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7 Basic Things You Won't Believe You're All Doing Wrong

If you're like us, you might sometimes have a problem with complex tasks, like trying to drive an ambulance and send a text message at the same time. But hey, at least most of us have figured out the simplest things that get us through the day, right?

Except, you know, some of the simple things we've done every day of our lives, like ...

#7.
Pooping

What could be simpler than taking a good crap? Even babies are good at it. You might be surprised, then, to find out that even those of us who can burp without throwing up get this wrong every single day.


The one who just threw up on the other one's shoulder is better at pooping.

Chances are the pooping facility nearest you is a sitting toilet, a relatively recent invention that flushed its way into mankind's heart with the advent of indoor plumbing in the 19th century. Indoor plumbing has turned out pretty well for the most part, but the pooping style that came with it definitely has not. Pooping on a modern sitting toilet is a big part of where hemorrhoids come from, and it can also cause diverticular disease, an age-related condition that pretty much only occurs in parts of the world where sitting toilets are used, and which can lead to a range of pleasantries up to and including colonic obstruction. And things aren't getting better: The last few decades have seen a rise in popularity of "comfort height" toilets that sit two to four inches higher off the ground than older models and that make our pooping predicament even worse.

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Future toilets will exist just to kill us.

So how the hell are we meant to do it?

Luckily, there's a relatively simple way to end this poop dilemma. A 2003 study observed 28 people pooping in three positions: sitting on a high toilet, sitting on a lower one and squatting like they were catchers at a baseball game (catcher's mitt optional, but encouraged). After initially being mistaken for a German porn company, the researchers found that pooping took about a minute less when done squatting and that participants rated the experience as "easier" (God, we hope they were getting paid).

In fact, toilets that require you to squat that way have been the standard for most of human history and are still widely used in the non-Western world.

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And urban centers of the Western world.

According to proctologists, "We were not meant to sit on toilets, we were meant to squat in the field." When you're in a sitting or standing position, you're forming an angle between the where the poop is and where the poop's gotta come out. There's even a muscle that's purpose is to tighten things up when we're sitting or standing to prevent accidents. Squatting straightens out this angle and removes the chokehold.

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For no reason, here's an icing pipe.

If the thought of squatting awkwardly on top of your toilet seat isn't for you, you can produce a similar poop-enhancing angle by resting your feet on a footstool (or anything handy) and leaning the top half of your body forward.

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Demonstrated here.

#6.
Bathing

From a young age, we're taught that the daily use of a hot shower, copious amounts of soap and a scratchy washcloth are necessary to rid ourselves of dangerous microorganisms and the putrid smell of human skin. And if you aren't squeaky-clean, you can forget about dating, career advancement and the promise of a future that doesn't involve dying alone in a den of your own filth.

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That's what college is for.

As it turns out, showering or bathing daily, while it may make us more socially acceptable, wreaks havoc on something hilariously called the horny layer. Hot water, soap and abrasive surfaces strip off the horny layer, exposing living cells to the elements. And although we've just used the words "strip," "exposing" and "horny" in the same sentence, we assure you that this is not the making of a sexy situation. On the contrary, damaging this protective layer of skin makes us more susceptible to disease.

Via Wikimedia Commons
Sexy disease.

Before recent modern conveniences, people bathed less often, and frequently in the same water. Even nowadays, showering doesn't kill bacteria or other microorganisms, though it does move them around. A colony of bacteria living on your shower wall might move to your leg; a colony from your leg might move to your head; a colony from your groin might even take up residence on your hands. For this reason, surgeons in many hospitals are not allowed to shower right before operating.

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Not even you, Doctor McPenishands!

Studies have shown that there are no measurable differences in the number of microorganism colonies a person is host to regardless of how frequently that person showers. Of course, using antibacterial soaps can kill microorganisms, though in an effort not to create too many super bacteria, medical experts generally recommend not using these soaps daily.

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"Say what you like, but you have to admit my bones are super shiny!"

So how the hell are we meant to do it?

The most important thing to do to keep the skin healthy is to preserve the horny layer. There's no magic number of showers each week, though it's generally agreed that the number would fall somewhat shy of seven. Skipping showers, or, if you'd like a fancy French term, celebrating sans douche days, gives your skin time to repair some of the damage that the last shower caused.

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Any more than a day and there's no amount of French that'll get rid of Eau de Sewer.

When you shower, use warm or cool water and a mild soap (if at all), and rehydrate the horny layer by rubbing on some moisturizer afterward. Better yet, convince an attractive friend to help with this. Once you've cleaned up, you'll want to make sure you air dry. Ignore protesting roommates or family members and remind them, as you're drip-drying at the breakfast table, that they should be grateful you're showering only a couple of times a week.

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"Kids, ignore your father while I try to remember why I married him."

