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Understanding Luck: What It Is and How to Control It

Understanding Luck: What It Is and How to Control It

Luck is quite an interesting concept. When we look at ancient man, and the cultural traditions that developed within ancient societies, we can easily understand why the concept of luck played such an important role in early societies. Early rains and an abundant harvest might be easily explained by today’s current meteorological understanding, but to ancient civilizations it was seen as good luck or fortune sent from the gods and goddesses on high. Likewise, a drought or other natural disaster often was attributed to bad luck.

Nowadays we have a better understanding of the science of luck beyond superstition, and can correctly equate what is and what isn’t affected by the hand of chance–but this hasn’t kept people from losing millions on roulette wheels in Las Vegas, or on video slot machines and other lotteries around the rest of the world. It also hasn’t stopped young dreamers from pursuing unlikely ambitions, even though, statistically, they don’t stand a chance of ever “breaking through” to a mainstream market or “making it” as a professional in their field.

The beauty of luck is that whether or not we believe in it, everybody generally understands it as a concept, and many can recount their own experiences with it, either positive or negative. So what exactly is luck, in scientific terms? And how (if at all) can somebody control it?

What is Luck?

    Roman Goddess Fortuna, also known as “Lady Luck”

    According to Wikipedia, the definition of luck “varies by the philosophical, religious, mystical, and emotional context of the one interpreting it.” What this means, basically, is that some people think luck refers to completely random circumstances, as seen in the Oxford Dictionary definition of the term: “success or failure apparently brought by chance rather than through one’s own actions.”

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    This view of luck is more descriptive, used to explain events after they’ve happened, especially if they produce outcomes that are combination of favorable, unfavorable, or improbable. On the other hand, some people decide to view luck in more of a prescriptive way, where fortune is more of a supernatural force that can determine the outcome of events before they happen. Somebody who blows on a pair of dice before he or she rolls them might believe this heightens their odds of rolling a favorable number, especially if reinforced by a favorable outcome. This prescriptive belief, while amusing, holds no scientific weight–the laws of physics do not change simply because somebody blows on a pair of dice, and the outcome of a purely identical roll would not differ sans “blow.”

      A good example of this in action can be traced back to an episode at the Le Grande Casino in Monte Carlo, August 18, 1913. On this night, the roulette wheel produced the color black 29 times in a row, a feat that David J. Darling has calculated to be a 1 in 136,823,184 probability in his book, The Universal Book of Mathematics. This night lives in infamy because of the millions of francs casino go-ers lost betting on the false logic that because black had come up so many times before, it could simply not come up black again. Nevertheless, every time the wheel spun there was an 18 out of 37 chance that it would come up black, same as the time before it and same as the time after. While there was definitely no prescriptive reason that the casino-goers suffered bad luck that night, even people who “don’t believe in luck” can, in retrospect, descriptively ascribe the term “unlucky” gamblers in such an improbable scenario.

      Psychology and “Making Your Own Luck”

      The roll of the dice, the turn of the card, and the spin of the roulette wheel–this is just one way to portray luck. It works because it’s the most concrete example of how blind chance affects an outcome. But what about the idea of somebody or something being lucky or unlucky?

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      The interesting thing about luck is that it deals heavily with both perception and chance. Lou Holtz has a great quote stating that “life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you respond to it.” As it turns out, people who consider themselves unlucky don’t tend to believe the above, and would rather blame external factors for their misfortunes in life. People who consider themselves lucky, on the other hand, generally look inward for the reasons things in life happen to them, and try to adapt positively to situations that might otherwise seem negative.

        Psychologists call this the locus of control. An external locus of control means that you believe the world around you controls you more than you control yourself. Alcoholics suffer this quite often, and it’s one of the reasons that A.A.’s first step is “admitting you have a problem.” By internalizing your locus of control, you grant yourself the agency to quit. It’s kind of like the old tale of the tortoise and the hare–the rabbit didn’t lose the race because he was unlucky and napped for too long, he lost the race because he decided to nap in the first place.

        So while those who may consider themselves “unlucky” generally have an external locus of control, those who consider themselves “lucky” have an internal locus of control. The perception of chance between these two generally reflects their view of luck, and even affect health. If you look at cancer survivor Paul Kraus, for example, who had to dramatically change his lifestyle, diet, and therapies to survive three types of cancers including meningioma (a type of brain cancer), mesothelioma, and metastatic prostate cancer, (on top of being born in a Nazi forced labor camp during WWII!) you might think the man unlucky. Kraus would disagree, insisting that his survival is related to his belief that “a diagnosis is not destiny” and that people can conquer cancer because “there is far more to this illness than just a doctor’s bad news.” Kraus is the type of man who made his own luck.

