It's amazing how one bad event can send your whole day spiralling. Writer A.J. Jacobs says the best way to combat vicious cycles is to turn them into a positive feedback loop — or, as he says, a "virtuous cycle".
Picture: Martin Fisch/Flickr
Jacbos (writer at Eqsuire magazine and author of a number of books, including The Year of Living Biblically) explains this theory on a recent episode of The Art of Manliness podcast, about experimenting with your life. The whole episode is interesting, but the part that really hit me was the idea of a "virtuous cycle". Just like a vicious cycle, where one event or action produces a string of negative actions, you can create something that snowballs into something positive. Here's the quote, starting around 14:55 or so:
To me, there can be a vicious cycle or a virtuous cycle. So, the vicious cycle is: you sit on your butt, and you get depressed because you're not exercising, and then you get more depressed, because when you don't exercise it affects your mood. So if you just take that first step, and force yourself to do something, then it becomes a virtuous cycle: you feel better, so you're more motivated to do something more, and then you feel better, and it just becomes a positive feedback loop.
He talks about how this applies to all parts of life, whether it's being more compassionate, exercising more, improving your relationships and so on. It's not a particularly new idea — we've talked a lot about how "faking it" can produce real benefits — but this is a very interesting way to put it. The next time you see a vicious cycle coming on, don't focus on the long term — just try and put that one action into motion that will set the virtuous cycle in motion.
Art of Manliness Podcast #53: Experimenting with Your Life with A.J. Jacobs [Art of Manliness]