Use Your Body to Hack Your Brain
July 18, 2014
Rough night last night with the baby; have been a zombie all day.
Can’t focus on any creative work… want to become one with the couch…
“No way in hell I’m going to the (climbing) gym.”
Know That feeling? Of course you do.
Luckily, I remembered a concept from Scott Adams’ Latest Book about tricking your brain into a new mood, and I thought I’d put it to the test.
Spoiler: It totally worked.
Your brain is basically just responding to everything that is thrown at it; fresh sensory input coming in, memories bubbling up with suggestions on your current situation, and — importantly — messages in the form of hormones of all kind released by your body.
Here’s the nifty part: it’s pretty easy to get your body to send different messages to your brain, tipping your mood in the right direction.
All you have to do, in fact, is force yourself to do 15 minutes of any kind of intense physical activity that you enjoy. A few minutes later your body will start releasing endorphins which your brain just loves… all of a sudden, your mood and energy improve.
Yes, you may still be tired after a while, but less than before — and your mental ability will definitely be elevated by a notch or two.
Note that this works even if you are in a grumpy mood while you do it (I proved that today). It also works even if you are aware that you are trying to trick yourself… The endorphins are just as real to your brain either way.
Feeling down, tired, or frustrated? 15 minutes of fun exertion and you’ve flooded your brain with happy juice. Makes the rest of your day much easier. 🙂
BTW: The book I mentioned above, “How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big” is actually one of the most useful books I’ve read in at least a year. Scott has a very engineering-minded approach to his life, and he lays out some very compelling steps you can steal and apply to make your life easier (and presumably more successful, if that’s something you want).
I plan to write about this book more in the near future, as soon as my neighbor returns my copy! In the meantime, though, I guarantee that if you give this a read you’ll find it worth your while.
Check it out!
(Disclosure: Affiliate link… but I don’t use affiliate links unless I completely believe in what I’m pointing you towards!)
July Experiment: Low Information Diet
July 2, 2014
I have an addiction: I’m interested in about a million topics, and I could spend all day just reading about new technology, philosophical ideas, business, even history. New ideas are like crack to me. It’s a sickness.
When the kids are in bed and the wife flips on the TV, I dive into a book or — more and more frequently — I scroll through headlines in my favorite RSS reader (Feedly). If I have a few minutes to kill and I can’t be productive, it’s Feedly to the rescue again.
Basically I just point a firehose of information at myself, and continuously find interesting ideas to play with.
Why is This a Problem?
On the surface it’s pretty harmless… but if I’m to be completely honest most of what I read — while interesting — is completely un-actionable. I’m entertaining myself, but not improving, not building, not achieving. And I want more from life than to be entertained.
A Book to the Rescue!
I was knocked upside the head about this while (re)reading The 4-Hour Workweek. If you’ve never checked it out I guarantee it is completely worth your time… Tim shares ideas that can actually make your life more fulfilling — even if you have no interest in the lifestyle he preaches.
Here’s a gem from the book:
“Ninety-nine percent of the people in the world are convinced that they are incapable of achieving great things, so they aim for the mediocre. The level of competition is thus fiercest for “realistic” goals, paradoxically making them the most time- and energy-consuming. It is easier to raise $1,000,000 than it is $100,000.”
I can attest to the fundraising from personal experience. It also feels pretty good to think that aiming high is not crazy, in fact it may be the only sane thing to do!
You have perhaps 16,000 days Left…
One of the basic tenets of Tim Ferriss’s work system is to optimize everything for time, so that you can spend your days doing whatever moves you. It’s the 80/20 rule applied more ruthlessly than you dared in the past… but dammit he makes some good points.
Time. It’s the one thing you can’t make more of.
With so many things on my must-do list (including building a new business — more on that soon), there are just more awesome things to do than skimming the headlines of what others are doing in the world.
So here’s the experiment for the rest of July (I just decided this today):
- Feedly is not to be opened. Period.
- Unsubscribed from the ~10 emails I get regularly.
- Stack of magazines: recycled.
- Newspaper: just the Sunday crossword and the comics.
- I already don’t watch TV news, so that’s easy.
- Facebook, Twitter, etc: No browsing (I pretty much don’t, already).
- Long-form reading is still OK. (Carefully selected books, of course!)
- Shift RSS time over to making progress on building a business and writing more.
- See if my head feels any clearer, if my daughter notices me being less distracted, and if I miss the firehose.
- After a month off, I expect to reconnect with a much more curated list of information sources.
While I love reading and learning, I suspect that at times I use this information firehose as an escape, and as an excuse to avoid “real work”. Thanks Tim for reminding me that you can build whatever life you want, but it won’t happen if you don’t take action.
Do you have the same reading addiction? Why not join me in a Low-Information July!
Here’s that book again… if you’re ready to work on your own dream life you should give it a read.
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