Andrew Huberman: Focus, Stress, Relationships, and Friendship | Lex Fridman Podcast #277

Check out Lex Fridman Podcast Episode Page & Show Notes

Key Takeaways

  • Before recording his podcast, Huberman takes a walk to estimate his energy levels
    • While walking, he recites/sings the lyrics of a song he likes out loud 
    • The process calms him down, makes him more focused, and warms up his vocal cords
  • “The reach of the podcast [ Huberman Lab ] is really fascinating, it’s not the numbers of the listeners, it’s the depth of connection you have with certain people.”Lex Fridman
  • It’s not just about freedom of speech to say controversial things it’s also freedom of speech to be weird, e.g. Ellon Musk posting sex memes
    • Huberman likes the idea of authenticity without oversharing
    • People lose careers based on the movement of their thumbs (inappropriate online behavior)
  • “As an educator in the classroom but also on social media my absolute favorite thing is when the comments about other people’s comments are positively reinforcing so you see people having conversations within the comments.”Andrew Huberman
  • Non-Sleep Deep Rest (NSDR) – a term coined by Huberman – involves different techniques that bring the brain and body into a state of relaxation
    • Distinctly different from meditation
    • Terrific at allowing people to learn to shift their state of consciousness, reset energy levels and focus
  • Reveri (self-hypnosis app) 
    • Huberman uses it to achieve a state of deep relaxation if he can’t sleep
    • Search Youtube for NSDR scripts
    • The more you do them the more quickly you can shift your brain into a state of deep relaxation
  • “The best thing that anyone can do for their mental health physical health and performance in athletic or cognitive endeavors or creative endeavors is to make sure that you’re getting enough quality sleep.”Andrew Huberman
  • Binaural beats of 40 hertz can shift the brain into a heightened state of focus and cognition
  • Ritalin, Adderall – don’t use them without a prescription (hits the dopamine system way too hard)
  • Where you place your screen is important; place it at eye level or above you
  • The only really hard part of a good relationship is dealing with oneself and taking good care of the other person 

Key Books Mentioned

Intro

  • Andrew Huberman (@hubermanlab) is a brilliant neuroscientist at Stanford University School of Medicine and the host of one of the best health and science podcasts in the world called The Huberman Lab Podcast
    • This is round 3 of Lex & Huberman on the Lex Fridman Podcast. In this episode, they talk about Andrew’s “flow state” before recording a podcast, freedom of speech “to be weird”, NSDR protocols, and secrets of great relationships
  • Host: Lex Fridman (@lexfridman)

How Pros Prepare For a Podcast Episode

  • Singing, talking, and getting into a “flow state”
    • This is the first time Huberman shares his process (inspired by Rick Rubin)
  • You need to be able to slow down, emphasize and articulate when recording a podcast
    • Before recording, Huberman takes a walk to estimate his energy levels
    • While walking, he recites/sings the lyrics of a song he likes out loud 
    • The process calms him down, makes him more focused, and warms up his vocal cords
    • While singing, he starts to evaluate whether or not he’s straining to get the words out or make them slow enough so that he can articulate them
  • On some days, when his energy levels are high, he’s trying to speak faster than he should to articulate it properly
    • Other days, when he is tired and struggles to keep up with his thoughts 
    • He adjusts the “transmission” so he can speak very quickly and be able to change the rhythm of his voice
  • When classroom teachers want to slow down, they turn to the whiteboard and start writing (it gives them a break)
    • When you podcast you don’t have that opportunity
    • “What I try and do is always get my voice warmed up and make sure that I’m thinking and speaking at approximately the same rate.”Andrew Huberman
  • Connecting passion with purpose
    • His goal is to provide interesting, clear, and actionable information
    • Also, tapping into his inner child who has fallen in love with science
    • “When it’s time it’s like I don’t care what else is going on, I’m moving into that brain state.”Andrew Huberman

Lex and Andrew Talk Nice About Each Other

  • Huberman says Lex has taken risks other people haven’t
    • “It’s one thing to do what other people are doing boldly, it’s a whole other thing to launch an entire art form or venue.”Andrew Huberman
  • “The reach of the podcast [ Huberman Lab ] is really fascinating, it’s not the numbers of the listeners, it’s the depth of connection you have with certain people.”Lex Fridman
    • It’s not just the science in the Huberman Lab, it’s the stuff between the lines; the picture of a scientist that finds beauty in biology and reveals it to its listeners
  • What can you learn about yourself from listening to people you can’t relate to?

Freedom of Speech and Social Media Engagement

  • It’s not just about freedom of speech to say controversial things it’s also freedom of speech to be weird, e.g. Elon Musk posting sex memes
    • Lex believes a lot of CEOs feel like caged birds who have forgotten how to sing
    • The final result is the suffocation of authenticity 
  • Huberman likes the idea of authenticity without oversharing
    • People lose careers based on the movement of their thumbs (inappropriate online behavior )
    • “I think freedom is really important and that includes letting people who are hateful letting people who are controversial have a voice on platforms.”Lex Fridman, a free speech absolutist
  • For social media engagement, Huberman decided to adopt classroom rules; he encourages questions that are likely to be in the minds of many others (it’s more efficient)
    • “I think people should just understand that everybody’s page is their own to moderate.”Andrew Huberman
    • Social media is a great place for conversation but it’s not necessarily a great place for every kind of conversation
  • Evacuative projection – is one of the most toxic things in life
    • It occurs when people feel something and they try and evacuate it and project it onto somebody else
    • “As an educator in the classroom but also on social media my absolute favorite thing is when the comments about other people’s comments are positively reinforcing so you see people having conversations within the comments.”Andrew Huberman

