Have you ever noticed that as a whole, our society has its daily habits almost completely backwards?
We’re generally so “busy” that we don’t have time to get much exercise. And then we spend countless sedentary hours sitting in our cars each week because we think that car driving saves us time.
To fuel our bodies during these chaotic days, we pack ourselves with whatever convenient or tasty food we happen to crave at the moment, then add in additional snacks between meals, while watching TV, and perhaps a final treat before bed.
In any leftover shreds of free time, we pack our minds with similarly tasty or convenient blobs of entertainment or “content” that happen to successfully push their way in front of our face like a pen full of hungry pigs fighting for the scraps of our attention.
And our food factories, magazines, newspapers, TV and streaming services and even politicians are only too happy to keep pushing out the crap. And the results are just as you would predict: crappy.
But there is some good news too: You can do everything in the opposite way, and the results tend to be astonishingly good. The biggest difference you’ll notice is dramatically better physical and mental health, which multiply together to create a better, happier, longer and more generous life in all dimensions.
In other words if there’s anything worth striving for – even more than financial independence or early retirement or any other individual goals – it’s probably the overall package of a healthier you.
Over the past few months, I have found myself settling into a new routine that seems to be getting better and better as the positive results feed back onto themselves. It has become so good that I thought it would be worth sharing and comparing notes with you.
To cut straight to the good part, let’s compare the flow of two hypothetical days, side-by-side: the typical American default life, and a somewhat optimized Science-backed Life. Then, we’ll go back and fill in the details on where all these details come from, and the reason for this blog post’s strange title.
|Default Lifestyle||SCIENCE Lifestyle|
|• Wake up with alarm clock, roll over, and immediately check phone.||• Wake up naturally as your sleep cycle ends.
• Proceed directly outside into the natural light.
• Direct your vision upwards and also try to get sunlight on your skin if possible.
|• Make coffee and a high-carb, high-sugar breakfast like toast, orange juice, waffles, flavored yogurt, etc.||• Go for a short walk (or even run) depending on your fitness level.
• Then return and have a light breakfast (coffee or tea, nuts, an omelet if you’re hungry)
|• Scroll some Facebook/Twitter on your phone and/or turn on the TV news to “stay informed”||• Grab your pen and a paper journal and write out your thoughts for the day: things you are grateful for, things you are excited about today, and a list of top priorities for the day.|
|• Get into your car and drive to work||• Walk or bike to the office, or settle into a dedicated space in your home to begin work.|
|• Endure the usual frenzy of firefighting, distractions and occasional entertainment as you try to get your job done.||• Turn off your phone and disable email for 1-3 hour periods when producing creative new stuff (make sure your colleagues know this is how you operate).
• Come out of this focus mode for batch email responses and any meetings, then return for a second session in the afternoon.
|• Drive through heavy suburban traffic to a restaurant for lunch, eat some processed foods and a soft drink and/or beer.||• Go for a walk at lunch, then eat a giant salad with optional added protein sources.|
|• Finish work and drive home, flip on the TV and Doordash something for dinner.||• Finish work and walk home.
• Stop by the gym (whether at a facility or at home) for a brief session of heavy weight training
• This could be as little as six sets of lifts with under two minutes of rest between the sets.
|• Have a beer or wine with dinner, which may turn into a second if it’s tasting good (or one of those 12+ ounce wine glasses).
Benders on Weekends!
|• Avoid casual alcohol consumption.
• If you do enjoy the drug, save it for true special occasions – a maximum of 2-3 drinks over the course of a week.
|• Head back to the couch to finish off the day with some favorite shows
• Or, relax with the phone or laptop to finish off the night with some Facebook, Tiktok, Instagram, Reddit, YouTube or whatever else strikes your fancy.
|• All devices are off after about 7:30pm except for things you plan purposefully (family movie, date night, etc).
• This will open up an incredible void which you’ll suddenly find yourself filling with catching up on personal development, taking care of the house, setting yourself up for tomorrow, reading, meditation listening to podcasts, and journaling.
