Habits vs. Homeostasis

Length: 4500 words

Executive summary: This post is about habits; not habits in general, but my particular habits in areas such as food, sleep, exercise, learning, alcohol, leisure and work.

When, how and why do I do what I do, and are there any general takeaways for you?

In short, I recommend you focus on sleep, food and everyday movement and exercise; and the rest will take care of itself.

Create a good solid drum beat of healthy and natural habits, and lead a varied, lateral life, ad libbing with moderate extremes, while following your natural tendency to explore, recognize patterns, learn new things and solve problems.

Habits


Good habits are bad too

Even good habits are a form of homeostasis; stagnation. Sometimes it’s not even possible to objectively tell which habits are good and which are bad. It’s one of those “how long is a piece of string?” issues.

E.g., it might be better for me to stop lifting weights, and I consider it every now and then, but just can’t do it.

That said, it still seems to be easier to slip into bad habits, such as sitting for several hours per day, watching blue-tinted screens before bed-time, or eating junk food.

I, however am quite unbiased in my habit-forming. Yes, I admit that is one of very few things that actually is a bit unusual about me.

Anyway, I’ve been asked about my particular habits, why I stick to them, and how they were formed to begin with. So, with the caveat that my habits are not optimal in any way, and that different strings work for different things, here goes…

 

Sleep

I go to bed around 11:30 pm and fall asleep at midnight. I typically wake up a little before 8 am, after slightly less than 8 hours of sleep. In the summertime I sometimes wake up for a bathroom break at 5-6, due to the sunrise but I go right back to sleep afterward.

I often spend time on my computer until right before going to bed, but that’s okay, since my “lights out” time is midnight. Blue light screens like TV sets, computers and most mobile devices trick the body into believing it’s day time.

I read a little on my Kindle Paperwhite e-reader from Amazon every night, aiming for falling asleep close to midnight. If I nod off three times while reading, I just hit off, drop the book, close my eyes and fall asleep exactly as I lay reading (on my side).

My bedroom is dark and cool, to mimic a prehistoric African night.

I sleep in my underwear and with my feet outside the covers (and outside the bed) to keep them particularly cool.

Restless Legs Syndrome Is No Joke

I live alone, but my dog Ronja has her bed right next to mine. If I need some extra oxytocin (calmness and bonding hormone), I can just put my hand down and pet her.

Sometimes I micro meditate for a minute or two, mentally going through my body parts until I fall asleep.

Ronja feb 27 2016

I’ve written more about sleep optimization, the how and the why here. In this post I’m focusing on the over-arching habit structure.

One thing to keep in mind, though, is that sleeping well affects your health, your willpower, your ability to stick to healthy routines, your general life balance, your level of stress and anxiety, which in turn affect your sleep.

Hence, you want to make sleeping part of a synergistic process, instead of a vicious cycle:

Sleeping poorly affects your income, your health and your happiness. To counter the effects you might turn to drugs (caffeine, tobacco, alcohol or cocaine), which only make matters worse. Perhaps it’s time to ditch the nasty habit of bringing your smartphone into bed, or at least install an app for red-tinting the screen.

Another way of fixing your sleep is by fixing your life and health first…

 

Exercise

I work out every second day, spending two and a half hours per session in the gym.

After my morning walk with the dog, I head for the gym. I warm up on the treadmill for 15-20 minutes and then lift weights.

 

This year I’ve been following one of Sheiko’s strength training programs for bench press, squat and deadlift. Including 10 sets extra for biceps after the ordinary program, I spend around 2 hours on the strength and hypertrophy exercises.

What’s almost magical with Sheiko’s program is the undulating/periodisation of intensity and range of exercises within exercises (!), within sessions, between sessions, between weeks and between longer time blocks. The variation is good both for the muscles and make training more fun.

A very good reason for exercising is that it releases the BDNF substance, which makes you smarter (neurogenesis; birth, growth and plasticity of neurons) or happier (BDNF controls depression more than cognition in some people). Maybe BDNF is connected to the experience of stress relief from the day’s constant pressure to fight or flight as well. Or that’s an added benefit.

 

You are a smoker; you just don’t know it yet

Exercise makes you healthier as well of course. Not least, exercise gets you up on your feet…

I’m sure you’ve heard that “sitting is the new smoking”. Already after 20-25 minutes of sitting, bad and weird things happen in your body, with fat and muscle tissues exchanging unhealthy signal substances, blood vessels becoming more inflammation prone etc. It’s almost as if sitting was a signal of dying back in the day when we normally roamed the savannas.

It’s difficult to do really deep work for 90 minutes, if you have to move around for two minutes every 25 minutes (the Pomodoro method may have something to it) but it might still be worth it. Just don’t look at your phone during your breaks. By the way, I stand at least half the time I’m on my computer.

Anyway, my routine is that I work out for 2.5 hours every second day, of which 15-20 minutes is cardiovascular exercise. (it used to be 12 minutes sharp, but I’ve recently expanded the allotted time).