Using NSDR, or ‘non-sleep deep rest,’ to unwind

  • Google CEO Sundar Pichai regularly practices NSDR to relax
    • NSDR involves different techniques that bring the brain and body into a state of relaxation
    • Amazing ability to reset your energy levels and focus
  • NSDR is distinctly different from meditation
    • Many people find meditation hard; that’s partly because it requires focus
    • Most forms of meditation involve increased activity from your prefrontal cortex
      • Seeing thoughts as opposed to thinking thoughts, focused breathing, third-person point of view 
    • With NSDR you don’t have to work too hard, you are just listening to scripts
  • People are not that good at shifting different states of consciousness
    • We can go from sleep to wakefulness quickly, and the other way round, but we can’t shift between different states of consciousness like a step function (except in rare cases e.g. fear)
    • NSDR is terrific at allowing people to learn to shift their state of consciousness
    • “Part of the value of meditation and exercise is the actual state that you get into in deep meditation or exercise but just as valuable is the transition that you have to take yourself through from one state of mind to the other and then back again.”Andrew Huberman

NSDR – The Zero Cost Health Benefit

  • Most people don’t stick to a meditation practice
  • The Enlightenment Trap by Scott Carney
    • “There have been a fair number of cases of people that go and do very extensive meditation retreats and end up killing themselves when they return to normal life.”Andrew Huberman
    • There are states of mind inside of extended meditations or silent meditations that are very beneficial and he’s certainly not suggesting people shouldn’t meditate
    • However, Huberman knows some people who haven’t been able to shift their state back into one that was functional in regular life
    • Someone feels they’ve reached enlightenment and then commits suicide
    • These very unusual brain states are potentially dangerous if people can’t come back
  • How do you practice shifting those brain states?
    • Reveri (self-hypnosis app) 
      • Huberman uses it to achieve a state of deep relaxation if he can’t sleep
    • Search Youtube for NSDR scripts
    • The more you do them the more quickly you can shift your brain into a state of deep relaxation
    • These practices shift how much of your forebrain you’re using

Advice To Improve Your Focus and Concentration Skills

  • Sleep is paramount, check out these Podcast Notes for more information
    • “The best thing that anyone can do for their mental health physical health and performance in athletic or cognitive endeavors or creative endeavors is to make sure that you’re getting enough quality sleep.”Andrew Huberman
  • It’s very clear that mental focus follows visual focus
    • China’s crackdown on distraction
      • They are teaching kids to focus by staring at a target, calmly breathing, and maintaining a tight visual aperture
  • Learn to dilate and contract your visual field consciously
    • How to practice?
      • Pick any object roughly the same distance to which you are going to do your work
      • Stare at it (it’s ok to blink), and notice when your mind starts to drift
      • Try and narrow your visual aperture and bring that into your visual field
      • After doing that for 30 to 60 seconds start working on your job
  • Potentially Useful Pharmacological tools 
    • Caffeine, but not too much
    • Binaural beats of 40 hertz can shift the brain into a heightened state of focus and cognition
    • Do it with headphones because binaural beats are best accomplished by feeding two different frequencies to the two ears
    • Ritalin, Adderall – don’t use without prescription (hits the dopamine system way too hard)
    • Alpha-GPC (300 milligrams to 600 milligrams) with a cup of espresso 
      • Laser-sharp focus and attention (if you are well-rested) for 90 minutes
  • Workplace optimization tips
    • Where you place your screen is important; place it at eye level or above you
    • There have been some really interesting studies that suggest working in compact spaces or wearing a hoodie can also improve focus (like blinders on a horse)
    • Your Brain Is a Time Machine by Dean Buonomano
      • Talks about how time works inside the brain; expansion and contraction and what you can do to leverage it for work and creativity focus

Stress and Anxiety Can Actually Be Good for You

  • The way we narrate stressful experiences is really important
    • What do you believe about stress based on the dominant knowledge you’re consuming?
    • If you consume a lot of information about the positive effects of stressful conditions you will perform better and vice versa
  • David Goggins/Jocko Willink/Cameron Haines mindset
    • “You can actually get better from stress if you’re in the ocean of knowledge that stress grows you.”Andrew Huberman
    • When re-framed, negative journeys can be used for positive outcomes

Sex, Love, and Relationships

  • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) – a type of antidepressant – can disrupt sexual function
    • Compounds like maca root and tongkat ali have been shown to offset some of the sexual side effects
  • Orgasm is actually the consequence of activity in the sympathetic nervous system (the stress component of the autonomic nervous system)
    • Arousal is the consequence of the activity of the parasympathetic nervous system (the calming aspect)
    • Understanding the male climax: the rebounding of the parasympathetic nervous system leads to feeling relaxed or falling asleep
  • Observing the Erotic Imagination by Robert J. Stoller
    • The brain circuitry for developing attachments to your parents does not disappear with puberty; they are repurposed for romantic and sexual relations
    • Childhood attachment patterns carry over to romantic relationships; the development of your sexuality, your fantasies
  • A relationship is a chance to understand yourself and to understand another person 
    • The only really hard part of a good relationship is dealing with oneself and taking good care of the other person 
  • Secrets to a successful relationship 
    • Be good at autonomic self-regulation 
    • Learn how to calm yourself down, steady your actions, steady your voice 
    • Know what you need and what you crave
    • The power dynamic has to be balanced
  • Can Love Last? by Stephen A. Mitchell
    • Corny title but a great book about how to make sure that the dopamine and serotonin phases of the relationship go on forever
  • “Really good strong relationships are the consequence of people constantly moving through the dependency objectification dynamic.”Andrew Huberman
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