5 Awesome Life Hacks Hidden In Your Own Body
Before everybody started calling everyday tips "Life Hacks," they were often called folk remedies, and they usually rhymed. ("An apple a day keeps the doctor away!") The challenge now, as it was then, is figuring out which ones actually fucking work.
Well, according to recent experiments ...
Ice Massage Your Hand Webbing To Reduce Pain
Ancient Oriental medical techniques are either perceived by Westerners as miracle cures or pure bullshit, but the truth is often somewhere in between. For instance, you've probably heard of acupuncture/acupressure, which claims there are hypersensitive pressure points in the human body that can cure pain in some totally different part (this would be the principle upon which the Kill Bill five point palm exploding heart technique was based). Hoku, aka LI4, is one such region, located within the webbing at the junction between index finger and thumb:
They're just highlighting the area; your hand shouldn't actually look like that.
Hoku is supposed to be a powerful, inflammatory pain relief point, the merest pressure being able to knock your pain away like a boxing glove made of Advil. Despite the fact that the previous sentence sounds lifted from a Scientology treatise on anatomy, science totally backs it up ... in a way.
Research shows that a light massage with a piece of ice administered at this juncture is a super-effective painkiller -- effective enough to alleviate pain during the living hell that is giving birth. Women who have been treated with the "honey, let's rub some ice on a very particular spot on your hand" method at the onset of contractions have reported a very noticeable decrease in womb-wrenching pain. Furthermore, this same treatment administered after birth reduced their pain ratings from "distressing" to "discomfort," which might as well be "ecstatic" considering the participants' reproductive parts just basically evacuated a bowling ball.
"Well, that was a minor inconvenience. I wonder what's on HBO tonight?"
And yes, you need the ice for it to work -- another study focusing on dental pain administered three types of massages to the hoku node: ice massage, regular massage, and regular massage plus the explicit suggestion that it treats toothaches (to see if it was just a psychological thing). Ice massage still reigned supreme, slashing dental pain by 50 percent or more in the majority of participants. So next time your tooth hurts, ditch the Orajel and just hold onto a cold bottle of beer.*
*Please don't do this. Very few courts recognize us as a legitimate medical authority.
One day they'll trust in Cracked too, goddammit.
Napping Helps You Cram For A Test
Until our society inevitably collapses into a mess of Mad Max-style anarchy, standardized testing will likely remain a major part of academic life. And until the day the sun is finally consumed by the tentacled things that lie behind all existence, roughly 167 percent of all students will prepare for the tests with the tried-and-true method of last-minute cramming. No one claims an all-nighter with a fleet of highlighters and Red Bull close at hand is the ideal way to study, but few of us have room for negotiation when it's 10 p.m. and you just realized that the test is tomorrow morning.
And you forgot to put pants on.
But what if we told you it's possible to improve your memorization game during those study binges? And what if we told you it requires you to do even less work than Past You optimistically figured an all-nighter would require? It's easy: You just need to sleep. Not the whole night, obviously -- but research suggests that you're better off with a few quick reviews of the source material and a nap, rather than drilling into the wee hours, chugging caffeine until your blood type is espresso.
It's no surprise that a good night's rest consolidates freshly weaned information, but it appears that even a quick, 45-60 minute nap can vitalize your memory muscles in a way classic cramming and its "I must eat all information now" approach can only dream of. According to a German study published earlier this year, which put the regular cramming-until-dawn technique against the "read 'em and sleep" one, we're talking about a five times better performance in memorization.
It also led to a better performance in the "not being a huge douche in the morning" test.
The magic behind this particular trick appears to lie in the hippocampus -- the brain region responsible for committing hot new data to long-term memory. Researchers found that napping triggers a staccato of electrical impulses they call sleep spindles, which manifest during sleep and play a major part in the whole "being able to remember all that stuff you just hurriedly learned" part of the studying.
In other words, your brain hates studying just as much as you, to the point where it's totally prepared to give you a cheat code for it if you just let it sleep for a little bit longer, Mom. Jeez.
And, if you find your attention drifting on test day, you should know that ...
Looking At Nature Helps You Focus
As proud and unashamed Internet denizens, many of us have a tendency to keep as much distance between us and nature as humanly possible, because we're allergic and those damn bears keep trying to steal our PlayStation. We also tend to have a fairly short attention span, as evidenced by our tendency to holy shit, is that dump truck going to crash into that overhead sign? Wonder if the "Gangnam Style" guy is still making music. Noodles.
Here is some bad news: These two tendencies might have something to do with each other, because it turns out looking at nature helps you focus, where looking at blank walls does not. "Oh, that's real helpful," you say. "So I just need to get in my car and drive to a wilderness preserve in the middle of my next study session?" Nope! You don't have to actively subject yourself to the wilderness at all, because just looking at a picture of nature will do (at least to an extent).
Here, look at these two pictures:
You can pretend the puppy is in them if you want.