In addition, I go for 3 dog walks every day, 1 hour each, sometimes more, depending on who I meet in the park. The walks are very low intensity but I’m up on my feet, i.e., not sitting, and moving around for 3-4 hours a day. And that, my friend, is what will keep both my brain and body inflammation and alzheimer’s free until I’m 150, as opposed to “office sitters” who can’t expect to remember their own children by the age of 75.

In addition, I listen to science podcasts and do some power posing while out on my dog walks.

But enough about me, I don’t recommend my extreme lifestyle unless you are in the same situation as I am.

You don’t need to walk as much as I do. What you should focus on is never sitting down for more than 90 minutes straight, without taking 5 minutes for some brisk walking (or burpees, but that would be aiming too high in my book). That is both practical and has long term benefits at the same time. Besides, walking outside the box often opens up new perspectives and resolves issues with being stuck mentally.

Finally, I do a set of 5-10 mobility exercises around 5-10 minutes a week, and micro meditate (just taking a deep breath, e.g., or touching a surface mindfully).

 

Learning

I subscribe to 26 podcasts which more or less are all about science or economics, and are all intellectually challenging. I also subscribe to numerous science channels on YouTube, and regularly read scientific and economy blogs, journals and newsletters. I don’t watch the news, read regular newspapers, watch typical TV-shows etc. I do watch certain select TV-series and movies though, and I really like going to the cinema for the best movies.

Yesterday I watched Allegiant (2016):I

I listen to the podcasts when walking my dog (3 times a day, in total some 3-4 hours a day). Moving around helps both focusing, understanding and learning. The rest of the material described above, I consume at home, sometimes while doing mobility exercises.

podcasts

Oh, and I take notes in longhand, which forces me to process the information while writing (rather than taking verbatim notes in shorthand or on a device). In addition, I write about what I learn (Evernote, Twitter, e-book, blogs, Facebook etc., even Periscope sometimes), which further enhances my understanding and learning.

 

Food

The choice of food ties in closely to the sleep, exercise and learning complex. Duh, its life.

I do intermittent fasting every day. 8 hours of eating between 1 and 9 pm and 16 hours of fasting the rest of the time.

It’s good for me. For you. For everything (age, Alzheimer’s, cancer, inflammation…) Google it. I’ve been doing it for several years, since I learned about it from Martin Berkhan (leangains).

Actually, it’s not true. The last few months I’ve reduced my fasting, in order to focus more on strength gains. Now I typically have a protein shake earlier than 1 p.m. and one later than 9 p.m. In addition, I eat breakfast before going to the gym, which means around 10 am. So, I guess I’m not fasting at all anymore…, even if I still fast more than I eat, but perhaps 13:11 on average instead of 16:8.

Hello! “fasting” for 12 hours overnight is just called sleeping…


 

So, what and when do I eat, when I eat?

breakfast I

First meal

I turned flexitarian two years ago (for ethical reasons only). At the time I ate meat (land living or poultry) every day. I had fish every day as well, but the important distinction is that in September 2014, I decided to significantly limit my consumption of beef, pork, lamb, chicken and other land dwelling mammals and birds.

It began as just one day, but turned into 30 days straight. Since then I’ve relaxed my new habit a little and I probably have some kind of meat once a week or so, or with 3-5% of my meals. I’m hoping for and investing in alternative food sources like insects, algae and bio printing.

I get up at 8 and drink a large glass of water (I keep it by the bed in case I get thirsty in the middle of the night… which never happens, so I drink it in the morning instead).

veggo burger

veggo burgers

New habit: morning drink. Now, that I’m trying to gain weight and have relaxed my fasting routine, I mix (and drink) about an ounce (30g) of whey powder with about an ounce of olive oil and water and then go out for an hour’s walk with Ronja.

During my waking hours, if I’m at home, I have a drink like that every three hours, unless I’m eating a real meal at the time. Sometimes I have one with my meal anyway. My reasons for this routine are as follows:

1) There is no use eating protein more often than every 3 hours, but every 3 hours, protein should boost net muscle growth

2) whey protein is digested very quickly. Hence, having more than some 30g at a time will be burnt for fuel rather than used for building muscle

3) I want to eat a little more than 2g/kg (4.5g/lb) body weight of protein a day, or approximately 210g of protein. That takes 7 meals at a 30g clip to accomplish

4) spaced 3h apart I need to start eating at 8 am and stop at 11 pm, with at least one meal getting 2x30g of protein.

When eating “real” food, that takes longer to break down than whey, it’s no problem wolfing down more than 30g of protein, so I typically have a total of 40-60g of protein with lunch and dinner.

I eat three meals a day, breakfast around 10 am – 1 pm, post workout or lunch around 2-3 pm and dinner around 8 pm, often complemented by a final whey drink at 9 pm. Now, that I’m “bulking” I often have one more drink right before bed-time, around 11 pm.

A typical breakfast consists of 5-6 fried eggs, half a can of beans (usually black or kidney) and some spinach and kale. And a cup of coffee. Another typical breakfast is 100g of oatmeal (cooked to porridge with half a liter of water) and some whey.

I season my eggs, my whey drinks, my beans, most about everything, with turmeric, cinnamon, oregano, chili and black pepper. The last month I’ve sprinkled Spirulina algae from Simris Alg on top of my food and drinks as well.

