7 Bits of Misguided Advice

By Shamus Posted Sunday Jun 4, 2017

Filed under: Rants 177 comments

I love YouTube creator CGP Grey. He’s one of the best things on the internet. His video on Lord of the Rings takes the dense and often dry work in the Silmarillion and turns it into a fun little cupcake of knowldgeIt’s a shame Peter Jackson couldn’t do the same with The Hobbit.. His video on Internet Germs is a perfect explanation of why Twitter has been transformed from the platform food and pet blogging into a global symposium of Horrible People and Their Ghastly Opinions. His video on Americapox explains why Europeans didn’t catch horrible plagues from Native Americans. Maybe that lesson is common knowledge now. (Is it?) But this has bugged me since I was in grade school, and it wasn’t until that video that I felt like my question had been properly answered.

But he made a video that annoyed me. So now I’m going to turn on him, as you do on the internet.

Last week he released a video titled 7 Ways to Maximize Misery 😞, and it contains advice built atop ideas that are presented as universal truths, but are actually quite situational and dependent on the person.

7 Ways to Maximize Misery 😞

Link (YouTube)

About a year ago my mom came to me and complained she’d been feeling a little depressed lately. She was feeling like things just didn’t matter. The joy was gone from her life, and even though nothing in particular was going wrong, her usual comforts weren’t helping her anymoreDon’t worry, she’s much better now..

“Here is what you need to do,” I told her. “Put your computer in a dark room. The darker the better. If you’ve got some neon or other colored lights, turn those on because they’re very relaxing. Put some dubstep music on and write code for a few hours. Close the door, close social media, and turn off your phone so nobody can interrupt and break your flow. If that doesn’t cheer you up, fire up Batman: Arkham City and do the challenge rooms. Improving your score over time will give you a sense of accomplishment. Then switch back to dubstep and coding. Just keep switching between those two until you feel better. Oh, and don’t forget to turn the air conditioning to extra-chilly. The cool air helps with alertness. Keep this up all night. By the time the sun comes up, you’ll feel fantastic and you’ll be ready for a full day of restful sleep.”

Obviously I didn’t actually say that to her. But if I did, everyone would immediately recognize it as a list of how I keep myself happy. It’s obvious this advice would be completely useless – if not counterproductive – to someone who doesn’t have my exact personality. To my mom, that advice would probably sound like an attempt on her life. In any case, I would rightly get called out as a butthead.

I don't resent you going for a run, I resent you insisting that I'd be happier if I went with you.
I don't resent you going for a run, I resent you insisting that I'd be happier if I went with you.

But for some reason the gregarious early-riser busybodies of the world have been getting away with this exact sort of thing since the dawn of the self-help section at the bookstore. Countless books are filled with advice from people who love to get up early, love to eat salad, love exercise, and love to socialize. And it turns out their advice for happy living is – shockingly enough – to get up early, have a salad, go for a run, and then spend the rest of the day wearying bystanders with inane chatter about exercise and salads.

None of these activities are bad, mind you. But they are too often sold as some sort of universal happy-pill. After a couple of decades of people telling me I’d enjoy life if I spent more time doing things I hate and less time doing things I love, I think it’s time for a little pushback.

Grey’s video is a tongue-in-cheek thing that offers you “7 Ways to Maximize Misery”. Ostensibly doing these things is bad for you, with the idea that doing the opposite will be good for your mood. I’m going to run through the list and talk about the profoundly annoying misconceptions behind them.

1. Stay Still (To be miserable.)

Blinded by the sun, exhausted, devoured by insects, drenched in sweat, and miles away from basic comforts and means of creative expression. What's not to love? Obviously people who claim they don't like hiking are just LAZY.
Blinded by the sun, exhausted, devoured by insects, drenched in sweat, and miles away from basic comforts and means of creative expression. What's not to love? Obviously people who claim they don't like hiking are just LAZY.

Ah yes. “Go outside and take a walk.” The cornerstone of disposable advice.

Of course, if your satisfaction in life comes from concentrating for long periods of time until you figure something out, then this advice is ruinous. It suggests that you’d be happier if you stopped engaging in your primary means of satisfaction. There’s a reason programmers, writers, architects, and animators do their work from behind a boring old desk and not from the back of a wild bronco. There’s a reason musicians work in a studio and not careening down the side of a mountain on a bitchin’ snowboard.

It’s good advice for your health, of course. By all means, go outside and move around. But if you need to concentrate to feel good then it’s not a secret technique to make you happy.

The video even offers the promise of delicious “endorphins”. I’ve engaged in regular exercise. I’ve kept up with it for weeks. I never found anything rewarding about it. I’m totally willing to believe that other people end a workout feeling energized and with a sense of accomplishment. But see, I get that feeling from other things. I have to stop doing those things in order to exercise. Worse, it’s not like I can plop down in front of the computer and resume productive work the moment the workout ends. It takes a while for my heartrate to return to normal and my mood to reset so I can begin concentrating again. Exercise carries a tremendous opportunity cost. A half hour of exercise will usually cost me about two hours(!!) of productivity.

I still try to exercise because I don’t want to drop dead of a heart attack by 50, but I do so with the understanding that this is a trade-off. I try to stay active, but I also try to minimize the damage it does to my happiness.

2. Screw With Your Sleep (To be miserable.)

The video conflates two different concepts here. One of them is true, and the other is a pernicious lie.

It is true that irregular sleep is bad for you. This is true for me, and it’s true for the outgoing yogurt-eating joggers of the world. But the video presents getting up with the sun as some kind of virtue. This ties in with a point made during the previous segment, which advances the notion that the sun is this magic dispenser of happy-rays.

While I don’t have anything against sunlight, I don’t get a lot out of it from a mental health standpoint. I understand you need a little sunlight for certain vitamins in your system to do their job. But direct sunlight, like exercise, is something I need despite the damage it inflicts on my mood.

For me the most stressful hours of the day are just after sunrise and just before sunset. The low angle of the light means the sun beams directly into my eyes, which is actively painful. For me the moments of greatest serenity are after dark. It’s quiet, it’s cool, and the light level is just right for creative work. Which means that my ideal sleep schedule is one that maximizes hours of darkness, while still giving me a couple of hours of sunlight.

This one is a sore spot with me because I still run into people who have this idiotic notion that getting up at noon is a horrible character flaw. This might have some merit if I stayed up all night boozing, gambling, and whoring, but I spent the night getting shit done. And it’s not like I’m some exotic case. Millions of people are wired the way I am. Work done at 3 p.m. is not somehow more moral than the same work done at 3 a.m.

3. Maximize Your Screen Time (To be miserable.)

I love so many details of this picture. The way the hosts are dressed better than Gabe. The way Gabe has soda while everyone else has wine. The way the artist shows us that we're in an upscale house with just a few details.
I love so many details of this picture. The way the hosts are dressed better than Gabe. The way Gabe has soda while everyone else has wine. The way the artist shows us that we're in an upscale house with just a few details.

Ugh. The whole notion of “screen time” has the rancid stench of Victorian-age moral panic. Screen time is the new television, which was the new Rock-and-Roll, which was the new radio, which was the new movies, which was the new novelsOr whatever. I forget the exact structure of this particular ouroboros.. There’s always some new thing that – despite how amazing, convenient, useful, engaging, and educational it seems – is somehow a menace that must be curtailed.

Actually, this one is worse than the panics of the past, because the “screen” is an omni-device that replaces or supersedes everything that came before. It’s a record player. A newspaper. A map. Telephone. Cookbook. Alarm clock. Textbook. Television. Dictionary. Radio. Camera. Address book. VCR. Library. Mailbox. Encyclopedia. Gaming machine. Paintbrush. Legos. Wristwatch. Typewriter. Calculator.

Imagine telling a kid – or anyone else – they can only access those things for a limited time each day. What’s left? You might as well limit their access to electricity and indoor plumbing.

“Shamus, you moron. You don’t want kids to spend all day staring at the screen so they never get their work done!”

Okay, if that’s your goal, then why not make that the rule? Just tell the kid, “Your time is yours as long as your work gets done.” What’s with the arbitrary limit? Yeah, maybe your kid is wasting time reading Pokémon fanfiction. That’s okay. They’re a kid. This is the one point in your life where it’s okay to waste time. Pokémon is not somehow better or worse than running around outside catching actual frogs, which was what I did while I was waiting for the world to invent videogames. In fact, you could argue the Pokémon is better. At least it doesn’t mess with animals that would rather be left alone. (Er, not real ones, at least.)

Sure, maybe those Pokémon hours could be better spent elsewhere. But is it really that much worse than playing a videogame? Or reading my site? More importantly, this is the time in life when kids are trying things out to see what interests them and what they’re good at. The next Skrillex is out there somewhere. So is the next John Carmack. And I hate to think their parents are pissing away countless hours of their life where they could be using that wicked screen to discover and develop their unique skills because their parents want them to… do what, exactly? At least wait for “screen time” to manifest some sort of observable problem before you cut a child off from the most powerful learning and creative tool the human race has ever devised.

EDIT: My wife Heather has informed me that in the world of Facebook and Mom-blogging, this is the stuff of never-ending flame wars. I didn’t realize it was that big a deal. I don’t know how likely that sort of disagreement is here. Rather than re-write this entire section, I’m going to roll the dice and hope it doesn’t piss anyone off. If it turns out you’re a huge fan of authoritarian screen rationing, then sorry for pushing your buttons. I wasn’t trying to pick a fight. Please cut me some slack and try to play it cool in the comments.

If it makes you feel any better, my kids are nearly grown and they’ve barely done any ax-murders, so this approach to parenting apparently works at least sometimes.

Funnily enough, this advice works just as well when applied to adults. Why would you limit your own screen time? If you’re worried that the blue light is messing with your sleep cycle, then you may want to try out a tool like this one.

Sure, if “screen time” is preventing you from doing important things like paying bills and mowing the lawn, then maybe think about changing your behavior. But don’t fall for the hype. An hour spent staring at a book or rocking on the front porch is not automatically more moral, mentally stimulating, spiritually rewarding than the same hour spent reading text on a screen.

4. Use Your Screen to Stoke Your Negative Emotions. (To be miserable.)

Have you SEEN the outrageous thing people are talking about on Twitter? Your day just isn't complete until you've joined in the angry chanting.
Have you SEEN the outrageous thing people are talking about on Twitter? Your day just isn't complete until you've joined in the angry chanting.

Actually, I’m 100% in agreement with this one. I spend a lot of time curating my internet reading to minimize outrage. This started in the last year, and it really did improve my mood. I’m still trying to figure out how I can use Twitter to snark about game publishers and dumb headlines while not getting sucked into the vortex of “THOSE OTHER PEOPLE HAVE DONE SOMETHING HORRIBLE LET’S RIDICULE THEM UNTIL WE’RE IN A CONSTANT STATE OF AGITATION AND EVEN THE SLIGHTEST JOKE AT OUR EXPENSE FEELS LIKE AN AFFRONT.”

I’ve got people on both sides of the political aisle in my list of friends, and watching them build hateful totems of each other is actually kind of scary. I’ve considered quitting TwitterWhich wouldn’t really solve the problem, since half of the venom comes from Facebook. And I can’t quit Facebook because that’s how the extended family plans events. altogether. I still might. But I do enjoy the occasional joke about the Dumb Thing Some Publisher Did This Week. And it does give me a sense of what the gaming community is talking about at any given moment.

5. Set Vapid Goals (To be miserable.)

Okay. This section is a bit of a guide on how to set goals for yourself, with the idea being that short-term, achievable goals are better for happiness than long-term pipe dreams. That’s fine.

6. Pursue Happiness (To be miserable.)

I guess if you don’t know how to be happy, then trying to chase happiness itself is a recipe for failure. But if you haven’t identified the things in life that make you happy, then maybe following a specific list like this one is a terrible idea. Maybe sunshine, handshakes, and sportsball will unleash your inner joy monster. Or maybe those things won’t be fulfilling for you, and chasing after them will prevent you from writing a novel or a videogame.

And if you haven’t figured out what makes you happy yet, then what you need is some introspection and a shakeup of the status quo. Find what works for you. Since we’re all different, you’ll have to follow your instincts.

7. Follow Your Instincts (To be miserable.)

Remember, this is a list of anti-advice. So the video is suggesting that following your instincts is the way to misery. This seems to be based on the idea that we’re all numbskulls who don’t know what we want. I get the sense this idea was devised by an outgoing salad-eating jogger to explain why all the people around them aren’t socializing and jogging everyday at 4 a.m.

If you don’t use your instincts, then what are you supposed to use? A self-help book written by a stranger?

Okay, I suppose it depends on what you mean by “instincts”. If you mindlessly follow your base primate desires then things probably won’t turn out well for you. But assuming you’ve got the mind of an adult and a memory capable of remembering things that happened a week ago, then your gut is a pretty good tool for figuring out if the thing you did on Monday still seems like a good idea on Thursday.

I suppose there could be a hypothetical person out there who has a deep need for long-term accomplishment. Their lack of large achievements makes them feel empty, so to fill the void they spend every evening gorging themselves on junk food, porn, internet drama, and boozeNote that I’m not condemning any of these things directly. I’m just saying that while you’re doing that stuff, you’re not working on a longer-term goal.. This gratifies the lizard brain while making the initial problem worse. But this is a very specific kind of person with a specific behavior problem and I don’t think this list has what they need to break the cycle. Particularly since the video doesn’t even differentiate between the helpful and unhelpful drives, and instead advocates ignoring your drives altogether.

