It would be pretty awesome if we all had plenty of mental energy to stay motivated and disciplined all day long, to be highly productive and highly creative whenever we needed, and to always feel vibrant and optimistic about the future.
However, the more you try to control elements of your life – whether it is to improve your health, wealth, social life or whatever – the more apparent it is how finite and scarce this “mental energy” can be.
In particular, it seems that whenever we use willpower – in any form and for any reason – we are using up resources from this pool of mental energy, much faster than the pool is replenished.
Psychologists have carried out plenty of experiments that strongly appear to confirm this model of willpower – Jason Shen and Sebastian recently put together a great post about it here: http://sebastianmarshall.com/developing-willpower-by-jason-shen which is very much worth reading if you haven't already!
Psychologists have also shown that decisions on matters that affect us can deplete the same mental resource as willpower. In some sense, these decisions and willpower are the same:
Below are some of my concrete suggestions for keeping one’s mental energy high, and I’m interested to hear more ideas from other readers – so please tell us: what tricks do you know for maximising your mental energy?
So how about you? Suggestions about meditation or sport or travelling would be particularly useful, as I haven’t covered them much here!
Very helpful! As someone whose mind has been very stressed out lately this will truly take some pressure off.
sir you will find it a coincidence
All the things or activities mentioned above are already practised by me ...and the thing is that i read it nowhere but invented it myself !!!
And i am sad that still there is a lot to improve :(
As you may have discovered after writing this post, our brain doesn't run only on glucose. It can run on ketone bodies, and some say it actually prefers them. Other cells in our bodies can use ketones or fatty acids, in addition to glucose.
Coconut oil is good for providing ketones, and it's said to make transitioning to burning fat as primary fuel easier because medium-chain triglycerides in which coconut oil is very rich are easy to burn.
Ugh, i need to do work on this. I've been setting goals and meeting a lot of them this week. I've been more disciplined then I have in awhile, but it was exhausting keeping myself away from my old automatic and unproductive habits. i was productive today so I know I am slowly developing good habits, but I also caved in the evening and zoned out to a magazine, 15 minutes of a movie, and a bit (but way less then usual) of surfing the net. I don't know, a part of me thinks I needed it. Pushing myself mentally really does feel like a physical thing....and I am slowly building muscle.
We do really have to enhance our mental energy but sometimes it doesn't work in some manners.Did you know that the joblessness rate increased a point despite more jobs being produced than economists predicted. Resource for this article:Financial Advice
Personally I have tried loads of "diets" and have lost 4.5 st on no carb. I put the weight back on as many people I know did. I also lost a lot of lean muscle which really affects my metabolism now and muscle endurance.
I am slowly rebuilding my body, losing weight and increasing muscle mass. My approach is to eliminate sugars and fast release carbs but retain good slow release ones.
Carbohydrates are also necessary for seretonin production so can affect the moods of those who may have problems with this.
I wouldn't recommend based on my experience.
Great list. I try to do most of these things, except for blood sugar. I've never really thought about that before. Something I'll start paying attention to.
Interesting - do you have any experience with this? I've read a little about it since you posted and it seems to be essentially a treatment for epilepsy that has many unfavourable side-effects. Being an extreme low-carb diet I'm sure it could also be used for weight loss if managed correctly, but I've found nothing advocating it for the rest of the population.
I have been on an extreme low carb diet for about 2 months now. I've never used ketostix or any of that so I don't know if I'm in ketogenesis but I've modelled my diet after Dr. Rosedale's diet and the bulletproof diet kinda amalgamated into one + convenience with my own special touches.
A month+ into it when I started exercising again I felt like I was 'regenerating' much faster than I ever did on sugar and my energy is more sustained. Sure I hit fatigue with doing exercises but I find after resting for 10 seconds I can do another smaller set (whereas before under sugar it'd be 30 secs --> minute --> and hell sometimes never regenerating again for a few hours).
People have told me I lost slimmer but that may be water weight and I'm not into vanity more how great it makes me feel. They all say the mind runs solely on glucose but I don't think this is true. My mind feels sharp and alert much more than usual on practically no carb. Going low carb won't turn you into a total god but it optimizes so much of your bodily processes that it is hard to believe at times. When I switch to a sugar meal if it's enough of a glycemic load I get very nauseous afterwards. Thus I've broken my addiction to french fries and huge carb treats as I now have a negative correlative feeling to go with them.
