9 Powerful Mind Recalibrating Habits You Can Start Today
9 Powerful Mind Recalibrating Habits You Can Start Today
A digit in the calendar changed a few weeks ago and we’re all incredibly improved versions of ourselves. Can you believe it?
Becca quit drinking soda except for the fifteen rum & cokes last week because those don’t count. Justin meditated for like 8 minutes and already has a small following of believers trying to reach his level of zen. Chris hasn’t opened up a business book yet, but that Buzzfeed article about the 19 Cutest Etsy Stores You Have Never Heard Of was pretty fulfilling. I even heard Paul ran two miles the other day but is taking the month off because of shin splints.
Chances are you’ve already dropped your resolutions off faster than a Senior Year elective with mandatory attendance.
No worries, it happens. I put together this list of challenges I have personally taken and found to be extremely beneficial. Even if you don’t do them past a certain point, they will give you perspective into your lifestyle from a new angle.
You’d be surprised how much they can impact you.
The Cold War
As someone who grew up in South Florida and summertime coastal Bulgaria, I don’t last long in the cold. Sweater weather for me is a brisk 68 degrees. This is why I committed to a 15-day cold shower streak.
Cold showers burn calories, boost recovery after exercise, increase mood and alertness, strengthen circulation and immunity, and can help relieve symptoms depression and anxiety. I started off trying to condition my body for cold weather, I ended up getting a lot more. A few things I noticed:
- Ice cold showers suck. A lot. More than having an uncomfortable conversation. More than introducing yourself to an attractive stranger. More than speaking in public. If you’ve been consistently taking cold showers, none of those things play as much of a factor since you’ve hypothetically been to ice hell and back.
- Less time in the shower. I’m no stranger to long, hot showers. The warm water feels good, and before you know it you’ve ended up having a conversation with yourself for 15-20 minutes. The thing with cold showers is you don’t really want to spend more than 3 minutes in there. You’re not only taking back your day from time wasting crevices, you’re conditioning yourself for internal urgency.
- You wake up. No need for a morning cup of coffee when you’ve just trekked through a Siberian avalanche.
The process: Hop in the shower and turn it on at its coldest. It’s probably going to rip the air out of your lungs like you just got intimate with a Dementor. Your brain starts to panic and will want to pull you out of it. This is where fortitude is built, so just hang on. I noticed after 30-45 seconds of that came a sudden internal warmth and the cold wasn’t as big a deal anymore. After 2-3 minutes in the shower and wiping the cold water off me, I felt instantly warm.
My next step is repeating this challenge, then capping it off with a sporadic ice bath and a cryotherapy session.
Re-Learn to Breathe
We would probably forget to breathe if it wasn’t autonomic. Even though the process is automatic, it can be influenced for better or for worse. If you don’t actively pay attention to it, it will by default take the path of less resistance and become worse.
I noticed my daily breathing became short as if I was only using 25% of my lungs, like using 100% of my lungs would have thrown me into a higher tax bracket.
In deep focus, there were times where I would even stop breathing. By making an active effort to get much more out of my breathing, I noticed myself become more grounded and focused.
Mindful breathing has applications in everything from martial arts, meditation, and even firing a gun, so why shouldn’t it become part of your daily life?
Functional breathing means engaging your diaphragm more, and less of your upper chest. There are dozens of strategies out there, but the one that resonated with me the most was breathing from your pelvic floor. It might surprise you how difficult it is to truly breathe deeply. The reason for the difficulty (especially true for anxious individuals) is that we subconsciously start to develop muscles that constrict breathing in an attempt to protect our organs if we were to get hit. Avoid the vicious circle of anxiety causing short breathing and short breathing returning the favor.
Wim Hof Methods:
You may have heard of some crazy Dutch dude doing things like submerging himself in ice for nearly 2 hours without his core body temperature changing, or hiking Everest in his shorts. That’s Wim Hof. He credits his breathing method to take control of his adrenaline levels and blood alkalinity.
Social Media Cleanse
It took social media all of a few months to catapult into the theme park of vices. Scrolling through an Instagram feed in the same category of alcohol and drugs seems silly, but it can become addictive all the same. The root of any addiction is an attempt to hack dopamine. That little red notification makes us feel wanted and helps us escape dull moments. We want attention, yet we lose so much of it to a little square app we click on a piece of glass and circuits.
The argument that social media is bad isn’t new, so I won’t take us down the predictable path of how we become hooked. Social media has a low barrier to entry, is socially acceptable, free, provides immediate gratification, and has multiple channels.
Cleanse yourself of people’s highlight reels, memes, and hot girls trying to sell you diarrhea tea on Instagram. No kale required.
There are two types of people in this world: those that spend thirty minutes tossing and turning before falling asleep, and those that can hit that open mouth drooling passed out sleep on command. I’ve always wanted to be part of the latter category, but alas, I am a tosser and turner.