I think our problem is too many people look to self-help books to tell them what they need, rather than looking inward. Your instincts are there to let you know if you’re having a positive or negative experience. That’s their job. I wouldn’t say you should follow only your instincts, but you ought to at least consult them once in a while to see how you’re doing. The problem has less to do with following your instincts and more to do with recognizing the conflict between short-term goals (watch TV and have a pizza) with long-term ones (finishing that painting) and finding a balance between the two.

Wrapping Up

Well, that was cathartic. I’m kind of disappointed the video didn’t advocate socializing as a means to happiness. That one is usually bundled with these others and it would have been nice to give it a good thrashing.

To be clear: No hard feelings against CGP Grey, or against anyone else who finds his advice useful. I just get annoyed when the conventional wisdom is selling highly situational techniques as universal truths. And if you are having trouble with happiness, then please be careful what advice you follow. Self-help books are filled with good advice for the sorts of people who enjoy writing self-help books.

Anyway, it’s now 3 in the morning. I’m gonna put on some dubstep, eat some junk food, and go to bed happy.



[1] It’s a shame Peter Jackson couldn’t do the same with The Hobbit.

[2] Don’t worry, she’s much better now.

[3] Or whatever. I forget the exact structure of this particular ouroboros.

[4] Which wouldn’t really solve the problem, since half of the venom comes from Facebook. And I can’t quit Facebook because that’s how the extended family plans events.

[5] Note that I’m not condemning any of these things directly. I’m just saying that while you’re doing that stuff, you’re not working on a longer-term goal.

From The Archives:

177 thoughts on “7 Bits of Misguided Advice

  1. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Or whatever. I forget the exact structure of this particular ouroboros.

    xkcd has you covered.At least twice.

    1. Retsam says:

      The Ur Example of the “this new technology is going to ruin everything!” refrain has to be the conversation (albeit mythological one) related in Plato’s Phaedrus dialogues: in which one character argues that the invention of writing was detrimental because it supplanted oral tradition and people no longer needed to memorize everything in order to pass it along.

      This really isn’t a new conversation.

      Though, I’d point out that even the “anti-writing” person isn’t strictly speaking wrong, oftentimes introducing a technology really does have detrimental side effects, and it’s good to be conscious of them, and not take a “all new technology must, by definition, be only and always beneficial”, which has always struck me as blind optimism.

    2. Mephane says:

      Thank you, I was meaning to post the 2nd one while reading Shamus’ post, you saved me from having to find it because I didn’t know the title any more. :)

  2. No One says:

    So far, the key for me to avoid misery is to keep busy. I’ve been unemployed for multi month stints a couple times in my life (once for nearly 8 months) and those were my worst periods by far. The sense of uselessness is like acid on the soul.

    1. Unemployed for 7 years and only recently figuring this out. It’s much better to do Something, anything, than to let the sense of worklesness to set it. As Shamus said, a lot of it is about following your instincts and figuring out how you can spend that time to feel productive and useful. I’m not sure if I’ll ever be able to go back to a real job at this stage

      1. Decius says:

        Recently medically retired, and trying to figure out what I’m going to do if I grow up. (Older is as certain as for most people)

        1. My wholly untrained and unsolicited tip is throw shit at a wall until it sticks. The more things you try the more chance there is of finding something you truly love. The only caveat to that is that if you find something you like, but not all the time, don’t get discouraged. No hobby is roses 100% of the time and anything worth doing is going to be at least somewhat difficult.

          1. In my experience, this is fantastic advice.

            It is okay if your current purpose in life is figuring out what you want your purpose to be.

          2. Blackbird71 says:

            When I initially read the first sentence of your post, I interpreted it as literal advice. This produced a rather odd mental picture, along with a reaction along the lines of: “well, that’s an … interesting.. hobby.”

            1. Scourge says:

              I am glad I was not the only one with that particular mental image.

    2. Axehurdle says:

      That’s a great example of Shamus’s point because that seems insane to me. I was recently unemployed for several months and it was amazing. If I didn’t need the money I would never work again. I have the exact opposite experience, I only feel accomplishment when doing things in my personal life, my career doesn’t give me any satisfaction at all. It just takes up all the time I could be doing things I love.

  3. Daemian Lucifer says:

    If you don't use your instincts, then what are you supposed to use?

    Your intellect,obviously.Just look at what you wrote above:

    This might have some merit if I stayed up all night boozing, gambling, and whoring, but I spent the night getting shit done.

    But boozing,gambling and whoring ARE the things your instincts want.As a human animal,your instincts tell you a to ingest things that make you feel good at the moment(alcohol)*,your instincts tell you to engage in activities that increase your adrenaline and endorphins(gambling),and your instincts tell you to spread your seed as much as you can(whoring).You dont do those things DESPITE your instincts,not because of them.You “get shit done” DESPITE your instincts,not because of them.

    then your gut is a pretty good tool for figuring out if the thing you did on Monday still seems like a good idea on Thursday.

    Despite it being called “your gut”,or “gut instinct”,its your human intelligence that does that,not your human instinct.Yes you know that the bad thing you did on monday still will be a bad thing on thursday,but your human instinct will still tell you “but it was such a good feeling for a few hours that it was worth it being a wreck for the next few days,lets do it again!”.

    *Before someone says “I dont like how alcohol tastes”,there are plenty of cocktails that appeal to literally anybody.You can easily find your booze of choice and get drunk every day,no matter who you are.Not all liquor tastes the same.

    1. Phill says:

      Speak for yourself. Your instincts are evidently rather different than mine.

      1. Daemian Lucifer says:

        Let me then welcome you to Earth,extraterrestrial.

        1. Alex the Too Old says:

          Wow. Just wow. I thought I knew what brilliant argumentation was until this moment.

          Are you saying that everyone’s instincts are exactly the same as yours? Do you have evidence for this?

          1. BenD says:

            I think they’re getting semantic over “instinct” vs. “intuition.”

            What Shamus seems to be describing is the latter.

            Instinct is the collective term for biologically wired animal drives. We eat food instinctually (and prefer calorie-rich food in most circumstances instinctually). Most of us desire mating instinctually, but employ a lot of intuition in trying to arrange it.

            It seems to be possible to have variant instincts, but whatever instincts you have, there they are, for good. Your intuition grows and adapts throughout your life.

            All of that said, we use the word “instinct” to mean something else — intuition or even conscience — often. It usually causes no confusion, but it could be difficult for someone reading this post very literally (perhaps someone less fluent in conversational English, for example).

            1. Mousazz says:

              Not the first time an argument involving Damien Lucifer would erupt over semantic misunderstandings.

              Let’s just hope this time it won’t blow up enough (it shouldn’t: seems to be nipped in the bud early enough) to cause social upheavals and changes in Shamus’ blog.

            2. Daemian Lucifer says:

              CGP Grey was not talking about intuition,he was talking about instincts.

              1. Steve C says:

                I disagree. Grey was talking about intuition while using the word instincts. In self-help contexts like this those words are often interchangeable.

                1. Kian says:

                  Within that section, CGP mentions following impulses and staying away from the long term. Basically saying that following the desire for instant gratification leads to miserableness. Instant gratification is not intuition, it’s lizard brain instinct. There is no sensible argument that he was talking about intuition. CGP doesn’t write self help books, so whatever is the custom there doesn’t need to apply to him, just as he didn’t mention socializing either.

                  1. Abnaxis says:

                    CGP is adapting advice he liked from a self-help book into a video. In all likelihood, the word choice was made in the original book before it got ported over to video, and it’s fair game to apply self-help-book connotation to it.

                    1. Kian says:

                      Even if you want to argue that the word choice might refer to intuition, you still haven’t addressed the fact that what he said applies to instinct and not to intuition. Intuition doesn’t lead to instant gratification, instinct does.

                      He said instinct and described instinct. That seems to imply he was talking about instinct, not intuition.

            3. rabs says:

              I agree that instincts also vary a lot, and are dependent on many things: the whole body (not only the brain), external environment, etc.

              For example in my family we are all naturally thin: we enjoy rich food a lot less than most people. “Salad eating” make us happier than fat food, though we also enjoy some from time to time.
              It was also noticeable as kids, so for me it’s really instinct.

        2. The Other Matt K says:

          Your opinion is not universal truth, and it is unreasonable and insulting to tell someone they aren’t human if they disagree with you. I’ll chime in as another person who doesn’t find you claim about your instincts to be anywhere close to my own experience.

        3. Crihak says:

          Just to bring another counterpoint to show how your idea of instincts isn’t as universal as you think:

          I don’t like getting drunk. I never have (so it is not a learned reaction to a bad experience). Thus, for me, drinking alcohol does not make me feel good in the moment.

          I like the taste though. If it just didn’t make you drunk i’d like it a lot.

          I fail to see the apparent need to prove to anyone who doesn’t have this specific urge is either actually wrong about their own feelings and experiences, or not human at all.

          Isn’t it interesting at all to you to learn that what you thought was completely universal can actually vary from person to person?

          1. It’s not even true that people eat food on instinct (to use another example from the thread). I have a cousin who was born with a liver defect and had to be fed through a catheter directly into her stomach for some years.

            She had zero interest in food whatsoever for quite a long time and had to learn what hunger was and that she needed to eat.

            “Instinct” is not a well-defined term in most usages but I will tell you right now that there is NO human behavior that doesn’t have exceptions. You can’t even claim that humans have a “survival instinct” because hey, suicide is like the number two cause of death in teen and young adult guys. No joke.

            If you want an indicator for “instinct”, though, it’s something that a critter will do spontaneously even if it has NEVER seen another member of its own species.

    2. methermeneus says:

      I’m not sure you understand how instincts work. We have a few of them, and they interact in odd ways. RE each of your examples:

      Yes, being drunk can feel good in the moment, but our instinct to avoid getting sick is insanely strong (part of the reason people undergoing chemotherapy lose so much weight is that they tend to get nauseous after each treatment, and after that they can’t stand to eat whatever they ate before the treatment). Therefore, a particularly bad hangover actually can put someone off drinking, depending on the associations their subconscious makes and which instinct is stronger in that individual. Personally, I dislike loss of control (and the way my breath tastes when I drink) enough that I tend to dislike drinking in spite of the fact that I actually enjoy the taste of alcohol.

      I also don’t like gambling (it’s more stressful than fun for me; probably dumps more cortisol than endorphins into my bloodstream, I suppose). In particularly minimum-risk scenarios, I’m okay with it; I buy lottery tickets sometimes, but I do it more as a way to kick-start “if I had a million dollars” daydreams than for the thrill of gambling.

      As for whoring, the sex drive is an amazingly complicated thing, likely because we also have an instinct to be social, which interacts with the sex drive in unexpected ways. The vast majority of people are driven to have sex (“spread your seed” isn’t quite accurate, since this is also true of women and homosexuals, while “spreading your seed” specifically refers to males engaging in procreation; I also say “the vast majority,” because asexuality is a thing, if not incredibly common), but how that works in your head can be… weird. Some people can only have sex with someone with whom they share an emotional connection. Some people can’t have sex if they have an emotional connection. Some people prefer one partner for life while others prefer a new person every five years, and still others need a new one every day.

      Basically, there’s a lot more to the fact that people don’t just engage in behaviors that are traditionally seen as feeling-good-but-ultimately-destructive than just our sapience. Which, considering the importance of sapience, feels like a very strange thing to say.

      1. djw says:

        Ugh, I meant this to be a new topic rather than a reply to this one (that’s why it looks out of place).

        On Exercise

        I am addicted to exercise. When I don’t exercise for several days I get tense and agitated, and I can’t focus anymore. Even *video games* are more difficult when I get to feeling this way. The timescale for this to happen is on a longer scale than my caffeine addiction (which must be satisfied several times daily) but it is otherwise similar.

        I suspect that I could break the addiction the same way that I could *in theory* break my caffeine addiction (just don’t do it for several weeks). That would increase my misery level dramatically while I go through it, and I doubt that the gains would outweigh the losses. I actually enjoy exercise while it is happening too.

        Screen Time

        I purchased my first PC in 1996 (at the age of 26). I immediately became utterly consumed by video games that were available at that time. I did not come up for air until near the end of ’99. It took me 8 years to finish my Ph.d thesis (instead of 5) because that video game binge happened during grad school.

        I often wonder if I had MORE screen time as a child if it would have sufficiently inoculated me from the lure of video games and allowed me to find a better balance in early adult hood (instead of waiting until my 30’s). Of course, its impossible to know for sure, since I cannot repeat the experiment with video games added into the mixture. (Also, its possible that something about my experience in grad school is what triggered my decadent three year time wasting binge. I will probably never know).


        Morning people have irritated me for many decades. You are probably preaching to the choir on that one…

        Although, I have recently found that if I am extremely disciplined about going to bed and getting up at the same time every day I *can* get up early without being miserable. I still don’t enjoy it, and I don’t think it makes me healthier (aside from the fact that it allows me to get paid and buy food and shelter).

      2. Mousazz says:

        Personal anecdote:

        After one bout of drinking heavily and waking up the next day feeling really sick and hung-over, with bruises all over my body, I now get nauseous whenever I smell poor-quality vodka. Sometimes I feel quite amazed at this instinctive reaction of mine I barely get to control.

