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zedzed comments on Lifestyle interventions to increase longevity - Less Wrong

120 Post author: RomeoStevens 28 February 2014 06:28AM

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Comment author: zedzed 27 February 2014 01:56:06PM *  7 points [-]

(edited to add sources) (edited to add music-nerdery)

Reviewing my notes from Wiseman, I can add the following recommendations for stress:

*Listen to classical music. Actually, if you check the study, only major, baroque music was helpful. I recommend the Brandenburg concerti.

*Spend at least 30 minutes outside on warm, sunny days.

*Laugh at least 15 minutes a day.

*Source: Music can facilitate blood pressure recovery from stress.

*Source: A warm heart and a clear head. The contingent effects of weather on mood and cognition.

*Source A correlational study of the relationship between sense of humor and positive psychological capacities

*Source The Effect of Mirthful Laughter on the Human Cardiovascular System

<music nerdery>

(background: I've trained in classical cello for 11 years. What follows has an inferential distance of 1 for me, and an inferential distance of quite a lot for a layperson. You should probably move along)

If you check out the music study, you'll notice that it talks about "classical" music, while I'm specifying "major, baroque". Here's why.

Classical and baroque music are different. Colloquially, "classical" refers to old music that typically gets played by violins and pianos and flutes and stuff. If you're versed in music history, "classical" refers to music from the classical period, which has certain defining characteristics that make it quite distinct from other periods, like the baroque period, much like heavy metal and blues quite distinct genres with their own defining characteristics.

The original study used Spring by Vivaldi and Canon in D by Pachelbel as "classical" music. If you're a layperson, these are perfectly representative pieces of classical music. If you're a music nerd, these pieces will tell you a lot about the effect of major, baroque music on blood pressure, but generalized to classical music is analogous to saying something like "all vertices of a square form right angles, thus the vertices of all quadrilaterals form right angles."

Baroque music is different from classical is different from jazz. We know (major, baroque) works and jazz doesn't; everything else is different enough I'm sketched out about generalizing from baroque to that. Here's why I'm fine with generalizing from (Vivaldi, Pachelbel) to (major, baroque), but not to the rest of classical.

Baroque music is noticeably lighter than more contemporary music because of (the bows, lack of endpins, use of harpsichord instead of piano, gut instead of metal strings, smaller ensembles, different wind instruments, fewer types of brass instruments, less overpowering brass instruments).

Also, baroque music tends to use just intonation, whereas more contemporary music tends to use equal temperament, and the music tested. This may be important because JI sounds better, even if it's less flexible. (Physically, JI sound waves a low-reducing integer ratios of each other, whereas ET sound waves form ratios of powers of the twelfth root of 2 of each other, so instead of having 3:2, you have 1:2^(7/12))

I specify major because it's more consonant (physically, in major and minor JI, sound waves reduce to low integer multiples of each other; in major, they tend to reduce more, so instead of having 5:4, you have 6:5).

So, until somebody goes out and tests Mozart Symphony no. 40, you're overstating your case if you claim the study I cited extends to anything beyond major, baroque music. Fortunately, all of the Brandenburg concerti are major and written by Bach, the preeminent baroque composer.

</music nerdery>

Comment author: [deleted] 27 February 2014 03:30:51PM 4 points [-]

*Laugh at least 15 minutes a day.

Does it matter which kind of laughter? Is laughing with others a lot better than doing it alone? Is schadenfreude laughter as good as any other kind of laughter?

Comment author: zedzed 27 February 2014 03:45:08PM 3 points [-]

People who spontaneously use humor to cope with stress have especially healthy immune systems, are 40 percent less likely to suffer a heart attack or stroke, experience less pain during dental surgery, and live four and a half years longer than average... Participants’ blood flow dropped by about 35 percent after watching the stress-inducing films, but rose by 22 percent following the more humorous material.

Comment author: jobe_smith 27 February 2014 03:44:13PM 3 points [-]

That's a good question. What if it turned out that laughing maniacally after committing an act of villainy was the healthiest of all? Would that change people's views about altruism?

Comment author: TheOtherDave 04 March 2014 03:34:04PM 1 point [-]

I don't know if it's healthy, but I find maniacal laughter quite satisfying. Fortunately, I do enough theatre and similar performance that I have many opportunities for it.

Comment author: CCC 04 March 2014 09:20:47AM 0 points [-]

Hmmm. It would be sufficient for the maniacal laughter to take place; technically, the villainy is unnecessary, as long as the necessary parts of the brain can be fooled.

