I talk a lot about mindfulness here, but today I'm taking a much more physical avenue in regards to our mental health. And when I say mental health, I don't just mean our emotional stability, because the term generally gets muddied when we talk about it. Mental health is more than just emotional wellbeing. It is also mental performance, awareness, and energy. If you're looking for a blog more focused on mental health in regards to mindfulness, go check out some of my others with the "Mindfulness" tag once you're done here!
Stick around for now, though, because you'll still get a little juice out of this one.
Alright, first and foremost, let's introduce the topic a bit better with some context. For a few years now, I've been battling with my brain. Rather, you could say I've been battling for my brain. It's been a maelstrom of brain fog, disorganization, lack of energy, manic bursts of inspiration (which, as you may guess by the term "manic," is not a good thing), and a general plague of low performance. It is frustrating when you can tell you aren't at 100%, but being dull makes it hard to put your finger on just what to do. It's a self-perpetuating sickness. [
I come to epiphanies that I repeat to myself for a few days and then forget all about. Then I'll come to them again, and repeat the process, until I've run into one so thoroughly that it sticks. Thus far, the first one I ran into a few years ago is the most prominent one (the only one with me off the top of my head) and it's "my intelligence did not cause my happiness. My happiness caused my intelligence."
I realized this after a particularly good day, even while already a few months into my slump. It's hard to say if it was harder in the beginning or if it's harder now: when it was fresh, I'd like to say I was offended. Now it just feels like part of my life. I still get frustrated about it when I look back at some of my old work, where I acknowledge I had room to grow, but the natural substance is still better than what I churn out now with much more effort. I used to be able to sit in my room for an hour and a half and pump out a chapter that only needed a few changes in an edit, you know? Now I'll spend days crafting a chapter and still be unhappy with it. That self-criticism was never there before... But that's another epiphany in itself! Trying to make something perfect and expecting that it'll come when it does and that the critical voice in my head with neglect that instance is foolish. I've developed the habit of self-criticism, and I need to break it before I return to a position where it's no longer there.
That's enough context. We didn't come here just to talk about my epiphanies. The point I was trying to make was that happiness influences intelligence. When spirits are high, so is the mind. The rising tide lifts all ships. So how can we keep ourselves happy? Lately, I've noticed it's getting out of the house and into the company of good people. That's just my most recent encounter, which I really noticed just yesterday. I had a sick friend who'd recently totaled his car and he asked me to drive him to his doctor and pharmacy, and just in the couple hours I was out to help him with that, I had a lot of fun. He's terribly good company, the sun was out, and even though I was running terribly low on money (that is to say, my bank account was in the negatives and I had $23 in cash to afford anything I could need) we still figured out a strategy to get some food.
When I returned home, I felt refreshed. I always forget how important it is for me to put down my projects and just go giggle with nice people. I ended up coming home and working on three projects for the rest of my night. I was so energized that I was ready to tackle them for hours on end!
Oh , yeah, I'm using polls today, by the way. Go on then, click it if you haven't! (You already have, I know you cannot resist a poll.)
The reason I'm using polls isn't for me. Of course, I love to see some good statistics, but this poll is for you. I want you to have to interactively call attention to your own mental care. So please pay attention to which options you're selecting, and consider what to do from there!
Next up, I'll tackle the journey I've been taking up before the social realization. General health and wellness. That is, fitness and diet.
About a month ago, maybe a week before, I decided I wanted to start making some breakfast in the mornings and do a workout to start my day. Don't get me wrong, I didn't want to commit to a gym and so I did not. I started waking up at 10:30 (for me, trust that that is the equivalent of waking up at dawn) and I'd go downstairs to make myself a good egg sandwich. Either before or after I ate it (usually before) I'd do a workout from some app I paid into for at-home workout routines catered to my body type. The app was great. I just don't want to pay for anything anymore and it also expects you to have those gigantic jugs (haha) of water at home to use for weights. I wasn't about to change my grocery list so I could do some squats.
Thus, in typical Garrett fashion, I made the decision to skip leg day.
I'll save you the trouble, but in the end, I pretty much ended up with a routine where I did 100 push-ups every day or every other day, and worked on core for one or two a week. The app did advise an off day, so I'd respect that as prompted, but I substituted all of the squats that required weights for another push-up day. My main goal was to build my chest, anyway.
Do not ask me how I look now. The answer is ripped. Just absolutely shredded. I'm just completely jacked. Trust.
My point is, this ultimately simple routine (which I lost after going on vacation) made me feel amazing. I didn't even do it in the morning all the time, that's how much space I gave myself. I would do it at night sometimes. You're not supposed to do physical activity an hour or so before bed (we'll get to the sleep section, trust me) but I still felt great and was able to wind down generally at my desired time. This post is my resolution to get back into it. I'll continue it today.