Lunch and dinner are typically variations on the same theme, and not seldom the exact same thing: Some kind of pan fried fish (salmon or cod) with broccoli, haricot verts and beans, potatoes, pasta or rice.

I know, I don’t have much imagination when it comes to food. I actually don’t rule anything out (unless it’s been kidnapped, like cattle, pigs, chicken and sheep). I have no problem eating bread, butter, cream, snacks, gluten or whatever you can think if, I just never buy it or make it myself.

fish

My recipe: Fish. Boil it.

I often eat too little carbs and thus have to force feed it to myself sometimes. It can take the form of a leftover cold boiled potato from the fridge, muesli/müsli with milk, or crispbread sandwiches. Or alcohol… If I know I’m going out for a drink later, I don’t feel the same need to chase carbs for lunch or dinner, since I know I’ll get some later anyway. To make up for the lack of carbs I consume about 1 dl (3 oz) of olive oil every week.

One more thing, I drink a liter/a quart of milk right after my workout sessions. The timing of protein isn’t that important, I hear, but I’m thirsty anyway, and it’s usually 4 hours since my last meal, so I figure it can’t hurt.

As a rule I shy away from vitamins and other supplements.

Anti-oxidants, e.g., have been shown to cause damage, if eaten as supplements instead of as whole fruits, berries and vegetables. Hence, I eat a varied and colorful natural diet of whole foods instead. I add various red and blue berries, as well as leafy greens and spices to my whey drinks. My diet of milk, beans and lemons (to the fish) add further to my intake of vitamins, minerals, fibers ant anti-oxidants. Check out this article for more details on what I eat, rather than when.

However, living in Sweden, I do eat a vitamin-D supplement of 4000 IE (100 ug) a day between September and April. I also have a pill of lactic acid bacteria every day (Biogaia’s Lactobacillus Reuteri product Protectis) to help my little friends in the gastrointestinal tract stay varied and healthy. I also supplement my food with fish oil from Arctic Med (and right now also with the cleaner and more sustainable, albeit more expensive, algae based omega-3 oil from Simris Alg).

omega-3

Supplements, fasting and saunas: All three supplements help reduce inflammation, strengthen the immune defence system, speed up recovery after injury, stress, illness, exertion etc., as well as in general reduce a lot of modern welfare diseases and vague symptoms of stress and weakness. As does fasting by the way (including reduce the risk of cancer it seems).

Hot saunas are a fifth miracle cure in the same vein:

Bonus: Link to Tim Ferriss and Dr Rhonda on saunas

(No, I’m not providing any other references; google it, check out examine.com, listen to the Discovery podcast etc.)

Most of all I think about creating a good environment for my microbiome, my bacteria. After all, they account for more than 99% of my genetic material and are probably the ones controlling my behavior anyway. I care for the ones living on me as well as in me…

 

Hygiene and grooming

I shower every second day (after gym), or if necessary (a particularly hot day, before a date, after swimming in a lake).

I scrub my heels and big toe briefly every time I take a shower, and apply a fat foot cream afterward. I use the same cream morning and night as well, to keep my feet soft and supple. I doctor friend of mine once said that bacteria living in heel cracks have been associated with Alzheimer’s. Be that as it may, nice feet are nice.

I use a combined hair and body wash in the shower, but I don’t wash my face with anything but water (I rinse my face carefully morning, evening and when showering).

Afterward I use lotion on my face (from Bulldog), and apply a mild deodorant (Nivea or Bulldog) before taking care of my feet with foot cream.

When I’m done I spray some after shave/eau de cologne on the back of my neck (currently Armani Code Ice or Bvlgari Man in Black, if you care at all).

I shave when I have to or when meeting people, appearing on TV etc. On average I shave about every second or third day or so. I use an electric shaver – it’s convenient and I don’t have to use any product on my skin that might kill off the good bacteria residing there.

I don’t use any hair products, but I do rub off some excess lotion in my hair, to make it slightly shiny and easier to shape.

Sometimes I can get a pimple after partying. I try to refrain from touching it, but every once in a while I can’t resist the urge to squeeze it (especially if I’m meeting someone the next day), using some protective tissue and very clean hands. Depending on the damage, I sometimes (rarely) apply alcohol or zinc paste afterward (or instead of squeezing).

I brush my teeth when I get up, after breakfast, before seeing someone and after the last meal of the day. I floss (J&J) thoroughly a few times a week.

Once a week or so I indulge in a hot sauna at home, sometimes throwing myself in the snow on the balcony. I keep a book for reading, and a water proof notepad (that I got from Ludvig Sunström) for taking notes in the sauna. 

 

Leisure, socializing and alcohol

I don’t work, I spend a lot of time with my dog (and other dog owners) and in the gym, and I’m a bit of a loner.

Consequently, I don’t spend much time seeing other people (except in the dog park or nodding curtly and manly to fellow weight lifters).

When I do see my friends, alcohol is often involved. It could be a wet lunch, dinner and party, a house party or during travels (I have a few recurring party vacations every year).

