Two Faces Better Than One?

Here I describe my discovery that seeing faces on TV in the morning improved my mood the next day. The details of the effect suggested that the ideal stimulus is what you’d see during a conversation. For a long time I used the C-Span show Booknotes as the main source of the faces. I watched it on a 25-inch TV. More recently I used my own face in a mirror. It was readily available and perfectly life-size. I listened to a podcast or book at the same time.

A few months ago, Caleb Cooper commented saying that he’d found that looking at two faces every morning seemed to work better than looking at one face. He found that Bloggingheads.tv expanded to full screen on a 24-inch monitor (measured diagonally) produced close-to-life-size faces, which is what he wanted.

This interested me for several reasons: 1. It might make the effect stronger. 2. Bloggingheads.tv has a big selection, offering control over size.  3. I disliked looking at my face for long times. 4. It seems more naturalistic than looking at my own face.

I’ve been trying this with a 22-inch monitor (which I already had). Perhaps 24-inch would be better. The effect does seem stronger, as Caleb said.

I asked Caleb several questions about his experience.

How did you get started doing this?

I think it started when I read your posts about standing and sleeping.  This led me to read your paper on self experimentation and sleep.  Like you, I often suffered from early awakenings where I would wake up around 2-3 hours early, still feeling tired but having a hard time going back to sleep.

Based on what I learned from you and other sources, I tried out the following; got a pair of blue blocker clip-ons for my glasses which I put on about two hours before bed; ordered an Apollo goLite blue light emitter that I use for about an hour in the morning, I would sometimes take 1/3 mg of melatonin nine hours after waking up, and 3mg half hour before bed, and I started standing on a high difficulty Thera-Band balance pad on one leg while looking into a mirror for 30 minutes in the morning.

What made you think it was worth a try?

Well, why not:)  Most self experimentation can be easily done for practically no cost, while the potential upside is significant.  There’s also satisfying curiosity, expanding self knowledge, gaining mastery over your mind and body…  You had a plausible theory, had collected suggestive data, and I’d already found the appetite suppression effect of the Shagnri-La was very real, so you had a track record of introducing ideas worth paying attention to.

What happened at first?

It felt to me like my sleep modestly improved, sleeping through the night longer and having the energy to get up and go much sooner after waking.  This was awhile ago though, I didn’t keep any data, and I was adding and dropping different things, so my experience doesn’t have a high enough confidence interval for drawing any general inferences.

When did you make those changes?

I’d guess around sixteen months ago.

After you made those changes (“got a pair of BlueBlocker glasses…”) did your mood change?

It improved in as much as waking up feeling rested makes you feel a lot better than trying to get up while still tired.

Tell me something about yourself (job, age, etc.).

I got into medicine through Clinical Massage Therapy.  Being a high school dropout I wanted something I could get into quickly, then sink or swim on my own.  Massage is one of the few fields the university-accreditation complex hasn’t sunk its tentacles deeply into (a mixed blessing; for an autodidact it lets you quickly start a great career, but the field really needs a bifurcated certification track to separate medical massage from relaxational spa massage). I live in the Pacific Northwest, near the site where they developed the atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki.  Despite all the lingering nuclear waste, it’s a nice, mid sized metro area. I’m in my mid twenties.

2 Responses to “Two Faces Better Than One?”

  1. Nansen Says:

    No comments? Jeez.

    Oh well. Could you please quantify a bit your statement, “The effect does seem stronger…”? Also, it would help to know whether the improvement holds up for more than 3 days, as opposed to it being some transient spike effect.

    Thank you.

  2. Elizabeth Molin Says:

    I have discovered another way to get a good night’s sleep. A while ago, I heard about a book called AUTOCONDITIONING: THE NEW WAY TO A SUCCESSFUL LIFE, by Hornell Hart. It is long out of print (over fifty years), but I managed to find a used copy on line and ordered it.

    If one can get past the very retro cover, typeface, illustrations, and design, and the very dated vocabulary and way of writing (“grapple courageously?” oh, please), it’s actually worth the trouble. It basically teaches what I would call self-hypnosis, or a way to get in touch with, “talk to,” and program your unconscious, subconscious, id—the part of your brain you don’t usually have access to.

    I’m still working on it, but I have learned to do what I call “talking to the Monkey” and can sometimes get effective results.

    It’s very good for those little chores that often take too much motivation and so never get done: writing a thank-you or condolence letter, cleaning out a drawer.

    It’s good for remembering things: if you tend to think of all the things you have to do/buy or people you have to email just as you’re falling asleep, you can give the Monkey a list and tell it to feed it back to you in the morning, when you have a pencil and paper.

    And I have found that it’s very effective for getting a good night’s sleep: I tell the Monkey it’s time to go to sleep now, and that we are going to sleep right through the night and wake at X o’clock, feeling fine. And I no longer even get up to use the bathroom—if I wake up in the night, I remind the Monkey that this is not what we agreed on, and I generally go right back to sleep.

    I’ve also explained to the Monkey that my husband’s snoring, or the funny noises the house makes when my husband is out of town, are simply “background music” that has no significance and will not disturb or wake me. And now my husband’s snoring doesn’t rouse me and I don’t need earplugs anymore.

    It also works on minor pain—I can tell the Monkey that the pain is peripheral and unimportant and doesn’t affect me, and although I still feel it, it doesn’t really seem painful.

    I haven’t been confronted with any major pain, except migraines, which so far it isn’t very effective against. It helps sometimes, a little bit, for appetite control. And it’s pretty good for coping with worry and anxiety.

    As I said, I’m still working on it.