I have been thinking about “mental metabolism”.
We read, hear, listen, think. We eat, we drink, we move.
We consume too much, digest too little, and need to exercise more.
What is true about feeding your body is almost directly applicable to the idea of feeding your mind.
The process of building a healthy body == the process of learning and developing healthy thinking.
There is only so much we can shove down our throats in one seating without feeling bloated.
It doesn’t feel good to overeat.
You’ll feel drained and perhaps dumber after an intense session of thinking or studying.
You are what you eat. Eat junk, you’ll feel like shit and you’ll have shitty physical health in the long run.
Read and listen to junk, news, hoaxes, gossips, expose yourself to negativity, you’ll get anxious, angry, worried, paranoid, agitated.
We need to give time for our body to digest, process, absorb the nutrients. The same way we can’t cram all info into our heads and hope it sticks / gets absorbed.
It’s good to fast every once in a while. What happens when we fast is bodies get to spend energy from digesting all the time to repairing the cells. Your mind gets clearer and you feel lighter.
Rest is important for growth. You can’t grow without resting. Sleeping helps retention. Sleeping, taking your mind off something specific, letting your mind wander is when your mind enter the diffused mode.
You let the thoughts bounce off each other. You get insights, ideas, and breakthrough. There are only so much you can do in focused mode.
You won’t always solve something faster by thinking harder and longer.
What is this diffused vs focused mode? Metalearners got a good article about it here.
The more muscles you have, the higher your metabolism is. The more you know, the faster you can learn new things.
Believe it or not, your body burns more calories if you were asleep all day compared to 3 hours on treadmill. Keeping you alive, keeping all the organs working takes a lot of energy.
To be able to eat more without getting fat, build more muscles. To build more muscles, eat more. To be able to learn faster, practice, and understand more.
Use it or lose it.
I believe you’ve seen some meme of two pics: “6 months of hard work vs 2 weeks of fuck it”.
It does feel like that a lot of the time. You would finally get jacked after months religiously at the gym, eating right, dieting… And the minute you take a break, all the fat comes back and all muscles gone.
Your body is very efficient. It will conserve energy whenever it can. You’ll lose the muscles after 1 month of not using it to its capacity.
The longer it takes to build, the harder it will fade away. Be patient. It takes time. Easy come easy go.
You’ll forget things you haven’t used, practiced, understood, or internalised. It’s more difficult to forget things you discovered on your own compared to what is given to you to “remember”, like in school days.
The more “muscles” you have, the stronger you are, physically and mentally. Different ways we can do physical exercises, the same we can do mentally. Compound movements, isolated, functional, body weight, resistance training, endurance training. Any idea what could be a good parallel mentally?
Mind body connection
Not woo-woo I promise.
Human is a complex system. It takes input and produces output. It runs on almost the same principles on the physical and mental realms.
Our mental and physical components are deeply connected as well. We cannot look at it accurately without holistic approach. Body builders and gym rats swear by making “mind-body connection” when lifting.
And… zooming out, we are all connected and affecting each other in a way that is incomprehensible. But let’s save this complexity theory yarn ball for some other time.
First layer meta
I started thinking about these parallels after reading this post which I came across while researching Graham Wallas’ The Art of Thought.
How did I even come across that book?
On the 21st, I was threading a bunch of my older tweets about “problems”. Where only then that I (so late-ly) realised this is one area I am interested in. Connecting the dots backward.
Then I started going through my Evernote clips looking for more material related to “problem solving”. Revisited a bunch of stuff I didn’t remember I have even read and clipped before.
One of them is this Quora answer from Kent Beck. That answer mentioned the book Sources of Power which sounds interesting. So I kept hopping down the rabbit hole.
Over the next two days I was digging into Gary Klein’s work. I read The Power of Intuition, and started reading Seeing What Others Don’t on the 24th (currently procrastinating on Sources of Power, hehe).
One of the early chapters of Seeing What Others Don’t mentioned Wallas’ book “Art of Thought” and referred to him as the founder of London School of Economics. I would not usually follow this extra level of researching depth when reading, but because I have somewhat crossed path with LSE and the book title sounded interesting, I started googling.
I then landed on brainpicking.org, and went deeper down the rabbit hole, where I eventually landed on that Lewis Caroll post.
I started entertaining that idea of parallels more seriously.
Then on the 27th, just by chance I came across this tweet on someone’s Twitter feed (not someone I follow, was just wandering off into people’s profiles).
First gather, then distill / refine. This pattern applies to many things.— Curl Of Gradient (@CurlOfGradient) May 25, 2019
And then later that day James Clear RT-ed the first part of the Twitter thread.
Bulking & cutting = reading & writing.— James Clear (@JamesClear) May 27, 2019
Reading is like eating information (bulking). Writing about the ideas you just learned is like trimming away the excess (cutting).
The more you read and rewrite, the more information dense your thoughts become (i.e. more muscle). https://t.co/h9zKb4TmSr
I just find it funny and interesting that this idea seem to “caught on” when brewing at the back of my mind around the same time, following an objectively random path. It’s as if everyone is thinking about the same thing but coming into it independently.
Memetic virus? Collective mind? Law of Attraction? Nah…
Filtering / confirmation bias? Yes.
These tweets and topic stood out from the thousands of information I was exposed to and I noticed them them because the seed is already there.
Btw on the 28th I came across this tweet (when I was wandering into people’s profile again, then scrolling down George’s feed).
Note to self:— George Mack (@george__mack) May 21, 2019
The modern mind is like the modern diet:
1.Too much consumption
2. Not enough digestion
3. Even less exercise
We're sat on the mental sofa pouring junk into our cognition until we're too bloated to move anywhere.
Second layer meta
If you’re wondering how I was able to backtrack all of these, it’s because for the past 2.5 years I have been documenting almost all of my conscious thoughts in a journal on a daily basis.
Everything I was reading, doing, planning, feeling, insights.
It has really boosted my self awareness and defragmented my mental space.
It is hands down the best decision and habit I’ve made and developed.