Staring can be good for your health.

A recent study found that a single hour in an art museum improved a person’s attitude and demeanor. But rather than battle the crowds at MOMA, spending some time staring at any object that speaks to you can elicit many wonderful experiences. A bowl of peaches is a swell place to start.

Set a timer for five minutes. Now look directly at the fruit without averting your gaze. Observe the object with all of your senses. How would you describe it? Smooth? Fuzzy? Small? How many colors do you see? You’ll find that the act of quiet observation releases dopamine into the brain and helps promote the feeling of escape.

While staring at the peaches, ask yourself: How did they arrive in that bowl? How did the bowl arrive on the table? Who grew the peaches? Who picked them? Who packed them? Who shipped them?

Ready for further experimentation? Extend your gaze to 20 minutes. The longer you stare at the peaches, the more likely you are to experience “the Troxler effect.” This is a phenomenon first identified by Ignaz Paul Vital Troxler in 1804, and occurs when we fix our eyes on an unchanging scene for a long-enough period of time. When certain stimuli have been consistently hitting our senses for a while, our brains have a way of tuning them out. Mild hallucinations may occur as you disassociate and depart from reality. Shift your cognitive state away from concrete details, and towards abstract ideas. What comes to mind?

Finally, since you are not being eyeballed by humorless security guards (unless you’ve taken your bowl of peaches into a museum, in which case, ignore the following), you can go further than staring at the peaches. Examine them, fondle them, throw them, use one as a writing implement. Smash them, smell them, balance one on the top of your head.

But don’t eat them…at least not until a full hour has passed. By delaying gratification, the experience will be that much juicier. And memorable.

Should you wish to perform this experiment with human forms, ask a friend over and stare into each others’ eyes for 10 minutes or more. Does time slow down? Do you start seeing his face turn into a lizard?  Italian psychologist Giovanni Caputo says to expect all this and more.

 

Place your worst idea here.

Many times we do work that is not quite up to snuff. It’s missing something, or is unfinished…we consider it a mistake, or just a little “off.” Since it doesn’t live up to our exacting standards, our instinct is to let no one see it, for fear that they might have the same opinion.

But are you the best person to judge? The opposite approach may be better. You’ve pulled a thought out of the air, you’ve put it down, and now it exists. To dismiss it out of hand could be a bigger mistake than the work itself. Ideas need room to breath and grow. You might find that, with a slight adjustment, that thin wisp of a thought triggers a monstrously good one. Or even, dare we say, a masterpiece.*

The best course of action? Give the piece in question the support it needs. Whether it’s a painting or a powerpoint slide, a scribble or an unfinished symphony,  we urge you to honor the work by putting a frame around it. The more ornate, the better. Once you adorn it with a classic frame, you might see that it’s really quite a marvelous piece of work. Perhaps one of your best.

Meantime, rather than chasing after success, you could make a point of pursuing failure as your avocation, like Ms. Giertz has. It’s a less crowded field, and she seems to be doing quite well with it.

*Of course, your idea could be complete shite and you may eventually throw it out. But wait at least 30 days. Call it a stay of execution.  If it still smells fetid after 30 days, think about whether doing the exact opposite might lead you somewhere interesting. There could be value in the bad that actually inspires the good.

 

Yawn like a leader!

Some consider a public yawn to be a sign of ill-breeding, poor manners, and worst of all, an inability to control oneself.  Nonsense!  Your yawn is actually a sign that you are deep thinker, a hard worker, and, dare we say it, a leader in your field.  Here’s why:

Scientists at Princeton University postulate that yawning plays a vital role in your well-being by cooling your brain.  When you start to yawn, the stretching of the jaw increases blood flow to your cranium, while in turn forcing downward flow of spinal fluid.  Air breathed into the mouth during the yawn chills these fluids, like a car’s radiator cooling the engine.

So the next time you feel a yawn coming on, don’t stifle it. Don’t hide it behind a hand or elbow. Let your yawn announce itself, jaws agape, eyed clenched shut.  Whatever sound that arises within the cave-like expanse of your mouth set asunder, let it echo as if it were a note ringing out from the stage of the Metropolitan Opera.

End your yawn with a satisfying sigh and a smack of the lips. Should anyone ask why you’re taking so much pleasure in the act, explain to them the science behind the activity.   Of course you’re yawning!  You’re simply cooling your brain off, since yours has been working overtime.   Suggest to them that they’re not yawning because they don’t have as many world-changing ideas as you.   Watch as they suddenly start following your lead and yawning like crazy.

You are a leader! A leader of yawns!  Now isn’t that satisfying?

15 thoughts to age better by.

Philosophers, savants, and sages have said that with age comes the wisdom of experience. Here are a few nuggets we’ve amassed over the course of 122 years on earth (collectively speaking).

1. The best way to approach life is as a series of experiments while maintaining a sense of humor about the results.

2. If you do something and it feels risky and likely to fail it is also filled with potential for learning something important.

3. Be yourself. Most people get this one wrong.

4. As you get older, you become free to have crazier ideas. And because you are closer to death, less is at risk. A great example comes from Ghandhi, at age 60, deciding to march to the sea to make salt rather than pay a salt tax to the British. This gesture was initially ridiculed as silly, but it was symbolic. The crazy idea started a movement that led to independence for all of India.

5. You can win at any game with lucky timing.

6. Don’t wait to have fun. If you plan to do a “bucket list before you die” in later years (after you retire), it will definitely be too late. As a senior, your idea of fun will be things like getting “the good drugs” before a colonoscopy.

7. People’s memories of the past are unreliable, emotional, and filled with colorful lies.

8. You absolutely cannot predict the future no matter how hard you try. In fact, if we told you with 100% accuracy, you’d still refuse to believe what’s coming.

9. A vast amount of nonsense exists because people have an unreasonably great fear of death. F.O.D. is so great we will do almost anything to re-position death. We are even willing to live by dour religious rules for our entire lives to earn entry to a proposed heavenly afterlife. The factual reports of life after death are scant. Death will either be a completely peaceful state of blissful non-existence (likely) or else something really mysterious happens (super interesting!)

11. People worry too much about money and not about how boring they are. Dare you to reflect upon how boring you’ve become in your ordinary thinking? Do what it takes to clear out the boringness. Start a new path today and be less boring.

12. Although humans have come far in our rationality, philosophy, and science, we still know very little about reality. What’s really going on? It’s a good question. Most people don’t want to stop and consider the nature of reality. That existential view would freak them out. They’d rather watch sports on TV.

13. The biggest mistake humans have made is a disconnect from nature. We don’t want to accept that we are just animals with smartphones. This will not end well for the planet or humanity.

14. While many tasks can be done in 5 days there are other plans that will take 5 years. Don’t spend the bulk of your time doing activities that offer marginal benefits (i.e. Facebook.)

15. Be aware of what forces are controlling your behavior. If you are not aware, you are either asleep or a slave.

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