If you know a guy who is a really decent, nice guy, but is a real jerk when he's drunk... and you come across him at some annual party, and he's drunk, and being a jerk... then what do you think about him?
Do you think, "He's a really jerk"?
No, of course not.
You think, "Ah, it's just the liquor."
We all know that alcohol and intoxicants change your biochemistry, how you act, and your personality. And we cut people a bit of slack for acting differently than normal on those sorts of things.
So... if you're able to cut Bob some slack for being a mean drunk, how come you don't cut yourself some slack when your biochemistry is off?
I woke in an absolute fog today, and had almost no willpower and was generally feeling a hazy fog. I was wondering what was wrong with me... until I realized I hadn't had caffeine. I took caffeine, and half an hour later I'm good.
This is obvious in the case of someone who has a mild addiction with withdrawal effects (caffeine, nicotine), but it's also true with diet, sleep patterns, and exercise.
If you're feeling low energy and run down, do you beat yourself up over it? Do you wonder why you're not doing more?
Or do you think, "Well, how's my biochemistry? How are the foods I'm eating, how's my movement and exercise, how's my sleep quality?"
For whatever reason, it's tempting to self-judge instead of analyze when we feel low and run down, and to extrapolate about our personality and work ethic and character. Biut to some extent that's nonsense -- you don't get mad a car for running without gasoline, you don't get mad at a lamp for not giving you light if it's not plugged into a power outlet, and you shouldn't get mad at yourself for feeling run down if you're not taking care of your biochemistry.
Next time you're low, take a quick scan through your mix of movement/exercise, eating, sleep quality, and other biochemistry. It's probably a tremendous part of why you're feeling the way you are.
It's hard to draw a clear line between biochemistry (in the sense you are using it - short term changes in your brain's chemical make up) and your brain's long term state based on genetics. I always strongly disagreed with this position until I read this piece by David Eagleman.
He talks about how Charles Whitman (who went on a shooting rampage at the University of Texas) was a completely normal, straight A student until months before the incident. He wrote in his diary about a weird sensation coming over him: an insurmountable urge to kill. He asked to donate his body to science to examine his brain to see if anything had changed. Sure enough, after killing 13 people and himself, scientists found an enormous tumor pressing on his amygdala.
It's easy to have some forgiveness for Whitman, as we can somewhat sympathize with his situation. If it could happen to him, maybe it could happen to us. That's one end of the spectrum. But Eagleman raises another point - what's the difference between a tumor changing his brain and someone else whose brain is naturally predisposed to bad behaviour. I like to believe in free will, but the evidence of the correlation between brain chemistry and behaviour is pretty strong. I'm struggling a bit with where I'm comfortable drawing the line.
I'm struggling to figure this issue out myself. One of the major themes of the 'War in Heaven' is the war of the physical self and the abstract self (soul). Which one is king? How much does one affect the other? Up to now I thought it a 51/49 split between soul and body but after reading this and thinking about it more I'm thinking it may be a dynamic sliding scale depending on situation. If you take a sleeping pill/drugs then the balance becomes 0 soul/100 body as no amount of willpower I've seen yet can negate the effects of drugs thru will alone (if you can negate pharmaceuticals thru willpower alone you're an exception :D ). Yet in another situation if anxiety wells up before something stressful it may be 51 soul/49 body starting out but as you remove limiting beliefs and re-frame perceptions in your brain the anxiety starts fading and it may become 90 soul/10 body.
We are strange creatures indeed. Maybe the solution is to find peace in the fact that despite we have consciousness and will all of it can be taken away at any moment thru the adjustment of body parts and chemicals?
I try to tell myself this but I always end up beating myself up for not being able to keep pushing anyways. I look around me and everyone's sleep-deprived. They still push on, though.
It's not a healthy way of thinking about it, but I can't help it.
I am doing P90X, I am on the last month. It has been hard, but yesterday I felt extremely off and tired. I missed the workout and now my 6 day a week schedule is off. I know exactly how this feels because tracking makes you accountable. I never thought about it in terms of biochemistry, but some days its just too easy to beat yourself up and then turn it into a spiral downwards. This is a useful hack.
With broccoli, I like to stir fry a whole big lot at a time. Maybe when you're chatting/watching tv with your s.o. or doing other low maintenance work? Then later in the week I just need to pull it out, heat it up and eat. Not perfect, but the only way I can get my broccoli fix. I do juicing once in a while, but juiced broccoli is yuck. I do like juiced leafies though (spinach, kale, etc).
I have a file that I look at when I'm feeling useless in some way or another. It has some quotes that I think are likely to motivate helpful thought, a quick checklist of coffee/vitamins/food/water, some ideas for things to do, and a couple personal prompts.
Lots of things change our biochemistry. Air, water, smoke, coffee, prescription drugs, etc. But, the remarkable thing is that our biochemistry also changes in response to our envioronment including sounds and music, cramped versus open spaces, lightness and darkness. This time of year people in countries in the Northern Hemisphere suffer from seasonal affect disorder -- because their mood (e.g., caused by biochemistry) changes in response to the reduced hours of light during the day and increased inclimate weather. Understanding all of that and adopting a holistic view of your body and controlling it is the challenge.
You are completely right, however. Movement, exercise, quality sleep, and eating healthy foods are all ways to control your biochemistry in a positive way and maintain an upbeat and positive mood. In addition, meditation, prayer, yoga and other introspective practices also provide greater/deeper insights -- perhaps even insights into the soul and Nirvana.
Just got an email from a reader who is having a hard time getting a job in his industry in his home country, dislikes some things about his culture, and it's leading to him feeling like he's in a bit of a rut. Here's my reply -
I see 2-3 basic themes here.
1. Job market
2. Home country or not
3. General feelings about yourself
Our "mission for this week: be mindful of your ideals, of your desire to control life, of how uncontrollable life actually is. And journal about it, and how it relates to your fears, procrastination & problems"
How does this relate to my paper pile? Why do I hate to file? Because I want the "perfect" system, done right the first time? I know that once I let myself use post its as file labels it didn't seem so bad. I could always change it. It's temporary and temporary things don't need to be perfect.
How does it relate to weight loss? I want to be at my "ideal" weight. Really! But I have health challenges that prevent me from doing more than I am currently doing with exercise. As I've shared in previous posts, my diet's great. The health challenges are my biggest source of stress. Other than that, my life is fantastic. But I do feel bad about myself when I think about my current weight, even though I'm doing the best I can.
If I had a friend with my health problems and who exercised daily and ate well like I do I'd tell her how proud I was of her perseverance sticking with healthy habits and I'd encourage her to celebrate the health that she does enjoy. Keep at those healthy behaviors. Add exercise intensity and duration as health allows. Cut yourself slack when it doesn't. You're doing the best you possibly can! Be kind to yourself. You deserve it. And I'd give her a big hug and offer to pray with her.