• lynneeveratt

Can you act your way to happiness?

You may be tired after springing forward an hour and/or sad after marking the one-year anniversary of the pandemic, so this week I'll keep it lively and upbeat with topics such as acting your way to happiness, setting your own clock, and reaping the benefits of walking and thinking. [If you'd rather tackle anxiety, Dr. Jud Brewer has a terrific new book that I’m reading called Unwinding Anxiety that you can check out here (book) and here (podcast) and here (app).] 1. Is it a coincidence that actor Tom Cruise, who does his own stunts, has (so far) in real life rescued five people? Playing an action hero on the big screen seems to have spilled over into his everyday life. Harrison Ford and Jamie Foxx have also rescued real-life people. I believe that you can act your way into a better, more heroic life. I even took acting lessons so that I might better tap into this transformative skill, but my career was cut short after an unfortunate community theater incident when I took a seat center stage and most of the audience could see up my skirt. Unfortunately, this experience did not turn me into a sexy Sharon Stone, but can acting like Wonder Woman with a power pose make you more confident? Can you botox depression away when you lose the ability to frown? Can you fall in love with someone by looking deeply into their eyes? These theories and much more are explored in the entertaining CBC documentary You Are What You Act. The anecdotal evidence may be convincing and the scientific evidence scant, but can we acknowledge that it might be possible to act your way to a better life? Over the next few days, experiment with your words, facial expressions, and posture to see for yourself if there might be something to embodied cognition. Now that sounds credible doesn’t it? It’s not acting confident/happy/in love until you feel it. It’s embodied cognition.

Just be careful which role you choose... 2. Are you feeling a bit off today after the latest government-sanctioned experiment in sleep disruption? Twice a year we fiddle with our clocks for no reason at all, yet there is ample scientific evidence that it affects our mental, emotional, and physical health. A 24% increase in heart attacks has been reported the Monday after the time change along with increases in workplace injuries, strokes, and even suicides. “That’s how fragile and susceptible your body is to even one hour of lost sleep,” says sleep expert Matthew Walker. Besides lobbying government to stop this silly clock manipulation ritual and stick to standard time that mirrors our circadian rhythms, you can try to get outdoors for some exercise today, eliminate caffeine after noon, and take a warm bath or shower about an hour before bedtime so that you can reestablish a new sleep schedule as quickly as possible. 3. Cal Newport is a 38 year-old MIT-educated associate professor of computer science at Georgetown University, the author of seven books published in 35 languages, and most impressively, a person who regularly ends his workday at 5pm to spend time with his wife and four children. Newport believes you can be both happy and impressive if you focus your effort to produce value. It sounds so simple, but a world of technological distractions is conspiring against you. If you’re spending a lot of time on your phone, it's likely that your focus muscle is weak. You can start training your focus today with what Newport calls “productive meditation.” Go for a walk with the goal of making progress toward solving a professional problem or reflecting on your life to extract value from your experience. When you find your mind wandering, as it surely will, bring it back to the problem. The secret to Cal Newport’s professional success and personal fulfillment is, in his words, “To walk and think, walk and think, hours and hours of thinking, thinking, thinking...”

Whoever came up with this hugging prescription for grandparents who have been vaccinated must have been thinking, thinking, thinking. Links for deep thinking:

  • Over 3 Million People Took This Course on Happiness. Here’s What Some Learned. The New York Times

  • The people who bought a gym and tried to change a city BBC Reel

  • Late-Stage Pandemic Is Messing With Your Brain The Atlantic

  • Imagine Your Flexible Office Work Future Anne Helen Petersen

  • Eight of Literature’s Most Powerful Inventions—and the Neuroscience Behind How They Work Smithsonian Magazine

Wishing you a thoughtful day, a good night's sleep and a big role to play, Lynne

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