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        How to Be Lucky Yourself

        Even though we understand that luck is simply chance, it still plays heavily into our culture, even if not in a prescriptive way, but in a descriptive way. A great display of this can be found in the culture surrounding America’s favorite pastime: baseball. The 2016 World Series, for example, saw the Indians and the Cubs go head to head, where the highlight of the series was the nullification of either Cleveland’s or Chicago’s decades long curse. Now, while these types of “curses” might show up in other sports, they’re more pertinent in baseball because of both players’ and fans’ susceptibility to superstitions in almost every aspect of the game. Indeed, because the ball is so small and moving so fast, there’s no way to predict every curve it will take, or whether or not it will make an unlucky bounce, etc. Eric Garcia McKinley writing for BeyondTheBoxScore.com actually argues that luck plays an undeniable role in baseball. The minor variables make the game so complex that you have to take into account that some players are simply in the right place at the right time.

        This analysis is not only correct in baseball, but is useful when applied outside of the game as well. Jennifer Aniston, for example, was about ready to call it quits with her acting career in 1994–but a chance meeting with the then-president of NBC’s entertainment division at a gas pump landed her on the cast of Friends, solidifying her career as we all know it. If we’re to take this as an example, we have to realize ourselves that Jennifer Aniston wasn’t just at the right place at the right time–because if you or me were to run into the president of NBC at the gas pump, there’s almost no way we’d get a shot at a hit TV series.

          What Anniston had that most of us don’t, in that specific situation, was preparation. Another Lifehack article on luck quotes the Roman philosopher Seneca, who said: “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” Anniston had prepared by doing at least four other failed TV sitcoms before she was put on friends, and these sitcoms had made her well-known to the NBC executive she met.

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          You Already ARE Lucky! Now Maximize It!

          Half of luck is the right mindset, while the other half is being in the right place at the right time. If you’re always in the right place, you’re only depending on the right time.

          The first part of this is realizing that you already are lucky. Every day that you don’t get in a freak accident while driving or walking down the road, you’re lucky. To have made it this many years into your life, you’re lucky. To be born in a time when you can look up almost anything on the internet (like this article!), you’re lucky! If you start focusing on all of the reasons that you’re lucky, and stop believing that you’re unlucky (you’re not), you’ll already start recognizing how much good luck you have.

          The second half, about always being in the right place, means simply to be proactive and persistent. If Anniston would have given up after the first failed Sitcom, she would never have been known to the NBC executive. Even Stephen King’s Carrie was rejected 30 times before it was published.

          The point is that luck often happens to people who are dedicated to a field, which is why luck happens in that field. Adopting a positive mindset and believing in yourself enough to persist are all the ingredients it takes to be lucky.

          So get out there, and do whatever it is you feel you were meant to do–by simply doing with a positive mindset, you’ll find fortune is already smiling on you!

          Featured photo credit: AdinaVoicu via pixabay.com

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          Andrew Heikkila

          Owner-Operator of Earthlings Entertainmnet

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          Last Updated on December 9, 2019

          15 Brain Foods That Will Super Boost Your Brain Power

          15 Brain Foods That Will Super Boost Your Brain Power

          These days, there are so many food choices. Every marketing trick is used to make you buy brain foods, all-natural, fat-free or gluten-free products.

          Could you blame them? They need to make a profit to keep existing and delivering their goods to the consumers.

          But does this mean that foods with these labels are just regular products or do brain foods really exist?

          That’s when research came in and proved that brain foods (meaning: foods that have a positive effect on the brain) really do exist.

          In this article, you will find 15 brain foods you should be eating to keep your mind sharp.

          1. Blueberries

          One of the greatest gifts of Mother Nature — blueberries. Blueberries are known as the king of antioxidants[1] and are used to detox the body.

          There are not a lot of studies that tried to prove the relationship between blueberries and the improvement of brain function. But there’s one study that consisted of 9 elderly people. They found that consuming blueberry juice on a daily basis for 12 weeks improved memory function.[2]

          If this is not reasonable enough to include blueberries into your diet, you should read the following article on other benefits of blueberries: 10 Benefits of Blueberries That Will Impress You

          As with every single one of the brain foods listed here: Consuming more than necessary can also lead to side effects, this is the same with blueberries.[3]

          When including blueberries in your diet along with other brain foods; make sure to eat no more than 0.5 cups (4 oz./113 grams) a day.

