dissabte, 12 de novembre de 2011

The Human Mind (II) - Gas Tank

Pounding Red Bull and pulling all-nighters can only take you so far. If you want to do good work, taking care of yourself isn’t optional. If you don’t give your body what it needs to run, you’ll run out of gas long before you reach your goals.

Your mind is first and foremost a physical system. Oftentimes, what we experience as mental fatigue or emotional distress is simply a signal from our body that we’re not getting enough of something we physically need: nutrients, exercise, or rest.

If you want to get things done, you can’t constantly be running on “empty”—you have a Gas Tank, just like a car does. When you have a lot of work to do, it’s common to think that taking care of yourself is a secondary concern. It’s not—taking care of yourself should be your primary concern if you want to get important things done without burning out.

Nutrition, exercise, and rest are the inputs your body converts into productive energy. Poor (or too little) input inevitably reduces the quantity and quality of your output. Here are a few basic guidelines to help you get the most out of each day:
-          Eat high-quality food. Garbage In, Garbage Out (discussed later)—pay attention to what you put into your body. If you eat meat, eggs, or dairy, avoid sources that contain antibiotics or hormones. Also avoid refined sugar and processed foods as much as possible—if your great-grandparents wouldn’t immediately recognize it as food, don’t eat it. Eating a small snack or meal every 2.5 hours or so helps keep your blood sugar stable, so you don’t crash during the day. I’m the kind of guy who sometimes forgets to eat, so I try to keep things simple—a handful of almonds or a piece of fruit works best for me. Use caffeine in moderation—herbal tea is a good substitute for soda, and carrying a water bottle makes it much easier to stay hydrated.
-          Exercise regularly. According to Brain Rules by John Medina, even low-intensity physical activity increases energy, improves mental performance, and enhances your ability to focus. Going for a walk or run, jumping rope, or doing a bit of yoga can help clear the cobwebs in your mind and give you more energy for the rest of the day.
-          Get at least seven to eight hours of sleep each night. Sleep helps consolidate the results of Pattern Matching and Mental Simulation, as well as reverse the effects of Willpower Depletion, so don’t skimp on rest. I find it useful to set an alarm to remind me to go to bed, giving me enough time to wind down before retiring for the night. Going to bed early helps you get up early, which is very useful if you do creative work—I find it’s best to write or do other creative tasks before the day begins, so you don’t get distracted and run out of time.
-          Get enough sun, but not too much. Vitamin D is an important part of many chemical reactions in your body, and your body can only synthesize it if your skin is exposed to direct, non filtered sunlight. (Light through windows doesn’t count.) Just don’t get too much—sunburns and skin cancer aren’t fun. Light helps set your circadian rhythm, which affects your sleeping patterns.
-          Feed your brain the raw materials it needs to run. If you’ve ever felt angry, sad, apathetic, or lethargic for no reason, your body may not be getting enough of the raw materials necessary to build the neurotransmitters responsible for making you feel good. In The Mood Cure, Julia Ross explains that your brain needs certain compounds to produce critical mood-altering neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin. Without the materials necessary to build these mood-altering chemicals, you’ll feel off, even if everything in your world is going just fine. Changes in our modern diet make it necessary to get some of these substances in supplement form. A good multivitamin supplement, fish oil, magnesium, and essential amino acids can go a long way to ensure your brain has what it needs to function effectively.

Constantly Experiment with new ways to improve my energy, productivity, and mood—I recommend you do the same. Guiding Structure can help make these lifestyle changes much easier—changing the structure of my environment has helped me make many changes almost effortlessly, including three years on a vegan diet (no animal products). Don’t be afraid to try something new to see if you notice an improvement—just be safe. When in doubt, consider how your ancient ancestors lived, and act accordingly.

The Personal MBA, Master the Art of Business - Josh Kaufman

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