Should you be "lazy as a raccoon"?
The German government has a new (and viral) advertising campaign designed to get Germans to welcome lockdowns to fight the coronavirus. In the PSA video that uses a documentary-style format, an elderly man is interviewed in the year 2060. He recalls the winter of 2020 as a time when Germany's fate was in the hands of young people like him who had to perform acts of extreme bravery to do the right thing. Absolutely nothing. The tone of the video changes as the camera focuses on a young man lying on a couch, munching on junk food, and watching television. The good-humored cleverness of the ad invites us to ponder the paradox of how heroism can be an act of laziness. (Research shows that pondering paradoxes can make you more creative.) But, along with encouraging the socially responsible behavior of sheltering in place, the German government is inadvertently prescribing a recipe for mental distress. After weeks or months of being “lazy as raccoons,” eating junk food, and interacting only with screens, Germans may be Covid-free, but as we learned in last week's newsletter, research tells us that they'll be at an increased risk for depression and anxiety. Gallup reports that the lazy raccoons are making progress: 38 percent of Americans say they're getting less exercise so far during the COVID-19 crisis, and 28 percent say their diets have gotten worse. In this week's 5-Minute Recharge newsletter we'll share three wellness paradoxes–three ideas that seem contradictory–to inspire you to think about how the difficult home stretch of the pandemic may become your most gratifying, and how you can beat back the lazy raccoon that lives inside all of us. ONE MEDITATIVE QUOTE “Meditation is the data collection process for wisdom” – Bonnie Duran, from Ten Words to Get You Through a Bad Day, Ten Percent Happier podcast ONE UNBELIEVABLE IMAGE
“It brought tears to my eyes. For all the staff to see a patient doing this while intubated was unbelievable...playing kind of helped to soothe his nerves and brought him back to the moment.” Intubated patient Grover Wilhelmson played the violin in ICU THREE PARADOXICAL IDEAS #1 ADDITION BY SUBTRACTION If you're a wellness aficionado, you've probably encountered gratitude as one of the best and easiest ways to boost your happiness, but for some gratitude feels, well, gratuitous. If the thought of writing down three things to be grateful for each day is too Hallmark for you, try this: turn gratitude upside down and imagine your life without the people, things, and experiences that make you happy. Paradoxically, researchers have found that the process of mental subtraction has a stronger happiness effect than focusing on positive events. For example, people who used mental subtraction to imagine their life as if they'd never met their romantic partner reported an increase in relationship satisfaction. This week's 5-Minute Recharge Challenge (see below) will take you through an exercise of addition by subtraction. “Don't it always seem to go, that you don't know what you've got till it's gone...” – Joni Mitchell, Big Yellow Taxi #2 THE EXERCISE PARADOX When you feel least like working out–when you're feeling tired, anxious, or sad–is when you need it most. Exercise is like taking a little bit of Ritalin (to sharpen your mental focus) a little bit of Prozac (for its antidepressant qualities) and a little bit of cannabis (for a dose of laid-back happiness). The feel-good chemical cocktail that exercise delivers straight to your brain will make you glad you worked out, but be prepared to fight the urge to be a lazy raccoon: your mind will try to trick you into thinking that lying on the couch and eating potato chips will make you feel better than a brisk walk outdoors. “If you have a penchant for potato chips and the couch in times of trouble, consider an opposite signal strategy...when your mind tells you to numb yourself, come to life instead.” – Arthur Brooks, The Atlantic #3 THE PARADOX OF HABIT FORMATION B.J. Fogg is a habit formation expert and the author of Tiny Habits that encourages you to start small and grow your habits with “shine.” The paradox of habit formation is that performing a tiny habit is less important than the shine you give it to make it grow. Shine is B.J. Fogg's word for celebration. Every time you finish a workout, even if it's a single push up, celebrate the way you would if you won a marathon. Your brain doesn't know the difference between big and small wins and will respond to your celebration by building success momentum–the increased confidence and motivation to exercise again. It's not the size of success that matters, but the frequency of success, however small. According to Fogg, it's a huge mistake to hold back celebration for only huge successes. Celebration is the most critical element of forming good habits and should be an everyday occurrence. “For most people, the effort of learning to celebrate is a small price to pay for becoming a Habit Ninja.” – B.J. Fogg, Tiny Habits *********************************** THE FAST FIVE 1. Vivek Murthy on loneliness, living longer, and leading with love - 3 Books with Neil Pasricha (Enjoy a beautiful conversation with the former Surgeon General of the United States who encourages you to reach for love, not fear.) 2. How Japanese People Stay Fit For Life Without Ever Visiting a Gym - Medium (Japan’s obesity rate is a mere 4.3 percent–the US rate is 42.4 percent– and its life expectancy is 85 years–in the US it's 79. Could the reason be as simple as one foot in front of the other?) 3. How to Get Better - Mark Manson (What do therapy, meditation and journaling have in common?) 4. What a Simple Haiku can do for a Friendship - The Atlantic (A simple haiku/Is beautiful poetry/To build a friendship.) 5. Jay Papasan on The First Thing - The Essentialism Podcast (“What is the one thing you can do such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?”) *********************************** YOUR 5-MINUTE RECHARGE CHALLENGE Addition by Subtraction Idea #1, Addition by Subtraction, that encourages you to take a back-door approach to gratitude, is the inspiration for this week's 5-Minute Recharge Challenge. Select something good in your life from one of the following categories: relationships, education, health and safety, possessions, or personal achievement. Now imagine your life without that one good thing. Picture the effect as vividly as you can and tap into the emotions that bubble up. Write down (don't just think about it...write it down!) how your life would be different without that one good thing, and describe your feelings. Now, refocus on the present moment. How do you feel about the good thing that you have? Does it feel a bit like a celebration? “In life, one has a choice to take one of two paths: to wait for some special day–or to celebrate each special day.” – Rasheed Ogunlaru Don't forget to celebrate! The 5-Minute Recharge