better person when you surround yourself with people who push, prod, and encourage you to reach new heights.
Give of yourself to others who inspire you and a delightful thing will happen: you’ll get so much more than you could ever imagine in return.
Jay Harrington blogs at Life and Whim where he offers insights and inspiration about how to live a life full of more First Moments.
Benjamin Franklin wrote the famous phrase, “early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.” His viewpoint sounds nice, and his own personal success gives his advice some strong support. However, now night owls and researchers alike would beg to differ.
During the last few decades, there’s a growing body of fascinating research on the relationship between sleep patterns and intelligence. While there is still more to learn, scientists have made great progress into what it means when your head hits the pillow. One study of U.S. Air Force recruits aimed to systematically explore the relationship between intelligence and sleep scheduling. After assessing the 420 participants, they discovered that night owls are more likely to have higher intelligence scores. They’re not saying that sleeping late makes you smarter, but a higher IQ leads to night owl tendencies.
Satoshi Kanazawa and Kaja Perinawas supplied more proof with their definitive study, “Why night owls are more intelligent,” in 2009. He and his team concluded, “more intelligent children are more likely to grow up to be nocturnal adults who go to bed late and wake up late on both weekdays and weekends.” They analyzed the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health and considered to explain why that’s the case.
Since then, other researchers have delved deeper and looked into different populations to learn more. One team of scientists from The University of Chicago and Northwestern University analyzed GMAT scores from MBA students in 2014. They discovered that GMAT scores were significantly higher among night owls than among early-morning types for both men and women. Yet more support for smarty-pants night owls.
People, unlike other mammals, have the unique power to override their genetic predisposition and circadian rhythm. With the help of electric lights, caffeine, alarm clocks, and more, they can train or force themselves into morning lark or night owl schedules, which Kanazawa and Perinawas’s study suggests is a sign of intelligence as well.
If you need more proof, simply look to some of the most famous night owls who happen to be well known for their intellect, among many other accomplishments. The list includes President Obama, Charles Darwin, Winston Churchill, James Joyce, and many more. Generally, being a morning person is heralded, but identifying as a night owl is not without its perks or good company.
As for morning people, the early bird still gets the worm, at least as far as we know. However, night owls everywhere rejoice late into the night, then smugly hit the snooze button the next day.
You know that junk drawer you dread opening? It’s no bueno. Not only can chaotic environments stress us out by competing for space in our brains, but clutter in a room like the kitchen can also make us more likely to eat unhealthy stuff. Clean the deep recesses of your cupboards and fridge, then organize and maintain them (try adding hooks, racks, or dividers) so you don’t have to panic every time you open ’em.
Cook With Friends
Maybe there’s no such thing as too many cooks in the kitchen. An 80-year-long study at Harvard University found that close relationships—more than lavish lifestyles or money—are what keep us happy and healthy. Invite your loved ones to help you chop, stir, and savor meals together. Another way to keep the good vibes going? Find kitchen soaps or candles with scents that remind you of happy times—research says it can up your mood.
Just Add Greenery
Even though your garden isn’t growing outside, you can still bring plant life inside and reap the positive effects it can have on your well-being and mood. Research shows that greens can improve our attitude, reduce stress, and make us more productive. Decorate your kitchen counter with a hearty potted herb like sage; add a bamboo plant to a side table; or fill a vase with fresh-cut flowers and place it on your dining room table.
Coloring books for adults are more than just a quirky pastime: A 2016 study at the University of Otago in New Zealand found that people who spent time on creative goals during the day felt more positive the next day. Take a break to knit a scarf, bake a cake, write a poem, play a song, or craft with your kids. Short on time? Add creativity to workday tasks by using colored pens to take notes, or make domestic duties more fun by listening to an audio book.
Waiting in line at the post office. Paying attention to a monotone lecture. Commuting on a tuna-scented train. Life is full of unpleasant and necessary tasks like these — what psychologists call “aversive activities.” A new studyasked a simple question: What are the best ways to get through them?
19 Ways to Lose Your Lazy
For the study, which was published in December in the European Journal of Personality, researchers sought to discover the key to success (at least, self-reported success) in aversive tasks. Was there a secret recipe for perseverance?
To start, though, they asked exploratory questions via the crowdsourcing platform Mechanical Turk. What strategies did online respondents use to “keep themselves going” through mentally and physically taxing challenges? Researchers boiled responses down to 19 broad strategies, which included giving yourself a pep talk, promising yourself a reward at the end of the task, and taking a substance (say, chugging an energy drink).
The strategies were as follows:
Changing the activity itself, or how it’s performed (without adding an external incentive), like running slower on the treadmill or taking notes while you study
Changing the environment in which the activity is performed, such as working from a coffee shop or taking a new running route
Reducing or removing distractions and temptations like closing social media or turning off your phone
Seeking social support like taking a friend with you to the gym
Taking a substance like drinking coffee or downing an energy drink
Task enrichment like listening to music while you work out or watching TV while you fold laundry
Focusing on the activity itself and how you’re performing it
Distracting your attention by focusing on something else
Anticipating self-reward like playing a video game when you’re done with homework
Focusing on the negative consequences of not completing the task
Focusing on the positive consequences of completing the task
Goal setting, or breaking the task down into sub-goals, like “I will write 200 words in the next 20 minutes.”
Monitoring progress, like checking how much time is left in your workout
Planning/scheduling, like setting a specific time for performing the activity
Reappraisal, or using a different frame of mind for the activity (for example, imagine you’re running in a race)
Motivating self-talk, or telling yourself you can do it
Thinking about the finish and letting yourself know you’re almost done
Suppressing the impulse to quit even though you want to
Emotion regulation like trying to stay in a good mood throughout the activity
Researchers then asked a second group of Mechanical Turk recruits to take a self-control assessment and rate each of the 19 broad strategies. How often did they use each type? All the time? Never? This gave a sense of which strategies were most popular.