On the topic of diet, eating eggs and cooking from home has done way more for me than the convenience of fast-food or microwaveable food. Food focused on convenience does not focus on nutrition, and you get out what you put in. You don't need to become a dietician to know where to start, either. Just eat your fruits and vegetables, focus on eggs instead of the syrupy breakfast foods, and cook more than you buy out. If you have dietary restrictions like being a vegan, you probably already know more than me about food, so I can't speak about your needs. But if you're like me and have no dietary restrictions, we need to choose our battles wisely. After eating a better diet, combined with my other changes, I started to feel generally more energized. Plus, the activity of cooking actually helps maintain a routine and keep your brain at work!
Alright... We're going to tackle sleep. My arch-nemesis. The bane of my existence. The feature I can't wait for them to wipe in the next update.
I hate you and wish I was not co-dependent on you.
I'm not going to hide it. I do not enjoy sleeping... Unless I'm already asleep. We have a terribly toxic relationship.
If I could spend the rest of this blog talking about how much I hate sleep (a lot), I would (I hate sleep). I understand its purpose, but if I got to choose, I'd really rather not need to recharge at all. I'll take that 3-13 hours of every day back, thank you.
What? You're staring at me because I said 3-13 instead of, like, 8? Get off your high-horse, man, stop rubbing your healthy relationship with your sleep schedule in my face. Some nights are better than others. I have a delayed circadian rhythm and also a burning disdain for getting into bed. And also a stark refusal to use my bed for its intended purpose and not as a place to lay down and watch YouTube for six hours until I've encountered the exact time at which I "would get enough sleep if I went to sleep right now." And also then I'll just agree to watch the rest of the video I'm on. And sometimes another if it's related and this one was really good.
Stop judging me, I just really enjoy experiencing things. Being awake is so freaking cool, dude. You can do anything when you're awake? You know what you can do when you sleep? Nothing. You lay there like a stupid log and you get greasy and sometimes you snore and drool. It's the ultimate insult to humanity.
Ask anyone in my life about my sleep schedule. It has been so bad for so long that even though I upheld my (in my opinion) healthy 2am-10:30am sleep window for a whole month, they'll tell you I have the unhealthiest sleep schedule out of anyone they know. I don't wear that with pride or anything, it's just, believe me when I say I understand how difficult it is to master it. Like, you're telling me I have to shut up and let my body do something and just put myself away? Bro... Like... Why? Just to avoid burning out? I'm a star, baby; I'm ready to go nova.
In all seriousness (not to insinuate that was not all my serious opinion) sleep is crucial to our mental performance. If we're not resting, we're constantly wringing our brains dry and then slugging around while they soak back up. That process, by the way, takes way longer than you might think. Look into sleep debt some time. It can take multiple days to recover from a lack of sleep. It does take multiple days to recover from a single all-nighter. Would you believe me if I told you that during the pandemic I was staying up for over 30 hours at a time and sleeping for over 12? I was just laundry in a machine at that point!
Having a sleep routine for the past month or so that was consistent, even if not within the ideal window, did wonders. I think it all comes down to just taking as much stress off of your brain as possible. Just giving it a routine to automate all of the stuff it could be using energy to consider.
Alright. I've talked about socializing, exercising, eating, and sleeping. We've got only two more things to cover, and they're quick. Next up: cleaning. Having a clean environment takes your brain's attention away from clutter. That disorder does distract you, even if you can't possibly notice it. My room is a mess and I really need to get on top of it, but I have so much stuff and my general solution is to throw stuff into my closet instead of having it around... I need to brainstorm something new. What about you?
Finally, reading. Yes. I talk about it so much, but it is the disciplinary exercise of your brain. Reading once a week will change your week. Reading once a day will change your life. It can be literally anything as long as it is reading. You were gifted with the ability to download information, and doing so just so happens to also strengthen the tubes through which the information flows. I cannot possibly speak enough about how important it is to read. I'm going to stop myself there because I already have two blogs posts on the importance of reading, so you can and should go check those out.
Alright, we've spoken about everything we need to. I'm sorry if this post was a long one, but I appreciate you taking the time to check it out. Tally your results--you want to be as close to the top of each category as possible. If you placed particularly low in one section, try focusing on that. If you placed low everywhere, take baby steps to integrate new habits. You don't need to dive into a new, unsustainable lifestyle all at once. Just start trying to do each thing once a week. It'll get easier from there.
That's all I got for you today. Thanks so much for giving this a read, and I hope you are having a wonderful day. I post blogs every Thursday, so make sure you're subscribed to stay up to date. Go check out some of the recommended blogs!
Please drop a like if it's no trouble, and make sure to leave a comment. Here's the question of the day: what categories are your strongest?
See you next Thursday!