All in all, however, I socialize so rarely it can hardly count as part of my daily, weekly or even monthly habits. Somehow, I still manage to find an occasion about twice a month on average to go all in on the juice of the devil. Perhaps I should learn to hold off just a little, but it’s just sooo much fun to get drunk, goof around, party, dance, surf on Spotify, YouTube or the internet in general, climb things, talk about life etc.

I didn’t drink until I turned 18, so I do have some experience of partying and dancing sober, but it feels way more fun and natural with alcohol than without. Perhaps a warning sign, but I’ll start heeding that a little further down the road… (the “I don’t have a problem” fallacy)

 

Working and writing

Finally we’ve come to my raison d’être: my writing.

I don’t work the (Wall) street for money anymore, and I don’t write for money either; just for fun. The question for the day, however, is when and how I go about it, not why.

I use an app called RescueTime to keep track of how I spend my time at the computer. If you’re looking for productivity you should look elsewhere, if that app is any reliable. I manage to accumulate just 1-2 hours a day of desirable work (blogging, writing on my next book, answering comments etc.) and a little more than that on “distractions” like social networks – of which Twitter is the “worst”.

Lately I’ve been spending as much as on hour a day on weekdays on my trading platform as well (up from 1-5 minutes a day a year ago; no doubt an effect of talking to day traders on Twitter all day).

It’s hard to objectively discern between productive and distracting activities, but one thing is clear, I don’t spend much time producing quality and lasting content, and too much on indulging in online socializing.

I’m useless and hideous; don’t look at me!

(I don’t write enough, I just tweet my life away)

Well, it’s my choice right now to focus more on learning, weight lifting and relaxing, working based on inspiration (otherwise a no-no among culture workers), rather than having set time or productivity goals (hours or words per day, e.g.).

working

OK, let’s get down to concrete numbers and times.

I don’t write before working out, and I don’t write before let’s say 5 pm after working out and walking the dog. As a rule, I don’t write after dinner or the late dog walk either, which leaves about two hours between 5-7 pm for writing on gym days. Right now, I’m closing in on the end of exactly such a writing window.

On workout free days, there is in theory much more time to write, but I often eat more slowly, brush my teeth or floss watching TV, spend more time on Twitter and my trading platform, or reading articles on Kurzweil, Hussman, Singularity Hub, ZeroHedge, Contrarian Edge, Financial Orbit, HORAN, James Clear, Wall Street Playboys, Barking, Raptitude, Wait But Why, Danger & Play, Start Gaining Momentum, various Swedish and international exercise and nutrition blogs (Styrkelabbet, Hjärnfysikbloggen, Tyngre, Träningslära, Träna Styrka etc.)

In effect, I torturously manage to squeeze in an hour between 1-3 pm before dog walk nr 2, and another hour or two between 4-6pm, and finally, if needed 1-3 hours late in the evening between 8-12 pm.

Funny thing: I’m actually a little worried of getting too caught up in my writing, becoming obsessed and stop socializing altogether. At the same time I worry about not producing enough; that I’ll “wake up” in the future and think I squandered my life on dog walks and tweeting.

Well, all things considered, things are the way they are because I’m happy with them – both in the moment and when taking stock of my accomplishments a few times a year. Yesterday’s “hard” decision was saying no to a wet lunch, in order to write this. “Too asocial or writing too little?”, well how long is that bleeding string?!

 

Life and habits summarized

Good habits are good to have (“Oh, thank you Sprezza, for dispersing such wisdom”); they make you healthier and more productive, without spending any willpower.

On the other hand it’s easy to get married to your habits and suboptimize life; climbing just one hill, and the nearest hill at that, instead of several, more interesting and higher hills elsewhere*. The string measuring habits and homeostasis is of unknown length, as with all interesting things in life.

* life achievements; not mounting or conquering other *ehm* things

Life needs both routine and variation, just like a Sheiko strength training program, with intensity and choice of activity undulations.

In Gödel|Escher|Bach, Hofstadter explores recursivity (self-reference) in music, math and music; and finds beauty and intelligence in the complex, half-chaotic space between the monotone and the completely disordered.

That’s where you want to be as well, exposing yourself to moderate extremes (convexity*) of all kinds (food, exercise, focused work, socializing…), albeit with a recurring healthy underlying bass rhythm – like a Bach fugue, Sheiko’s program or the starting values of Mandelbrot’s fractals.

*That word – convexity – has vexed me my entire life. I don’t think it fits with pictures of convex items.

 

Final summary

OK, let’s get practical and focus on what you can do instead of what I happen do be doing

Foster an underlying drum beat of habits supporting physiological and mental health; a base line you always fall back to after other ventures like traveling or partying. The bass should be strong enough not to be derailed by simple things such as after works, dating or friends visiting town.

Aim for a “natural” set-up of daily everyday exercise and whole foods, rather than compensating sitting all day with gym class in the evening and then back to sitting again. Or pills instead of fruits, berries, beans and leafy greens. Eat real food with lots of color instead of relying on pills.

