No sugar in my coffee, please. Unfortunately, the healthy act is also coupled with an endless and mindless scroll on a social app. You are still going to be healthy, right?
It depends on your mental diet.
You body is only as good as the food you eat and your mind is only as good as the information you consume…
Our mental diet affects us. When you wake up, the trajectory of your day depends on what information you consume first. For instance, a bad email from someone might ruin your morning. You might fumble and try to respond while you are at the breakfast table. Moreover, you may not consume your food mindfully, affecting it’s nutritional value. You probably overate or didn’t eat enough. This affects your energy levels through the day. Helping your decline towards poor mental health.
Mental diet is about mindful consumption over information overload. It is about mindful connections over loneliness. Mental diet is a peaceful walk on a sunny beach over a noisy stroll in South Mumbai. As a species we have practiced a decent mental diet for millions of years. Without this, we wouldn’t have been the dominant species on the planet. Technology however, has made it harder to maintain a healthy mental diet.
I’d like to share some hacks I have found extremely useful.
1. Use Twitter to improve signal.
I call Twitter the intellectual network. In my view, it is by far the most underrated social network out there. You can find incredibly talented people who regularly publish niche content. It’s world-class training for your mind, delivered free. While I have been on Twitter since 2009, only in 2019 I began to realise it’s immense benefits.
For instance, it’s possible to tune Twitter into a productive tool for your personal growth. It has unlimited potential. For instance, when I read Atomic Habits, I followed James Clear on Twitter. James regularly engages with other Twitter users. I could then figure out who else to follow. David Perell for instance, is one of the best follows on writing. All of these “individual brands” generate highly curated information. They also publish newsletters. There is absolutely disproportionate value in following them.
For other follow recommendations, let’s connect on Twitter.
2. Entertain some distractions and unproductive moments
Most of us are stuck in a hustle. We have jobs, children, parents to look after. We often are so committed that we don’t realise we are being harsh on ourselves.
It’s okay to be a bit slack sometimes, it’s alright to go on a video game spree or a running about match with your kid. These small bouts of unproductive moments are when our mind gets a break. I find that these moments relax my mind like no other. Embrace these.
3. How about some mindful procrastination?
Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion. Parkinson’s law depicts the predicament that all of experience on a daily basis.
For instance, as the year or week begins, our diaries become overwhelmed. There is an increasing number of things screaming for our attention. The house requires maintenance, you forgot to call your colleague who wanted to speak 2 weeks ago. Your kid needs to see the dentist, oh and you have been putting off your own appointment for almost 5 weeks… Your financial advisor is waiting on you, and that power yoga has been waiting on the bookshelf.
We procrastinate. The power yoga, dentist appointment, and house maintenance have all been postponed for a while. You feel terrible about doing it, but you simply don’t have the time.
The trick is to be mindful about procrastination. If you consciously delay something that is less important, you won’t have to unconsciously delay something that is important.
This forces value based prioritisation over time. For instance, if you mindfully put off speaking to the financial advisor for a few weeks and even after few weeks if you think it’s not of huge value, perhaps you need a new strategy on your finances or simply a new advisor!
4. Extent of communication ease is inversely proportional to the value it brings
Our need for human contact and socialising is millions of years old. We simply cannot replace it with cameras and screens. We now communicate with texting by default. While texting is more convenient, it is less intimate than a phone call. While phone call is convenient, it is less intimate than a visit in person. A good mental diet includes ample of meaningful social contact. I’ll leave the mix to you.
I am not saying texting is not useful, I am saying don’t let it replace meaningful social contact.
5. Menial tasks are the equivalent of vacation for your mind
Most deep thinkers and writers I have researched create an atmosphere conducive to creativity… This differs for everyone but some prefer going on long walks whereas others prefer listening to loud music. I find it immensely helpful to think while I am performing menial tasks such as folding laundry or loading the dishwasher.
When your body is extremely busy, your mind wanders into beautiful places ✨
Some call it the “flow-state”. I have observed that this is an essential condition for creative thinking, its sort of like a vacation for your mind.
6. Learning a new language literally rewires your brain more efficiently
There is evidence that multi-lingual brains have a higher density of neurons and they also see higher brain activity levels. This leads to better cognitive ability, staves off dementia, makes you better at task switching, rational decisions, communications, and much more!
Moreover, there are emotions that cannot be expressed in some languages. Learning a new language not only primes your brain, it opens you up to experiencing these new range of emotions, customs, traditions!
7. Don’t take anything personally. Literally, not even yourself.
We make the mistake of taking ourselves too seriously. We take our success too seriously and aim higher, well, sometimes too high. Unrealistic expectations are not great for your mind. Similarly if we experience failure, we tend to put unnecessary blame on ourselves..
It is generally said that in your 30’s you stop caring about what others think. It’s one of life’s most important mental models. The more you think about what others think, the less you will be yourself. The less authentic you are the more people will despise you. It’s a vicious cycle. Most successful people I know can literally dodge bullets of judgment and negativity.
8. Claim back your attention, and focus on your well being
Less said the better, spend time away from devices, control notifications the number one mental diet culprits (akin to sugar perhaps).
This is really important for your mental diet.
9. Don’t just consume but reflect
Books force you to think slowly and they force you to imagine. Videos are different though, it’s tough to be mindful while watching a video or listening to an audiobook it’s even harder to be mindful on most social newsfeeds.
I think consumption should be followed by reflection. Reflection can be simply taking notes while watching a video or listening to an audiobook. It can be writing a summary of a book you have just read, in general writing is immensely helpful for reflection. Speaking to someone on a topic or better teaching someone is also incredibly helpful.
It’s worth mentioning that sleep and physical exercise are primary pillars of good mental health, diet comes next.
This is not a comprehensive list by any stretch. Any hacks you’d like to share?