Every once in a while I get in a philosophical state of mind, today is such a day and I wrote some things down. Bear with me, next post will be more of a ‘quick tip’ again. For now some musings, thoughts or whatever you would like to call it.
Feeling Nice as a Feedback Mechanism
First of all we need to make a couple of assumptions. First one: evolution exists. I don’t want to start the whole atheism debate on my blog, let’s just take that for granted right now. Second: things we experience right now are the result of this evolution, we are improved and the characteristics fit the best way in the situation of yesterday.
Alright, let’s dive into some ideas.
Recently I came across a quote. I think it was by Marcus Aurelius (the Roman emperor who is killed in ‘The Gladiator’ by the guy who plays Johnny Cash in ‘Walk the Line’, both great movies by the way).
‘So you were born to feel nice? Instead of doing things and experiencing them?’
It is about getting out of bed, how you want to stay in bed, to just relax for a little while, because it is ‘nice’. It just feels so good.
I can relate to this feeling, just ask my girlfriend. I am not the type of guy who gets up easy, even when I slept for a long, long time.
Why do we want to stay in bed? Because it is ‘nice’? What is nice? If we try to put it in an evolutionary context, feeling nice is some sort of feedback mechanism on doing the right thing. You feel nice when you do something good.
Eating? Great. Eating a steak will result in an increase in dopamine.
Sleeping longer, if there isn’t a bear trying to eat you, is great. Sleeping longer means gaining more energy and using less.
Doing nothing, just relaxing or playing a game? Great, as you won’t use much energy and when you have the opportunity – do so.
In a context of hunters and gatherers this feedback mechanism is completely logic, but we are living in the 21st century right? How important are these feedback mechanisms still?
Not that much.
Having positive feedback on eating more will result in obesity. Positive feedback on sleeping in results in a life spend in bed. Positive feedback on doing nothing results in laziness and general unproductivity.
Our body, and maybe even our mind, is not adapted to the 21st century yet. Marcus Aurelius understood this, feeling nice is not why you are born. The only difference is that he approached this from a stoistic standpoint, I want to approach it from an evolutionary standpoint.
Feeling nice is a short term feedback, perfect for the situation of centuries ago. For the long term it is not that useful anymore for a human being.
Should We Stop Feeling Nice?
So am I saying we should feel miserable all the time? No. Absolutely not.
Feel free to feel nice, embrace the happy feeling you get from sleeping in, eating good food and doing nothing every once in a while.
But realize what is happening in your mind, in your body when you actually need to get up early or when you try to stay away from unhealthy food.
If we understand what is happening, we can fight it. Realization is the key to change.
How to Change
Realizing how your behaviour is formed out of context (so right now, as you are reading this article) is the first step.
The next step is experiencing your habit in the proper context. So you are waking up tomorrow, you want to stay in bed because ‘it feels nice’. Stop and think about that for a while. Realize what is happening, understand why you are thinking like that.
The only thing left? Acting counterintuitive. Get out of bed, don’t eat that extra piece of cake and stop playing this game. And that is something you need to do on your own.
I got the quote from the subreddit /r/getdisciplined, where one of the key values is ‘stop wasting time’ or ‘just do it’. Definitely an interesting subreddit to check out every once in a while, especially if you want to change or form some habits which require discipline.
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