          2. Broccoli

          The first vegetable on the list, broccoli. Whatever you do with it; roast, steam, blanch or saute.[4] It will still improve the sharpness of your brain.

          There are two main nutrients in broccoli that makes it one of the brain foods on this list. Vitamin K, which is also found in lower amounts in blueberries, helps strengthen cognitive abilities.[5] The nutrient Choline improves your memory.[6]

          There’s six times more vitamin K in broccoli than in blueberries. The downside is that blueberries are a bit tastier.

          Include some broccoli with every warm plate you eat in a day, and your brain will turn into a SUPER brain.

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          3. Walnuts

          Walnuts are the best choice of all the nuts when it comes to improving cognitive function. They have the same benefits as every other nut, but walnuts also contain omega-3 fatty acids.[7]

          Beside the improvement of heart health,[8] walnuts also provide a sharper memory (at least to women).[9]

          Consuming walnuts also help slow mental decline[10] because of the Vitamin E that is found in walnuts.[11]

          Next time you crave a snack, buy a bag of unroasted and unsalted walnuts. In the future, this will be the replacement of all unhealthy snacks like Twix.

          Brain foods are not brain foods because they contain a lot of sugar. Brain foods usually consist of a high amount of vitamins and antioxidants. That’s how you can recognize them.

          4. Green Tea

          Some of us are coffee drinkers while others prefer tea. You don’t have to choose one or the other because both of them made it to the list (you’ll read later about coffee in number 11 of brain foods).

          Green tea contains more than just caffeine; it contains L-theanine which essentially lowers the anxiety levels.[12] It also increases the levels of dopamine and alpha wave production (relaxation).

          The lower levels of caffeine in green tea compared to coffee makes this a perfect brain function drink. Caffeine and L-theanine show synergistic effects that work best with the amount of caffeine found in green tea.[13]

          People who drink green tea have proven that they have a more stable energy level and increased productivity compared to when they drink coffee. So, if you’re looking for brain foods that will enhance your productivity; green tea is the way to go.

          5. Oranges

          Orange has a high amount of Vitamin C in it. One large orange is enough to fulfill 100% of your daily Vitamin C intake. Vitamin C has a lot of benefits:

          • Vitamin C reduces the risk of chronic diseases like heart disease[14]
          • It may help fight against high blood pressure[15]
          • Vitamin C boosts immunity by increasing the production of white blood cells[16]
          • The most important of all: high levels of Vitamin C are found to be related to the improvement of memory and thinking. People suffering from dementia has been shown to have low levels of Vitamin C.[17] This may mean that by consuming enough Vitamin C, you will be able to prevent dementia.[18]

          To learn more about everything related to Vitamin C, read the following article: All You Need To Know About Vitamin C Benefits (and Recipes To Boost Your Daily Intake)

          6. Avocados

          Avocados fit very nicely in your salad, or you may even like it on toast.

          Avocado is a source of healthy fats; monounsaturated fat. Monounsaturated fat is believed to contribute to healthy blood flow which in turn means a healthy brain.[19]

          Besides that, avocados also lower blood pressure which will prevent a decrease in cognitive abilities.[20]

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          Adding 1/4 or 1/2 avocado daily should do the trick and help your brain function as a superhero.

          If you need practical ways to include avocado in your daily diet, check this out: 50+ Super Easy Avocado Recipes At Home Now

          7. Coconut Oil

          Coconut oil is a multi-functional oil; some bathe in it, some put it all over their skin, and it’s also used for cooking. To get the following benefits out of it; you should consume it orally (but that’s up to you of course).

          When it comes down to improved brain function; coconut oil has proven to boost brain function in Alzheimer’s patients.[21] Although it isn’t shown to work on people without Alzheimer’s; it can never hurt.

          Besides that, there are many more benefits to coconut oil.

          8. Spinach

          One research found that when elderly consumed one (or two) daily serving of spinach (or other leafy greens for that matter) for an average of 5 years had the same cognitive abilities as someone 11 years younger who never consumed leafy greens.[22]

          This all is thanks to Vitamin K that is found in leafy greens like spinach, kale, collards and mustard greens.

