Conscious Decisions for Unconscious Improvement

So much of the quality of our lives is directly tied to our general physical well-being: sleep, nutrition, exercise, mental & emotional health, etc. For the most part, though, these things affect us subconsciously. You don’t eat healthy and get a good 8-hour nights sleep and decide the next day, “Hey, I ate and slept right, so I’m going to feel good today.” No, you feel good due to a complex relationship of all of the factors and processes occurring in your external and internal environment, and the better you handle those factors, the better you feel. We all know this.

When I feel great, when my mind is sharp and I’m physically healthy, I become my most productive, creative, intelligent self. But there’s no way to just consciously decide that today I want to be that “beastmode” self. It doesn’t work like that.

The conscious decision making comes far before that. It’s important to really think through the decisions that can ultimately lead to that uplifted state of mind and health. The most obvious factors are diet and exercise. Everyone talks a lot about diet and exercise. There’s tons of info out there, and I’m not really here to tell you what to eat (you probably already know what’s healthy and what’s not). I think we all know that nutrition is incredibly important; the food and water that enters your body is literally the catalyst of every vital process that takes place and allows you to survive. You’re tired? Have headaches? Indigestion? Arthritis? Whatever it is, I think the very first solution to look to is diet and exercise. (To be clear: I’m absolutely in favor of and amazed by modern medicine, but I think we lack focus on preventive factors).

But we dont think and talk enough about the other factors: sleep, mental health, stress, sunshine, air quality, emotional well-being, etc. These are things that very directly and dramatically, albeit subconsciously, affect your quality of life.

You probably spend about a third of your life sleeping.

How much have you read about nutrition? Thought about your diet? Gone to the gym? Do you ever read/talk/think about how to sleep better? Do you put a serious emphasis on getting the proper amount of sleep every single night? (I prefer 8 hours, but it varies person to person).

It takes some very conscious decision making to learn about, prioritize, and maintain these facets of our lives that are easy to ignore. The (subconscious) benefits are somewhat removed from the conscious decision making process that creates them, making it difficult to see tangible results, and therefore more challenging to stay motivated. Once you recognize that disconnect, and understand how important it is to diligently work on these aspects of your life, with time you might very significantly improve the quality of your everyday life.

Some things to think about (other than diet and exercise):

    • Stretch thoroughly: Every single day. I’m including this as outside the realm of exercise because I think its benefits exist on their own plane.
    • Meditate: This is something I’m working on and am challenged by. Try one minute a day? I think 20 minutes a day is probably more effective, but start small.
    • Exercise your brain: read books, listen to audio, write in a journal. Whatever you like to do, but every single day make your brain do something that it didn’t do yesterday.
    • Change your routine: Doing things differently keeps my brain sharper and more creative. Listening to music I never listen to (I like classical for this), taking a different route to work, going for a different walk, etc.
    • Get a little bit of sunshine: Every single day, preferably in the morning. The sun will wake you up and make you feel like a living creature on planet earth. (Weather permitting, of course, but
    • Improve your air quality: Take notice of your breathing, sinuses, and throat. Can you improve any of the places you spend a lot of time, especially where you sleep? You can’t clear the smog from the streets, but you can get an air filter or a (de)humidifier in your bedroom to improve a good portion of your breathing.
    • Sleep properly and enough: Really take notice of how you feel every morning. Maybe even write a sleep journal and write how you feel in the morning and throughout the day. Get an eye mask and earplugs. Stop hitting snooze. Experiment. But most importantly, get the amount of sleep that makes you feel good.
    • Minimize: For me, implementing a somewhat minimalist philosophy towards my every day life (belongings, e-mails, clothes, activities, processes, etc.)  has really helped me clear mental bandwidth to focus on things that are more important (like all the things I’ve mentioned above!!)
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[Photos are from Joshua Tree, California]

 

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