        1. Daemian Lucifer says:

          And my father wants to vomit when he smells coconut,because he ate too much of it when he was a kid.But he still ate a coconut cake once because he didnt know it had coconut in it.He never had a problem with it.Like I said,its practically impossible to get disgusted by ALL alcoholic drinks,unless you are physically unable to process ethanol.Because whatever makes you disgusted with one drink,you may not even taste it in a different drink.

          1. Mephane says:

            I said,its practically impossible to get disgusted by ALL alcoholic drinks,unless you are physically unable to process ethanol.

            You may quote me as a counter-example. I don’t drink any alcohol because I literally cannot stand the taste of ethanol itself. It comes probably from an episode as a child where I drank from some fruit tea that was in a canister standing in the summer sun and had become half fermented, after which I become quite sick and my brain has forever ingrained its first encounter with the substance as something terrible.

            1. Axehurdle says:

              It’s not just you.
              It’s not as bad as that for me and I’ll drink socially because it makes other people happy to see me drunk but it’s very rare for me to find a drink that doesn’t taste awful, even drinks most people consider weak I find disgustingly alcoholic. And I’ve never had an alcoholic beverage that wouldn’t have tasted better virgin.

              I just grimace and choke it down for the social value.

        2. djw says:

          When I was a newly minted 21 year old, a few similarly aged friends and I purchased vodka and Gatorade. We bought the Gatorade because we heard that a hangover was basically severe dehydration, and we figured that Gatorade and Vodka would be hangover proof…

          Well, I still had a horrid hangover the next day. I also discovered that the very thought of drinking Gatorade had become utterly repulsive! I had no such opinion of Vodka, even though I knew damn well intellectually that it was the real source of my discomfort.

          I had a similar thing happen several years later. Somehow I contracted food poisoning (I think). This was not related to alcohol in any way, and I am not 100% sure how it happened. Taco Bell *might* have been involved (but I don’t have proof, because I also “cooked” myself some scrambled eggs that morning, and I may have screwed that up somehow).

          Anyway, after a meal at Taco Bell I walked home, past a Mediterranean place that I had never eaten at. Mediterranean food does have a distinctive aroma, and I was just starting to get sick as I walked past the place. The next morning I woke up at 8:00 AM and disgorged the lining of my stomach into the toilet. I went back to bed, and did the same thing at 1:00 PM. It was horrible.

          It took a month or so for my system to recover from that episode, and during the entire time I kept remembering the Mediterranean food that I had smelled the night before, but had at no time consumed or even touched!. It was many years before I was willing to even try Mediterranean food.

          The second story has a happy ending though, since I finally did try Mediterranean food, and I have discovered that I actually like it. Also, the Taco Bell closed, and I don’t make scrambled eggs anymore.

          In any case, brains are weird.

          1. MrPyro says:

            Similar thing with me; I got really drunk on cider* a couple of times as a young man, and for years I couldn’t have anything that tastes of apples. Apple juice, actual apples, apple pie, etc. etc. all just reminded me of the taste of my own vomit.

            * Hard cider for the Americans in the audience.

          2. Mephane says:

            This is a very interesting anecdote because afaik smell is one of if not the oldest sense in all living beings, and thus hardwired very deeply in the brain and thus having a very strong influence on things like memory.

          3. HiEv says:

            Yup, in my psychology class in college I was shown that conditioned taste aversion (or “learned food aversion” as they called it then) is one of the most rapidly learned forms of classical conditioning. Teaching an animal to press a button to get food or avoid the well-lit side of a T junction in order to not get shocked took many more trials than a simple association of a taste and/or smell with a feeling of being sick. This is likely because food poisoning is generally a more common and debilitating problem in nature than other such things, thus there was strong evolutionary pressure for this kind of adaptive learning to occur quickly.

            In any case, yeah, I stopped eating hot dogs after I bit into one, hit the fork, and lost a tooth. I know it’s not the hot dog’s fault, but I haven’t eaten one since.

      3. Daemian Lucifer says:

        Therefore, a particularly bad hangover actually can put someone off drinking, depending on the associations their subconscious makes and which instinct is stronger in that individual.

        Yes,you can reflexively get disgust towards certain foods and drinks.But heres the thing:Even if you get disgusted by whiskey,you can still enjoy wine.Even if you get disgusted by wine,you can still enjoy beer.Then there are various types of schnapps,liqueurs,and a plethora of cocktails.It really is hard (probably impossible) to develop a disgust towards all alcohol,unless you have an intolerance to ethanol itself.Your body has to know that it is putting dangerous stuff in it in order for it to react negatively.But if it doesnt know that it is ingesting the same thing that has made you sick last time,it will not protest.And even then,alcohol is not the only type of bad thing you can ingest.So boozing can be easily replaced with general engorging,or whatever slang is used for taking various hallucinogens.

        In particularly minimum-risk scenarios, I'm okay with it; I buy lottery tickets sometimes, but I do it more as a way to kick-start “if I had a million dollars” daydreams than for the thrill of gambling.

        Thats just a matter of degree.Some people love their risk to be high with immediate payoff,some enjoy it small with long time until the payoff,and other mixes in between.Even the risk free coin toss against yourself is still a sort of gambling,even though you lose nothing when you “lose”.

        As for whoring, the sex drive is an amazingly complicated thing

        Having the desire for sex is not the same as having the desire to pass your genes.Even asexual people have the urge to have a child of their own.Thats why you can find gay and sterile animals taking care of the young in pack animals.I mean obviously “whoring” is not the only way to procreate in the modern world where artificial insemination exists,and we have evolved to find a good set of complementary genes in our partner,but the drive to get q

        Basically, there's a lot more to the fact that people don't just engage in behaviors that are traditionally seen as feeling-good-but-ultimately-destructive than just our sapience.

        Hence why I said its the intellect that keeps us from bad behavior and not instincts.There were experiments done with wiring an animal to the pleasure button,to see what it would do.Lower intelligence animals(rats) would simply pleasure themselves to death,while higher intelligence ones(dolphins) would take breaks to fulfill their other needs(like hunger)before returning.

        1. rabs says:

          Hence why I said its the intellect that keeps us from bad behavior and not instincts.There were experiments done with wiring an animal to the pleasure button,to see what it would do. Lower intelligence animals(rats) would simply pleasure themselves to death.

          Something seems wrong here, survival should be our strongest instinct.
          And a pleasure channel should wear off if it’s triggered too much. That’s also the case for drugs.
          That’s how organisms that are not deficient or tampered with works.

          Maybe this experience is not what was reported or had some faults, and became an urban legend. I’d like to see a serious peer reviewed reference.

          Maybe the rat was bored to death and became suicidal, while the dolphin had other pleasure source.
          The more complex the creature is, the less likely it’s easy to understand.

          1. Daemian Lucifer says:

            I cannot find the original paper online(at least not for free),but heres a recent paper that discusses them.I didnt read the whole paper,but if I understood it correctly,the reason why the rat picks fake stimuli over food and water is because there is no pleasure substance being accumulated in the body with a method of direct intra cranial self stimulation,so it never stops doing that.

            I cant find the dolphin thing though,so maybe I was wrong about higher intelligence animals being more resistant to such a thing.Also,the addiction studies say that a monkey with unlimited access to drugs will choose to drug itself over feeding.But drugs work in a bit of a different way than direct brain stimulation,so I dont want to link these two.

            1. djw says:

              Rats are pretty smart. Dolphins are probably even smarter, but I’m not sure I’d draw a higher vs lower distinction between them, unless you are grading on charisma.

            2. rabs says:

              Thanks, that’s some low level neuroscience: electrical brain stimulation with complementary drugs.
              Breaking things and debugging to try to understand some mechanisms of the brain.
              We cannot deduct natural instincts from this.

          2. Syal says:

            Something seems wrong here, survival should be our strongest instinct.

            Why? Survival is pretty complicated, and is a success state of various other factors being achieved (get Food, keep Warm, Other). It’s also doomed to fail at some point. Plus there’s stuff like black widow spiders who die in breeding that clearly have stronger drives.

            1. rabs says:

              Survival is pretty complicated

              My formulation was wrong, it’s more a result of all our instincts when they are working properly in the right environment. Or some individual dies, and survivors instincts/features are privileged down the line.

              In the experience, rats brain was hijacked with direct electrical stimulation.

              Plus there's stuff like black widow spiders who die in breeding that clearly have stronger drives.

              Yeah, weird species survival “strategy”, but it works for them.

          3. evilmrhenry says:

            I remember there was a bit of an issue with drug experiments for rats, because rats are social creatures, and the scientists were sticking them in cages with nothing else to do. When placed into a social environment, they tended to either avoid the drugs, or use them in moderation. Not sure if this would be an issue here.

            1. Droid says:

              Yes, Kurzgesagt spoke about that experiment in their video about the war on drugs, I think.

        2. Axehurdle says:

          I think you’re kind of avoiding an important point here though. Maybe some people don’t drink because they don’t enjoy the taste (all alcoholic beverage do taste like swill after all) but it’s also possible to not enjoy being drunk.

          I know I don’t really enjoy it.

          I get drunk around other people because it amuses them but I’ve never even considered getting drunk for my own enjoyment because it just isn’t fun. I’ve never felt like I wanted alcohol on a base level the same way I crave sweet, salty and fatty foods.

      4. Wide And Nerdy® says:

        I’m with methermeneus.

        If I get more than a light buzz, I don’t end up liking how i feel. It only took getting sick a few times before my instincts started telling me to not drink, or not drink much, no matter how good it feels initially. Like when the alcohol touches my lips, the memories of getting puke drunk always come flooding back.

        As for gambling? I’ve never liked it. My instincts tell me that risk is bad (yes, even when its to my detriment, like with dating or job seeking). I don’t like getting worked up.

        And whoring? Maybe when I was 20 if I’d been the sort of guy who could, yeah I might have. Definitely not now though. My risk aversion instinct again keeps me away from that. (EDIT: Also as Syal says below, I’m an introvert, another set of instincts that doesn’t tend to lead to whoring).

        And yes, I’d call these instincts. Your instincts aren’t just a function of hormones and andrenaline. Instincts are more sophisticated than that, which is why a beaver can build a dam.

    3. Syal says:

      Whoring requires socializing, no instinct on that front. Liquor tastes bad and getting drunk makes me get cynically philosophical, not happy. No instinct on that front.

      Dat gamblin tho…

    4. Angie says:

      I don’t like how alcohol tastes. I’m not talking about the many different flavors of the many different types of booze or mixed drinks or whatever, I’m talking about the taste of the alcohol. It all really does taste the same, and to me that taste is horrible.

      Most people apparently can’t taste the alcohol itself. That’s why most people think that things like vodka or everclear or whatver have no taste. They do, and it’s awful. Maybe I’m a mutant and my super power is tasting the actual alcohol molecule or something, I dunno. But yeah, no, there’s no way I could choke down enough alcohol to ever experience drunkenness. And yeah, when I was a teenager I tried. [shrug]


      1. djw says:

        Alcohol definitely has a taste. Everclear and Vodka have enough alcohol to numb you before you notice that taste.

      2. Syal says:

        You might be exceptionally sensitive, but the point of the fufu drinks like Pina Coladas and stuff like Jello Shooters is to remove the taste of the alcohol.

        Alcohol is the onion of the liquid world.

        1. Cybron says:

          He’s not alone. I despise the taste of alcohol. I have tried sips of various fruity drinks, and I can always taste it. I would rather just have the drink without the alcohol.

          It seems to me there’s a lot of the same projection of experience Shamus mentions in Daemian’s argument.

          1. djw says:

            Its an acquired taste, just like coffee. You acquire it by associating the taste with the pleasant sensation of being lightly drunk after you have a few swigs.

            Of course, if you happen to have a bad reaction to those sips (for instance, if you have Asian Flush Syndrome) then you may never get to the point of enjoying the taste.

          2. Daemian Lucifer says:

            Have you ever eaten any fruit?If you have,there exists alcoholic drinks that you can drink without ever noticing there is alcohol in them.

            Our tongues can be fooled like any other sense.Every taste can be masked by other tastes.The only difference is what mixtures are required to fool different tongues.

          3. Daemian Lucifer says:

            Have you ever eaten any fruit?If you have,there exists alcoholic drinks that you can drink without ever noticing there is alcohol in them.You just didnt find it.

            Our tongues can be fooled like any other sense.Every taste can be masked by other tastes.The only difference is what mixtures are required to fool different tongues.

            1. Ardis Meade says:

              Yeah, that’s not true. I have tried a large variety of mixed drinks, various liqueurs, beers, and fermented fruit juices of all kinds. I have never been able to find an alcoholic drink that I can stand the taste of. I find drinks to be overpowered with the taste of ethanol at levels low enough that the drink doesn’t even need to be listed as alcoholic. Non-alcoholic beer and Everclear are nearly the same to my taste buds. Stop insisting that everyone is just like you. You are wrong. Accept it.

              1. Angie says:

                What Ardis said.

                I too tried some insane number of liqueurs and mixed drinks. For several years, my friends made it a major group quest to find something I couldn’t taste the alcohol in; they never succeeded. When I was under 21, if I was at a party and my friends wondered whether the punch was spiked (as in, the taste of alcohol was so faint they couldn’t detect it themselves) they brought me a cup of punch. If I took a sip and immediately gagged on it, they gleefully charged over to get more for themselves, because it was clearly spiked.