More importantly, by comparing the strategy ratings with the respondents’ self-control assessments, the researchers could get a sense of which strategies were most popular among people with high self-control. For these people, the most popular strategies included things like setting goals, making plans and schedules, regulating their emotional state, and focusing on the positive consequences of the unpleasant activities at hand.
Then came the meat of the study: Researchers followed 264 participants, mostly female students, for a week. Each day, they checked in with study respondents seven times; the check-ins were always at least an hour apart and conducted via a digital survey that expired within an hour.
The survey had three parts. First, it asked respondents if they’d done something unpleasant in the last hour, and if so, what type of unpleasant task it had been. Then it asked them what strategies they had used to persevere through the task. Finally, it asked if they had successfully completed the task.
You Can Do It, Put Your Back Into It
Ultimately, there was no silver bullet. People used different strategies for persevering through different types of activities. For example, respondents rarely used “task enrichment,” like listening to music, for emotionally challenging tasks like a relationship talk, but that was common for physically challenging tasks like running on a treadmill.
However, a cluster of strategies still emerged as possible keys to success. Focusing on the positive consequences of finishing an activity — or, conversely, on the negative consequences of abandoning it halfway through — was linked with success. Another successful strategy was imagining the finish line was near, even when it wasn’t. (In other words, it was helpful to break the task into a series of mini-tasks, so you were always near a finish line.)
Finally, emotional regulation — so, doing whatever you need to do to boost your mood, or at least keep it from falling into the deepest depths of despair — was correlated with success. Once people were in a bad mood, their tenacity dropped.
Researchers found that among respondents with high self-control, focusing on positive consequences and regulating emotions were especially popular. However, these strategies didn’t explain self-controlled people’s higher success rate with aversive tasks. They seemed to still bring some special sauce to their treadmill workouts and dull study sessions that transcended any one strategy.
Even if you’re a naturally self-indulgent soul, though, you can use perseverance hacks to get closer to your goals. You don’t have to be innately disciplined to send a package at the post office — though we won’t lie. It helps.
Learn more about how to get through challenges in Angela Duckworth’s book“Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance.” We handpick reading recommendations we think you may like. If you choose to make a purchase, Curiosity will get a share of the sale.
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Recently, researchers have been learning more about how poor sleep influences our dietary choices, as well as how diet influences sleep quality. Not sleeping for long enough or poor quality sleep are associated with increased food intake, a less healthy diet, and weight gain. Lack of sleep also leads to increased snacking and overeating. And it causes us to want to eat foods high in fat and carbohydrates — with increased chemical rewards to the brain when we do eat these foods.
Essentially, poor sleep drives your body to find high energy foods to keep you awake which makes fighting the cravings for unhealthy foods very difficult to resist. But, on the other hand, when we have slept well our appetite hormones are at a normal level. We don’t crave unhealthy food so much — and we can make better choices about what to eat.
All cultures around the world have traditions about which foods promote sleep. Foods such as milk, chamomile, kiwi fruit, and tart cherries, have all been said to work wonders for a good night’s sleep. Given how much the food we eat affects us on a day-to-day basis, it is not surprising that our diet plays such a big role in our quality of sleep. What we eat also has a big impact on our organ function, immune system, hormone production, and brain function.
A really important hormone that controls our sleep patterns is melatonin. Melatonin is produced in the brain and the amount of melatonin you produce, and how efficiently our brain uses it is affected by our diet. One of the biggest influence on our melatonin levels appears to be our intake of a type of proteincalled tryptophan. Tryptophan is an essential amino acid — the building blocks of proteins. Essential amino acids are a group which our bodies cannot make; it can only be sourced through diet.
Other nutrients that appear to be helpful for sleep include B vitamins and magnesium. This is because they help tryptophan to be more available in the body. If your diet is lacking tryptophan, B vitamins, or magnesium, it is very likely that your melatonin production and secretion will be affected and your sleep quality will be poorer.
Eat to Sleep
It stands to reason then that following overly restrictive diets or diets that put you at risk of nutrient deficiencies can really affect your sleep. But by increasing your intakes of foods rich in specific nutrients, it may well help to promote better sleep quality and duration.
Dairy foods, for example, can be great at helping you sleep. Not only is dairy an excellent source of tryptophan, but it also contains magnesium and B vitamins which help to promote the activity and availability of tryptophan. Nuts, like dairy, also contain all the nutrients known to promote increased melatonin production and support its release.
Fish is a great source of tryptophan and B vitamins. Fish with bones, such as sardines, will also provide magnesium. Including fish in your diet regularly may help to promote healthy melatonin production when you need it. Pulses, beans, and lentils also contain high amounts of tryptophan and B vitamins. Adding some tofu or paneer to a vegetable stew or curry can also help to increase your likelihood of having a great night’s sleep. You could also add in some soya — which is another good source of tryptophan — to optimize your sleep potential.
And if you’re still struggling to sleep, it might be that you’d benefit from some meat. Meat of all kinds contains all the essential ingredients for a good night’s sleep. So if you can’t nod off at night, maybe think about adding some lean meat to your diet.
If you find yourself hungry before bed, for the ideal bed time snack, try a glass of semi-skimmed or skimmed milk, a small banana or a few nuts — all of which can really help to improve your sleep and your willpower the next day. It’s also worth pointing out that it takes around an hour for the tryptophan in foods to reach the brain, so don’t wait until just before bedtime to have your snack. And it’s also advisable to have a balanced diet that includes plenty of foods that are high in tryptophan throughout the day to optimize your chances of a good night’s sleep.