One way to do this would be with a computer game; playing civilisation (for example), betraying your computer-player allies, and then laughing maniacally about it.

Alternatively, for more of a challenge (in case overcoming difficult opposition turns out to be a necessary element), one could play a game against human players (Diplomacy might work well here) and laugh maniacally if one achieves victory. (Since the game is structured in such a way that at least one player must eventually achieve victory, someone will have the opportunity to gain the health benefits of the maniacal laughter; one may have additional opportunities during the game to laugh maniacally as well).

Comment author: Emile 27 February 2014 03:43:14PM 3 points [-]
Comment author: benkuhn 27 February 2014 04:52:39PM *  2 points [-]

Are you referring to the "Mozart Effect" studies? That's what I found in the book (or at least the parts of the preview that were accessible), but Mozart is actually classical, not baroque. The effect seems to be small and specific to one particular type of task, according to this Nature meta-analysis:

Rauscher et al. 1 reported that listening to ten minutes of Mozart's music increased the abstract reasoning ability of college students, as measured by IQ scores, by 8 or 9 points compared with listening to relaxation instructions or silence, respectively1. This startling finding became known as the 'Mozart effect', and has since been explored by several research groups. Here I use a meta-analysis to demonstrate that any cognitive enhancement is small and does not reflect any change in IQ or reasoning ability in general, but instead derives entirely from performance on one specific type of cognitive task and has a simple neuropsychological explanation.

As a side note, if you're going to cite studies it would be great to continue Romeo's trend of actually linking to the relevant studies, since there's not enough info in your comment to find the ones you're referring to and I don't own Wiseman. I don't really trust Wiseman (or pop-sci books in general) to interpret findings with anything remotely resembling rigor.

Comment author: zedzed 27 February 2014 05:38:40PM 3 points [-]

See edit.

Thanks for suggesting I put in sources. It didn't occur to me, but it really should have.

I generally don't trust pop-sci either, but Luke recommended Wiseman repeatedly, and since I trust Luke, I see Wiseman as a way of getting useful results without the work of reading all the science myself, much the same way I just give to Givewell's recommended charities rather than evaluate them myself. I could, but they have a comparative advantage, and I'm guessing you'll agree doing the verification is expensive. If there's a flaw in this reasoning, I'd appreciate a head-ups. Thanks!

Comment author: benkuhn 28 February 2014 12:28:29AM *  4 points [-]

For clarity, I don't trust Wiseman since I've never read anything and my prior for pop-sci is low. Luke's endorsement is a positive update to his credibility.

Fully verifying is expensive, but spot-checking is cheap (this post took me about 10 minutes, e.g.). Similarly, most people barely check GiveWell's research at all, but it still matters a lot that it's so transparent, because it's a hard-to-fake signal, and facilitates spot-checking.

Re: music--it looks like you were referring to a different study on the benefits of listening to music than the one I found in Amazon's preview of Wiseman. "Listen to classical music <to reduce blood pressure when stressed>" would have been another high-VoI addition to the OP.

Further studies indicate that "self-selected relaxing music" has the same effect, and that it's probably mediated by general reduction of SNS arousal. This suggests that (a) if you're doing an SNS-heavy task, like difficult math, you may not want to listen to music at the same time; (b) anything else you would expect to move you around the autonomic spectrum should work the same way (e.g. meditation). On the other hand, neither of the studies asked subjects to do anything while listening to music, so it's unclear whether the effect would stay visible. A possibly interesting meta-analysis is here. If doing anything while listening to music makes the effect go away, then I would guess that meditation or the autonomic-spectrum navigation that CFAR teaches is a more efficient way to reduce blood pressure.

I don't know if Wiseman went into any of those in his book, but my take-away is to do some research before installing any new habit.

Comment author: Will_Sawin 28 February 2014 02:54:30PM 1 point [-]

Difficult math is SNS-heavy?

Comment author: benkuhn 01 March 2014 04:17:41AM 1 point [-]

At least according to Val, activating System 2 requires SNS activity.

Comment author: Anomylous 09 December 2014 10:03:56PM 0 points [-]

Anecdote: My mom once tried to invoke the Mozart effect by putting on his music while me and my sister were doing schoolwork, hoping that it would make us more productive. It had just the opposite effect - we sat there and enjoyed the music, rather than doing our math assignments.