Ranking The Year’s 15 “Best” Self-Help Trends

The ultimate power rankings of the best, hottest, most life-changing trends to hit the self-help world this past year.

Updated:

Greetings!

It’s the ‘best’ time of the year!

Every morning, I jump out of bed and race to my phone/computer to discover my inbox stuffed with “best of” lists. Best books. Best things to buy. Best ways to review the year. 

Powerless to stop it, I figured the best thing to do is join the best-ival. Make my own “best of” list:

A power ranking of the best self-help trends of 2023. 

Power rankings are a big deal in sports. When a sports writer runs out of ideas, they reach deep into their derrieres and pull out a subjective, unsubstantiated, often deliberately provocative ranking of the teams or players in the league they cover. 

I love power rankings. I write about personal development, not sports. And I don’t have any better ideas. So let’s power rank!

The Best Self-Help Trends of 2023

First, some ground rules:

  • Effectiveness is irrelevant. Want a power ranking of the actual best ways to self-help yourself? Do useful things; eat well; move a lot; sleep well; spend time with people you love. Yawn. Nobody wants to read that. 
  • Each trend is measured relative to its own high-water mark. Is meditation any hotter in 2023 than in 2022? Nah. It’s pretty even-keel. So it doesn’t make these power rankings.
  • Rankings are based on the “changed my life” quotient. In most cases, these rankings are based on how many times this year I came across some blogger/writer/podcaster/YouTuber telling me it “changed my life.”

Gone But Not Forgotten

Had I written this a year ago, these trends would’ve made the list.

  • Perineum sunning (aka butthole sunning). Mentioning this for posteriority’s sake.
  • Carnivore diet. The Liver King’s bloodthirsty reign has fallen.
  • Psychedelics. Came down slightly from their 2022 high. I have a feeling a hero dose may be coming in future years. 

Group E: The Clichés

T-15. Embrace the Seasons of Life 
T-15. Non-Zero Sum / Abundance Mindset

These clichés must be enjoying their spring “season of life” because they blossomed to become incredibly “abundant” this year. 

In the spirit of non-zero-sum thinking, I don’t want them competing with each other, so I’m awarding them a tie in these power rankings. 

13. Do Things That Compound

I’m ranking this cliché above the other two to honor Charlie Munger.

This year, compounding burst free beyond the walls of finance. I’ve heard of compounding your ideas, networks, learning, happiness, and mastery.

Praising compounding makes you sound as smart. It implies you understand its counterintuitiveness. (Did you know a penny doubled every day would become $5 million in a month? Or that a paper folded 42 times would be thick enough to reach the moon? If I got a nickel for every time I heard these, I’d be able to afford to pay for a trip to the moon. But I’d invest that money instead, to compound it.) 

I still don’t get the math. If reading compounds, does that mean if I keep at it, I’ll eventually learn a million times faster than now?

“Yes dummy,” says Einstein 2.0, “compounding is the most powerful force in the universe.”

Oh yeah? Well, if compounding is so powerful, why does Google Trends say its growth in popularity has only been linear:

Compounding self-help trend
For that reason, it falls to 11th on the most powerful self-help power rankings on the internet.

Group D:  “Not Doing Fun Things Is the Best!”

12. Delayed Gratification

At long last, delayed gratification is getting its chance to shine in the limelight!

(Too much shine, if I say so myself.)

11. Giving Up Alcohol

All the “I gave up drinking for a year, and this is how it changed my life” accounts in the past twelve months gave me a headache. 

I blame Andrew Huberman. His August 2022 podcast episode, “What Alcohol Does to Your Body, Brain & Health” kickstarted the party like the guy who rolls up with a keg in the back of his pickup.

10. Dopamine Detoxing

Our great-grandchildren will one day look back and see this video of a guy “dopamine detoxing” by staring out a window for an hour:

YouTube video

They’ll see it got 79,000+ views. Then they will think, “What a messed-up time that was.”

Astute readers will note that this video was published on Dec 26, 2020. So why did dopamine detoxing make these 2023 power rankings?

Because dopamine detoxing got higher than ever in January:

Google trends of dopamine detoxing.
Dopamine detoxing is coming down from a January 2023 high.

9. Failure

All the failure fetishizers reading this will initially be disappointed it failed to top these rankings. Then they’ll rationalize it and boast about it. 

Group C: “Camping Without Camping”

8. Cold Tubs

In 2023, I started seeing portable cold tubs popping up all over: from Kits Beach in Vancouver, Canada to Saunders Beach in Cape Town, South Africa. Every influencer with a backyard and money to spare seems to have installed one, too.