I really think no carb is the way to go if you have metabolic issues like me (I've suspected I've been becoming pre-diabetic and had metabolic syndrome for 9 years now lol). Don't end the induction phase as carbs are in everything these days - it is hard to avoid carbs anywhere. If you eat out it'll be in your soups/gravies/served as sides etc... It's in condiments like ketchup in massive amounts. I dope carb if I feel like I'm going low sugar but maybe 1-3g at most (a small bite of bread or a nibble of a cookie etc). If you can upkeep this discipline for about a month your body fully adjusts into a sort of cool 'running on empty' mode where you're having no carbs but yet your energy levels are good. Dr. Rosedale likens this to training the metabolism to use the bodies preferred fuel - fat/ketones/glucose broken from fat whatever it is.
random unrelated stuff about low carb below:
For meals I'll have a microwaved sausage and 4 overeasy eggs (love the yolks), or order a carne asada quesadilla with tons of cheese and not eat the shell as much as possible. Burgers without buns the whole cliche deal. When I'm trying to optimize to the proper fat ratio I'll pour Trader Joe's hollendaise sauce, Kerrygold grass fed butter, or raw butter on whatever I'm eating. I also have a lot of Walnuts - totally not fat-o-phobic (though you need to release your belief in the diet-heart hypothesis to reach this level of 'no fear of fat')
I have cheat days since it's too oddly antisocial to not eat whatever everyone else is eating if eating out but otherwise I've noticed a huge difference with how I feel. I started this diet because metabolic syndrome/chronic fatigue were creeping up on me - I felt tired ALL the time - a kind of 'don't feel like doing anything passionless' tired at best and a 'sleepy' tired at worst. It took about a week for me to adjust but suddenly all that brain fogginess disappeared. I played at a Magic the Gathering prerelease for fun about 2 weeks after converting cold turkey and I felt my mind just running so much faster - the feeling you get after intense exercise of mind clarity and feel-goodness. I lost games as usual but I felt so much more on the ball than last time I tried.
I found this reply so relatable. Made me feel like reading the whole thing. I usually go ADD on long replies, so that's great.
I empathise very much with much of what you say there! I used to subsist on a rather unhealthy carb-heavy diet, eating my third bowl of sugary cereal at 1am, that kind of thing. It took me a while to realise that this was the major cause of sometimes feeling totally without energy; I was spending lots of my time in sugar crashes! I used to take naps while doing (academic) work, thinking that it simply improved my concentration, but it was simply recovering from a drop in sugar. I remember exercising with a friend at university, and remarked that I could genuinely have just gone to sleep in the middle of the field right after running a mile.
Now, I've tried having varying levels of carbs in what I eat, and found out several things:
I might try experimenting again with loweing carbs, certainly at "unnecessary" times, as I've been lax about it lately...
Also after Random's comment I looked again at the definition of "ketogenic diet" and it's less extreme than I had first understood - it seems that "ketogenis" is essentially "being able to burn fat properly", which is something I can certainly get behind!
I noticed you wrote that consuming too little carbs makes you run out of energy, and this made me think of "The Perfect Health Diet" (perfecthealthdiet.com). Its author, Paul Jaminet, insists on consuming about 20 - 30% of daily calories as carbs (glucose, specifically). His argument is that glucose is used by our bodies for structural purposes, not just for fuel. So, he suggests consuming enough glucose for building our molecules and staying in the fat burning mode.
Yeah it's a trip - forgot to mention some things I've observed:
On exercise - With a low carb diet you regenerate faster as I mentioned but you have less distance and less burst compared to a working glycotic person. If you are into competitive sports or anything it may be advantageous to have carbs as they seem harmless if you can burn them in totality. For someone like me though who just sits at a desk for work then goes home and sits at another desk to play computer games carbs just don't fit as I won't burn them. In my opinion the loss of distance/burst with low carb exercise is worth it as in most cases people who have metabolism problems to start with are not utilizing carbs correctly (as Dr. Rosedale describes they are rocket fuel - short intense burst only.). I find the distance/burst slowly is getting better over time while maintaining the low carb diet so I'm sticking to it. If I'm feeling a bit non-energetic due to not having enough fat earlier in the day I will dope a little carb like 5-10g or so before going to work out just so that I can actually exercise with sufficient intensity.
