At this point in my life I have come to realize that when we are always trying to add we end up not really getting any better. I catch myself listening to audiobooks and podcasts everyday on health and wellness and reading books constantly on various subject. This is all good and we should constantly be learning in life but the issue is that we just go through it all and never truly apply the good information on a daily basis to move toward a certain mastery of the important things. I recall reading some of Seneca’s writings,the great Roman stoic,that basically said we as individuals would be wise to take a small handful of good books and information and put it to good use and apply it with vigilance daily to become a better human being and not overwhelm ourselves with so much information that our brains cannot retain it. Very wise words from a very wise man. I can look back years and remember some of the books and teachings that I came across that if I did just what Seneca said I would have a much better handle on my mind and overall wellbeing daily. Most of us in this day of technology and Google search already have more than enough information to keep us busy working toward a better self. If you need help in a certain area then pursue some coaching and once you have a general understanding you can simplify it and apply it regularly. This is a growth mindset that keeps us getting better and not stagnant or worse. Life is constantly changing and we either grow and get better or we get worse. The biggest issue I see in this new era of technology is the constant distraction and the need to immerse ourselves in a digital life instead of just being and living. Look around and you see everyone on a smartphone texting and scrolling through a bunch of posts that total strangers have made. Or we are taking a bunch of pictures and selfies to put out to the world instead of actually just taking it all in. The sad part about all of this is that I feel like toward the end of life a lot of us will look back and feel like we didn’t fully experience life because we were too busy building some digital persona. There is nothing wrong with capturing a beautiful moment with your loved ones and friends but a single picture will usually do and then why not put it away and enjoy the real human contact around us. I truly feel sorry for the kids now that are so immersed in their smartphones everywhere you look instead of socializing with family at the table or just having a good conversation in the car. I feel blessed to have grown up without that stuff and actually went out and played in a park or with friends more.
So what are the big factors that we should work on and what should we eliminate? This comes down to the individual but there are some universal applications that will make us better in most every aspect of life. I personally feel that by bringing a bit of the following into daily life and honing in the big factors you can apply and tweak and then eliminate the excess.
1.State Of Mind
4.Rest & Recovery
5.Experience Of Life
STATE OF MIND
I personally think that state of mind is the biggest single factor. It is truly a life long practice to hone in the skills of focus and attention to the process of life that unfolds in every moment. We must have a growth mindset and always be moving forward and getting better as human beings. Finding the sweet spot in our challenge to skill ratio and constantly raising the bar. Too easy and you are staying stagnant and getting bored too hard and frustration sets in and you may lose interest. This goes for all the big factors mentioned and it’s a constant practice of application and tweaking to individual needs. Once we start getting in the practice of focusing on one thing at a time and being fully present in our actions a lot of distractions fall away and the excess of doing things that don’t need to be done helps us eliminate excess. We end up living with a general sense of wellbeing with an optimistic outlook and a happy demeanor. Our emotional resilience strengthens and we can focus on and visualize what we are trying to accomplish. Learn to love the process and not the end result because life is in constant flux and even when we reach that goal there will always be the next.
“80% of life is psychology-20% of life is mechanics”
By movement I mean being physically active daily. Focusing on mobility,strength,and endurance for resilience and longevity. No need for complication here just get a good sweat,move in multiple planes,and move something relatively heavy once or twice a week. In my experience if you can squat,pick up something,push,pull,and swing weight that’s all you need. Incorporate trigger sessions on days you aren’t training. A trigger session is a 10-20 minute quick sweat that will keep your body signaling growth instead of just sitting around on a recovery day falling into atrophy. I love doing this first thing in the morning fasted to get all the neurological benefits from a good morning sweat and I feel sharp all day after I have had a cold shower and a good nutritious meal. Sweating first thing in the morning has been shown to activate more BDNF(brain derived neurotrophic factor) in the brain which is like miracle grow for neural connections. More oxygen and blood flow to the brain in the morning has proven to increase daily mental performance exponentially.
Basic Example Of A Trigger Session
-Pick 4 bodyweight exercises and go through them as a circuit as many times as you can in 10-20 minutes
1.Full depth bodyweight squats 15 reps
2.Push ups 15 reps
3.Jumping jacks 30 reps
4.Straight leg sit ups 10 reps
The combinations are endless so just use bigger movements to get a better effect.