          Popeye looks impressive from the outside, and you will look impressive from the inside once you consume your daily spinach: 6 Mouth-Watering Spinach Recipes You Should Not Miss

          9. Oatmeal

          Known for its use as breakfast, oatmeal is one of many kinds of cereal that contains more than just sugar.

          There’s a reason why oatmeal is often used as breakfast. It is because of the many carbohydrates that are in it which act like a shot of glucose that spikes your blood sugar levels.

          Glucose is sent immediately to the brain to help it function. In essence, this means that the higher the concentration of glucose in your blood, the better you can focus and remember things.[23]

          If you suffer from low blood sugar levels in the morning and can’t function without having a big breakfast immediately upon waking, oatmeal is going to be your best friend.

          10. Raisins

          Children often consume them as healthy snacks because it’s sweet. But did you know raisins promote brain function?

          Raisins are the number one source of boron of all brain foods. The research found that the level of boron is related to hand-eye coordination and short-term memory.[24] Increased levels of boron improves both.

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          Besides that, raisins also heal wounds faster and prevent deficiency in Vitamin D.

          11. Coffee

          We touched on the benefits of green tea earlier, but that doesn’t mean coffee can’t serve its purpose to brain function as well. If you prefer coffee over tea; listen (actually read) closely.

          There’s something about coffee that most people don’t even know. The point is that most of us consume more antioxidants through coffee than any other of the mentioned brain foods.

          This is not because there are more antioxidants in coffee; it’s because coffee is consumed the most of all brain foods.

          These antioxidants protect your brain from cell death which in turn protects you from dementia and related diseases.[25]

          Not to mention that caffeine may also prevent dementia and Alzheimer’s.[26][27]

          You don’t have to give up your coffee; except for all the sugar and milk you put in it. Drink your coffee black and keep it to a maximum of 3 per day and you should be okay.

          12. Almonds

          Earlier we touched upon walnuts, but most nuts are generally good for your health (as long as you don’t overdo it).

          Almonds are most known for their potential of enhancing memory and delaying Alzheimer’s progression.[28][29] Of course, they share the same benefits with the walnuts, but almonds are lower in omega 3 fats.

          If you forget things on a daily basis, maybe a handful of almonds per day can help you.

          Five to six almonds a day should do the trick. If you’re not watching your weight, you can just grab a handful. But don’t overdo it because there’s a lot of fats in nuts.

          Here’re more benefits of almonds you should know: 10 Benefits of Almonds That Will Surprise You (+Healthy Recipes)

          13. Lentils

          Lentils for the vegans among you is one of the best sources of protein among legumes. Besides that, it is a rich source of various essential nutrients like iron, Vitamin B6, and folate (Vitamin B9).

          Besides the fact that they make a terrific combination with rice; lentils also serves its purpose in the brain. All the essential nutrients improve brain function in their own way:

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          • Folate (Vitamin B9) keeps your mind sharp while you get older.[30]
          • Iron plays an essential role in cognitive functioning with pregnant women.[31]
          • Zinc is well known for boosting memory.[32]
          • Vitamin B6 and thiamine give you more energy and focus.[33][34]

          As you can see; lentils make up one of the best brain foods on this list. But this also depends on your preference as some of you might’ve never even eaten lentils.

          14. Strawberries

          Most berries and other related fruits like strawberries (which are technically seen not berries) are all known to have beneficial effects on the brain.[35] They help prevent age-related memory loss and may even slow the progress of Alzheimer’s.[36]

          Another thing that is more strawberry related is the amount of potassium in it. Potassium is related to increased blood flow thus improved cognitive function.[37]

          Eight strawberries per day should do the trick and give you many benefits besides these brain-enhancing benefits: 10 Amazing Benefits of Strawberries that You Probably Never Knew

          15. Red Wine

          Last but not least, red wine. Although alcohol itself is not related to any improvement in brain functioning; some studies show that there are benefits to drinking lightly or moderately.

          Out of all the alcoholic beverages, red wine is the one with the most favorable results. Research shows that red wine may even slow aging[38] and it can also decrease the risk of dementia.[39]

          Although these results are based on research, the researchers don’t recommend that any non-drinkers start drinking. Especially younger people shouldn’t aim to drink red wine as the most benefits (or no increased risks) are found in the elderly.

          If you think about drinking red wine, you should drink maximum 1 glass of red wine per day as a woman and maximum of 2 glasses of red wine per day for men. One glass of red wine should contain 175ml, don’t overdo it.

          Keep in mind that there are also potential risks to drinking alcohol. Such risks include addition, depression and weight gain when you’re not drinking carefully.