On ketosis - Ketosis is a concern if you are full blown diabetic with insulin release/response issues as from what I've read insulin also regulates the rate of ketosis. If someone's insulin is not working right the rate of ketosis will spiral out of control leading to ketoacidosis - I think the overproduction of acid due to performing ketosis too rapidly. So it seems that instant weight loss with ketosis is indeed a myth because your body will still regulate how much fat you can burn over time. If insulin is working properly your body will dip into ketosis without carbs but not to the point in which it will endanger you. This is all what I've read anyway and is not official medical advice - just experiential. This is my 2 and a half't month since quitting carbs cold turkey and at around an estimate intake of 20g of carbs per day from doping (skimming burger buns with meat drippings on em, inescapable carbs from some foods/soups, 4 or 5 dark chocolate baking chips for dessert etc...) with exercise 1 hour twice a week I feel good.
Beware rabbit starvation - Around 30 days after starting my no carb regiment I suddenly hit a wall. I felt tired all the time and weak and dizzy. I thought this was due to no electrolytes so I started carrying electrolyte solutions and pink salt with me whenever I went and increased my fluid intake while taking electrolytes. Helped a little but not much. I researched more of this 'hitting the wall' and I found out I was NOT getting enough fat in my diet!
When you go no carb you just can't go 80% protein and 20% fat like is present in most dishes served in the US due to fatophobia. The ratio needs to be around the bulletproof suggested ratios of 60% fat 20% protein 20% carb. Without the presence of carbs the body goes into ketosis. Without the presence of fat in the diet either though ketosis may not be enough so your body will start breaking down protein into glucose in a process called gluconeogenesis I think (glucose new creation).
Gluconeogenesis is very stressful on the body I read. Your breath will become really stinky as your body exerts itself to create energy out of protein which is unnatural for it. Someone linked an article to rabbit starvation and this is exactly what I was feeling. When you get more fat in your diet all those symptoms I described earlier went away and my breath became bearable again. On real fat burning ketosis your breath shouldn't smell like an oil refinery. It will take on a more neutral smell and from what I read on forums a 'sweet' smell on heavy ketosis.
Don't confuse ketosis with ketoacidosis.
Didn't mean to mix up those two hopefully it wasn't written that way. I am aware that those 2 are separate conditions but I do believe trying low carb in someone with severe insulin control issues (diabetics namely) may make them ketoacidic. This article goes more into this:
According to their view ketosis IS dangerous in someone with no insulin because the feedback loop that regulates the production of ketones in regular ketosis goes unchecked. With that they claim with even small amounts of insulin there would be enough of a feedback loop to stop regular ketosis from becoming ketoacidosis.
It's important to distinguish type 1 diabetes from type 2 diabetes. All of the material (including pieces about clinical experiments) about ketogenic diets I've come across were about people who had insulin (with type 2 diabetes or less sick). People with type 2 diabetes have too much insulin.
Cool, this is all very interesting, and I think the key basic points that are relevant to most people are:
...and then of course other considerations for people who are diabetic / building muscle / obese / etc.
I've noticed that my cognitive energy is higher and I can work longer on cognitive tasks like programming when I am in ketosis. I also notice I get a day of brain fog when transitioning from non-ketosis to ketosis.
I don't think is controversial - aren't there many anecdotal reports of this? Probably even studies. I would look at pubmed and r/keto for validation.
Jason Shen has achieved tremendous success in athletics, technology entrepreneurship, writing, and living an outstanding life. To promote his recent GiveGetWin deal on The Science of Willpower, he sat down to tell us how he started learning about willpower, the state of what's known scientifically about how willpower and the brain work, and how you can start improving your life right away by implementing a tiny habit, thinking and systems, and using some powerful thinking tools. Enjoy:
Developing Willpower by Jason Shen, as told to Sebastian Marshall
Willpower has been an undercurrent in my entire life. In gymnastics, you have to use your willpower to overcome your fear of an activity and go for the skill you want, to get over the fear, to push yourself to finish your conditioning and strength training a part of you doesn't want to…
It didn't come automatically to me. When I was a student, I wasn't automatically self-disciplined. There were actions I knew were useful, like doing my homework in one session without getting distracted, or not throwing clothing on my apartment floor. But I wouldn't always do them, and I didn't know why.
I started to learn those answers during a student initiative course at Stanford called The Psychology of Personal Change. That's when I first started reading academic papers on the topic. In academia, willpower and self-discipline is often called "self-regulation," and in 2009 I started to get really serious about it from an academic perspective -- and saw gains from it in my personal life.
This site is about finding ways to improve your ability to improve yourself. Integral to this is utilising meta-habits; habits that enhance your ability to adopt other habits.
To get started, here are five meta-habits that can serve as a foundation for continuous growth.