Want to start the New Year with a fresh outlook? Look no further than the very best insights from Steven Bartlett’s expert guests.
Good advice can be hard to come by. Luckily, thought leader, entrepreneur, and Huel investor Steven Bartlett excels in coaxing gems of wisdom from some of the most exciting thinkers around, both in his record-shattering podcast The Diary of a CEO, and his bestselling book of the same name.
Bartlett’s knowledgeable, inquisitive interview style allows him to dive deep on everything from rest and recovery to human consciousness. Here, we pass on the most valuable of these teaching moments to help you succeed in body, mind, and even sleep in 2024.
Matthew Walker, professor of neuroscience and psychology at the University of California knows a thing or two about getting your head down. Alongside his academic duties, he published the seminal Why We Sleep: The New Science of Sleep and Dreams, a Sunday Times Bestseller. The main thesis? That sleep is more important for our wellbeing than exercise.
Walker took a deep dive into the power of rest when he joined Bartlett for an anything but snooze-inducing two hour discussion. “Naps can improve cardiovascular health, lower blood pressure… improve your learning and memory capability…” Walker explains.
Best of all, naps can help us cope when daily stresses threaten to become overwhelming. “[Naps] can reset the emotional north of your magnetic compass in a good way, where you can de-escalate negative emotions and increase positive emotions,” Walker says.
20 minutes is the sweet spot. “You can get nice benefits for things like your learning, your memory, and it can even reduce some level of anxiety up to about 20 minutes,” Walker explains.
His advice? Don’t nap for longer than 20 minutes as you’ll enter deep sleep which could leave you with a “sleep hangover”, and, ironically, feeling worse than when you closed your eyes.
We all know we should be more in touch with our emotions, but it can be difficult to accept unpleasant feelings, as clinical psychologist and author of 2022’s bestselling non-fiction book Why Has Nobody Told Me This Before?, Dr Julie Smith explains.
“[People think] I can never get jealous because it’s an awful emotion,” Smith explains. “Actually the emotion isn’t the thing to judge, the emotion is information… it’s your job to work that out, to look at emotion with curiosity,” she says.
“I think we all go through life thinking the things being said in our minds are us saying them and are a reflection of exactly who we are,” Bartlett adds. Of course, that isn’t so.
“It causes people loads of problems,” agrees Smith, explaining that only focusing on positive thoughts is setting yourself up for failure because it isn’t the way the human mind works.
Instead of rejecting an emotion, Smith says you should take time to notice the emotion, and ask questions about what brought it up. “[Notice] wow, I’m feeling really envious. What’s that about? How can I work around that, and how do I want to respond to that?” she says.
Taking a moment to make a choice about what your thoughts and feelings mean can be the difference between reacting blindly, and calmly taking control of the situation.
Whether you’re looking to get a promotion, fulfill a creative goal, or simply get in shape, self discipline is key. No one knows this better than Ryan Holiday, a former marketing director, turned host of The Daily Stoic podcast, and author of books including Ego Is The Enemy, and The Obstacle Is The Way.
Holiday recently joined Bartlett to explain why discipline starts and ends with the body. “If I’m not taking care of myself, if I’m not sleeping, if I’m deferring maintenance, then something stressful comes along, I’m just going to magically step up and handle that? No,” Holiday says.
In other words, if you aren’t giving yourself everything you need to feel healthy and rested, you won’t feel as mentally or physically robust in the face of difficult moments. “When I’m fine-tuned, and finely-fueled and I’m taking care of myself, I’m in a place where emotionally I’m much better off,” Holiday says.
Long-term it’s about understanding what you need to feel good and making it a priority. On a daily basis, follow Holiday’s lead and start the morning with a brief, phone-free walk, taking in your surroundings. This will help build a base of calm with which to face the tasks ahead.
New Age guru Deepak Chopra has long been an advocate of alternative medicines and innovative wellness. Now 77, he joined Bartlett in 2023 to share his thoughts on consciousness and the restorative power of being in the moment, which he defines as: “A little moment of being, not doing, not thinking, not feeling, not speaking.”
“Good therapists listen,” Chopra adds, explaining that he takes a week of silence each year and has recently been extending this to a month. “One thing you can do to alleviate anybody’s suffering is fully accept them and listen to them, don’t give them advice,” he says.
The same is true of interacting with your own inner voice. “If you’re trying to force yourself to be positive, that’s very stressful,” says Chopra. “Instead… observe your thoughts, both negative and positive. You find you can’t have one without the other. Hot is meaningless without cold.”
Instead of battling through a mental to-do list, or ruminating on worries, give yourself three minutes each morning simply to focus on being in your body, letting any thoughts come – and go – without feeling the need to follow them.
The last piece of advice comes from Bartlett himself. In a solo episode, Bartlett shares his five rules for making and breaking habits. The standout is about learning to ask the right question.
Bartlett points to The Question Behavior Effect. “It’s an incredible, simple phenomenon in which asking people about performing a certain behavior drastically influences whether they do it in the future or not,” he explains.
In other words, instead of telling yourself you’re going to go to the gym, ask yourself if you’re going to go. This serves as a reminder of your behavior, thereby encouraging conscious, healthy choices. “The key thing is to ask a question which encourages a definitive yes or no answer,” says Bartlett.
Interestingly, questions were found to be most effective when administered via computer, or on paper. So, instead of writing down a list of things you have to do tomorrow, reframe it as a list of questions: “Will I finish that big project?” “Will I call my mother?” “Will I do X,Y,Z?” You might be surprised at how much more productive you become.
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