Engage your large muscle groups (legs, back, abs) for a few minutes at least once an hour. You’ll be much better of than if sitting all day and spending an hour on aerobics after work. Stand at your desk if you can, and take walking meetings instead of sitting (you’ll think better as well).

Read and listen to new things as often as possible. Cut out the daily news of your information flow. It’s not real anyway. Find better, more objective and to the point sources of information than digesting the same entertainment and propaganda in newspapers and on TV over and over again.

Create an environment, and foster habits, for sleeping well.

Sleep, food and physical activity (sex definitely counts) are the pillars of life

Then comes curiosity, pattern recognition and problem solving (you need them to find the first three, and you need those to keep going). The rest is more or less noise (though I do get that you need to finance your food, roof and bed somehow; just at least try to consistently tilt the balance more and more toward what really matters).

I have a whole other line of reasoning ready; from an individual’s starting condition of reactive “self” with limited free will, effects of external stimuli and pressure that nudges his development in a certain direction, which turns ideas into habits, which in time internalize and form a new self, partaking in and enjoying different activities and with just as little truly free will.

With the right guidance, your future self can be a healthy, wealthy productivity machine, but your experience of it will be effortless and sprezzaturian, almost with the perception of living day to day governed by whims of lust.

Perhaps it’s just me.

Anyway, the subject of self and free will (and consciousness and math as well perhaps) is for another day. Or year.

Please share this article with somebody you want to be quiet for 20 minutes :)

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Aim low 2 get high

What you’re getting into:

10 minutes of actionable advice for improved health, strength, posture, intelligence, stamina, focus, finances etc. – in short a blueprint for effortless life enhancement.

Squat, Beans, Omega3, Bacteria, Cold Feet, Variation, Processes vs. Goals, Meditation/Mindfulness, Use Your Left, Read “Surely you’re joking, Mr Feynman” and install Evernote.

Using the left (weak) arm

 

Don’t set your ambitions too high

Around 15 years ago, just as I began my hedge fund career, my little brother (today, not yet 30 years old, a national strongman finalist, an 800lbs deadlifter, and soon [well…] a Quantum physics PhD) experienced a sort of panic attack when browsing his math book in the beginning of the semester.

The realization that he didn’t know it all and couldn’t learn it all right away made him feel he could never learn it.

At the same time I had no goals or ambition whatsoever, apart from putting in less work than before. And we all know where that got me, one step at a time.

If you are new here and don’t know what I’m talking about, subscribe to my newsletter immediately and read my free eBook about how I became The European Hedge Fund Manager Of The Decade.

Hence, if you aim for the moon, the risk is it’ll stay just a dream. You won’t even hit the tree tops. Best guess is you’ll simply stay in bed, overwhelmed by your own ambitions.

Instead aim low, ridiculously low. But with a twist, with a process in mind, and a growth mindset.

Apparently you can reach the moon without more than a shy glance at it now and then, instead focusing your energy on enhancing those stone tools of yours – aiming ‘ridiculously’ low.

Feel free to have moonshot visions in the back of your mind. But aim for nothing more than getting out of bed, perhaps take a quick look out the window and check for trees, maybe even walk up to it… and perhaps grab the lowest branch and just feel it…

You know where that story ends.

moonshot aim low

Don’t be Tim Ferriss

On the one hand Tim is just like us. On the other he is an unattainable demi-god. Don’t model your goals on guys like Peter Thiel, Tim Ferriss, Steve Jobs and Jack Welch. Sure, everybody can emulate them, but very few actually will.

That kind of ambition is more likely than anything else to set you up for failure, discouragement and unhappiness.

If you try to learn parkour, French, big wave surfing, MMA etc. at master level in a week, you’ll most likely end up physically hurt or broken down psychologically. But just trying those things, aiming to get a little better every day, and you’ll exercise brain and body, and maybe finding a rewarding new hobby for life.

 

Aim low too, like I do

About a year ago, I wrote my first few blog posts on a precursor website called Always Be Bruce Wayne. On August 11, 2014, I presented one of my mottos “Aim Low”, which focused mainly on health and fitness, but also mentioned many other areas of life, such as  finance, work, gym, studying and reading.

This post is part two: Aim Low 2, Beginner’s Guide, a.k.a. “Just One More”

There will be a more thorough part three in the future, that delves deeper into various areas and expands the number and complexity of easy self improvement advice: Aim Low, Master Class

In fact, that 1-2-3 structure in itself demonstrates the principle of aiming low:

I had a very vague vision from the beginning about writing thoroughly on the topic but chose to ignore it. Instead, I said to myself: “Write just one short article advocating the three easiest and most rewarding mobility exercises”. I aimed low, then wrote just one more (the current one; Aim Low 2), and after that realized I should do just one more (again), some time in the future.

Trying not to get too wordy here, Let’s jump right into the advice:

 

The principle of aiming low

Whatever you do, make it easy to start. If you don’t start you won’t get anywhere. Start with the simplest step possible, then take another one. In a while, the momentum becomes self-sustaining, and getting going doesn’t take any effort at all. Then you have a habit of doing as well as of improving.