                I get that this is a huge, world-shaking reversale for you, Daemian, but seriously, just accept that there are some of us who can taste alcohol, no matter how diluted it is or what it’s buried in, and who hate that taste. That’s how the world works. I wish it weren’t so; I still have a vague feeling that I’m missing out on something fun, but it’s been decades since I’ve fretted about it, so…. [shrug]


            2. djw says:

              Fruit that’s rotted far enough to have noticeable amounts of alcohol does not taste the same as regular fresh fruit.

          4. Syal says:

            That’s why I say it’s the onion of liquids; it tastes bad normally, and you can cook it into tastelessness if you want, but then it’s tasteless so why bother having it.

            1. Kyte says:

              Onion can be pretty nice without being made tasteless though. Although you need to like its particular brand of sweetness.

              1. djw says:

                Oddly, it is the combination of texture and taste that I dislike in cooked onions. Fresh green onions suit me just fine. I like most vegetables better uncooked, so this is not (for me) unusual.

    5. Kyte says:

      Dunno about you, but I really can taste the alcohol in anything, even those fruity sweet drinks I’d otherwise love I can only drink in sips due to the taste of alcohol.

    6. Zak McKracken says:

      We humans like to reassure ourselves that our weaknesses are shared by all other humans (therefore they’re okay, quite rational, actually…), but that’s not true. Most people have completely different sets of weaknesses than you. But you would like to believe that yours are the norm. They are not.

      I used to like wine quite a lot. At one point I was able to tell a bunch of different Rieslings apart, just by taste.
      I never got drunk, though. Hated how drunk people behave, and was also afraid of loss of control. Also, every time I had drunken a bit more, I got reaally depressed.
      Lately, I just genuinely don’t like drinking, period. I’m a lot less troubled by the loss of control, though it doesn’t really give me anything, either. I can behave in very weird ways when I’m sober alright.

      => Alcohol may be your favourite drug but that doesn’t mean there aren’t people who cannot derive pleasure from it. This goes for literally _any_ drug. Nicotine, crack, heroin, gambling, betting … they all fill a specific void which a specific person really needs/wants to have filled. Whatever alcohol does for you, don’t assume it does that for everyone else.

      The same goes for pretty much all other things on your list.

      1. Daemian Lucifer says:

        I stepped away from this because the argument became pointless.But I feel that I need to address this falsehood that keeps propping up:

        “Hated how drunk people behave, and was also afraid of loss of control.”

        Thats intellect,not instinct.Which is exactly what I said in the beginning,which is exactly what CGP Grey mentioned in the video.Your instinct tells you “This is good,drink it/eat it all!”,your intellect tells you “Overindulgence will have a bad outcome,stop!”.Just because you have instincts does not mean you have to give in to them.In fact,most people rarely do.Thats what separates us from animals,who operate on instinct first.

        1. Zak McKracken says:

          Well, there was certainly some intellect involved but whenever I did get myself to drink something I usually ended up depressed in a corner somewhere, in addition to having to force the second half of that beer down because it’d be impolite not to finish it…

          What I’m trying to say (and I stand by that) is that no, drinking alcohol is not a primary human drive. Eating, sleeping, breathing and procreating are, although only the first three of these are required for an individual to surve, which means that there are people for whom sex has extremely low priority.

          I think you’re projecting a lot more onto others than you think.
          If you had grown up in some strange place where alcohol was unknown but cocaine was socially accepted and widespread, there’d be a good chance that you’d say about cocaine what you just said about alcohol — it’s all learned behaviour.

  4. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Heres the problem with some CGP Grey videos:He makes the annotations to them as separate videos,instead of putting them in the main one.I didnt mind this video of his because I watched that annotation first,where he clearly states “Do not take the main video as literal advice.I want all of you to find your own happiness.”.

  5. Da Mage says:

    Just something that might be interesting for you Shamus. Migraine sufferers often have a deficient in Vitamin D (probably due to the migraine thing), but Vitamin D deficiencies can increase migraine (it’s a terrible cycle). So the whole ‘get outside is good for you’ does have same merit…..or if the outside is hostile to you (as it is to me), may you should just add some Vitamin D supplements.

    1. Scampi says:

      It might work, but lately I also read up on the matter and was taught it was rather hard to even get to the point of deficiency. On the other hand, it might be more easily developed if you actually sustain a nocturne activity cycle?
      Whatever. Lately I experimented with some juice containing additional Vitamine D but couldn’t make out any differences from before until now.

    2. evilmrhenry says:

      The absorbancy of Vitamin D pills is terrible. I have had good experiences with topical Vitamin D, though.

  6. methermeneus says:

    The title of your post is pretty much exactly my own reaction to CGP’s video. (Especially the bit about screens. Pretty much all research about screen time being bad for you—excepting the effects of older CRTs outputting a little too much energy directly into your eyeballs, which is a purely physical problem—is inconclusive at worst, and it annoys me that this rumor, likely perpetuated by older folks who think what younger people do differently from them is automatically bad, continues to flourish.

    Also, the whole post is on the front page, at least for me as of 5 minutes ago.

    1. methermeneus says:

      Now that I've read the whole post, it's wall o' text time. Please note, I wrote this in a text editor without a spell/grammar checker enabled. (Actually, it does have syntax highlighting enabled, which is weird, since the file doesn't have an extension. Whatever, not relevant.)

      Because I'm the sort of person to nitpick this kind of thing (both your post and the original video)…

      I've never really gotten along with self-help books. Most of them are full of advice that is either obvious or patronizing or too generalized to really be of much use. On the other hand, there's such a variety that every now and then pretty much everyone will find one that “speaks to them.” For me, it was I Could Do Anything If I Only Knew What It Was by Barbara Smith. For CGP Grey, apparently it was How to Be Miserable by Randy J. Paterson. I've never seen anyone actually appreciate the advice of a self-help book that was recommended by someone else unless they were the sort of person who consumed self-help books like I do novels.

      Anyway, in the “stay still” section, I kinda agreed, but also kinda not. For me, a little activity is good simply because I feel bad about the amount of time I spend sitting around. (Note that this is in spite of a relatively physical job.) On the other hand, like you, I realized that this is just me, and everyone is going to be different. On the other hand, I can also go straight from just about anything to a creative endeavor; my problem is mundane things like getting dinner interrupt my flow. Given how you describe your creative process, I can see how this section would be insultingly bad for you, rather than just not entirely accurate.

      I didn't really notice any emphasis on “early to bed, early to rise” in the section on screwing with your sleep, honestly. I just figured that was a convenient time to use to demonstrate consistency in the little cartoon. Light can be a real problem, but that’s what blackout curtains are for, if the sun is up when you should be sleeping. My bigger problem is that it's treated like something you can control. I'm lucky that the biggest variation in the start of my work day is 7″“10 AM (usually only 7″“9, in reality), but I used to have a job where I'd sometimes close at 3 AM and then open at 8 AM. Most people don't have much choice in their jobs, and this sort of weird schedule is unfortunately not rare. To people stuck with that kind of schedule, this piece of “advice” is similar to the kind of “git gud” you sometimes rail against: Technically not untrue, but that's already my goal; I'd rather have some advice on how to accomplish that.

      Like I said before, the vast majority of negatives concerning screen time are spurious. If you have an old CRT, you should maybe not stare at it all day without a radiation shield, and a screen can count as a light in terms of interrupting your sleep, but 1) Few people use CRT monitors anymore (I don't count TVs much, since if you still have a CRT TV, it's probably across the room and not as big a deal), and 2) most people use screens they can set to turn off. If I'm going to bed and leaving a YouTube playlist on my computer while I drift off, I just tell my computer to go to sleep in an hour. Yes, I use terminal commands to do it, but most OSes have GUI utilities to do that nowadays. The one problem I can see with screen time is when people use a TV/tablet/whatever as a babysitter, and that's less a problem with screen time than with parenting technique. (My boss's grandson, for instance, throws tantrums if anyone tries to get him to stop playing Roblox, so his parents just let him keep playing to the exclusion of almost anything else. Granted, he's five-ish, so he doesn't have much else he needs to be doing, but it seems like a problem. The only thing is, the problem isn't the screen, but the doing-one-activity-to-the-exclusion-of-all-else. That'd be just as bad if the activity was, say, soccer or writing poetry.)

      “[Don't] Use Your Screen to Stoke your Negative Emotions” is decent enough advice, but it's not really a “screen” thing. Don't live in a negative echo chamber, don't criticize everything that isn't perfect, don't hate someone just because they disagree with you on one thing. Granted, the Internet makes doing those bad things easier, but real life does just as good a job. And the screen is what helps you get away from a lot of that, too. While newspapers emphasize the bad to sell issues, you have people like Destin at Smarter Every Day just showing you cool stuff and occasionally talking about how the world is actually better than it's ever been. Just for example. (Go watch Smarter Every Day. I'm not associated with the channel; just some friendly advice.)

      The two bits about how to set goals are true enough, but they don't actually offer any advice. It's basically just, “Goals are great, but stupid goals are counterproductive.” Great. Maybe the book goes into more useful detail, but condensed into video form, this is just inane. I wonder if CGP Grey looked over this section and thought, “Man, this just isn't up to my usual quality, but it's the best I can do condensing this into a video. Well, my audience is pretty smart; hopefully most of them will read the book and get the read advice.”

      “Follow your instincts.” Man, this is a weird one. Most of what humans think of as “instincts” are just a combination of ingrained social behaviors, muscle memory, and reactionary thought (which is basically the same as muscle memory, since muscle memory is also entirely in your head, in spite of the name). It's not quite true that we only have one instinct (if you haven't heard, there's a common rumor that the only instinct humans have left is to suckle as a baby), but instincts generally involve the very-short-term (minutes at most) or the very general (“mating is probably a good thing to pursue at some point”). I think you nailed it with your two main points here: That “instinct” as it's used here is ill-defined, and that the behaviors it probably means are better tempered than eliminated.

      1. Daemian Lucifer says:

        I've never really gotten along with self-help books.

        My beef with self-help books is that they are misleading.If you need a book in order to get help,you arent really self-helping,and thus these wont tell you anything useful.You need someone to actually help you,and these books are simply tricking you into wasting your money.But if your problems can be overcome without outside help,then you will solve them yourself,no one will have to tell you to “do this obvious thing”,because you will be doing it already.

        1. methermeneus says:

          these books are simply tricking you into wasting your money.

          It’s a good thing I read my friend’s copy instead of buying one for myself, then ;D

          That said, yes, that’s pretty much my problem with self-help books. That and the outright falsehoods some of them perpetuate (especially the diet-related ones that say anything beyond the most basic and obvious).

      2. Syal says:

        I’ll throw in a link to a guide to SMART goals.

        They seem useful. Using more SMART goals is on my list of vague goals.

        1. Zak McKracken says:

          SMART goals are kind-of a good thing (and they help!), but as anything else, I’d enjoy them in moderation because at least to me, they can also take the fun out of stuff I used to enjoy.

          It’s like turning a long rambling hike into a self-micromanagement exercise. Rather than following your nose and your interest, it forces you to stay on the rails. Yes, that helps you reach a goal, but I for one enjoy the way to the goal much more than the goal itself, and thus removes the thing I actually started doing it for.

          That said, it also removes the frustration of realizing that I’ll probably never finish that thing, because it helps to actually finish things … so I guess there needs to be a balance.

  7. Fizban says:

    That f.lux thing seems pretty neat, shame it’s an “applet” with location crap and an arbitrary day/night distinction instead of a standalone exe with proper controls. Looks like you could just set it to dimmer mode for day and night then pause and unpause it manually, but I still don’t want anything that so much as looks like an “app” anywhere near my desktop.

    1. Zanmatoer says:

      Normally I’d agree with you, but f.lux actually works better in it’s current format as it has a feature to slowly alter the blue balance over an hour long period, rather than a jarring few seconds.

      I’ve been using it for years and I can’t recommend it enough. It’s very light weight and doesn’t mess with games or videos like I expected it too, either.

    2. Ermel says:

      I have downloaded the Windows version, and it doesn’t look very app-like to me. Just another taskbar utility. The fact that it insists on using sunrise/sunset and not configurable times is slightly unfortunate, but since you can set both to the same colour temperature and then switch it on and off manually, that shouldn’t be more than a cosmetic issue.

      A big thank you to Shamus for pointing me to this utility!

      1. droid says:

        To modify the phase variance set the position it calculates sunrise from to the correct longitude. Less flexible than setting an arbitrary time for transitions, but perhaps useful.

        1. Ermel says:

          Thanks for pointing that out; I have in fact done so already, I just failed to mention it, having concentrated on the issue Fizban raised in their message. My apologies for any misunderstanding.

    3. Sven says:

      For those of you who run the Windows 10 Creator’s Update (as of this writing the most recent update, released April 2017), Windows now has this functionality built in. It’s called “Night light” and you can find it under the display settings.

  8. Dreadjaws says:

    “Here is what you need to do,” I told her. “Put your computer in a dark room. The darker the better. If you've got some neon or other colored lights, turn those on because they're very relaxing. Put some dubstep music on and write code for a few hours. Close the door, close social media, and turn off your phone so nobody can interrupt and break your flow. If that doesn't cheer you up, fire up Batman: Arkham City and do the challenge rooms. Improving your score over time will give you a sense of accomplishment. Then switch back to dubstep and coding. Just keep switching between those two until you feel better. Oh, and don't forget to turn the air conditioning to extra-chilly. The cool air helps with alertness. Keep this up all night. By the time the sun comes up, you'll feel fantastic and you'll be ready for a full day of restful sleep.”