I don’t understand why this trend doesn’t get more flack. Think of the millions of cubic kilometers of ice it must be stealing from the arctic.

7. Zone 2 Training

More people recommended I read Peter Attia’s Outlive than any other book in 2023. 

Here’s my power ranking of excuses for not having read it yet:

  • I’ve been listening to Attia’s podcast since he launched it, so I’ve heard it all before.
  • I’ll read it once I finish the other books on my Kindle.
  • I want to enjoy my unhealthy habits a little bit longer before letting Attia spoil them.

Of all the ideas I’ve heard second-hand from Outlive, the concept of Zone 2 training caught my attention the most—and the most often.

As far as I understand, Zone 2 is the Goldilocks level of aerobic training effort. It’s approximately the hardest you can go while still nose-breathing or holding a conversation. Maybe both simulataneously, if you’re talented. If you do three to four hours a week of it, you’ll outlive your Crossfit-obsessed colleague. Or something along those lines. Read the book. 

6. Morning Light Exposure

Andrew Huberman has been telling us to get outside for a few minutes of morning light exposure for years, but 2023 is the year it dawned on the masses. 

The pressure’s gotten so high for any self-respecting self-help-er to do it that, if they neglect to do so, they lose sleep over it. 

Group B: “Actually, That’s Not Good For You”

5. Anti-Talk Therapy Talk

This one makes the list thanks to the “studies say” smart alecs—you know, the people who read abstracts of scientific journal articles then summarize that summary.

They had a lot to tweet about the “surprising” ineffectiveness of talk therapy in 2023. At least I got that impression. I didn’t bother reading beyond their headlines. 

All I know is that I watched Stutz, Jonah Hill’s Netflix documentary about what he learned from his therapist. “Intriguing concepts [or ‘tools,’ to use Stutz’s terminology],” I thought. Then I saw the headlines about Hill being an a**hole in 2023. So I can’t help but wonder.

4. Anti-Optimization

  • “Quit listening to podcasts at double speed!”
  • “Don’t do to-do lists!”
  • “The best way to be productive is to work less hard!” 
  • “Minimalism won’t bring you peace of mind!”

After a couple of years of growing its roots and branches, 2023 is the year the anti-optimization ideas from Oliver Burkeman’s 2021 book, Four Thousand Weeks bore fruit. That fruit came mostly in the form of midwit memes like this:

Midwit meme on note taking.

The only reason anti-optimization doesn’t rank higher here is Bryan Johnson. He’s the super-rich guy who got famous this year for spending millions on optimizing his health to reverse aging and look like the illegitimate offspring of Spock from Star Trek and Patrick Bateman from American Psycho.  

Group A: “Technology to the Rescue”

3. Testosterone Replacement

Let’s throw in all other hormone treatments here, too, to boost it to number three in these rankings.

While I’ve been hearing more and more about TRT (testosterone replacement therapy), I’ll admit I don’t know anything about it other than:

  1. Many macho men who’ve read my old post on sitting down to pee tell me I need it. 
  2. It seems TRT goes hand-in-hand (ball-in-ball?) with the pending sperm count catastrophe that’s got many people’s panties in a bunch.

2. Artificial Intelligence

I particularly enjoyed Dan Shipper’s articles on using AI for decision-making, journaling, and more.

I tried his techniques, then mostly got back to using AI for making silly images, proofreeeding my posts, and coming up with jokes to teach my 2.5-year-old son. But I do use it every day and happily pay for the premium version.

1. Semaglutides

Most self-help trends go in one ear, out the other, leaving those who follow them no better off and searching for newer, easier, and cheaper solutions to their problems. 

As far as I gather, semaglutides do the opposite. They go in you and make you want less. They work, too! Then you need more and more of this same magic serum to keep benefitting. 

“Wait. What about the effects of injecting it into kids?”

That’s a long-term question. These power rankings are for 2023 only. For all the hype semaglutides have generated and for actually doing something, they win the top spot.

Thanks For Reading!

What self-help trends did I miss? How do your power rankings differ from mine? Please comment. 

Then consider injecting yourself with self-help semaglutides.

Until next year,

Chris

About the author

👋 I'm Chris. Everything you read on TheZag.com is my fault. This site is like a gym for your comfort zone, full of challenges to make your status quo sexier. Join my 'Consider This' newsletter for a fun new challenge every 10 days. Try it!

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