          Conclusion

          “You are what you eat.”

          One of the oldest sayings ever expresses all you need to know.

          Every food on this brain foods list is put on this list because it enhances brain functioning in some way. So, whichever food on this list you choose to eat after reading this article doesn’t matter.

          What matters most is that you read everything closely and choose one of the brain foods that fit your goal the most.

          Enjoy eating your next brain food!

          More About Boosting Brain Power

          Featured photo credit: Melissa Belanger via unsplash.com

          Reference

          [1] Wild Blueberries: Wild Blueberries Antioxidants
          [2] NCBI: Blueberry Supplementation Improves Memory in Older Adults
          [3] Good Health All: 8 Major Side Effects OF Eating Too Many Blueberries
          [4] Skinny Ms: How to Make Broccoli Taste Good, Each and Every Time
          [5] Wellness Resources: Vitamin K Enhances Cognitive Function During Aging
          [6] The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: The relation of dietary choline to cognitive performance and white-matter hyperintensity in the Framingham Offspring Cohort
          [7] The Journal Of Nutrition: Role of Walnuts in Maintaining Brain Health with Age
          [8] NCBI: Cardiovascular risk factors and cognitive function.
          [9] NCBI: LONG-TERM INTAKE OF NUTS IN RELATION TO COGNITIVE FUNCTION IN OLDER WOMEN
          [10] NCBI: Vitamin E and cognitive decline in older persons.
          [11] NCBI: Vitamin E-gene interactions in aging and inflammatory age-related diseases: implications for treatment. A systematic review.
          [12] NCBI: The neuropharmacology of L-theanine(N-ethyl-L-glutamine): a possible neuroprotective and cognitive enhancing agent.
          [13] NCBI: L-theanine and caffeine in combination affect human cognition as evidenced by oscillatory alpha-band activity and attention task performance.
          [14] NCBI: Effect of five-year supplementation of vitamin C on serum vitamin C concentration and consumption of vegetables and fruits in middle-aged Japanese: a randomized controlled trial.
          [15] NCBI: Effects of vitamin C supplementation on blood pressure: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials.
          [16] NCBI: Association between nutritional status and cognitive functioning in a healthy elderly population.
          [17] NCBI: Dietary antioxidants and dementia in a population-based case-control study among older people in South Germany.
          [18] National Institute of Health: Vitamin C
          [19] JOURNAL OF NEUROCHEMISTRY: Dietary intake of unsaturated fatty acids modulates physiological properties of entorhinal cortex neurons in mice
          [20] National Institute on Aging: High blood pressure is linked to cognitive decline
          [21] NCBI: Effects of beta-hydroxybutyrate on cognition in memory-impaired adults.
          [22] News Wise: Eating Green Leafy Vegetables Keeps Mental Abilities Sharp
          [23] PNAS: Stoichiometric coupling of brain glucose metabolism and glutamatergic neuronal activity
          [24] NCBI: Nothing Boring About Boron
          [25] NCBI: Neuroprotection and antioxidants
          [26] NCBI: High Blood caffeine levels in MCI linked to lack of progression to dementia.
          [27] NCBI: Hypoxia/reoxygenation impairs memory formation via adenosine-dependent activation of caspase 1.
          [28] Science Direct: Repeated administration of almonds increases brain acetylcholine levels and enhances memory function in healthy rats while attenuates memory deficits in animal model of amnesia
          [29] Science Direct: Almond, hazelnut and walnut, three nuts for neuroprotection in Alzheimer’s disease: A neuropharmacological review of their bioactive constituents
          [30] NCBI: Folic acid, ageing, depression, and dementia
          [31] The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: Iron treatment normalizes cognitive functioning in young women
          [32] ResearchGate: A potential medicinal importance of zinc in human health and chronic disease
          [33] ORA: Vitamin B6 for cognition
          [34] Springer Link: Thiamine supplementation mood and cognitive functioning
          [35] J. Agric. Food Chem: Berry Fruit Enhances Beneficial Signaling in the Brain
          [36] NCBI: Dietary intake of berries and flavonoids in relation to cognitive decline
          [37] Science Direct: Potassium 2-(1-hydroxypentyl)-benzoate improves learning and memory deficits in chronic cerebral hypoperfused rats
          [38] NY Times: New Hints Seen That Red Wine May Slow Aging
          [39] NCBI: Moderate alcohol consumption and cognitive risk.

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