    Yeah, I feel that my advice of “watch some porn” wouldn’t work as well.

    Here’s something I experience on an almost daily basis. I walk around the street (purely for the purpose of getting to and from work or grocery shopping, as I certainly don’t do it for pleasure) and I hear a mother tell her son to go outside and play, or I hear a woman discussing with another one how she makes her son go outside and play because he stays inside all day and it’s going to get mentally ill from all the imprisonment.

    While this video might not be supposed to be taken seriously, it seems like a lot of people really don’t understand the idea that not everyone is the same and what makes them happy doesn’t make others happy. This is really prevalent in a lot of parents, who just don’t grasp the concept of their children not being motivated to do the same stuff they did when they were children. I love my parents, but they used to do this to me (and they still do in a minor way). “You have to get out, you can’t spend all day inside”. Well, why the hell not? I find myself happy inside, and I’m miserable outside.

    1. Scampi says:

      it seems like a lot of people really don't understand the idea that not everyone is the same and what makes them happy doesn't make others happy.

      Also: That things that made one happy at one point in their life will not be the same cause of joy at another point.

  9. D-z says:

    “This one is a sore spot with me because I still run into people who have this idiotic notion that getting up at noon is a horrible character flaw.”

    I can’t tell you how much I love you right now. 2PM morning coffe mugs have been raised for you.

    1. And don’t forget that there is always morning somewhere and the world never sleeps. A international company needs to be able to answer and make calls any time of the day.
      So the 9-5 ideal has been over for ages now.

      Which is also why daylight savings need to go, the cows need to be milked when they need to be milked and could care less what the clock says. So this is not helping farmers.
      And with the world being awake 24/7 people no longer get up after sunrise or go home before sunset.

      People commute so they drive to work while it’s still dark, then they sit indoor in a cubicle while the sun is outside (unless they work in cubicles outside which I doubt is that usual), then they commute home but pop by the store on the way home so when they do get home it’s dark again.

      The modern worker do not get to enjoy the sun that much. It’s during the off hours you’d want the sun.

      Can you tell I dislike the daylight savings nonsense?

      1. djw says:

        I’d be happy to see Daylight Savings Time go.

        Well, technically, I want the time change to go, I have a marginal preference for daylight in the evening over daylight in the morning, but if giving morning people their way is the cost of getting rid of time change then I’d go for it.

        I’d also love to see a calendar modification like this one.

        1. Mephane says:

          I am in favor of even stronger simplification of the calendar: Change all months to exactly 28 days. This leads to 13 months each 28 days long, and 1 day remaining (2 in leap years) that could be used a universal off-day, like 1 or 2 bonus sundays at the end of the year, conveniently falling together with new year’s eve. Then afterwards the next year starts again on Monday, January 1.

          1. djw says:

            That works for me. However, there are some religions that are based on 7 day weeks, and such a calendar would definitely be a non-starter for them.

          2. KarmaTheAlligator says:

            How would you call the extra days, Sunday 2 and 3? A and B?

            I kid, this notion of having all months be 28 days long with a (couple) day(s) leftovers is something I’ve been hoping for for years now.

            1. Mephane says:

              All credit for the idea goes to Kim Stanley Robinson; he did the same in his Mars Trilogy about the 24 hour clock. In the books, the clocks on Mars are programmed to just stop at midnight for about 40 minutes (because Mars days are longer than Earth days by that amount). It’s off-time in the most literal sense and usually marks the highlight of any late night activity (e.g. parties).

              I then merely extrapolated his idea to the calendar. :)

              1. Shamus says:

                I think you probably meant “40 minutes”.

                1. Mephane says:

                  Yes, yes I did. You are free to edit my comment if you want to. :)

            2. Kalil says:

              The Exalted RPG campaign setting has something like this – 12 30 day months with 5 ‘extra’ days. Of course, this being a high fantasy setting, those five ‘extra’ days are very special and lots of magic stuff happens then. But I do quite like the concept…

              (if you want to solve the ‘week’ problem, use a 6-day week instead, then each month has exactly 5 weeks)

      2. Kyte says:

        My country tried no DST (or rather, no winter time ’cause that’s what we do) but it turns out that lots of people don’t actually like to get up when it looks like nighttime and would rather have a bit of sunlight at 7-8am when they’re arriving to work (even if it’s dark when they leave home) than have an hour of evening light that’s gonna be lost anyways because in winter the sun’s already set by 6 and people are still at work.
        So they put it back for a shorter period of time.

        And most places do happen to have windows, you know.

        1. djw says:

          I do find dark in the morning depressing as well.

          However, there is a statistically significant increase in death on the day of the time change (I think mostly the “spring forward” one) so I think avoiding that might be worth a few dark mornings.

    2. Sabrdance (MatthewH) says:

      Had a professor once do a sleep study of athletes at Vanderbilt University. He asked them when they were most active and when they wanted to sleep. He then ran a factor analysis on the reports, and found 3 basic patterns of activity:

      1.) Morning People: active in the morning, around 8:00am, until later afternoon, about 4:00pm.
      2.) Evening People: active starting around 6:00pm, and continuing into early morning, 2 or 3am.
      3.) Spanish People: active for a stretch in late morning -10 to noon or so -followed by a period of inactivity until 2 or 3, and then another stretch of activity from 4pm until 10 or 11. (Note: not actually Spaniards, but the siesta is a rather obvious comparison.)

      The world appears to be run for the benefit of morning people, but they aren’t a majority (though I think he found they were a plurality.)

      1. Zak McKracken says:

        And may I add: “Morning” does not actually require sunrise or anything. Studies in sleep labs have found that people’s sleep cycles can quickly detach from the actual day cycle if they’re not aware of the time (i.e. no windows, no clocks). “Morning” is whenever you wake up.

        Also, from personal experience: I’m usually an evening person but I found that after about 1.5 months of sleep-as-much-as-you-like, I can become a morning person. Wake up, be completely awake and productive, right away. Crazy experience. Only works for me as long as I get enough sleep, and are sufficiently active (but not toom much) during the day. I find that impossible with a regular job, so I’m back to being an evening person at the moment, but I’ll never stop searching fopr a way back to that blessed state…

  10. 1. Stay still vs be active.
    While I myself (being a programmer/digital artist/etc.) I like staying still (trying to code while walking would give me a headache and not be very productive and possibly dangerous.

    But the body do enjoy “moving”. But her’s the thing (sorry, no references to back this up with) but I read a article where a expert said that you do not have to work out several hours per day at a gym to stay relatively healthy, just a half hour workout or a long walk now and again could be enough to get the health benefits of being “active”.

    So maybe a few situps per week and walk with a trolleybag instead of driving the car when going to the store would be enough for many people.

    2. Sleep
    This is finicky. I’m of the belief that the light does not matter. Sleep when you feel like sleeping and get up when you feel like getting up.
    Your body has a internal “clock” that is slightly longer than a 24 hour clock (yeah, the human body is not really synced with the earth’s rotation, imagine that. Since the Earth is slowing down it may sync in some million years though).

    When you are really young you need a lot of sleep, then you need less and less sleep as you get older.
    Some guy in asia (no refs. sorry) ate what he called brain super food and only slept like a few hours per day.

    Myself I know that I have sleep windows, these vary between people but mine seems to be about 4 hours apart on average. So if I fight the sleep when I get sleepy can can easily be awake for 4 more hours. Going 36 hours without sleep might make it seem like you need 16 hours of sleep to compensate but I’ve sometimes experienced sleeping less than 8 hours. But usually 12 hours to “catch up” is more common.

    The importance is not how much/long you sleep but the quality of your sleep, the body and especially the brain need to put the body into maintenance mode.

    Bonus Trivia. Your body will alternate which nostril is the most open each 2 hours or so, to let your smell receptors rest.

    Your body (or skin actually) needs sunlight as The skin takes sunlight and turns it into D vitamins. So some sunlight is important.

    Bonus Trivia. Eggs contains all the nutrients the body needs minus C vitamin. So if you take C vitamin supplements or some sitrus fruit and eat a lot of eggs you should not Suffer a shortage of anything. (I guess eggs contain iron and magnesium and a whole bunch of other stuff our bodies need)

    3. Screen time
    If I had kids i’d do the following. They can stay as long as they want on the computer as long as they are doing something constructive 50% of that time. Write/compose/program/do artwork/whatever. So if they are sitting the for 8 hours a whole night then 4 of those hours should be something creative.
    Obviously I’d have to lead by example by doing the same. If I can’t then I’ll have to adjust the percentage to allow for more procrastination

    If screen time is intended to limit exposure to porn and similar eh. Surf the net with your kids when they are too young to understand. And when they are ready to surf unsupervised then have “The Talk”. Make sure they know how to stay away from bad (malware infested pornsites), and if they really want to watch porn just hollah and I’d dig up various malware free sites.
    Alternatively the weekly allowance could include a “no questions asked” bonus amount that could be used for “magazines”, just let me know which drawer in your room you do NOT want me to open/clean etc.
    Oh and no sending of photos of your crotch or chest to somebody else via your phone or your PC, if you wanna do that stuff wait until your 18. And be aware of people pretending to be a different age or even gender. Remember, there are no chicks with dicks, only guys with tits.

    And if they see anything they find stupid/unbelievable/questionably or sound untrue, let me know. And I’ll explain that this or that is hate speech, that is possibly political or religious lures, extremists trying to brainwash people etc. And if they ever feel upset or angry, let me know and I’ll let them know if being upset/angry seems justified or not. Ignoring an asshole would be best, but at the very least it makes sense to ask me if they truly are an asshole. Because if they are I’ll def back my kid up with being justifiably upset/angry.

    Getting sidetracked. Um screen time.
    Well, a large screen place at the far back end of a table rather than a small screen right up to your face. I’ve possibly damaged my own eyesight so if I had a kid I’d want to help them avoid doing that.

    4. I kinda answered that in part above.

    5,6,7. These are overlapping.
    Do whatever you want as long as it’s not illegal/you get caught/you hurt or harm others.
    Being happy about existing and living in the “NOW!” is all that matters. Don’t like how you feel right now? Change it up see if something else feels better.
    The brain is stupid like that, sometimes just re-arranging your room may drastically change how you feel in that room from then on. Same goes with clothes or furniture, or friends, work, whatever.

    1. Syal says:

      And if they see anything they find stupid/unbelievable/questionably or sound untrue, let me know.

      Far more problematic is seeing a believable lie. Especially when they’re young and everything is believable. There was a five-year-old surfing Youtube at work, and one of the videos opened with “who the FUCK do you think you are,” and of course the kid saw no problems while everyone else spins around and goes “just what are they watching?”. (I think it was an LP channel.)

      and if they really want to watch porn just hollah and I'd dig up various malware free sites.

      I’m trying to picture someone asking for kid-friendly porn. I don’t see it going well.

      1. djw says:

        I'm trying to picture someone asking for kid-friendly porn. I don't see it going well.

        That’s just asking for a visit from the friendly neighborhood FBI agent.

        1. Hmm! A good point. A quick google turned up this info.

          But, if a kid is old enough to know/understand what adult magazines are, what porn web sites are then you are not really introducing anything to them that they do not know. At that stage it would be more important to make sure they don’t get malware on their machines (that could spy via their webcam) or lured by a sexual predator on the net.

          The alternative is either banning the kids from the internet (good luck with that), or just ignoring anything they do on their computers at all, nether of which I’d call good parenting.
          If they are old enough to have had SexEd in school then dropping a few urls to “ok” sites and telling them to stay away from any other sites would be a-ok in my book.
          Oh and firewall and adblock the shit out of their machine/browser.

          Knowledge and truth is the key, trying to “protect” kids by holding back knowledge or lying to them would be the greater sin in my opinion.

          “Kid: Dad, how are babies made?”
          “Dad: Well son, when a mom and a dad loves eachother and hug really long then…”
          “Kid: Dad, stop please. I’m not asking about that, I know what pornhub is, I don’t need to know that stuff. No I meant chemically/genetically speaking.
          “Dad: Erm.. I have no idea… wait pornhub?”
          “Kid: Nevermind dad, I’ll just check Wikipedia or just Google it instead.”

          That is sadly many parents these days; and basically most late teens these days.
          The current generation learn more and earlier than the previous generation.
          (they also take things for granted that the previous generation did not though).

          A url to a website or two is no different than going to the library and borrowing The Human History of Sex and Reproduction.

          1. djw says:

            Kids will find porn, one way or another. We managed to find it in the early 80’s back before the internet was open for the general public, so I am sure they will be able to find it now.

            Actually, if they get some malware that puts porn images all over their screen where the parents can see them they may be too embarrassed to ever look at porn again.

          2. Mephane says:

            But, if a kid is old enough to know/understand what adult magazines are, what porn web sites are then you are not really introducing anything to them that they do not know.

            I’ve always held onto the idea that at some turning point (which is different for each kid) this will all go from the typical “ew, adults do that, wth” reaction to genuine interest. And if they’re interested, the only healthy thing you can do is to teach them about it, both as you said in terms of which sites to visit (and to avoid all others) and also about another important detail: just like regular movies, porn is acted. What’s depicted it’s not real; scenes are cut together, the actors just play a role, things may not happen like that in reality. If they understand that and keep that in mind, many of the “porn will teach them unrealistic expectation” concerns can be amended, just people don’t generally expect action movies to depict how a car chase works in reality.

