Apparently There's A 7 In The AM? 5 Horrid But Useful Habits
With January comes the typical slew of self-improvement articles that can't possibly actually help many people improve, or else we wouldn't see them next year. You, the Cracked reader, probably don't give much of a shit about them, or else you'd be on HealthFit.app instead of here. Part of that might be because a lot of the typical resolutions are poorly thought out. Losing weight sounds great, but ignores the fact that tacos are delicious. Drinking less looks good on paper, but drinking has been humanity's primary source of entertainment since we invented farming, and who are you to fight history?
But to me, at least, some improvements are tough because they don't actually look like improvements from the outside. There's always some part of me that feels like the people who are getting up early, staying positive, and believing in themselves look like complete fucking assholes. Sure, they look like happy assholes, but they also look downright delusional. Maybe the biggest hurdle to getting your life together is that you aren't sure you really want to join their ranks, happily sipping lemon water at 7 a.m. and smiling like you've been lobotomized. Aren't those people incredibly annoying? Yes, they are. And we should join them in their annoying ways anyhow. Here's why.
Get Up Early Enough For Everyone To Hate You
We all know early risers are annoying. Before they arrive to work, they've already exercised, cleared their inbox, and used the bidet. You just know they have a fucking bidet. Their annoyingness is greatly compounded by the fact that they are -- by definition -- annoying you in the morning. And we absolutely hate them for it. We see them alert, focused, and ready to take on the day, whereas we're still reeling from the 3 a.m. TED-hole we fell into, our bosses scolding us for being late to work.
But "morning larks" aren't just annoying because they're chipper as a squirrel with a nut made of amphetamines; they're also annoying because they enjoy all kinds of advantages merely because they're on a different schedule. Studies have shown that they may be happier and skinnier, and that they may even live longer. All of that, even though they very well might be dumber than night owls. Basically the only negative thing they morning larks have to deal with is the appropriately Ned Flandersian moniker of "morning larks." And you get the sense that they don't even mind it.
If those benefits aren't enough to convince you, inventor / founding father / rap lyric Benjamin Franklin literally wrote a book on the virtues of getting up early (called Early Rising: A Natural, Social, And Religious Duty), and that guy was so good at sex that he was basically magic. That's a tough endorsement to look away from.
Now, I'm sure some of you don't believe all the hoopla about the biological benefits of being an early riser because we've pointed out that sleep science is about as conclusive as a paternity test dropped in a hotel hot tub. Even so, we should still all become morning people because society stacks the deck for them.
Take school, for example. School starts early, so the morning people in the student body (if you can call kids people) are the only ones who aren't asleep for the first third of their classes each day. Naturally, that leads to them getting better grades, because school is unfairly prejudiced for the awake. Now who do you think is getting the better jobs after graduation? And therefore setting the schedules of tomorrow's workplaces? And therefore setting the time tomorrow's parents need to drop their kids off at school in order to not be late to work? It's rigged!
I know how annoying you find the chipper morning person trying to discuss Lip Sync Battle with you at 9 a.m. But if we can't beat them, we gotta consider joining their Stepford existence and begrudgingly enjoying the success, thinness, and extended lifespan that comes with it. Or at least an extended lifespan if you aren't choked to death by a night owl who found you just too annoying.
Believe In Complete Bullshit Without Question
People who sincerely believe "Everything works out for the best" manage to keep a smile on their face and a spring in their step as though they've never heard of major events in human history. (That, or they have a very dark understanding of what "working out for the best" means.) But whether it's a product of ignorance or naturally unflappable positivity, believing in the power of complete horseshit can literally save your life.
The Placebo Effect is very real, and so reliable that researchers are actually pretty blase about it. It's so reliable, in fact, that it's easy to forget that it's completely unexplained belief magic. You can take a person with a disease and give them fake medication -- usually a sugar pill that isn't good for curing anything more than an unsweetened cranberry juice -- and if they believe it is medicine that will cure them, there is a very real chance it will do just that. Just so we're all on the same page here, believing something will make you better causes you to get better. What the actual fuck? That is straight-up wizardry, and not how the material world is supposed to function. It's as if reality itself is bending to accommodate people who won't even appreciate how totally insane that is.
Why aren't self-awareness and anxiety about the future of democracy a miracle cure for random diseases? Those are traits the world could do with more of -- not the ability to believe in utter bullshit like the healing power of crystals or that a wine of the month club will make you more cultured. But no, we should all be cultivating our gullibility. Because apparently, nature has decided that people who believe any bullshit written on a bottle are the ones who should live to 110.
Believe In Yourself, No Matter How Much Evidence There Is To The Contrary
We all know the dangers of coddling the youths of today: They'll grow up to think they can do anything, only to get smacked down by a harsh reality outside the nest that they're totally unprepared for. And that reality is that in the grown-up world, you can't be whatever you want to be. You work a difficult job. You do it diligently, whether or not it makes you happy, because it's your job, dammit. Then, once you've climbed the ladder of success, you get to be happy for 15 minutes before you die.
