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Tuesday
Dec012015

An Advent Calendar of Awesomeness 2015

It's right about now that you start freaking out about how fast the year flew by. "January feels like yesterday," you'll lament. "It's like time goes faster every year".

Well the good/bad news is you're not just being paranoid. Time does seem to move faster every year, and we know why. It's because of cortisol.

Cortisol, the hormone commonly associated with stress, is also heavily involved in the storage of memories. So much so that people on cortisol suppressing drugs have poorer recall after watching videos of stressful events like car accidents. When you have a novel or stressful experience, more cortisol is released, meaning the memory you store is much richer in detail. As a result, when you recall the event, it feels like time was moving slower.

Think of it like frame rate on a video. A time lapse camera takes a picture every ten seconds, so you can flick through an hour of footage very quickly. If everyday memories are "filmed" on time lapse, then stressful memories are given the full HD treatment. That's why time seems to slow down during an accident and why you vividly remember where you were when you heard about the attacks on September 11th.

So think about it: The younger you are, the more novel experiences you're bound to have. For a toddler, everything - from spinning round in a dribbling circle to throwing your dinner at the wall - is a novel experience, so times seems to move slowly. But as we age, we slip into routine and have fewer novel experiences.

The upshot of this is simple: The more new experiences you have, the slower time will seem to pass and the richer your life will be.

To help you out here are 25 vaguely health related things you can try this month to make your life better. Hopefully some of them will be new to you.

1 - Do the unthinkable in your training. If you always do X, stop for at least a month and replace it with something new, something you're bad at. For me this was bench pressing (in fact, 'chest' workouts in general) which I haven't done for four months now. I replaced it with standing barbell press, which I've always been crap at. Funny enough I made more progress in those months than the rest of the year.

2 - If you use social media a lot, stop for a week and see how you feel.

3 - Write down a tiny, achievable, behaviour-based objective and do it for the rest of the month. It could be as small as taking ten deep breaths whenever you feel anxious or calling your parents once a week. Small things are big things.

4 - Read a hard book. When you finish it, read some articles about it, read about the author's life, there'll be plenty of stuff you missed. This is weight lifting for your brain. I recommend Pale Fire by Vladimir Nabokov. It's such a staggering work of genius it makes me want to chop my hands off.

5 - Do something good and don't tell anyone about it. There is research supporting the benefits of kindness and altruism. We get more joy from buying lunch for someone than having it bought for us. Do something good and don't seek credit for it.

6 - Binge watch Master of None on Netflix, a ten part sitcom from comedian Aziz Ansari. It's funny, poignant and beautifully filmed with long rambling takes and beautiful New York vistas a la seventies Woody Allen.

While you're at it, check out Jessica Jones too, even if superheroes aren't your thing. It's the least superhero-y superhero show ever, mostly a noir-ish detective story that happens to contain people who can lift cars. As a side note, netflix are really nailing the whole effortless diversity thing in a way that puts the big screen to shame. Both MoN and JJ take place in a New York that actually reflects the city's ethnic make up, and JJ will occasionally go whole minutes with only female characters on screen, talking to each other about something other than men. Mind blowing, right?

7 - Stretch your goddamn hip flexors.

8 - Recognise that you are and will always be a work in progress and give yourself a fucking break.

9 - Make an effort to cook a vegetarian meal at least once a week. Like time-travel, it's not impossible, just improbable.

10 - Check out this exhibition about the Soviet space program at the science museum. You will believe a man can fly...Around the Earth, in what looks like something a thumbless chimp welded together.

http://www.sciencemuseum.org.uk/visitmuseum/Plan_your_visit/exhibitions/cosmonauts.aspx

11 - Think of something you wanted to achieve this year but didn't. A general lifestyle thing like changing your job situation. Sit down for ten minutes and come up with ten ideas on how to do it.

12 - Further to that last point; if you're a procrastinator, try the pomodoro technique. Simple but stupidly effective.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pomodoro_Technique

13 - Include some easy but frequent cardio. Fifteen minutes five days a week beats an hour twice a week.

14 - Check out this amazing exhibit on abstract art at the White Cube. With works by masters like Picasso and Matisse alongside modern artists they've influenced.

http://whitecube.com/exhibitions/tightrope_walk_painted_images_after_abstraction_bermondsey_2015/

15 - Look at this amazing thing.

http://theoatmeal.com/comics/plane

16 - And this.

https://www.ted.com/talks/bobby_mcferrin_hacks_your_brain_with_music

17 - Stop believing quotes and stats posted on the Internet just because they're superimposed over a nice image. Any idiot can do it, including those who want you to be as racist and misogynistic as they are.

18 - Keep a bottle of water by your bed. Drink it when you wake up.

19 - Spend more money on better wine and drink less of it, more slowly.

20 - Remember that when it comes to exercise, it all counts. Maybe you don't have a spare hour to train. Do something anyway. Twenty minutes still counts.

21 - The chicken wings at Blues Kitchen in Shoreditch are life changing.

22 - Pick a challenging body weight exercise and get good at it. The front or back lever, handstand push up or L-sit are all great choices. There's a shitload of tutorials online.

23 - You know when you wake up after a night out and are afraid to check your sent messages because you've done something stupid? Delete that person's number now.

24 - Offer to help a friend with their health and fitness goals. If you're reading this you probably know more than they do.

25 - There's probably no heaven, so whatever it is you're scared of doing just say fuck it and do it anyway.

Happy Christmas, jerks!

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