            The literally worst you could do is try to ban them from accessing the material or ignoring the topic altogether.

            P.S.: My first thought as a kid to hearing what sex is was actually not “yuck” but “how the hell could this ever work, you cannot stick a soft flaccid thing into a tight hole”. I thought the other kid who told me was bullshitting me because I could not imagine how it would be mechanically possible.

            1. Chris says:

              Popsicle sticks and tape.

    2. Zak McKracken says:

      Two nitpicks:
      1: Vitamin D is produced by the body itself, under the influence of sunlight.
      2: At least my own internal clock depends a lot on my own activities and occupations. During regular work weeks, I sleep too little, so when I have a quiet weekend, I usually sleep around 9 to 10 hours, and I often stay awake longer than I should, because I feel I haven’t done enough with the day. If left to sleep as I want for long enough, and with some decent amount of activity, my day cycle is pretty much 7h sleep plus 17h waking, but that requires several weeks of sleeping off my sleep deficit, and no stress to get things done. In that state, I’m also really good at actually getting things done… :(

  11. John says:

    Ah, exercise. I hate exercise. I especially hate jogging, my preferred form of exercise. But I love–love!–just having finished jogging. It’s partly the sense of virtuous exhaustion, the idea that I’ve just accomplished something both difficult and worthwhile. It’s a sensation I very rarely experience otherwise. And it’s partly the stress relief. It’s not that my brain feels better after jogging. No, it’s more like the rest of my body feels more like my messed-up brain. Life’s less confusing that way.

    1. Scampi says:

      At a time of my life, I wouldn’t exercise at all. For years. If one had made me to exercise “for joy”, I would have only gotten pissed of about it.
      Later, I had to make some major changes to my general life and developed more controlled exercise habits for myself which I sustain to the day. I have now reached a point where I detest any time when I, for one or another reason, can not sustain my routine for a while. If I had the opportunity, I would actually “waste” even more time exercising, but sadly I’m not being paid for exercising.
      I believe I have gotten more joy from working out only because I do it deliberately for myself. If I didn’t have my own reasons for this habit, the same behavioural routine would prove desastrous to my mood.

    2. Polius says:

      Agreed. The other nice thing about jogging is getting to listen to music, podcasts, and audiobooks during the process. Back when I was conditioning for my current job, I went through almost the entire History of Japan podcast while I did my daily jog.

      Swimming now, swimming is never fun for me. It’s way too cold when I get in the water, then I have no way to zone out and just exercise (no way to listen to music, and I’m not super good at it so I have to focus on what I’m doing). Then getting out I always feel exhausted and dizzy. For me, it’s just the worst.

      1. djw says:

        I got into swimming in college, and continued most of the way through grad school. I can see that it is not for everybody, but I found the sensation of gliding through the water to be quite pleasant, and I eventually got fairly good at it (although I certainly did not start that way).

        I eventually swapped it for Hockey and Mountain Biking, both of which are more directly enjoyable.

        I do think that one very important aspect about exercise is to pick something that you can actually enjoy while you are doing it. This is why I never run, unless I am actually being chased by something frightening.

        Hockey and Biking I enjoy enough while I am doing them that I almost don’t notice how much effort it is. During the winter when I cannot ride outside and I am forced to ride the exercise bike in my basement (an experience I find dull) I really notice the difference in motivation and enjoyment.

    3. Zak McKracken says:

      Yeah, everybody has their own preferences for activity…

      Cycling is soo much better for me, I can zone out, let the mind go, maybe think about stuff, but not really… so relaxing! Exactly what other people tell me they get from jogging, but running feels completely pointless to me. Go figure…

      I also love playing volleyball, but cannot do either volleyball or cycling at the moment. So I go to a plain old gym, and I find the exercises quite pointless. I do love the feeling of having exercised, though. I sleep better, my back stops hurting, I’m better at concentrating…

      I guess any advice in this field will always be very individual. I think everyone agrees that exercise is healthy, and actually has a positive long-term effect on mood, too. But if you require a lot of willpower to do it in the short term it may not really help. But then, there are so many forms of exercise that I think most people should be able to find something they like or at least find less unpleasant than the feeling of not having moved a finger in a week.

  12. Pranav says:

    Hm… This makes me wonder that if you are suffering from misery or are depressed, isn’t it better to see a doctor or psychiatrist rather than the self help section of the library

    1. Dreadjaws says:

      What if you’re miserable or depressed because you can’t afford a doctor or a psychiatrist?

      1. Scampi says:

        Out of interest: Is that actually a thing? Maybe I’m just a spoiled European who has no idea of why anyone would WANT to see a doctor (even leaving the house to see a doctor is a surefire way to fuck up my day) and has health insurance that he’d rather be rid of due to high cost and usually good health. Please, enlighten me: ARE there people who are depressed for those specific reasons?

        1. Daemian Lucifer says:

          Not sure about the whole of europe,but I think only the more severe mental problems are covered by health plans in most countries.But even if you can get therapy and meds for every problem that may bug you,you still need to devote a lot of time in order to get that help.So yes,getting into a death spiral of “I need help,but I cannot find the time/money to get help,this makes me frustrated,so I need even more help” is a thing that exists.

          1. Scampi says:

            Well, I’ll have to take your word for it.
            Personal experience may, in my case, have something to do with not wanting any medical help wherever it can be avoided.
            I have evidence of previous doctors withholding important information from me as well as some internship experience with mental institutions that didn’t exactly tell me to have any trust in the profession. Add a general dislike of medication and a bureaucratic approach by many doctors towards patients and voilà , going to see a doctor sounds like more of a nightmare than the sickness he’s supposed to treat.
            I guess my experience is not a universal one.

            1. Daemian Lucifer says:

              I get that.Doctors are just like any other profession,some are good,some are bad.I still remember the night and day difference between me going to a bad dentist before finding the good one I still visit today.But the few times I did have more severe health problems,the help I got from doctors is something that I would never have found on my own,so Im happy that I went through the hassle of finding a good practitioner and going to them.

        2. Decius says:

          There are people who are depressed and would be getting proper treatment for it if they had better medical access.

        3. Lachlan the Sane says:

          Poor Australian who’s somewhat uncomfortable with doctors here! I can see a psychologist up to 10 times per year for my anxiety and it will be covered by our government healthcare fund (not every psychologist uses this scheme but there are enough of them that I’ve never had to wait for more than a few months). However, to claim this, I have to go to a regular doctor and get a referral, and that can be a more painful experience. See, being poor, I can only afford to go to medical centres where you wait in a big old queue and see whatever doctor is available when your number is called (again, this is covered by our government healthcare fund, which is why I use it instead of seeing a private doctor). The problem with these medical centres is mostly their inconsistency — it’s pretty much pure luck as to whether or not I see a doctor who actually respects my mental health problems.

        4. Mephane says:

          Yes, this is a thing, in particular (but not only) the USA. It’s always odd as a European to see in say a TV show how a family scrapes together all the money they can to get their kid some necessary medical treatment, but that does really happen in poorer families.

        5. Scampi says:

          Thanks for educating me on the matter, guys. As I already stated: I enjoy the luck of a (usually) robust health and the misfortune of a paranoid disposition (as I said: even evidently justified…) towards doctors, especially psychiatrist ones.
          Due to our health care I pay WAY more money on insurance than possibly necessary and due to my legal status I’m also not entitled to the services I’d need most, so to me a visit to the doctor is usually a huge waste of time as well.

          Anyways: Best wishes for you, Lachlan. I hope you receive proper treatment there. Can only hope it will become easier to get it.

        6. Colin Smith says:

          Hell yes, there are people who get depressed because they can’t get or afford medical assistance.
          Presumably, as you have universal coverage, you’ve never had some of the exceptionally fun experiences like setting your own broken bones, lancing your own abscessed teeth, or losing your job because you’ve gotten ill. Dealing with the aftermath of chemotherapy isn’t real fun without a doctor, either.

    2. Zak McKracken says:

      There are always different degrees of problems, and there is also (for most people) some threshold to cross before turning to a professional. Sel-help books are for people who don’t feel it’s bad enough to see a doctor, but think they should do something.

      It’s pretty much what most people do when they have the flu. Stay home, keep warm, drink tea. You don’t need a doctor to tell you that, and that’s exactly what most doctors will tell you.

  13. Ander says:

    No break

  14. Dragmire says:

    The feeling I got from the video is that it assumes the most negative thing in each section like for staying still and screen time, it assumes that all you’re doing is idly browsing the internet/youtube. The reason I came to this conclusion is from the parts about people and bots competing for your eyes(so entertainment/advertising) and the part about completing productive goals(if you’re doing work and completing goals, that doesn’t really describe, “a pile of laundry”).

    1. Daemian Lucifer says:

      The feeling I got from the video is that it assumes the most negative

      Well yes,it is after all 7 ways to maximize your misery.It goes for the worst case scenario in every step.

    2. Syal says:

      It’s very much targetting people who feel bad and don’t know why. Mostly those folks won’t be working toward productive goals.

  15. default_ex says:

    Articles like this are why I love this page. I’ve railed against the whole “Do X to be happy” or “Do Y to be healthy” thing my whole life since what works for me to remain happy and healthy is very different from everyone else around me. My comment toward such nonsense has always been, “I wish reality was that simple”.

    Take what I did last night for example. I couldn’t sleep after multiple days of maybe 2-4 hours of sleep and a full day of none at all. Was as tired as could be but still couldn’t get to sleep. So I pulled out a pad of paper and began refactorizing the binary math behind a full adder. What I started with was a hybrid of carry look ahead and ripple carry methods, a hybrid focused on easier implementation without sacrificing start-to-end gate delay (time for the entire circuit to finish). Got it boiled down even further to a point where the implementation now has a very clear and easy to follow pattern to it. I was again proud of it, even someone that doesn’t know binary logic or digital circuits could spot the pattern and continue it on for larger numbers. Even better was I reduced the 6 gate delays down to 3 gate delays for the entire thing to finish by abusing a clever trick I only recently became aware of (not sure if it’s a known thing).

    To anyone else this would be boring as hell. Might still work to put them to sleep but not without a lot of boredom and confusion first. To me it relaxed me, spent all that mental energy that was keeping me awake and ultimately allowed me to sleep the night away. Had I taken common advice and went out walking: I would have likely gotten shot/stabbed as this area is dangerous at night or I would have came home no longer tired because my body would be pumping too much adrenaline to keep me walking while dead tired.

    1. Syal says:

      People are telling you to exercise in order to fall asleep? When I stood late-night watches they told us to exercise to stay awake!

      1. Daemian Lucifer says:

        This is what I do when I have to drive at nigh.A single 10 minute run is enough to keep me awake for at least a couple more hours.

        1. Lachlan the Sane says:

          The Australian government sort of does this as official driver’s health advice! The slogan is “Every two hours, stop, revive, survive”. Granted, “revive” is usually taken to mean “drink something with caffeine in it” but your idea is an equally valid interpretation.

      2. default_ex says:

        Yeah, I found it bizarre too but like Shamus mentioned in the article. Walking or exercise in particular seems to be the general advice for anything viewed as negative. Always wrote it off as poor health education or the facebook effect.

  16. Redrock says:

    I think one of the problems with the video is the ironic reverse advice framing, which actually muddles the author’s intentions and target audience. It seems that the video is aimed at people who are already miserable and don’t quite know what yo do about it. If you prefer to sit around, eat junk food and sleep until noon, but are still happy, than the video just doesn’t apply to you. If, however, you are miserable and/or depressed, then sleep, physical activity, media consumption and nutrition are some of the obvious places to start, although not necessarily universal solutions. The framing of the video makes it sound like a condemnation of those lifestyles, which, again, I don’t think was the intention.

    Personally, I think that in terms of physical activity, sleep and nutrition, there are a lot of complex factors at play. For example, I am usually a late riser. I used to sleep until noon. After I got a dog, I started getting up at around 8-9 am, going for walkies, and going back to sleep until noon. But last summer I was working on a project that required me to show up at the office at around 9, which meant getting up at 7 every day. I HATED it. But after a month I got used to it and started to notice that I was actually feeling better. I was more active. I got more things done. More importantly, this created a positive feedback loop, because I was generally feeling better about myself.

    As the project came to an end, I went back to sleeping until around 11. I often think that, perhaps, forcing myself to get up earlier might have some positive results, but at the same time don’t feel motivated enough to start doing it. The way I see it, as long as you are able to consciously reflect on those things, you are fine.

    Regarding walking, I don’t have this dillema because of the dog, but the thing is that I love walking. It helps me think. When I am working on something, I would often take breaks to walk around the apartment. I was diagnosed with a light form of ADD when I was a kid, so maybe it has something to do with that. Once again, highly individual, highly variable.

  17. Grampy_bone says:

    I agree, I like Grey’s videos but this one came across as preachy and solipsistic.

    1. Syal says:

      I think his presentation carries a higher risk of that than normal. The “Instructor giving a lecture” theme he uses means anything you disagree with will come off as really smug.

      1. Cybron says:

        This is why I can’t watch the Extra Credits video series. Even when I agree with most of what he’s saying, dude comes off as very smug, for the same reason.

