Jon Cousins Why I Weighed My Whiskers
Hello I’m John. I’m currently writing a book, which will enable people to track their well-being every day and they get tailored advice based on how they are feeling, but I’m not here to talk about that today.
I’d like to dedicate my talk to Seth Roberts, a great friend and QS pioneer, and obviously can’t be here today. But he inspired so many of us to do self-experiment’s in unusual ways, so this is for you Seth. I’m going to tell you a story about a remarkable self-experiment that took place a long time ago, over 45 years ago, in fact before there was a QS and it was performed by a gentleman’s name who we don’t know and he chose to remain anonymous.
But in a letter to Nature magazine in 1970, he described his experience’s when he was spending extended periods of time working on a remote island in the relative isolation. During his island stay, he noticed his beard growth slowed, but something strange happened when he went back to the mainland.
A day before he went back to the mainland, his whiskers started sprouting more profusely the day before he went back. Now he knew that he was headed for some R&R with his partner, and it’s seemed to him that his beard was growing more when he knew that he was going back to see his partner, when he knew he was going to be get lucky.
I first come across this study four summers ago when I was actually having an especially hard time myself. I have spoken at past QS events in London and hear about my struggles with depression.
They weren’t all bad because they led me into mood tracking. They connected me with QS, but things that summer were tough for me. I was having a hard time entrepreneurially. My dad was very sick, and unfortunately he passed away later that year. So my mood was up and down like a rollercoaster, and not surprisingly, my sex drive was all over the place too. What was very important for me that summer was to try and make sense of what was going on.
It seemed to me that my libido and emotions were pretty closely related. What you might call the mood mojo matrix, and here’s the thing. I was pretty sure that my beard was growing more when my mood and libido were higher. Unlike the man who wrote the letter to Nature in 1970, that summer there was no lady on the scene for me.
So my libido variations weren’t due to the anticipation of sex, but seem to be completely a byproduct of my mood. So in true QS style, I started an experiment.
Some people might have joined OkCupid, not me. I borrowed some accurate laboratory scales, and for 50 days, I carefully brushed the whiskers out of my electric shaver and weighed them each morning. So every morning, brushed the shaver out, was the whiskers in micrograms.
I was also recording my mood at the same time, and didn’t expect to find a correlation between my mood that day and the whisker weigh, because after all I was recording them at the same time each day, when I got up.
The hair growth had taken some time previously, and in fact what I did find was that there was a moderately strong correlation between the mood and the whisker growth exactly 7 days later. So I might be in a good mood one day and then have a bushier beard, exactly a week later. And you might think that this seven delay on the face of it is a bit surprising. But if you pluck a whisker out, you’ll notice on the end of it there is a kind of sticky bulb or follicle at its base.
And the follicle acts as a kind of manufacturing plant for hair. And you should note that the biggest driver of human hair growth is testosterone. So just as a factory might take a week to turn raw materials into finished goods, made the same thing is happening with body hair.
The take out for me from all of this was really enlightening. My mood was better when my whiskers grew more, caused by higher testosterone. So maybe it could work the other way around. Maybe I could boost my mood by taking a testosterone supplement.
In fact, there’s a fair amount of evidence to suggest that does work, and although I’m rather hesitant to take supplements and tablets, maybe that would be easier than setting off in a rowing boat for a remote island. Thank you.