I’ve seen suggestions of imprinting habits by repeating them 21 days in a row. That’s probably close enough, but I would still focus on day 1, and then day 2…

 

Indulgence cum discipline

In short, this is the Aim Low, Just One More “formula”:

  • Do it now – whatever it is, do not put it off, not even for a minute. Now. Since you are aiming really low anyway you can start at a second’s notice
  • Just start – going running? Put your shoes on. Aim for a walk around the block. Perhaps another block. Perhaps just a few jogging steps. perhaps run just one block.
  • Just one (arbitrary [small] unit of your choice, in the case of the Aim Low blog post series a unit is a blog post, but it could just as well have been a single paragraph, or just a sentence or a headline) – aim for performing just one unit; one push up, one block, one kilometer/mile, one sentence, one page, one article.
  • Just one more – right when you finish your “just one” unit, make the thought “Ahhh, done. No more” your cue for “Just one more” or maybe just the half or quarter, since you took the trouble to start. It’s the sunk cost fallacy turned into a strength. Further, the “one more” process nulls the anchor effect (since you don’t have an absolute benchmark, just a process of adding one more arbitrary unit).
  • Celebrate every ‘one’. Computer games are built around levels, smaller and bigger levels. Sometimes there are more difficult “bosses” to beat after decimating his easier minions. The bosses are both proof of your skill and help honing it before going to the next level. Life in general and projects in particular are no fun if they are too long and there are no intermediate “bosses”. Celebrate completing a “one”; vanquishing an intermediate game “boss”.
  • Enjoy the process, focus on it, make sure it’s a good process that you like and can be proud of. Good or bad luck can lead to any outcome, independent of the quality of the process, but a good process will always be a good process. And a tautology is always true (straight out of Retard’s Playbook). If the endgame is all that matters, if you shoot exclusively for the moon, then failure is both likely and will be complete. If the process, the investing, the growing.
  • End up where you are heading. The real trick though is to steer in the right long term direction, or you might end up where you are heading. However, only glance at the ultimate goal to not get overwhelmed. Every one should be a reward that makes you want to go for (just) one more.

On moonshots: Don’t (aim to) become so good they can’t ignore you. For one, it’s near impossible for most. Second, you don’t need them anyway if you become that good. A pragmatic strategy must build on leveraging others without having to be nr 1. Be different and good enough, rather than the best. Most important of all, live for you, not for them – in all aspects of life.

 

 

Beginner’s Guide For Aiming Low

  • Hygiene: Wash less. Trust your bacteria. Don’t kill them with solvents, leaving room for new strains. I haven’t used anything but water on my face for 9 months. Apart from the obvious health benefits it saves time too.
  • Sleep: Sleep with your feet sticking out from the bed (cold feet signal time to sleep), lower temperature in the bed room. Meditate for just one minute (or add one more), instead of checking your phone, computer or TV 30 minutes before bedtime. Sleep as dark as possible (aluminum curtains/blinds), neutral spine (harder bed, head aligned with body, i.e. not turned to the side relative the body)
  • Workouts: Variation. Vary the number of sets and rep ranges between workouts and weeks. No extra effort or time required, just vary those two parameters if nothing else.
  • Cardio: Small increments, low threshold. Start by putting your shoes on. That’s enough, but my guess is you’ll want to at least walk around the block once laced up anyway. Always tell yourself, this is the last unit (that fools your brain to release the body’s reserve powers). Then do one more. However, I personally don’t do cardio.
  • Mobility: Hips & Shoulders. Squat, Couch stretch and Morpheus if nothing else. Do it between sets in the gym, when watching TV or waiting for the bus. Zero time consumption. Almost zero effort. Adds years of quality life. And don’t sit in chairs all the time. Stand at work. Sit on the floor at home. For the master class, this one needs some serious elaboration (in the meantime you can check out this old post I wrote a year ago).
  • Brain training: I throw tennis balls for my dog using my left arm during our walks, thoroughly thinking through how to copy the movement of my right arm. No extra effort, no time consumed. Try balancing on one leg with your eyes closed.
  • Variation: use a different store for grocery shopping, take a different path to work
  • Skills: start things, do them wholeheartedly for a while, then quit if boring. Go to Khan Academy. Watch some videos when idle. Start doing some math or programming. Download DuoLingo and try French or Portuguese. Do the exercises whenever you usually would check Facebook/Instagram/Twitter. Make “social media” your cue for “but first, just one minute of skill improvement”
  • Writing: just start, just get to the computer and write one sentence, one headline, then another, then one more, then start filling out the blanks in between. First just write simple words, then whole sentences, then refine them into paragraphs, then make sure they are in a readable order.
  • Meditation: the easiest meditation in the world is lying on your back, with your eyes closed, focusing on your breathing, identifying and feeling every part of the breathing apparatus. In through the nose, out through the mouth. If a thought shows up. Acknowledge it is there and then focus on the breathing again. Nose. Mouth. Nose. Mouth. Move up the meditation ladder, by going through every part of the body starting with just one toe. Can you feel it, can you imagine where it is? Make micro movements, moving a finger just a millimeter or two and notice if your left feels different from your right. Try that instead of being online the last 30 minutes before going to sleep.
  • Mindfulness: Just look/listen/smell/touch anything really thoroughly. What is the texture, what components does that smell have, how does that bird or insect move through the air, what instruments are there in that song
  • Inspiration, knowledge: read a book/article (Surely you’re joking, Mr Feynman) or listen to a podcast (TED Radio Hour) by somebody obviously smart or accomplished. Think, really think about the message and its implications. Does it affect you? Should it? How can you apply the same concepts? 
  • Motivation: Don’t be a little bitch. Real people don’t need motivation
  • Happiness: Focus on processes rather than goals. Celebrate periodically. Life should be like a challenging computer game. It can be a little tough sometimes, you fall and pick yourself up, but every now and then you win over an intermediary boss or get to the next level. Celebrate those wins instead of only thinking about some ultimate endgame. Ask yourself “What’s wrong with right now?” and forget about some moonshot dreams. 
  • Productivity: Use a commonplace like Evernote. Write down ideas and ToDos in a structured manner right when they occur. That frees up capacity to move on without risk of losing the idea
  • Studying: Don’t rush it. Understanding takes time. One step at a time. First one, then one more. Construct each level of understanding carefully or you won’t have anything stable to build on later
  • Teaching: Same as studying. No rush. Make it easy by taking very small steps but requiring full understanding
  • Food: Drink omega3 oil and eat beans and leafy greens every day. Everything will improve (incl. less inflammation, speedier recovery from exercise, illness and injury). Also, try fasting every now and then. Personally, I fast for 16 hours every day, and typically work out during the 16th hour. It saves time, prevents inflammation and cancer, and makes use of the body’s positive response to convexity. For the master class, the food advice section will need to be at least as long as the master class mobility advice.
  • Alcohol:

