5 Insane Ways to Abuse Your Body to Greatness (Tested)
I'm one of those people who can't help but try weird things I read about online because I have passed the final save point, and obscure side quests are now all that's standing between me and my inevitable defeat in the final boss fight against the Blood Wyvern. Weird recipes, new ways to fold T-shirts, atrocious "life hacks" that amount to a wasted two hours and a dislocated shoulder ... I'm that guy who secretly tries it all when bored.
My main weaknesses (I'd say fortes, but let's be honest here) are those strange cheat codes that supposedly trick your unsuspecting body into improving its performance in weird ways, like that thing where pro athletes can eliminate choking before an important event by singing. Here are the decidedly non-scientific and mostly disastrous results of these experiments, documented for posterity.
Control Your Bladder to Make Impulsive Decisions
Have you ever faced a situation where you need to make a good decision real fast? The two might seem mutually exclusive, but there's actually a simple trick (which I hereby and henceforth refuse to call a "body hack") that can magically jump-start your lazy brain into a veritable V8 engine of decision-making: All you require is an overwhelming need to pee a whole lot. Well, that's what psychology researchers from the University of Twente in the Netherlands claim, anyway. And who am I to question a bunch of Dutch scientists touting the benefits of urination control?
No fucking one, that's who.
The theory behind the whole "magic your bladder into a decision superweapon" thing is pretty sound. An urgent need to pee essentially reduces your brain to a jailer/torturer that is forced to assert control over your full bladder, while the latter is screaming: "Oh, God! Make this agony stop! Why can I find no release?" All off these force-signals -- that your brain is whipping your bladder with -- apparently bleed all over a bunch of other brain functions, resulting in a temporarily increased control over whatever task is at hand.
And this may well be the case ... in controlled lab conditions. I quickly found out that when a random dick like me uses his lunch hour to chug a jug of Kool-Aid in order to quickly and efficiently sort out a bunch of urgent matters, the only decision he's able to reach is to (barely) resist an overwhelming urge to piss all over the very concept of Excel. It was at this point that I revisited the research and found out that it doesn't actually apply to all sorts of decisions. According to the lead researcher, "People are more able to control their impulses for short-term pleasures and choose more often an option is more beneficial in the long run." I gave this a go, but as I attempted to bribe myself with promises to my future self, I soon became too distracted by an ever-increasing need to drain the main vein.
In hindsight, "one pot of coffee now or two pots of coffee tomorrow"
was probably a poor reward choice.
And, with that, my very first experiment was a failure. Let's, uh, let's just say I was lucky that the nearest toilet was only a few steps from my office. My sprint there was extremely decisive, though.
Blow on Your Thumb to Reduce Stress
Everyone has his or her own ways to alleviate stress and bring his or her brain chemistry back from the boiling point. Many sport, others play video games, and some still prefer seedy back-alley hand jobs. But, what are you going to do when you're smack dab in the middle of work, unable to beat stress to submission with your weapon of choice?
Blow on your thumb, that's what! By sticking your thumb in your mouth and blowing on it, you can activate your vagus nerve, which should then calm your heart rate and lower your blood pressure. Some experts say that just blowing on your non-orally inserted thumb can help, too, though to a lesser extent.
OK, yeah, so I first thought this was kind of bullshit, too. Still, Newsweek says it works, and that was enough for me.
After all, it's not like they ever make mistakes.
You know what's not a great stress reducer? Being a grown-ass man, sitting with your thumb in your mouth, and making noises not unlike a beached whale attempting to blow open a clogged drain -- when a colleague unexpectedly walks in.
Not saying that happened, but just putting it out there. (Also, if you tell anyone, Jeff, so help me, I will sacrifice your Hawkeye bobblehead to the dark gods of marketing department.)
Shower Less to Protect Your Skin
A few years ago, I stumbled upon this article by Crystal Beran and my esteemed fellow columnist C. Coville, in which they describe all the ways science says we're failing to do even the most basic of things. Two of the entries interested me in particular, so I chose to test them -- just to see what would happen. The first one on the menu was showering, an idea-inducing activity that I enjoy as well as the next person.