        1. Syal says:

          Huh, I thought Extra Credits was avoiding that. The chipmunk voice and short stick figures gives me a “kids playing teacher” vibe where they come off as excited.

  18. Galad says:

    Huh. Your article changes my view on things, specifically on screens. I’ve not seen screens before I’ve been 13 or 14, instead read books, pr obably a lot of them required more of an understanding than I could muster. Today and in the future, however, it would be impossible and likely counter-productive to forbid screens to a kid. I guess it would be fine to try to instill a sense of moderation. I’ve had plenty of days where I have not left the flat the whole day, but when I do, I feel at least a little better, even after only five mins of walking with a purpose

  19. Alex the Too Old says:

    Increment the counter of people who feel like shit after exercise and have never one experienced the alleged rush of endorphins.

    Reading this, I’ve realized that these days I get so much conflicting advice, and worry so much about what potential employers and unavoidable family members will think, that I have no idea what makes me happy or satisfied and I take the path of least resistance/effort on just about everything. I’ve tried so many different people’s advice and followed so many different programs to get better in some aspect of life that I only remember my own values and preferences when I bump into them by accident. There are so many external pressures to obey that pushing back against them almost seems churlish, especially when I can’t come up with a compelling alternative.

    1. Baron Tanks says:

      To add more unsollicited advise in your life: don’t be afraid to be selfish. One of my mantra’s in life (both personal and professional*) is that at the end of the day the only one looking out for you is yourself. So if following other people’s advise is not working out for you, maybe stop doing it completely.

      God, I love how this comment is a complete paradox but who knows, maybe it helps.

      *another one of my pet peeves. Learn how to say no to people that ask something you do not want to or cannot do. If you have a good explanation, chances are there are very few to no ramifications. The people asking you are human beings too. Of course, this does depend on the individual you’re dealing with and the culture at your workplace. But too often do I see people suffering because they want to say no but do not dare to, on assumptions about consequences that are not there or can be mitigated/negotiated.

  20. GM says:

    Shamus Young

    I think you actually are doing the real thing the video said would be good like step by step goals,

    regular sleep pattern,every now and then going out and moving around heh
    and not endlessly staring at the screen and doing nothing, well you sound like you got that beat opposite me.
    And your not following the herd of habits whatever impulse,you used to but you got over that and are now doing a job you enjoy.

    1. Sunshine says:

      Shamus, are sure this isn’t a spambot? It even has the broken speech and “that beat”.

  21. Scampi says:

    You don't want kids to spend all day starting at the screen so they never get their work done

    You meant “staring at the screen”, didn’t you, Shamus?
    There should be #8: Obsessing over other people’s mistakes…

    Also: I’d have loved to see your take on socializing as a means to achieving happiness. I also tend to isolate myself from people, mostly, but not entirely voluntarily.
    On the entire matter of self-help literature…my grandma once gave me a book on how to get through school well. To be polite, I actually read it. It contained the immensely valuable advice that committing suicide while being drunk will make a person unpopular.
    The rest of the book was unbearable drivel as well.

    1. default_ex says:

      Socializing to achieve happiness is one that I personally believe comes from narrow minded people whom have a weak frame of mind. I mean frame of mind as in ability to isolate what you know from what others know and understand that there is a difference.

      The reason I say this is the two sides of the social aspect of human nature. There are the extremes that enjoy being in crowds and finds small groups or being alone exhausting. Then there is the opposite extreme that enjoys being alone or in small groups but finds crowds exhausting. My fiance and I are both opposite sides of that spectrum. As a result we had to learn of a decent middle ground that doesn’t drive either of us insane. Many people I have met don’t even seem to know that this is actually a thing.

  22. Christopher says:

    If you're worried that the blue light is messing with your sleep cycle, then you may want to try out a tool like this one.

    Now we’re talking!

  23. Mortech says:

    Okay, I normally just lurk on this site, but I have to chime in because this criticism ignores the framing of the video, and the framing is incredibly important to the content of the video. This is not a video about 7 things to do to be happy. This is a video about 7 things that make (some) people miserable. So you saying “Going out and running won’t magically make me happy!” is completely misunderstanding what the video is presenting. The video merely says that staying still for long periods of time on a regular basis is bad for your health and therefore your mental wellbeing. It in no way suggests that the opposite will suddenly make you happy-go-lucky or anything like that. Therefore your criticism for the vast majority of these points is invalid.

    However, even given that, I will admit that advice #3 on limiting screen time is bad, and that #7 is really something more akin to “Never, ever, try to change or improve” rather than “follow your instincts”. The naming was a mistake even if I don’t have problems with the advice itself.

    1. Zak McKracken says:

      Following your own perspective, I think the screen time thing actually has some merit:
      If you’re depressed, and you’re spending all day in front of a screen, then chances are you’re just listlessly brwosing around a bit to keep your eyes and fingers busy, and consuming stuff that either drags you further down or at least does not help. So (again) if that is your situation, then reducing screentime and forcing yourself to do something else for a change is probably a good idea.

      In fact, if you’re feeling depressed, and there is any (in)activity that you’re doing a lot, then reducing that and looking for other interesting things to do is very likely a good idea. These days, that one long-time inactivity is usually connected to staring at screens for most of the day.

      …This doesn’t, of course, invalidate Shamus’ point that screen time per se is not a bad thing.

  24. Falterfire says:

    For what it’s worth, I know a lot of people are less than thrilled with several of CGP Grey’s videos. For example, the Americapox video is based heavily on a book titled Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond, and both the book and the author have a pretty rotten reputation among historian circles for spreading discredited information in a way that makes it sound simple, reasonable, and inarguable despite being based on flawed information.

    That’s really the bulk of the issues I hear people complain about with him: His style and his voice are very very good at making him sound like an expert who has deeply researched the topic in question even when the sources he’s working off of aren’t generally well regarded in academic circles. (I know Humans Need Not Apply faces a lot of similar criticism from automation and economics experts)

    (That said, I know there’s a huge debate amongst history fans about the extent to which GG&S is merely smoothing over complexities to help amateurs understand vs the degree to which is spreads actively incorrect information and history isn’t my field so I can’t speak to that. The point I’m trying to make here is more about the way that Grey’s style tends to imply a level of certainty and scientific consensus and validity of facts that just isn’t always there)

    1. Joe Informatico says:

      I think that video’s from right around the time when Grey’s videos seemed to transition from “entertaining PowerPoint presentations summarizing Wikipedia articles on complex civic institutions and mechanisms” to “Grey gushing over some pop social science book without looking into qualified expert criticism on the subject.” I thought physicists had to get pretty old before they started trying to apply Grand Unified Theories to every other discipline.

  25. MelTorefas says:

    I really wish I had read something like this when I was younger. My autism and anxiety disorder were not diagnosed until my mid 20s, by which point I had deeply internalized the idea that I was ‘wrong’. When I would see the kind of advice you are talking about, I would just assume that my inability to find happiness following it was due to some deep internal flaw of mine.

    It took me a long time after my diagnosis (literally just within the last years) to begin to accept that my viewpoints and preferences could possibly be valid. An article like this, written by a ‘functional adult’ like you (by the narrow standard of those words that I had been taught) would have felt revolutionary to the me of back then. And honestly, even now it makes for a nice reminder, so thanks for that.

    One of my biggest struggles has always been maintaining a regular sleep schedule. Honesty I have found a great deal of relief in just accepting that regular sleep schedules aren’t my thing and sleeping whenever I feel like I can instead of trying to keep it to a particular pattern. I like that I can do that now without feeling guilty like I have failed at something. On its own my sleep also seems to regularize around early AM bedtimes and waking around noon (when I am able to get a full sleep period, which is unfortunately rarer than I would like).

    I feel like challenging ourselves and pushing ourselves to be better is a good thing, but I wish it had not taken me so long to understand/accept that ‘better’ is not something that can be easily defined using a single objective standard that applies to everyone. Nowadays it is hard for me to even understand how I could ever have thought society would produce any such perfect, objective truth. I guess in some ways it was easier than accepting that we live in a reality that is far less objective, consistent, or easily defined.

  26. Steve C says:

    Thank you so much Shamus for elegantly writing my own reaction to CGP Grey’s video. I love Grey’s stuff and that one rubbed me the wrong way for the exact reasons you mention. While I was watching it and thinking about how much it didn’t apply to me I also thought about you and everyone else that video didn’t apply to.

  27. Droid says:

    Thank you SO MUCH, Shamus! I’ve seen that video, and it actually sparked my first obvious, undeniable phase of depression. It wasn’t as bad as other people describe them, I didn’t have any suicidal thoughts or anything, but I did waste a day more or less curled up into a ball feeling miserable. Mostly because CGP Grey’s videos up to that point were of such high quality, and well-researched, undeniable TRUTH to me.

    Your spin on it helped me more than all your other articles combined, which I didn’t think was possible at this point. Another big THANK YOU!

  28. Grudgeal says:

    I’d just like to say, that video actually makes sense… If you are actually clinically depressed.

    Those seven steps are essentially a very pop-sci way of looking at cognitive therapy for mild to moderate cases of depression in a reverse psychology way. By mild to moderate depression I mean actually diagnosed cases; not in a ‘having a bad day’ sense but more of a ‘suffers month- to years-long periods of apathy, introversion, lack of motivation, eating/sleeping disorder and missing will to live’.

    One thing I have to note about you Shamus is that you are, well, married (I hope). And you’ve had kids. In short, even when you’re alone in your room, you still ‘suffer’ from regularly scheduled episodes of human interaction and introduction of outside stimuli. You deal with a voluntary introversion. Depressed people who shut themselves into their rooms and minimize their exposure to new mental stimuli and human contact (and no, surfing the internet isn’t necessarily new stimuli; it can be but it depends on usage and your mental state) are dealing with their own minds causing isolation, not just introversion, and they don’t have their isolated periods as ‘recovery’ from human interaction in the same way you do.

    Going outside, getting your feet moving and your head outside your room means new smells. It means weather. The feel of your feet meeting new surfaces. It means stimuli for the senses. Those things are actually vital to make sure one day doesn’t become interchangeable from the next and you losing your sense of time or progress, which is not good for depressive people.

    Obviously I’m not recommending that video as a replacement for therapy or medication. But for people who are, unknowingly, borderline or mildly depressed following that video (or rather, not following it) is good for keeping you stable at least.

  29. Garrett Carroll (Son of Valhalla) says:

    The idiotic assumption that reducing screen time is beneficial to your well-being is slightly narcissistic, especially when parents tell their kids they can’t get online for reading, gaming, or video watching.

    I mean, I don’t imagine I would have ever discovered this site had I not spent five minutes going through patreon (because… I wanted to make money writing, although those goals have shifted, I was just in a crappy job at the time).

    Even better is when people assume that you can’t trust what you read online. But I started listening to advice by the Nerdwriter, and I recognized I didn’t know enough in my life to move forward (after which, I quit my restaurant job and went over to phone sales. Still similar customer-wise, but it might lead to an HR position, which my degree is a good match for).

    The point is that had I not had the instantaneous tools and resources to research my problem, gain knowledge and solutions, and then implemented them outside of the screen, I would never have felt like I could move forward. Some people don’t even dream of a better life, because they don’t know it exists. Through some reading and Internet perusing, I found things that completely helped me realize I can change my own circumstances and learn more in the process…

    And play Total War in the process, as soon as I can get a better computer.

  30. Anonymous says:

    Put your computer in a dark room. The darker the better. If you've got some neon or other colored lights, turn those on because they're very relaxing. Put some dubstep music on and write code for a few hours. Close the door, close social media, and turn off your phone so nobody can interrupt and break your flow.

    That sounds super helpful! Thanks!

    I’m glad nobody asks me for advice on how to break out of a depressive rut. All would know to say is, “The first decades of your life have been a lie; grieve this and move on. Listen to your head voices, treat them with courtesy, and keep an open mind when they tell you their bizarre and horrific stories. Aside from those who are struggling with suicidal or self-destructive tendencies themselves, let them take shifts in the body as they see fit. They are better at adulting than you are, and some of them have special talents like driving and social interaction that you will desperately need sometimes. Foster empathy and trust between factions, especially at the top of the hierarchy, and make sure vulnerable individuals are supervised at all times. Never solicit help from external people without thorough research on their beliefs and affiliations. If any of the voices requests an exorcism, insist that they study and practice it privately so as to avoid abuse and humiliation by idiots.” Yeah, I’m pretty sure that could upset average people even more than telling them to game and code all night… :/

  31. Tinkerton says:

    When I was a kid, my parents used to limit my screen time when school matters went awry (or didn’t, the restrictions turned out quite arbitrary). However, I do believe that today there is some credence to this.

    The problem is, as stated, that we have supplanted literally everything with screens. Anything and everything that could be turned into windows and text has been converted, so that the best way of accessing the freshest batch of it is to pull out your smartphone or tablet.

    Why is it a problem? Because Twitter, Facebook and other platforms of social media can also be accessed from the same place and they are literally designed to hook into your reward circuits and make themselves as much a part of your daily life as possible – i.e. addicted (These are huge megacorporations, it only makes sense for them to do so).

    See, when my screen time was being limited, what it prevented me from was “wasting my time” playing video games and poking around their files to get a glimpse at how they work on the inside – which immensely interested me and would later turn out to be some crucial skill development for both my job (programming – my modding experience came in handy when it came time to reverse engineer and adapt applications left half-undocumented by previous developers) and my hobbies (game dev). What my parents did was, essentially, stunt my growth in this regard.