alcohol

  • Sex, pick-ups, relationships: I have no shortcuts, no hacks, no tricks for these, but you could try boosting your testosterone by “power posing” a few minutes when walking the dog, or waiting in line, for the lift or other idle moments
  • Finance: Patience. That’s all. No greed, no fear, no know-it-all advice, just Study, Wait, Pounce
  • Health: Don’t sit. Don’t stand completely still. Apply Convexity in all aspects of life, i.e. explore moderate extremes; the “corners” of life
  • Convexity: Eat/Fast, Contrast Showers, Ice Bath/Sauna, Focus/Relax. Even Drunk/Hangover/Dehydrated/Recovery. The body and brain respond really well to moderate extremes, or “convexity”.

bonus 1: If you aim low, you expect little, and have both a higher likelihood of achieving your goals and attaining happiness

bonus 2: if you aim low, with a focus on growth rather than an endgame, you are more likely to start, and to continue, and maybe actually progress to the very top, while enjoying every step of the way and avoiding feeling empty when finally ‘there’.

Just one more aim low

Just one more…

Summary

Just do one.

Then one more.

To really sum it up: Squat, Beans, Omega3, Bacteria, Cold Feet, Variation, Processes vs. Goals, Meditation/Mindfulness, Use Your Left, Read “Surely you’re joking, Mr Feynman” and install Evernote.

P.S. I just found out that Self Improvement Guru James Clear wrote something similar today in Habit Creep

How to stop 1.5 billion restless legs from kicking

If you like your restless legs you can keep them.

Did you know that several of your friends silently struggle every day with the ominous-sounding Willis-Ekbom’s Disease?

 

(I did too. Well, I still do, there is no definitive cure,

but to a much lesser extent – virtually non-existent.

Read on to see how you can beat this creepy-crawly nightmare.)

 

The affliction is more commonly referred to as Restless Legs Syndrome, which unfortunately makes a quite serious problem seem…, well, less serious.

 

What is Willis-Ekbom’s Disease?

For starters, it feels like this when you’re trying to sleep or relax at the end of the day:

Restless Legs Syndrome Is No Joke

Restless Legs Syndrome Is No Joke

 

WED is when you feel an “irresistible urge to move your legs (most often the legs, arms or phantom limbs) to stop uncomfortable or odd sensations. Moving the affected body part provides temporary relief. These urges are most common around bed time or when relaxing, e.g., when watching a movie.

 

Some simply give up on the relaxing, while others lay awake for hours, kicking wildly both voluntarily and involuntarily, to get rid of the crawling, creeping and tickling, even aching, sensations in the legs.

 

Fantasizing about simply hacking one’s legs off, to escape the symptoms, is not uncommon.

At ANY Cost

At ANY Cost

 

1.5 billion spastic legs kicking in the silence of the night.

Since 1 out of 10 has this “spectrum” (scale/degree) disorder in one form or the other, you might as well have it. Perhaps you just didn’t have a name for it?

Sir Thomas Willis described the syndrome in 1672, almost half a millennium ago. Karl-Axel Ekbom made a more comprehensive study in 1945. Together they have named the syndrome: Willis-Ekbom’s Disease: WED.

 

2 most unwelcome bed guests and 1 cure (9 actually).