I like to use movement and feel to help get into a flow state regularly by working on mental focus and physical movement while synchronizing breathing to movement. This is an example of how to visualize and really focus on doing the task at hand. I like to incorporate visualization before a movement or set. For example-play out the whole movement or sequence of what you are about to do in your head in real time down to the last rep or movement and breathing pattern. Make it so vivid that it feels like you really physically did it. You can even truly focus on the tension and feel the muscles,tendons,and heart working. In between sets focus on breathing with a 2x exhalation length to inhalation and bringing heart rate back down and a feeling of looseness vs constant tension. Shake it out and get ready again. Don’t use a watch just focus and when you are recovered just jump back up to the plate so to speak and visualize and execute again. When your mind wanders just bring it back gently to the breath and realign yourself to move forward and again focussing on the process.This compounded over time will give you a constant growth in mental/neurological strength as well as the physical strength that will come with it without you only looking to a fictional future result. In this way of training and thinking you are achieving the goal moment to moment and will have much more of a feeling of accomplishment vs just looking weeks,months,and years down the road. I am not saying to drop long term goals,all I mean here is to have them drawn out and then finish the task day to day in focus and you will inevitably achieve those goals but in a much more enjoyable process and most likely exceed them with the laser like focus you will develop over time. Another benefit will be the mental control you feel and you yourself holding the reins on the mind instead of the mind leading you.
Talking about diets has become as taboo as politics or religion. There are so many ways to go and I think it truly comes down to the individual needs. We have paleo,ketogenic,vegan,and on and on. You have to play with and experiment to find a balance that is right for you. One aspect of dieting that has come to be well known and well documented in it’s benefits is eating a higher quality fat diet as opposed to a high carbohydrate diet. For me personally what works best is eating a macronutrient split of 50% quality fats with half the fats being saturated,30% protein from mainly seafood and organ meats,20% carbohydrates from low glycemic fruits and vegetables. I cut out things like most grains and processed sugars. Again this is highly subjective to the individual but their is no denying that the traditional SAD(standard american diet) is backward to this and can arguably be the main reason we have such an obesity and diabetes problem. Constant overeating and the consumption of all the sugars and processed foods is no doubt a huge issue in general health and the major cause of constant inflammation which is the underlying cause of most disease and illness. Educate yourself from quality sources,not government standards that are pushed by big industry and start playing with them to see what works best for your lifestyle and needs.
Things worth looking into;
1.Higher quality fat diets
2.Pulse feeding and nutrient timing
5.Brain health supplementation
REST AND RECOVERY
First thing that comes to mind when I bring this up is sleep and it should be. Most Americans are under rested and overworked. Average sleep in this country is just over 6 hours a night. Depending on your needs and exertion daily it varies but we need 7.5-9 hours a night on average to be optimal. To add to that it is important to sleep with light cycles. So going to bed at 10pm and getting up at 6-7am seems to be the sweet spot. I know that there is shift work and life gets in the way but this should be a general guideline. I worked shift work for years being born and raised in Las Vegas and I can tell you it is truly brutal after a while and you never feel rested. I was in my 20’s and in great shape and always felt inflamed and cognition was poor. There is way too much going on in your sleep cycles to go over here but basically recovery of the brain and body happens during sleep so sort it if you have poor sleep patterns. Unplug from all the electronics and artificial light at least an hour before bed for best results and try not to eat sugary snacks before bed which will spike insulin and interfere with melatonin production and in turn growth hormone production.
The other aspect is general recovery. One way to test this is through HRV(heart rate variability) testing in the morning. It measures the balance of your nervous system and tells you if it’s recovered. HRV is controlled by your autonomic nervous system which has two branches.
Sympathetic nervous system-fight or flight
Parasympathetic nervous system-rest and digest
The balancing of these two is tricky in this fast paced era and hard training and a wandering mind of stress and endless tasks daily can make for a crash. I don’t test mine anymore because I have gotten to the point where I go off of feel and know for the most part if I should push or back off on a given day. I am still a big fan of HRV training which is more a meditative practice in relaxation and breath work. I am a fan of the Heartmath Institute’s work and tracking devices. Follow the link for more info.
EXPERIENCE OF LIFE
The last one is obvious if you want to live a happy and full life. We have to learn to slow down and experience life moment to moment regularly so we can take it all in. Go out of your way to have new experiences regularly and throw some creativity in your life by contributing your own unique talents to the world in some form. Drive different routes to work and plan new vacation spots regularly and get outside into a rich environment where you can get into flow with nature. I said this before but I think it is very important to emphasize the process over the end result in life. From you physical and mental health to your socialization and human contact experiences you will only benefit from keeping it fresh and constantly trying and doing knew things. Stagnation and a completely straight line equals atrophy and death. To grow in life there has to be novelty and change. In the end it won’t be what you have or even what you achieved that you will look back on as much as all the great and amazing experiences you had with the people that matter the most. Get out and experience your life firsthand and not in a virtual world. It can only be done out there!