Sleep comes easy to some, and the mystique of the snoozer is shrouded in secrecy and drool. I’ve come a long way from self-diagnosing myself with chronic insomnia as a 14 year old, but there is still room left to learn.
We have become detached from our natural sleeping rhythms, and this could lead to a variety of chronic debilitating ailments. Injuries that won’t heal, headaches, neurological disorders, and adrenal fatigue to name a few.
This technique supposedly puts you to sleep in 60 seconds. I tried it in a “I bet you won’t” sort of way and it didn’t work, but I did notice some physiological effects.
Take a deep breath in for 4 seconds, hold for 7 seconds, and breathe out for 8. Simple enough, yet it allows your body to make full use of the oxygen, lowers your heart rate, and helps you relax.
Now Walk It Out, ayyyy
Walks clear your mind of debris, stimulate new thinking, are easy to multitask, and are great exercise.
3 miles is the magic distance I’ve found that works for me. It takes around 60 minutes, and burns around 360 calories. I dedicate that 60 minute period to either phone meetings, catching up with friends, podcasts, new music, or breathing exercises.
The walk also helps counteract the sedentary working lifestyle. The challenge isn’t walking 3 miles, it’s doing it consistently. Since it requires you to physically move your body, you are aiming to build the discipline your mind has over matter.
A Book a Week Keeps a Tree off the Streets
There are thousands of potentially life-changing books out there, but the odds are against us to reading them all. A 25 year old that will hypothetically live until 90 and reads one to two books a year means that they will read 65 – 130 books in their lifetime. Any one of these books could play a massive role in our professional and personal lives, yet they are going to sit collecting dust.
The book a week challenge is harder than it sounds. When I started regularly reading, it was tough to get through even ten pages because my attention span was so bad (see resolution #3).
Somewhere in the first few times of picking up a book, I got into a groove and was clearing 30-50 pages a day. There’s no special speed-reading technique necessary here, just patience. If you’d like a couple quick pick ups, I usually put out a monthly list of good reads here. You can always reach out and I’ll do my best to point you in the right direction.
I fasted for one day, and it was rough.
By the 15th hour, I started romanticizing the idea of eating a single grape out of the fridge. I started paying attention to the minor details in my memory about the individual flavors of something I gluttonously devoured by the dozens on an ordinary day.
This put a few things into perspective: how I ignored the minor details surrounding the wonder of food, and how poorly equipped I was for times of hardship.
Practicing humility doesn’t necessarily mean you have to starve yourself. Try to live on $2 a day. See how low your burn rate can be if you don’t make any extraneous expenses in a 30 day period.
A quote from one of my favorite books, Siddhartha, goes like this:
When a person has nothing to eat, fasting is the
smartest thing he could do. When, for example, Siddhartha hadn’t
learned to fast, he would have to accept any kind of service before this
day is up, whether it may be with you or wherever, because hunger would
force him to do so. But like this, Siddhartha can wait calmly, he knows
no impatience, he knows no emergency, for a long time he can allow
hunger to besiege him and can laugh about it. This, sir, is what
fasting is good for.
Hop on the omnipotent “New Year New Me” yoga bandwagon. No need to sign up for packed yoga classes, do some yoga videos online at home and avoid your cat rubbing its butt on your face.
NoFap (guys only):
The digital age of immediate gratification has turned masturbation and pornography into a serious threat to our mental health. Masturbation is another attempt for humans to hack their dopamine centers, with repercussions that aren’t immediately noticeable. The ability to release a surge of dopamine at literally any (respectable and legal) moment is dangerous. Dopamine is released as a reward for accomplishing a feat, often a task associated with survival or procreation.
You might be able to trick your brain and body into thinking you did something worth praise once in awhile, but it catches up to you. Your threshold for satisfaction becomes higher, and you start searching for more dopamine. Pushing a “More dopamine, please” button quickly turns into searching for a “GIVE ME SOME DAMN DOPAMINE, NOW!!” button.
Biological downfall aside, the pronz also cultivates a sea of passive guys satisfied with flipping their MacBook open in the wake of difficulty or rejection. The immediate gratification they become used to also becomes the expected standard in the real world, whether sexual or even in a professional context.
As someone 370+ days into the challenge, I can attest to the psychological reboot and the trenches you have to push past. A handful of my close friends is right up there in the triple digits as well. It’s hard, and harder for some, but it is possible. The goal is 30 days for a reboot.
There is an entire community on reddit with over 200k+ subscribers dedicated to nofap. In my opinion, treating nofap as a community bonding experience is weird and you should just do it, but whatever works for you.
I hope this helps. Let this be a disclaimer: if any of these things end up ruining your life or you catch hypothermia, you are doing them with the understanding that I am not a scientist or doctor.