Ideas for Life Experiments

By Alice Boyes, PhD. | Uncategorized

I said in my last post that I would write some ideas for life experiments. There is also some info about reducing anxiety included later in this post (not particularly related to life experiments but you’ll see why I’ve included it here).

This list is mostly to stimulate your own ideas.

If these ideas seem boring I’m sure you can think of your own ideas that are more relevant for your life/interests. You can also make the experiments more or less difficult however you like. There are no rules.

6 Ideas for Life Experiments

1. Give your partner 5 unique compliments each day for a week. I like the idea of not announcing that you’re doing this and being curious about how long it takes your partner to notice something is up with your behaviour. Or, if you’re someone who doesn’t do your share of the tasks at home, do one small task each day that your partner would normally do.

2. Each day for a week, try something you’ve wanted to try but haven’t tried (something different each day).

3. Act out some kind of sexual fantasy you’ve never acted on before – a different fantasy each weekend for a month.

4. Don’t use any power for a weekend e.g. Use your bbq for cooking. Or, no electronic entertainment for a week.

5. Try to find out something you don’t know already about everyone you interact with for a week. Or, try to compliment everyone you interact with at least once during a week. Try to work a compliment into the conversation.

6. Make lunches you’ve never made before, each day for a week. Or, cook a meal you’ve never cooked each night for a week.

The experiment I’m planning to try is unitasking (from the Guinea Pig Diaries book -see last post if you haven’t already). I’m going to start with trying to do it for one day, which I’m still expecting to be challenging, lol.

An aside:

Something that I didn’t mention in my previous post that I particularly liked from the unitasking chapter of A.J.’s book is relevant for treating anxiety. A strategy A.J. used to help himself become more aware of when he was accidentally multitasking was that he started to narrate his behaviour e.g. “I’m walking through central park”. One aspect of this strategy was that he started to narrate his thoughts “The thought has entered my mind that…” (A.J. treated thinking about stuff other than whatever he was currently doing as a type of multitasking).

In the book, he explains the neuropsychology of why speaking your thoughts aloud to yourself like you are an observer of your own mind (“I’m having the thought…”) makes you feel calmer. It activates the language centers of the brain which are in the most recently evolved/advanced part of the brain that specializes in rational thinking and reduces activation of the less rational/more gut level emotion brain centers.

Describing what thoughts you’re having can help you become aware of when you’re having thoughts that don’t make complete logical sense but at the basic brain level just the act of speaking your thoughts aloud to yourself like you are an observer of your own mind (“The thought has entered my mind that…) typically helps increase calm emotions and decreases negative emotions. Therefore psychology PhDs often recommend this for people to use during moments they’re experiencing difficult emotions and want to decrease their emotional arousal.

Another aside:

Something else I didn’t mention from the Guinea Pig Diaries book is that it has a very nice chapter called “The Rationality Project” in which A.J. writes about an experiment in which he tried to avoid “cognitive biases” (cognitive biases are specific types of thinking errors that our brains are pre-programmed to make). Its a great chapter for students of psychology to read as a fun way of learning about how/why our brains have evolved to routinely make particular types of thinking errors.

I found some chapters of the Guinea Pig Diaries boring but there enough great insights in it that its absolutely worth reading.


(Note for regular regulars – that I use the term “life experiment/s” differently than I use the term “behavioural experiment/s” because in psychology PhD-speak they mean different things.)

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