Steve Pinker refers to the left hemisphere of the brain as the “baloney generator”. Because it makes up explanations for states of the body whether they make sense or not. Stimulating the correct part of the brain can make someone laugh hysterically and infectiously in a sterile operating room. When the stimulation is gone the patient still believes the moment was authentically just so funny. If you medically cause someone to cry and then ask them how they feel you can generate feelings of worthlessness.
An act as simple as holding a pencil in your mouth so it pushes your cheeks back has been scientifically shown to make people feel happier because it simulates smiling.
I incorporated this into my daily routine for a while but I really hated having drooly pens.
All of this is why (or at least one of the reasons) I think working out has a mood boosting effect. You get into these powerful postures and do the powerful movements your brain starts perceiving you as powerful.
I remember when I was an adolescent my friends and I all used to walk with our heads down. We didn’t want anyone to see us, we had low self esteem, blah blah blah. One day I was standing with someone (who was evidently kind of a dick but it was just because he was low-status as well) and we saw a friend coming towards us who had his head so far down he couldn’t possibly see anything, not even us. And this guy (again – a dick) mocked him privately to me. I, because I didn’t want to also be subject of mockery because my self-esteem was already low enough, started walking with my head up from then on.
I notice in retrospect that that was when I stopped feeling like a kid and started feeling like a young man.
Much the same way that putting on a suit will make you feel charming and proactive, (again I know because I incorporated this too, I once dressed up to at least a tie everyday for a year and the personality changes last to this day) when work out and start seeing yourself standing up straight, looking proud and muscly, you begin to change internally to match that.
And crazily enough you can get short term effects just by having role models. A study on video games showed that people who played games with a powerful protagonist in the morning were more confident later in the day. Want to know where a huge part of this new drill-sargent-super-work-out-positive-ethical-get-good-at-everything-til-it-kills-you-Alastair came from? Catching up on the Jocko Podcast has me at about 70 hours of exposure to a hyper-patriot who’s essentially Batman. I live in a state of constant reinforcement of straight-edge-warrior-poet ideals.
That’s why I get so excited (and why it’s so great that New Year’s just passed) to talk about diet, exercise, ethics, ambitions, and motivation with anyone I can right now, the more I stoke the fire the longer it burns.
With that said though, don’t become a ‘motivation’ junkie – which is actually an inspiration junkie and I’ll explain the difference in an upcoming post. Don’t feed yourself stimuli that just causes you to imagine feeling good, actually do what it takes.
Start with your mental diet. Garbage in, Garbage out. Chuck out all the ‘entertainment’ that doesn’t make you want to do something important. Second get your mannerisms on lock, drool on a pencil if you have to or put on a tie. Then start working out until you feel like people should want to get to know you.
Head up, Soldier.