#5.
Breathing

Congratulations: Chances are that if you're reading this, and you're not a ghost, you've managed to figure out breathing. On the other hand, chances are you're also doing it wrong.

iStockphoto
You're also suddenly aware that you're breathing now.

Take a deep breath right now. We'll wait. If you're anything like most people, you raised your shoulders a little and puffed out your chest like a pigeon in heat. You probably don't see anything wrong with using your chest to breathe, since after all, that's where your lungs are. What the hell else are you going to use? Your thighs? Well, smartass, it turns out that the muscle you're supposed to use to breathe, your diaphragm, is under your lungs and closer to your belly.

Via Wikimedia Commons
Shown here as the white mass on the bottom of this X-ray of Tom Cruise (may not actually be Tom Cruise).

When upright, most people are habitual chest breathers: We use a shallow form of respiration that makes use of only the top part of the lungs. In reality, most of the blood vessels that take up oxygen are in the bottom, neglected half. Since so much lung power is going to waste, we get less oxygen, and as a result, we're all breathing more rapidly than nature intended us to.

Chest breathing also tends to upset the blood's oxygen/carbon dioxide balance and can lead to headaches, fatigue, anxiety and even panic attacks. According to one expert, you're also potentially suffering from sweaty palms, difficulty relaxing, heightened pain perception and general fatigue.

Photos.com
Or as most people call it -- a "first date."

So how the hell are we meant to do it?

It turns out that breathing is one area in which babies are much smarter than you. Babies use a deeper type of respiration called abdominal breathing, which strengthens and makes full use of their diaphragms. It's only as we grow older that we revert to the more inefficient style. Luckily, you can train your body to go back to breathing properly, and over time, you can even breathe abdominally in your sleep.

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Not to be confused with snoring, which is just breathing abominably.

To practice it, try to "inflate" your stomach as you breathe in, while keeping your chest relatively still. Then contract your abdominal muscles on the exhale. Not only will this give you more oxygen per breath, it will eventually strengthen the diaphragm. A stronger diaphragm means you get more oxygen with each breath, so your brain won't need to divert any away from your muscles, meaning that you get tired less easily.

Photos.com
Try this now at work, and observe as people kindly give you more breathing space!

A study on cardiac patients showed that this type of breathing leads to improved exercise performance and decreased shortness of breath, and it's also been linked to lower blood pressure. This is the reason that so many coaches recommend breathing practice as a shortcut to sports-based superpowers.

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"I'll have you know this exercise is recommended by my doctor."

#4.
Sleeping

OK, so maybe you can't handle pooping, breathing or much else that you'd think would come naturally. But surely just lying in bed every night is OK, right? So why the hell do you keep waking up at 3 a.m.? You lie there, wondering what the hell is wrong with you. Will I oversleep? you wonder. How will I find the time to sit down and poop in the morning?

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"I have to remember to breathe, too. I can't deal with all this."

If this happens to you often, you're not alone. Chances are, if you mention waking up like this to your doctor, it'll be diagnosed as a "sleep disorder," and you'll be given one of the tens of millions of prescriptions for sleeping pills handed out to Americans each year. You'll pop some Ambien, only to awaken a few hours later beating up a police officer. What on earth went wrong?

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To be fair, you couldn't have known that wasn't a real truncheon.

So how the hell are we meant to do it?

In this case, you're already doing it right. It's your reaction that's wrong.

The idea that an uninterrupted eight hours is the only sleep pattern natural to mankind is surprisingly recent. Before someone who wasn't Thomas Edison invented the light bulb, people in areas with more than eight hours of darkness usually slept in segments: three to five hours of sleep, an hour of wakefulness and then another three to five hour nap. The hour or so of awake time was used for quiet reflection, sex, smoking and pretty much everything except staring at the wall terrified of insomnia. In fact, this small window of consciousness was renowned as the best time for boning, as the tranquility between the first and second sleep was known as being uniquely suited to getting up to mischief with the person lying bored beside you.

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This isn't compulsory.

In recent times, artificial light has pushed our normal bedtime back later and later, and this segmented sleep has been compressed into a single eight hours. Still, our brains are naturally wired for pre-light-bulb days. In a monthlong experiment, healthy subjects were given a long artificial "night" lasting 14 hours. They quickly reverted to the segmented pattern, waking up for an hour or two of "peaceful wakefulness" between two three to five hour stretches.

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By the end of the experiment, all the women were pregnant.

So why do we still wake up even when we've been up until midnight watching Deadliest Warrior marathons? Well, some people tend to revert to this natural sleep cycle despite all the artificial light, especially during dark winter months. Fortunately, having this sort of technology-resistant superbrain doesn't necessarily spell disaster. According to experts, if you stay calm and allow yourself to fall back to sleep naturally rather than lying there wondering why you're awake, you usually won't see any negative effects the next day.

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Unless you leave the TV on while you sleep.

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