When Will You Stop Ignoring These 7 Scientifically Established Realities About Health, Happiness and Success?
You need more sleep and less social media. So why won't you shut off your phone and go to bed?
Every day there is another article, video or piece of content that tells us we need to do or not do something because science has proven it’s “bad for us.” As a human behavior scientist, it drives me crazy that so many people are still surprised by these so-called discoveries. Did you really not know that sleep is important? Or that obsessing over your Instagram posts is unhealthy? This isn’t new.
We need to stop regurgitating established facts, and start making the changes that will improve the quality of our lives. Here’s a breakdown of what science has proven -- and what to do about it.
1. Rest up.
Humans are the only creatures that optionally reduce their amount of sleep. Numerous studies have shown this has negative consequences. It affects memory, weakens the immune system and lowers work performance. Everything from your ability to lose weight to your ability to fight off illness is diminished when you are tired. In fact, sleep may be the biggest predictor of happiness, health and mental acuity.
We don’t need more articles telling us that we need it. Instead, use that reading time to get more rest. If you can’t get yourself to sleep at a normal hour, stop scheduling morning meetings and go in later.
It is important to note that people are biologically wired to sleep at certain hours. There are morning people and night owls. Stop trying to convince yourself to wake up at 5 o'clock in the morning if you’re not built for it. It’s not going to teach you discipline. Instead, it will lead to burnout.
2. Stop multitasking.
The human brain isn’t built for multitasking, so stop bragging about how good you are at it. According to neuroscience, we simply can’t multitask. At best, we can rapidly switch between tasks, which often decreases productivity and performance. Each time you switch to a new task, you have to refocus your attention. Gaining your focus back could take up to 15 minutes, so stop trying to watch TV and answer emails. Put away your phone and smartwatch while you’re in a meeting. Close all those browser tabs, shut off notifications, and focus on one task at a time. Be where you are at the moment and nowhere else.
3. Fear isn’t an effective motivator.
Those who manage through fear don’t create successful work environments. At a certain point, people grow accustomed to threats, and fear no longer motivates them.
Bullying your employees or coworkers won’t make you or them excited about the work you are doing. They won’t work harder or put in extra hours. Instead of fear, focus on “idea technology,” a concept that Barry Schwartz talks about in his book Why We Work. Idea technology goes beyond intrinsic motivation. It’s about changing the ideas our culture, organizations and individuals have about work and incentives in general. Instead of focusing on workplace efficiency and economic value, we need to think about well-being to find the meaningful and satisfying parts of work.
Related: 5 Ways to Build Resilience
4. Success takes hard work.
Being an entrepreneur requires effort, grit and patience. Internet entrepreneurs rarely have millions of users their first month or even the first year. I’ve found that it takes 7-10 years to do anything really well. Achieving success often means clocking in the extra hours, giving up weekends out with friends and having a deep passion and commitment to the work you’re doing.
Even the overnight successes we hear about required years of unnoticed effort. Don’t expect anything to go smoothly, and be prepared work at it for years.
5. You are never right.
Throughout history, almost everything we thought was true has been replaced with a different paradigm or proven to be completely wrong. We once believed that Zeus would throw lightning at us or that crops wouldn’t grow because we didn't pray. We believed that the Earth was flat and the center of the universe.
Embrace uncertainty. Being uncertain is healthier than assuming you are right. It keeps us honest and humble, and it motivates us to explore new ideas and learn.
6. Social media is not good for you.
Social media usage is often linked to unhappiness. Research from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine found that the more time a person spends on social media, the more likely they are to be depressed.
The problem is that most people filter out the mundane parts of their lives and only share posts that make them seem more interesting, exciting and successful than they are in real life. Even celebrities aren’t always as glamorous and happy as they appear on Instagram. Still, we compare our own experiences to the unrealistic ones we see on social media, and it makes us feel inadequate, envious, isolated and depressed.
It is acceptable to occasionally check social media to get updates on friends and family. However, the moment it turns from joy for your friend to jealousy, you should probably take a break and enjoy some in-person social interaction.
7. We need social interaction.
In his TED Talk, Harvard researcher Robert Waldinger shared findings from a 75-year long study on happiness. According to the research, social interaction is one of the greatest influences on well-being and longevity. People who have formed strong communities of friends and family are significantly happier and healthier.
Liking a post on Facebook is not social interaction. It does not make you feel significantly closer to someone like a hug does. Go out and make meaningful connections. Join a club, go to a meetup or take a class.
We already know that these seven factors influence the quality of our lives, so why do we insist on talking about them as if we don’t? It is time to take action. Stop saying you are going to spend less time on Facebook or that you are going to make time to work on your side hustle. Do it.
Jon Levy is a behavior scientist best known for his work in influence, networking and adventure. He is founder of the Influencers Dinner and author of a new book called The 2 AM Principle: Discover the Science of Adventure.