• AND, you’ll get tired and fall asleep much easier, allowing you to begin the cycle anew tomorrow without the need for an alarm clock.
• Throughout your days, seek comfort and convenience.
• Keep your air conditioning set down at 72 in summer, your heat at 70 in winter, and avoid exposure to heat, cool, discomfort, hardship or exertion whenever possible.
• Focus on your limitations and the fact that the outside world is at fault for where you are in life.
• Find ways to seek voluntary hardship rather than avoiding it.
• Challenge your limits by walking in hot and cold weather, enduring a hot sauna, pools or lakes or streams of very cold water, and always identifying and stretching your limits in all dimensions.
• Focus on learning. Every “problem” in life is really just a sign that you have more to learn.
So What is This All About?
If you didn’t recognize the man in the picture above, these ideas have been meticulously stacked into my head by Dr. Andrew Huberman, the Stanford professor of Neurobiology and Ophthalmology who has now also risen to the top of the podcasting field.
The basic information is only partially new – Huberman covers almost every aspect of the brain and body, and the field of science has been working on some of this stuff for a long time. But the rate of progress is faster than ever, so he has become my trained guide to filter and pass on the most useful findings, in an accessible and engaging style. I find the episodes thorough, detailed, and relentlessly focused on actual science instead of just speculation.
The packaging is important to me too. I’ve been a health and fitness enthusiast since I was sixteen, but until now the field always had an uncomfortable split down the middle: there were the glossy and buff promoters – mostly salespeople for their own products with very little substance (and an inherent conflict of interest). And then there were the actual scientists, lacking in style and presentation skills and often sporting unenviable physical forms as well, making them less inspiring to follow even before the fact that they typically communicate mostly in the form of academic papers.
Huberman unites both personas into one – he’s a real scientist, but also a great presenter. And every time he shoots another two hour Laser Beam of Focus from his intensely intelligent eyes through the screen directly into yours, while gesturing precisely with that highly athletic form packed into a classy black dress shirt, it’s a lot easier to convince yourself that “Hey, this is probably pretty good advice if it will make me even a bit more like this guy*.”
The Molecule of More
It all started when a friend sent me a link to this episode on ADHD, knowing it’s something I am always trying to optimize my life around. It immediately revolutionized my understanding of how my own brain works, which led me to this episode on depression, and this one on Dopamine and its effect on our motivation and drive.
Everything started to fall into place as I learned about the role of brain chemicals in general, but specifically the effects of Dopamine and Adrenaline on my own life. As it turns out, the flow of these molecules dictate not only my classic ADHD symptoms of difficulty focusing and remembering where I put things, but also my ability to feel happy, feel like making plans, and feel like doing anything at all. Which helped me understand why days with strong “ADHD” symptoms can also feel like depression symptoms.
This led me to an entire side journey into Dopamine research, as I followed Huberman’s recommendation to read a book called The Molecule of More, which turned out to be a life-changing experience on its own. Not only does the book peel away some of the biggest mysteries of Human nature and leave you with a new level of understanding of why we feel and act the way we do, but it also has a compelling flow that’s much closer to a thriller novel than a science book.
I learned that while Dopamine is often labeled as the molecule of pleasure, this characterization is not quite accurate. In reality, it’s the molecule of motivation – the substance that causes us to be interested and take actions towards something that our mind expects to bring us pleasure (which in turn usually means food, mating or social benefits). But the actual attainment of that pleasure tends to temporarily quench our desire and decrease motivation.
Until our brain comes up with the next thing we don’t currently have, which triggers more dopamine, more motivation, and more seeking. Which can either lead to good things like healthy living and self-actualization, or addictions to drugs, success and status for its own sake, or the hedonic treadmill we talk about so much here in the personal finance world.
Applying this knowledge to my own life: ADHD is a condition which often comes with suppressed dopamine levels. When in this state, we sufferers…
Read More: Lessons From the Badass Muscular Neurobiologist