Unless the next person is Bill, who never quite grasped the concept.
Turns out, science says the very bricks that build an awesome shower experience -- heat, soap, gettin' clean, being there waaaaay too long -- actually conspire to mess up your horny layer, which is a real thing that exists on your skin. (And, yeah, I laughed too.) The horny layer is basically a shell of epidermis smut that protects the living parts of your skin from outside influence -- and getting all hot and scrubby in the shower destroys the shit out of it, especially if you do it too often.
So, let's not!
I took to the task, following the exact advice given by the article mentioned above: less showers (I settled on three per week, as science doesn't give an exact figure), colder showers (in order to cause less damage on the epidermis), and gloriously air-drying myself instead of murdering my horny layer with rampant towel-scrubbery. Almost instantly, protests over the latter emerged as I paraded my majestic, dripping husk all over the living room. However, that was just the beginning of how much the whole "less showers" thing sucked.
Are you familiar with the scientific concept known as "ass stank"? Because no matter how healthy reduced showering might be for your skin, that's what you get as a side effect when your body is used to daily cleansing. I am a person, and, as such, a proud owner of things such as armpits, a crotch, and a butt. There is sweat. This means the epidermis soon becomes a secondary issue, as opposed to a slowly, but surely emerging, waft of eau de arse, which is generally frowned upon in most non-Burning Man environments. It's amazing how quickly this starts to accumulate when you're used to at least one daily shower.
On a positive note, you always have plenty of space in an elevator.
To recap: During the two-week period I attempted this thing, I fell into living my life as 80 percent smelly hobo and 20 percent dripping wet home nudist. The showers sucked because the water was only lukewarm, and when anyone asked me what was going on, my reply was something about "protecting my horny layer," which is why the mob chased me into this tree where I'm writing this column from. In conclusion, fuck horny layer. You can read that however you like -- those two weeks probably landed me on plenty of watch lists anyway.
Keep Fast Days to Boost Your Metabolism
As you may or may not remember, I have dabbled with losing weight every once in a while. Although I have always managed to steer clear of crash diets and bullshit like that, the one semi-trend I have fallen for is the fast day/feast day form of dieting. Some time ago, I briefly and mostly accidentally found myself adhering to a schedule in which I only remembered to eat every once in a while, to the point where I went entire days fueled by primarily coffee and maybe a sandwich. When I noticed that rhythm -- brought on by a particularly hectic work schedule -- I started Googlin' about and found that the whole fast day/feast day thing was a, uh, thing. So, instead of fixing an unhealthy eating habit, I found myself doing that action where you wrangle a bad habit into a good one in your head. How could anything go wrong? I had science in my corner, baby!
Which is never an unnerving thing at all.
Again, what in theory is a potentially neat way to improve your body ... falls flat on its fucking face when applied to real life. Due to completely failing to do my homework, I accidentally started out with a pretty hardcore version, making my way through the first couple of eat-nothing days consuming little more than water and using the feast day card to stuff my face with copious amounts of whatever I could get my hands to. My system never got the chance to adjust to this new rhythm -- I was forced to stop after just a few days because when you see the neighbor's new car and your first instinct is to wonder what it tastes like, you're either Michel Lotito or fucking starving. I then re-read the instructions and switched to a slightly less murderous variation that allowed me to consume 500 calories on the fast days -- which is no picnic, but, at least, drowns out the body's worst "stop killing me, you fool" signals.
I lasted less than a week.
"That's what you get for failing to give us fuel, dork."
Looking back, I suppose that rough start of eating basically nothing on fast days was what screwed the whole thing for me. The experts touting the "every other day diet" steadfastly claim that the people keeping fast days actually wind up eating more healthily on the feast days, as well. This was most certainly not true for me, as the fast days left me too exhausted to cook anything for the feast days, which basically reduced the whole thing into a fast-food-or-nothing diet. Lacking nutrients and stamina, as well as finding that the anger issues accompanying hunger were rapidly intertwining with my rapidly increasing hatred of hamburgers, I was forced to call it quits before I would assault and/or attempt to eat a McDonald's executive in a malnutrition-induced fury.