Well, that was the old way of thinking, anyhow. But more recent research suggests that successful people aren't happy; it's happy people who are successful. We've talked about the first half of that before, when we explained the "hedonic treadmill." That's the theory that both terrific and awful events in your life only impact your happiness for a short period of time. A study of lottery winners showed that they tend to return to their respective base happiness level after a little bit, even though they just got luckier than Ben Franklin in a French brothel. (Honestly, the guy was unstoppable.) Meanwhile, studies of people who lost spouses, limbs, the use of their legs, and other generally bummer-inducing things also rebounded to their base level of happiness, despite having every right to become bitter old hermits who scare kids whose baseballs roll into their yards. So I'm sorry to say that big promotion you're chasing probably won't make you happy for very long, but on the bright side, when you're maimed in a factory accident, you'll be pretty cool with it.
Instead of happiness following from success, it appears to be success that follows from happiness -- and not just in business. A summary of numerous studies explains that happy people become more successful in marriage, friendship, income, work performance, and health. Being happy is a) not directly linked to your life circumstances and b) better in almost every measurable way, at every juncture.
So if you're putting up with being unhappy now, begrudgingly paying your dues by shoving coal into the engine of capitalism, hoping for future success and happiness, you're actually holding yourself back from both. Meanwhile, your happy-go-lucky shovelmate is going to end up your boss in part just because he's happier than you are.
Talk About Your Bullshit To Everyone
Have you ever known someone for a long time and then found out they run marathons? Of course you haven't, because people who run marathons talk about that shit constantly. Is that because they just want to brag about their accomplishments? Absolutely. But do they also reap an additional benefit by making you feel bad in comparison? Even absolutlier.
There's a reason that the American Lung Association lists "telling friends and family" as one of the five keys to successfully quitting smoking. Public declarations of goals help people adhere to those goals. Whether you're trying to lose weight, exercise more, or set a record for how often people roll their eyes after you finish talking, publicly declaring your goals can be a huge help. By talking to other people about your goals, you put social pressure on yourself to stick to them. If you make yourself look like an asshole by talking about running a marathon, you'll have to actually run it. Because as bad as it is to be the person who always talks about their marathon, you don't want to become the person who failed to run a marathon.
The same goes for anything else you might be working on -- diets, journaling, volunteering, or looking through old records about Ben Franklin to see if you can pick up any tips.
Pretend To Be An Annoyingly Positive Person, Even If You Aren't
"But I'm just not naturally annoying!" you worry to yourself baselessly. Fear not, you can make yourself actually annoying by artificially assuming the above behaviors. Because what's more annoying than someone suddenly putting on a chipper attitude?
And, equally annoyingly, with the fake habits will come real advantages. Even if you weren't born seeing the world through magenta lenses, you can train yourself to become one of those people. It doesn't matter if your positivity is completely fabricated -- you still reap the benefits as you begin to slowly transform, like Dr. Jekyll and HR Director Jekyll.
The fact that you can gradually train yourself to become an irrationally positive, early-rising, faith-having, marathon talker is both extremely useful for those of you who heed the advice of this article and conclusive proof that I do not belong on this planet. To turn yourself into a happier, more optimistic person, researchers have found it's best to just act like an extroverted, happier, more optimistic person, whether you actually feel that way or not. The mere act of pretending to have these traits can gradually cause you to take them on permanently. It's simultaneously inspiring and more disturbing than a hagfish raised in a vat of mayonnaise.
All this would be easier to bear if it weren't for the fact that, in spite of all their advantages, optimistic people are objectively incorrect about how they relate to the world. It isn't just me being a "glass half empty" kind of guy. Studies repeatedly find optimistic people to be kind of delusional. They metaphorically see a half full glass as 80 percent full. (Or as they would say, "pretty goshdarn full!") They systematically overestimate how much power they have to effect outcomes, and are more likely to take credit for wins while shrugging off failures. In fact, truly seeing the world accurately -- rather than in some irrationally positive light -- is a major sign of depression. A fact that, ironically, is depressing as hell.
They can't even enjoy this song about that, because they can see the truth.
So now we come to the Cracked people (hey, "crackheads" is a fun name I just thought up for us). Are the people who love reading about terrible murderers and tragic deaths simply because they're true supposed to become positivity-seeking, truth-avoidant jagoffs because it's healthier and happier to do so? Isn't there something creepy about intentionally altering your behaviors, thought patterns, and even general outlook on the world? Doesn't the thought of trading an accurate view of the world for ignorant happiness give you the willies? Absolutely. But also your new, happier, sexier, more successful self won't care.
I gotta say, I'm honestly torn. I place a really high value on knowing the truth. Not just because it might be useful if I ever get transported back in time like in my dreams, but just because it's true. On the other hand, I also place a high value on being alive. The fact that those things are in opposition to one another frustrates me to no end. It makes me want to book a Space X flight just so I can scream "Fuck you, Universe!" at the Universe from outer space. To which I can only imagine it would reply "Ben Franklin already did!" Dude was unstoppable.
Aaron Kheifets writes things for money, including this sentence. You are allowed to follow him on Twitter.
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