Great Expectations

Everyone wants to be happy, but many people look in the wrong place. Research suggests the happiest people have mastered a specific...

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Today’s Health Upgrade

  • The key to happiness

  • Did you draw the short straw?

  • The MIND Diet

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The Happiness Study You Didn’t Expect

Do you set unrealistic expectations? If so, it might be an unexpected cause of distress and dissatisfaction in your life.

Studies show countries that consistently rank as the happiest tend to have lower, or at least more accurate, expectations. 

In a landmark study of happiness published in the British Medical Journal, researchers found Danes score exceedingly high on measures of happiness compared to other Western countries, and they speculate this is because they have realistic expectations. "If expectations are unrealistically high, they could be the basis of disappointment and low life satisfaction," write the authors.

In the new book Master of Change, the author Brad Stulberg identifies how setting better expectations that align with the ebb and flow of life can lead to more satisfaction.

So much suffering comes at the hands of change because we don't update our expectations, writes Stulberg. Instead, we delude ourselves, bury our heads in the sand, pretend the change isn't happening, or try to return to where we were. While all of these strategies may provide short-term relief, they only set us further back in the long term. "That's because it is only when you see reality accurately and for what it is that you can do something productive about it," he writes.

The next time you find yourself frustrated or unhappy, ask yourself if it's because you have unrealistic expectations. This doesn't mean you should set a low bar or stop striving for improvement. Instead, it means that you should be realistic and accept that things don't always go your way and that change isn't the exception; it's the norm. "When change occurs," Stulberg writes, "the quicker we can recognize it for what it is and update our expectations, the better we do and the better we feel."

In yesterday's newsletter, we shared a perfect example of Arnold’s comeback from open-heart surgery. His immediate expectation was to be able to walk without a walker…and then add unweighted exercises…and then lift light weights. Arnold had his vision to be on the set for the Terminator movie, but he had realistic expectations of the steps it would take to get there.

If you’re looking to reset your expectations, keep this equation in the back of your mind: Happiness = reality - expectations.

Be ambitious, have a big vision, and make sure your expectations are aligned with a reality of possibility. You’ll be more likely to be happy and adapt to life's ever-changing circumstances.

Editor’s Note: Brad is also a member of the village. Because he wants to give back, he’s opened up exclusive bonuses to the Pump Club. If you order Master of Change today, fill out this form for extra bonuses.

Drawing The Short Straw

If you’ve ever wondered why you had to give up plastic straws for paper ones that disintegrate before you finish your drink, you won’t love what we’re about to share.

A recent study suggests that paper straws contain PFAs (poly and perfluoroalkyl substances...yeah, it’s a mouthful), which are chemicals linked to diseases such as cancer.

As we try to remind you, don’t let the headlines cause panic because they can be misleading. The researchers surveyed 39 straw brands and reviewed five materials, including paper, bamboo, glass, stainless steel, and plastic.

The paper was the short straw of the bunch, with chemicals detected in 90 percent of the brands tested. PFAs were found in 80 percent of bamboo straws, 75 percent of plastic straws, 40 percent of glass straws, and none of the steel straws. If you’re keeping score at home, steel was clearly the safest.

But what does it all mean? First of all, your body can tolerate some level of PFAs. Research suggests that PFAs are found in the blood of 97 percent of Americans. The bigger issue is that PFAs can stay in your body, so you want to limit total accumulation to reduce your risk of health issues.

If you use a paper straw every once in a while, your total exposure is minimal. However, if you use them frequently and worry that you are exposed to PFAs in other areas of your life, changing your straws might be the easiest way to offer more protection.

Maybe It’s Not The Superfoods

Many diets like to celebrate a hook that makes their plans appear extraordinary. It could be highlighting specific foods, or selling the idea of reducing inflammation, balancing your hormones, removing toxins, or something else that sounds too good to pass up.

But it’s fair to question — are diets special because of the foods you eat or because they help you lose weight?

A recent study aimed to test whether the MIND Diet (MIND = Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay) — a science-backed approach designed to help fight against brain decline — performed better than a diet that reduced calories without focusing on specific foods.

The study followed approximately 600 people for three years and focused on people with a family history of dementia.

The scientists found that both groups improved their cognitive scores, and neither group showed a more significant change in their brain structures. 

In other words, while certain foods might help improve the health of your brain and fight against cognitive decline, so does eating fewer calories and losing weight. Just another reminder that if you can’t afford expensive superfoods, it doesn’t mean you can’t see spectacular results.

If you’re interested in the MIND Diet, it consists of many foods you can find in most grocery stores, including fish, whole grains, olive oil, berries, nuts and seeds, vegetables, poultry, and legumes. But, you can also focus on cutting calories, exercising more, and watching the weight come off. Based on the latest research, the results on your brain health might be similar.

Publisher: Arnold Schwarzenegger

Editors-in-chief: Adam Bornstein and Daniel Ketchell