On the positive side, after I stopped the fast days, I almost immediately lost five pounds because I couldn't bear to even look at a fucking cheeseburger.
Mess With Your Sleeping Patterns to Get More Waking Hours
For the longest time, my sleeping patterns have been what science tends to define as "completely and irrevocably screwed." Or, so I thought! Again, thanks to that article I mentioned earlier, I found out that I was actually sleeping all right -- society was just shaming me into a member of the "sleep eight hours a night because we tell you to" horde. If you're not familiar with sleeping patterns and can't be bothered to click that link, here's a short summary: Human beings tend to naturally sleep in short segments, instead of a longer, single period of sleep -- which, of course, is what everyone perceives as "true" sleeping.
Inspired by this, I started reading around and found a bunch of different (theoretical, but there you go) sleeping cycles, one of which seemed to fit my natural pattern almost exactly. All of those years I had spent convinced that I was a hopeless insomniac who would doubtlessly drop dead of sleep deprivation, I had unwittingly been following what is apparently called an Everyman sleeping cycle -- four to five hours of sleep and two 20-minute zone-out/power naps during the day.
Pick your poison.
So, upon learning this, I let out a sigh of relief and carried on life as usual.
Ha, of course not! I went right ahead and started experimenting with another potentially bullshit sleeping cycle.
Futurist supervillain-in-the-making Buckminster Fuller is a multiple-time Cracked alum and a crazy architect extraordinaire. That's why, when I learned that his famous(ly disastrous) Dymaxion brand included a goddamn sleeping cycle, I had to give it a try. The Dymaxion sleep schedule consists of a grand total of two hours of sleep per day, divided into 30-minute naps every six hours. Dymaxion, incidentally, is a combination of the words "dynamic," "maximum," and "tension," all of which bode really well for sleeping. Apparently, Fuller himself followed this schedule without a worry in the world and only switched back to normal ("monophasic") sleeping when his wife started giving him shit about the whole falling-asleep-every-six-hours thing.
So, I came to try the Dymaxion a few years ago, during a vacation when I had the house to myself. I had drafted my schedule completely around my new sleeping pattern. I was prepared for the inevitable drowsiness, even a little excited at the prospect of getting by with such a minimal amount of sleep. Man, can you even imagine all of the things I would have time to do with all of those extra hours? They would be devious, I thought to myself. Devious. Full of confidence, I started my project ... and lasted nearly two-and-a-half days of near-constant tiredness before I dozed off, literally, in the middle of writing an email. Not once had I managed to fall asleep immediately (which is kind of a prerequisite for this sleeping cycle), and not once had I woken up refreshed. It was bullshit. The next night, I slept for 13 hours, and, when I woke, I vowed never to try shit like that again.
Stick to the domes, guy.
I get that switching to a new sleep schedule takes time. I fully understand that dropping two-thirds of your sleep time out of the blue is going to make you feel like shit for a while. But, how long exactly is your body going to take until you can Dymaxion it up? Even when it does, do you actually get any benefit from those extra waking hours you gain, or do you stumble your way in the world in between naps like the drunkard that constant sleep deprivation is going to make you seem like? I don't know, and, frankly, I don't ever want to find out. Sleep the way that is best for you, people -- it's the only way.
Still, I feel I gained some valuable insight on exactly how Buckminster Fuller came up with his geodesic domes, non-drivable cars, and other bullshit. If anyone can follow this sleep cycle for even a week, I bet he or she will begin drawing plans to encase Manhattan in a glass dome, too.
For more from Pauli, check out 5 Real-Life Versions of Marvel's Avengers and 5 Awful Things You Don't Realize Until Your Phone Breaks.
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