Which one seems more appealing and energizing? Unless you're looking for your own Street Fighter stage, the answer is almost certainly the one with all the greenery. This is because it really is more appealing to our brain; at least, the part of it that helps you focus.
University of Melbourne researchers rounded up 150 volunteers and gave them sustained attention tasks custom-designed to drain their focus and patience. During the first round, everyone's performance was more or less similar. Afterwards, however, participants were given a short break and shown one of those roof pictures before being asked to complete another trial. Even though the micro-break lasted only 40 seconds, it offered a rejuvenating experience for those exposed to the flora-infused rooftop. The flower power gifted participants an increased attention span and also decreased their rate of error by arousing their sub-cortical and cortical attention control.
You don't want to know how the people shown images of nature being destroyed did.
This find is part of a larger trend in psychological science, where we've slowly started to find out that the restorative powers of nature are able to revitalize our brain. Although we're still figuring out the exact how and why of it, the basic concept is pretty simple: Humanity evolved in nature, so natural environments make our brain feel more relaxed and at home. It's not that an eyeful of greenery gives you focusing superpowers -- it's that whenever we work in an artificial environment, our brains are essentially playing an away game.
On a similar note ...
Hunger Makes You Smarter With Money
As science and any orphan worth his salt will tell you, hunger is detrimental to performance in just about every task. Not only are you cranky and maybe lightheaded, but you're impulsive -- every adult knows not to go grocery shopping while hungry, lest you pile your cart with boxes of ice cream sandwiches you intend to eat in the parking lot.
"If you have a better way to keep them from melting, I'd like to hear it."
But that doesn't really make sense from an evolutionary point of view -- if our brains could be derailed by mild hunger, we'd have gone extinct long ago. Our ancestors would never have managed to hunt mammoths for food, because they'd have started chewing the moss off the nearest tree whenever they got a hunger pang. And we know that there are hidden switches that your brain flips when hunger strikes -- for instance, hunger affects visual perception by amplifying the size of evolutionarily important items within the environment. Logically we should be able to think better when we're hungry, for the same reason we can run faster when we're scared.
And sure enough, recent experiments show that you should try making important financial decisions on an empty stomach. Hunger, we're finding, alters the way we perceive risk and reward in a way that helps you make better long-term decisions, regardless of that time you came home from Walmart with one bag of every Doritos flavor on the shelf (that wasn't because you were hungry, it was because you were high). In 2014, Netherlands' Utrecht University had two groups of subjects perform a complex gambling task -- one control group, one group that had fasted for 10 hours beforehand -- that basically boiled down to "take a little money now, or hold out for more later." The hungry students tended to prefer the delayed reward. In other words, they made a good investment.
Possibly by thinking of how many more ice cream sandwiches they'd be able to buy.
And just to be clear, it wasn't as simple as the researcher asking, "Do you want $2 now or $4 next week?" It was a complicated card game in which they had to think through the consequences and chances of success over the short and long term. The hungry subjects, despite the marked lack of ramen particles flowing through their intestine, were quicker to spot the patterns that would presumably lead to future riches. It's almost as if the hunger sharpened their thinking, like the brain needed a little hunger to make the situation real. "All right, we need to get serious about this shit, because we don't want to feel like this again." Wait, is this why car dealerships always keep popcorn and dougnuts in the lobby?
Crying Can Help You in Negotiations
Movies, TV series, and every single businessperson you've ever met like to tell you that negotiations are a minefield of gains and losses where only the hardest of asses can prevail. For once, common sense agrees with them: Surely, exuding confidence during negotiations is critically important. These encounters are all about power.
Hence why you should always come with a little extra power on your side.
Science, however, disagrees; according to knowledgeable-looking men in lab coats, you've been doing negotiating all wrong (or right, only without realizing it). Here's what you need to do:
Or whatever you can do to make a play for pity. The key is to look sad.
"I'm sorry, it's just that my turtle-in-law died recently."
This was a finding in an experiment with more than 200 subjects -- they basically went through a complex series of role-play negotiations, trying different emotional techniques each time. "Just try to look sad" was the winner. They did the experiment three times, and the outcome was always the same. That's presumably because even a hardened negotiator is still a human being, and therefore is probably capable of feeling sympathy.
Now, like every tool, crying only works in certain situations. For example, if your billionaire boss were to cry while asking you to take a pay cut, you'd just want to punch him -- it only works when the other person perceives that you're in a position of less power than them. It also only tends to work when they think they'll have to deal with you again in the future; so crying may not do anything for the furniture salesman refusing to give you a discount on a sofa, but might work on your manager at Arbys.
Although some Arbys managers are immune to tears, having seen so many of their own.
But honestly, we're just telling you what you've instinctively known since birth.
And also check out some home remedies don't work at all in Your Mom Lied: 5 Common Body Myths Debunked. Or get more familiar with your meat sack in 6 Freaky Things Your Body Does (Explained by Science).
Also follow us on Facebook and we'll teach you how to starve yourself to fame.