As I stated above, I had two of these 1.5 billion legs as my obnoxious companions in the TV-couch and bed. For me the following serendipitous combination worked to reduce 99% of my problems:

  • Cobra-ups (which I did to fix a bulging disc and hernia, resulting from poor couch posture – actually a lack of couch, lying on the floor with my neck up against the wall).
  • Vitamin-D (I gradually read more and more about the wide spectrum benign effects of vitamin D, in particular in the north. I now eat 4000 IU = 100ug per day in the winter. Here is a recent article on vitamin-D and WED).
  • Omega 3 (first and foremost anti-inflammatory, but also generally makes biological organisms work better at a cellular level).
  • Iron (generally better and more varied food for other reasons; iron is used for a precursor to dopamine and dopamine drugs seem to work on RLS).
  • Deadlifting (just a coincidence that I included this cure-all exercise in my program around the same time)
  • Better posture at all times (after fixing my disc and starting to deadlift).
  • Less continuous sitting time.
  • Less sugar (sugar is inflammatory).
  • Reduced stress (my work situation changed gradually to the better from 2005 and onward, but I hardly think that had any measurable effect on my condition).

 

Cobra-ups neutralize the vertebraes, after a day of sitting at the office, in the car and the couch.

CUs can prevent restless legs and sleep issues but most of all prevent throwing your back.

Cobra-up

Cobra-up, I did 15 every second hour for three months, to cure my bulging disc

Cobras may seem unnatural, but so is walking on two legs. Humans’ back problems are due to us being fish and reptiles by construction. We still are as phoetuses. The quick and dirty adaption of a horizontal spine to a vertical one, with several compensatory bends, form the backbone of all hernias and related problems.

Blame the crocodiles!

Standing up further complicates the blood flow and oxygenation of various body parts – which is central to WED.

 

There is no known cure

I’m not saying I’ve found the cure. Curing RLS or WED would be like curing allergy; the spectrum of symptoms is too wide, as is the collection of causes.

Not even the mechanism is fully clear. A couple of things seem involved though: iron levels, oxygen levels (in the central nervous system as well as the muscle tissue), dopamine levels, blood flow, fitness level, inflammation, pinched nerves and electrolyte imbalances.

In general it seems the disease is hereditary (iron storing, oxygen transportation, blood vessels, dopamine) but its expression depends on nutrition (iron levels, inflammation, fitness, blood flow), the level of fitness (affects blood flow and oxygenation) and state of inflammation (affects blood vessels and blood flow).

As you see there is quite a lot (scientifically-based, as well as empirically tried by yours truly) you can do to get hours more of quality rest per day:

  • Keep your iron levels in the correct range (iron is used in the dopamine system, as well as for transportation of oxygen, but too much is still too much).
  • Keep your inflammation levels low (eat omega 3 and D-vitamin, avoid sugar. My guess is that the right lactobacteria would help too).
  • Stay fit (obese have poor circulation and reduced oxygenation, and often poor posture too).
  • Control your posture (to avoid bulging disks, hernias, pinched nerves: sit straight, don’t slouch, hold your cell phone at eye leveldamn it!).
  • Do mobility exercises (spine: cobra ups, chest/shoulder: morpheus, psoas: couch stretch, hip: squat).
  • Try nitrate rich food for increased blood flow (beetroot juice, spinach, chard widen blood vessels; the gene for Nitrogen oxide is a marker for WED).

You really should do all of the above.

 

In addition, the drug Pramipexol widens the blood vessels as well as reduces pain, both of which provides relief from restless legs. I’ve never tried it, since my symptoms all but disappeared with a natural approach anyway.

Just say no to drugs (unless they are for recreational purposes, although a spliff probably reduces RLS/WED as well).

at least good for umara composis

at least good for umara composis

 

Other suggested “solutions” include cold showers, anti-depressants and sleeping pills. I wouldn’t go there – I mean who thinks a cold shower will help you fall asleep?

Sleep tight

Sleep tight

You decide how much trouble you want to pass on

An educated guess, based on epigenetics research, is that highly expressed WED, due to poor nutrition and low fitness level, will be inherited, so take care of your restless ones now before you pass them on to your children to a larger extent than you have to.

 

It’s a warning

See your restless legs as a warning, a signal to change your lifestyle. Eat better, exercise, don’t stress and you will short circuit the entire RLS chain of problem with fitness/posture/nerves/circulation/iron/dopamine/inflammation/vessel condition/blood flow/oxygenation.

 

Summary – there is hope, there is relief

  1. WED is not fun at all, I know.
  2. The causes are multifaceted and so are the cures (try them all to slide as far to the bottom of the WED spectrum as possible).
  3. The lifestyle changes you need to make do not guarantee total relief, but they are all beneficial anyway.
  4. At least do it for the kids.

 

DO THIS

Okay, in practice here is what you should do:

  • Add 15 cobra-ups twice daily to your routine. It takes one minute and you shouldn’t get sweaty.
  • Take omega 3 supplements and vitamin D if you don’t already.
  • Add beetroots or spinach to your weekly food.
  • Mobilize your hip, psoas, thoracic spine and shoulders regularly.
  • Avoid sugar.
  • Minimize sitting, but sit straight when you do.

 

Read more about Restless Legs/WED here at rls.org.

And more about possible cures here at rlcure