The Kardashians tell Instagram that a gluten-free diet is the way to go. Then, everyone uniformly has some doubt they need to work through. Beyonce tells everyone to go vegan for a month, still, there’s some skepticism. Gwenith Paltrow is an advocate for intermittent fasting, using some 5-day regimen, and she is greeted with the same hesitation. These diet fads are easy to spot. They make a lot of promises, the same type of people promote them, and they are backed by a cult-like group with very vague scientific reasoning being preached. But for some reason, the male YouTuber, in a gray T-shirt, in his late 20’s telling you that this “blue pill” is going to fix your life has all the credibility in the world. Improvement behavior fads are on the rise as our society places a growing emphasis on “hard work’, “hustling”, and “grinding.” Some of these improvement behaviors are worthwhile, and others are very, very stupid.
Wake up earlier
My love, it’s grind AM or 4 AM.
This is true sleep is an inconvenient obstacle when it comes to accomplishing tasks. However, being productive and being busy are very different things. Suppose you’re going to lose sleep over something. My advice is that it better be worth it. Why are you awake? Is the time your spending here right now worth it in the next five years? Is the sacrifice of your health going to pay you back? If you are not sleeping, I hope you have a very detailed planner and calendar. You will 1000% need it to help manage your time because you want more of it. Sleep is an investment. If the goal is worth it because I’m no hypocrite. I say take the long night. I’ll caution you that not sleeping is not making you better at your craft. You are making yourself better. Sleep is precious for reasons that science barely understands. While not sleeping is a mark of poor hygiene. Tread lightly. Take a nap after that all-nighter. You are only human. Please get some rest.
Speaking of hygiene. Cold showers are another fad that is supposed to improve discipline. Mr. Martyrdom can torture himself every morning to be the most productive person ever. But I just don’t see the point (my anemic friends hear me). The point, according to Mr. Youtube Guru, is to desensitize yourself to harshness. When you get in the water it’s cold and unpleasant but after a while you begin to get comfortable, learning to endure it. This practice is a reminder for the rest of the day, at the start of the day that nothing is as hard as the initial shock. If you do encounter something initially uncomfortable you have the discipline to endure it until the job is finished. This one much like dopamine fasting is based on reasonable logic. But that does not mean it makes sense or much less is actually effective. Fine, Mr. Martyrdom wants to torture himself every morning. Do not mess with my showers. My problem with this is that it’s over the top. Like how committed are you to your goals? “Do this arbitrary and mild torture to prove yourself, now you’re the dragon warrior.” There are too many maybes surrounding cold showers making it unable to hold water as anything but a fad.
Our world is more and more, being constructed to give us what we want and make us comfortable. Dopamine is a hormone in the brain that is released when you enjoy anything. Dopamine fasting is preventing yourself from doing anything extremely stimulating to “reset” your dopamine receptors in the brain. According to sponsors of the technique, you do this by purposefully making yourself bored. So that when you need to do a task a little more challenging you’ll have the attention span to engage with it because it will appear more stimulating than it is challenging. There is no science to support this trick. No clinical trials. Nada. It does however sound rational but simply being bored for a day isn’t going to alter the hormones in your brain so much to “reset them”. This fad can be summed up as taking a break from overindulgent activities every so often. Everything in moderation. Except it’s just…
How to spot a fad:
These trends keep showing up. It can be hard to discern what’s useful and what’s unnecessary. The easiest way to spot a fad for improvement behaviors is that it promises way too much. It reminds you of the movie Lucy or Limitless. Just take this little pill, and now you’re fluent in Cantonese. Another sign is that there is no science. No group trials, just individual testimonials saying that this action is going to “improve everything.” Finally, it’s not working. You tried the cold shower, the silly dopamine fast, and not sleeping to no avail. You were still unproductive or unmotivated by some standard. So what actually works?
Dopamine fAsTiNg wishes it was meditation. Meditation has been backed by numerous scientific studies since the ’00s. Then, it’s been in practice for centuries before that (3500-5000 BCE). Meditation teaches the practitioner to let the mind be, whatever it wants to be. To wander and be in the moment, focus on the inhale and the exhale. Is magical stuff okay? So there’s a lot of stuff in today’s world begging for our attention. Our phone is constantly chirping to tell you that some non-emergency is going on. Meditation is about grounding yourself in the moment. Meditation is very hard to do. It’s not easy to just be. But like anything just keep trying at it, failing at it, and trying again. The rewards are there. Which feels a lot better than a cold shower. There are tons of cool resources to help you meditate—the Headspace app, guided meditation albums on streaming services, and so on.
Another powerful tool that can actually improve your life is the to-do list. This may come off as a little elementary. But consider this for a moment. It is really easy to have five things that overwhelm you when you do not write them down somewhere. Those same five errands have endless possible outcomes, they are nonlinear, and have this larger-than-life quality because they’re all in your head. Then, when you transfer these tasks onto paper. They become what they really are, just tasks. Something that cannot hold the same dread as before because it’s just a few things you need to get done. Another good thing, is you have a sense of pacing. You can appreciate checking things off a to-do list. It’s harder to appreciate something floating around the abstract constraints of your mind until it’s not. To-do lists are simple but efficient. They actually make you more productive.
If cold showers are working for you, that’s great. None of that changes this extreme militant cult of ambition on the internet is getting really annoying. Not only is the movement self-righteous and arrogant… it preys on people genuinely looking for that breakthrough to make themselves better. A cold shower? Dopamine fast? Never sleeping? There’s a better way to work hard and be more focused on your goals. Start avoiding the nonsense and that’s advice that won’t go out of style.
REST IN POWER GEORGE FLOYD AND BREONNA TAYLOR.