    Today, it’s different. Tablets are an excellent tool for keeping kids quiet, calm and content, but at the same time, if you let social media hook into their reward systems, it seems to me it would be a recipe for disaster. A kid scrolling indefinitely (and you can do that now, hell just look around and see everyone scrolling away into oblivion) on Facebook is unlikely to properly learn or grasp any sort of complex subject – because everything served is fun and engaging in the short term but holds no actual substance (e.g. clickbait(y) articles). Extend that over a lengthy period of time and the most likely result is that they will have short attention spans, will not be able to hold complex and deep understanding of any particular subject and won’t be able to handle a day without the dopaminergic reward that social media offers. I’ve seen this with my cousin when she visits with my aunt and uncle (almost high school age). She sits on the couch and watches YouTube and hangs on Facebook without uttering a word. Surely she finds this type of reunion boring, does not care about idle chatter and the whole thing is an inconvenient ordeal for her. Obviously. But this poses a question of whether or not you should expose yourself to experiences or conversations you find unpleasant (which she doesn’t need to do now) and this type of thing seems necessary to me in order to function better in the (social) world at large. Not only that, but I believe actively avoiding that type of experience ends up creating SJW-type stuff we have now like “safe spaces”, due to the echo chamber-like design of social media (they track what you like and show more of it – your own personalized safe space).
    IMO, the discussion shouldn’t be about limiting screen time. It should be about limiting certain KINDS of screen time.

    I was apparently addicted to Facebook. I quit when I woke up one morning, full of energy and ready for all kinds of creative work – I’ll get to it after I check if there are any messages. An hour and a half later I came out of the trance to realize the only thing I remember was that there were now socks 15x stronger than steel. Truly, a riveting and life-changing fact. Never looked back after deleting that damned account.

  32. Mephane says:

    Obviously I didn't actually say that to her. But if I did, everyone would immediately recognize it as a list of how I keep myself happy. It's obvious this advice would be completely useless ““ if not counterproductive ““ to someone who doesn't have my exact personality. To my mom, that advice would probably sound like an attempt on her life. In any case, I would rightly get called out as a butthead.

    Ah yes, who doesn’t like useful advice of the form “do exactly as I do and if that does not make you happy, you are doing it wrong or not enough”.

    This one is a sore spot with me because I still run into people who have this idiotic notion that getting up at noon is a horrible character flaw.

    This notion usually comes packaged with a general work ethic where your moral value as a human being is primarily (or only) defined by doing work, with work not being defined as “doing good deeds” but often even literally “paid labor”, and since the traditional notion of that is getting up early to go to work, the mere act of disobeying such a sleep schedule is treated by many people as an actual of either rebellious defiance or unethical laziness.

    Actually, this one is worse than the panics of the past, because the “screen” is an omni-device that replaces or supersedes everything that came before. It's a record player. A newspaper. A map. Telephone. Cookbook. Alarm clock. Textbook. Television. Dictionary. Radio. Camera. Address book. VCR. Library. Mailbox. Encyclopedia. Gaming machine. Paintbrush. Legos. Wristwatch. Typewriter. Calculator.

    I’d go one step further here: Computers (of which smartphones are a subset) have already become extensions of the human mind, and they will become ever more important and integral to our lives as time goes on. It is good, even necessary, that children not just learn to use them, but fully integrate them into their lives as early as possible.

    Also often brought up is this notion that people would isolate themselves from each other staring at computer screens all day. This argument typically comes in the form of “look at how many people on the bus or train just stare at their phones all the time”. I have news to these people: people have never had as many options to communicate with everyone on the entire planet, and the primary use of smartphones in particular is just that. Sending a tweet is the opposite of isolating yourself, browsing Facebook is the opposite of disconnecting yourself from other people. Duh.

  33. stratigo says:

    if you exercise regularly the body does become accustomed to a certain level of endorphins, so that not exercising can cause a bit of a sour mood.

    1. Wide And Nerdy ♤ says:

      I never get those endorphins in the first place. People judge other people on this stuff. Don’t judge me just because the things that you happen, by circumstance, to enjoy happen, by circumstance, to be healthier than what I enjoy.

      Some people like long hikes in nature. Do you have any idea how hot and muggy and filled with bugs North Florida is for most of the year? I don’t see how anybody stands it. I only ever played outside because my parents wouldn’t let me be inside all the time. And forcing me to play outside didn’t get me used to nature enough to make me want to go outside of my own free will. As soon as I had control of things, I opted to be inside as much as humanly possible.

      And I’m like Shamus when it comes to exercise. Its pure cost, no enjoyment, in exchange for a meager health benefit. No matter how much or how little I ever worked out, I never enjoyed it like some people seem to. Nothing I actually like to do requires me to be able to run or lift heavy things or whatever.

      So if what you enjoy happens to result in a lean healthy body, I don’t want to hear it.

      1. Scampi says:

        I never get those endorphins in the first place.

        Not to judge you, but I believe the endorphins will only happen to really affect you once your body has gotten used to working out and, in the best case, if you find a way to approach exercise in a fun way. So it might just be that you don’t exercise regularly enough.
        I used to do no sports at all and whenever I did (because I was bored with my everyday life and needed something else), it was all a big hassle to get myself to even begin. This lasted for years.
        I only felt a positive change through exercise when I decided to do it regularly and on my own terms, in a way I would enjoy it (currently, this involves connecting my exercise to something else nerdy or geeky, doing exercises with a common theme or such or making my exercise into a competition or game) due to my own motivation. A dog may as well be an incentive (if you have one).
        Of course, if you have no intrinsic motivation to exercise, I believe there is no point in doing it. Do it for yourself because you want it or don’t. Only push yourself if it’s your own decision.

        1. djw says:

          I get endorphin high’s from exercise all the time now. However, when I started to exercise I did not get them until *after* I got into really good shape (not just moderately good shape).

          I think that is why it is critical to pick a type of exercise that you will enjoy even if you don’t get an endorphin high from it for the first year or so.

          1. Wide And Nerdy ♤ says:

            That is so unfair. Our bodies suck. They just suck.

            1. djw says:

              Just have to find something you like. Possibly that will be difficult. I agree that hiking in Florida sounds really unpleasant. Maybe swimming/snorkeling? (Just brainstorming).

    2. Scampi says:

      Must be the point I’m at…I was sick for a week and I’m kind of grumpy due to missing several hours of exercise by now…

      1. djw says:

        Three days is my limit, and even that is pushing it.

  34. Kian says:

    I didn’t think the advise was bad, but I also interpreted most of the points differently from Shamus.

    First, if you’re already happy, the video isn’t saying that you’re being happy the wrong way, which seems to cause some defensiveness in people. The point of the video is that if you are miserable, and you are doing the things the video describes, then that’s probably the reason you are unhappy. The argument “I can be happy doing these things” is besides the point because the advice isn’t aimed at you, nor is it saying to stop doing what you are doing.

    Also, I don’t think people that advocate exercise, eating salads and the like necessarily like them. Case in point, I hate running, but I know a healthy body feels better than an unhealthy one (I’ve had both, after all). So I run, despite it feeling awful while I’m doing it, because it’s required to keep my body in good health and a healthy body feels good the rest of the time. I do get satisfaction of seeing my times improve and the like, but that’s more tied to competitiveness than the exercise itself. Also, I distract myself thinking about programming issues while I run so I still get to do something intellectually stimulating instead of wasting the time I’m running.

    Likewise, I’d love to have ice-cream every day, but better eating habits, while requiring the ingestion of disgusting things like salad, feel better on the whole. It’s a short term sacrifice for a long term goal.

    If we could all be happy doing whatever feels best at any one point, no one would ever be conflicted about anything.

    As for the screens, I didn’t think he meant you shouldn’t program for hours at a time, for example. I figured he meant passive activities, like spending three hours on 9gag, watching meme after meme so that afterwards you lost all that time and don’t have a single memory of where the time went. If you are programming, you are pretty much tackling small problems while working towards a long term goal, which he describes as being a positive.

  35. Kyte says:

    Personally I get some great mileage outta reading/playing on the phone/daydreaming while walking. Sure, I wouldn’t use it to code but you aren’t coding or writing or whatever 24/7. Walking is automatic and low-stress (I guess not if you live in a crappy place?) and I even get to do some exercise I otherwise couldn’t be arsed to do (because it’s boooooooooring).

    Sometimes when I have time I just say “fuck it” and spend an hour or two walking half the way home. Plus, I get to see things like new shops or adorable housecats.

    1. Syal says:

      I used to walk regularly; I gave it up when I ran into a bear.

      140 inches of rain doesn’t encourage the practice either.

  36. Jamey says:

    Self-help books are filled with good advice for the sorts of people who enjoy writing self-help books

    I am totally re-using this quote, it is perfect. Thank you, Shamus

  37. CliveHowlitzer says:

    I get into regular arguments with my fiance regarding her kids. She is a strong advocate that they have to always not be on the computer, not be on the internet, and don’t play video games. She forces them to put them away and do other things. The conversation always ends up being “Why are you forcing them to be bored?”

    They are HER kids though and not mine, so I ultimately defer to her judgement but I never understand it. After all, if it wasn’t for ME being on the internet all the time, I would have never even met her! She is a gamer too! So its even more baffling! Its like there is some weird brainwashing at work in her mind from her own upbringing.

  38. pedantic idiot says:

    One thing I’d like to say about being active is that I felt very much like you did, Shamus. I’d go for a run and wouldn’t really feel any different. I kept going anyway for my health. After 3 months I was running 5k 3 times a week, and I really did start feeling those endorphins kick in. It took a long time to get anything out of it and it was a struggle the whole way, and honestly it was still a struggle even with the endorphins.

    I quit running over a brutally hot summer. I really should start running again now that it has cooled down.

  39. Mersadeon says:

    While I love most of CGP Grey’s videos, I do have to say he maybe needs to ask some friends in the field of whatever he is making a video on before jumping in. His Americapox video was painful to anyone with an education in history and is based on basically a single, discredited book.

  40. Hal says:

    I recognize that the arguments about “screen time” can be divisive, and the research inconclusive. However, it’s difficult to take you seriously on the matter, Shamus. By all accounts, you spend most of your waking hours in front of a computer. It’s a perfect example for the analogy of the fish trying to describe what being wet is like; your life is so defined by “screen time” that I’m not sure you’d appreciate why someone would want to limit it.

  41. GloatingSwine says:

    Light exercise can actually help concentration. Taking a walk, not trying to powerwalk or anything, just walking a well known route so you don’t have to think about where you’re going (preferably one where you won’t have to dodge traffic) gives you time and space to think without distraction plus gets your circulation going and so on.

    Any number of things I’ve been stuck on I’ve had ideas about when I’ve been walking to the shops to get some lunch.

  42. Worthstream says:

    And if you haven't figured out what makes you happy yet, then what you need is some introspection and a shakeup of the status quo.

    While the rest of the article is great, i can’t agree with this bit of advice. Shaking up the status quo while you still haven’t figured out what makes you happy is not going to work.

    Take it from someone who nearly ruined his life (twice) trying to shake thing up because the status quo was not happy. You’ll end up with a new perspective, in a new place, but that’s not going to be happier.

    If you don’t know which direction to take, turning randomly is not going to bring you any closer to your destination.

  43. Perceptiveman says:

    Pretty sure that the best way to concentrate and get ideas is actually to take a walk. Assuming you’re not in, y’know, snakebite Texas or something. This really does work. However, it’s a pretty difficult way to write code. But next time you’re stuck on something or groping for an idea, try walking while you worry on it.

  44. Ninety-Three says:

    Hey Shamus, I noticed some formatting on this article broke (I’m prepared to blame 1 and 1), it’s full of


  45. J. Elm says:

    Just skimming through your text. But I already think you’ve made a mistake in interpreting Grey’s video. Namely, one case that Grey does complain a lot himself in his podcasts, and I think his vlogs and blogs too: you’re getting too worked up in the details, rather than the fundamentals, and the systemic issues the video speaks about. You say that getting enclosed in your room listening to music and videogames makes you happy, but how often do you do that compared to any other activities? Do you do that every day for the majority of your waking hours, Or is it a reprieve from the soul-crushing grind of the every day routine?
    Grey is merely explaining his favorite points from the book he mentions at the end of the video, and these points are backed up by relevant scientific analysis. Getting sunlight on your skin helps processing vitamin D, but if your levels of vitamin D are already high, or you already spend several hours outside, you probably wont feel the difference; but if you spend several months or a couple of years without exposure to any benign UV radiation, you’re going to start feeling sick regardless of any unique body chemistry that you posses; scurvy is the same thing with vitamin C, so are the ways of misery.
    And he’s not being too specific either, he does show the person “waking up with the rising sun” but I don’t remember him telling us that this is what musn’t be done so as to maximize misery, and it would be very odd for him to do so when one of his closest friends, Brady Haran, is the kind of person who wakes up close to midday. And he’s also one of the chirpiest and happiest people Grey knows (at least from the looks of it). It would also contradict his own experience with exercise; where he tried running and jogging (since everyone else told him to) and he found out he hated it too much to consider continuing, but still found weight training to be at least bearable enough to make it his physical activity of choice, and the result is better physical health, which consequently causes better mental health.

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