How to make your life magical this year…scientifically validated
While we promote the notion of there being magic in working in a do good environment, it is different when talking about the value of magic itself.
Science gives us clear answers to deal with challenges. Which is all well and good – except that we’re not very scientific creatures. Our brains have this funny wiring, and all too often we’re not that rational.
Writer Matthew Hutson makes the point that we often see meaning where there isn’t any, prefer vague stories to concrete facts, give symbolic importance to easily replaceable items (would you swap your wedding ring for a different one for example?), and believe that things were ‘meant to be’.
This is a type of ‘magical thinking’. It is as far from rigorous, logical thought as you can get – yet magical thinking is deeply rooted in the human OS (operating system).
So, in honour of the holiday season (maybe you still believe in Santa Claus), here are some scientifically validated examples of when irrational thinking actually is the most rational. Call it black magic for good.
(These examples come from Eric Barker’s fantastic weekly blog called ‘Barking up the Wrong Tree’. His award-winning, witty, column provides scientifically backed proof of ‘How to be Awesome at Life’).
#1. Get Lucky
Sometimes carrying around a lucky coin or four leaf clover can improve your life. Believing you’re lucky increases performance. It won’t make the cards fall differently at a poker table, but anything that makes you feel lucky can make you more confident and help you perform at your best.
The science: A dexterity experiment was carried out by Lysann Danisch of Germany’s University of Cologne. Participants had to roll 36 little balls into small holes in a transparent plastic tube. Normally this took five minutes. Those wished the German equivalent of good luck performed it on average in less than 192 seconds.
#2. Believing in Fate helps you cope
Sometimes life throws you a real curve ball; something unexpected and not under your control happens. Then ‘meant to be’ can be a good thing to say. Belief in fate helps turn the random events of life into a more coherent story, retroactively.
Through counterfactual reflection, the upsides to reality are identified, a belief in fate emerges, and ultimately more meaning is derived from important life events.
#3. Take a magic potion
Pills that don’t do anything; yes placebos; have been shown to improve almost everything.
You probably already know about the placebo effect for patients unaware whether they were getting the real or pretend medicine.
But placebos can work even when people KNOW they’re placebos. Placebos administered without deception can be an effective treatment for Irritable Bowel Syndrome. The research notes that more research is needed to ascertain whether it is warranted in IBS or other conditions.
#4. Cast a spell
Turning your little habits into personally meaningful rituals grant a whole host of powerful benefits.
Research by Harvard’s Francesca Gino indicates you might want to give these four rituals a try.
- Savouring ritual – make the good times better by having something you do to focus on the good things. Share good news with a partner or have a regular mealtime with your family.
- Grief ritual – when something’s getting you down, write about your feelings. It reduces the pain and helps you cope.
- Personal starting ritual – beat anxiety and procrastination by carrying out a fun ritual that says it’s time to get to work.
- Peak performance ritual – if it makes you feel lucky, you will be lucky. Rituals increase confidence and performance.
#5. Love irrationally
Want to be truly in love and have a wonderful relationship? Want a ‘magical’ marriage?
Then do the most unscientific thing and stop trying to see the world so accurately. You don’t want to be rigorous, logical and precise.
Holding illusions about how wonderful your relationship is builds great relationships.
Letting yourself be a fool in love by being fooled by love works, and seeing the one you love as better than they really are improves relationships.
So, how do people who let a little magic into their lives fare?
They’re happier. From the book: The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom:
… the evidence shows that people who hold pervasive positive illusions about themselves, their abilities, and their future prospects are mentally healthier, happier and better liked than people who lack such illusions.
It doesn’t mean we should walk around deluded all the time. But we’re just not built to see our often harsh world with razor sharp 20:20 focus all the time. We need to be picky when we do so.
Living good lives needs a wee bit of magic.
As already stated, Eric Barker’s blog is great – with proven ways to live better across happiness, productivity, relationships, parenting, negotiation, success and more. We can’t recommend strongly enough that you check him out for a magical 2018.