Posts

Improved Sleep

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Reducing exposure to daytime distractors helps me sleep better. In my last posting, I mentioned this result in passing, and was curious to see if it held up. Yes, this preliminary result has for-sure held up. Moderating the amount of daytime information streaming into my   attentional holes   has most assuredly supported getting restful sleep. As we age, sleep tends to deteriorate.  I scarcely remember  not  sleeping through the night when I was in my 20s. It was pretty much a foregone conclusion that I’d place my head on the pillow, and wake up 8-hours or so later feeling entirely rested and ready to go. Unfortunately, this deep and restful sleep became progressively scarcer as I got into my 40s and 50s. Not every night involved staring vacantly at the ceiling at 2:30am, though far too many did. And when I would sleep through the night, it wasn’t a foregone conclusion that I’d feel rested. Some days yes… some days, not so much.   Sleep is very important throughout the lifespan. As I m

Attentional Holes, Part II

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  In an earlier blog posting, I compared mental training to physical training. With the latter, increased physical capacity comes from the strategic application of training load and recovery. Without recovery, even the most tactically applied training load will generate only incremental gains in physical capacity. With the mind, on the other hand, most of us keep a steady stream of stimulus flowing in through the attentional holes (eyes, ears, nose and mouth). Down time is no longer a recovery of any sort, as most people trade one stimulus for another. For example, after a studying or work session, do you unwind by watching a YouTube video or stalking online shopping deals? If you said yes, you’re most likely in the majority – lots of mental stimulus, with little (if any) recovery.   The popular attentional scholar, Cal Newport, coined the term Solitude Deprivation. In his recent book, Digital Minimalism, Newport defined Solitude Deprivation as  a state in which you spend close to zer

Neti Neti (eBike), part I

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As a 20-something, I eagerly consumed all things Yoga. At that time, my tastes were distinctly biased toward   Modern Postural Yoga , though I did have a budding interest in yoga philosophy. In my nascent studies of Yoga philosophy, one the first practices I learned was that of Neti Neti, or   not this, not that . In   not this, not that   contemplation, practitioners realize their essence, or Atman, by exploring everything that it is not; I am not my role in this life, nor my possessions, nor even my body. I am not this, not that. While I am not my possessions, I have come to view riding an eBike as a practice of Neti Neti. Last Summer a friend lent me his Trek eBike while he rehabbed from surgery. At first I was pretty lukewarm about the offer, and I had a lot of good reasons why I didn’t need that eBike in my quiver. The Trek Super Commuter didn’t fit me very well, I already had a bike that I liked a lot, and besides, eBikes were for old people. Sadly, the latter judgment figured pr

Attentional Holes

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In my last blog posting, I compared mental training to physical training, and suggested that mental recovery is an essential part of optimizing mental function. A good many of us are cognizant that excessive time with Instagram, Twitter or Facebook is probably not a practice of mental-hygiene, and instead, we may choose to spend downtime relaxing with a good book or an episode of a favorite show on Netflix. In moderation I think the latter options are preferable, though I’m of the mind that far too many of us have far too little boredom in our lives. Most of us are constantly sticking something into the attentional holes , filling our waking hours with stuff that has only incremental value, and significant opportunity-cost. (Thanks to Cal Newport for questioning the over-appreciation of incremental value and the concept of Digital Minimalism.) The human head has a number of holes in it – nostrils, mouth, eyes and ears. The vast majority of us keep one or more of these attentional hole

Activity and Recovery - Mental Training

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Training the mind doesn’t seem all that different than training the body. The same principles largely apply, though it’s interesting to see how differently we tend to approach working with our minds than we approach training our bodies. For whatever reason, many people hope for optimal mental function by stuffing ever more information in, without considering time for recovery and integration.   Let’s say you were interested in running a fairly long distance – perhaps an event that would take about 2-hours or so. Not the longest running event ever, but definitely not something that could be pulled off simply by mind-over-mattering and gutting through. Preparing for this event would take some training, ideally training that mixed activity with recovery. In training the body, activity balanced by recovery is key to increasing capacity.   For example, this morning I did my first longish run of the season. The past few months I’ve mainly been working out on the rowing machine, and I’m pleas

Protein - Too Much is Too Much

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I intentionally restrict the quantity of protein that I eat. Yes, you read that correctly – I am not a believer in high protein consumption. When people ask about my vegan diet, almost inevitably they’ll ask  where do you get your protein?  When I reply that I’m not really too concerned about beefing (sorry – bad reference) up my protein consumption, I get some pretty incredulous looks! Here's a food I most assuredly do not need. No doubt, protein is an essential nutrient that helps build tissues. I love to run and be physically active, so I’m interested in consuming enough quality protein. That being said, the scientific evidence consistently suggests that the average person should consume 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body mass. I weigh 83 kilograms, which translates into needing 66 grams of protein per day. Most food contains protein (yes, even many vegetables contain a surprising quantity of protein.) When I periodically track my food consumption, I inevitably find that

A Neuroscientist, Athletic Trainer and Physician Walk into a BAR

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  A neuroscientist, athletic trainer and physician walk into a bar… Walking into a bar  matches better with an old-school joke, doesn’t it? I started a recent post with  walking into a room , which is about as interesting an opening line as many of our COVID-era days, isn’t it? Anyway, bar, room or what have you – my dissertation path took an interesting turn last week. At the outset, the plan was that each committee member – the neuroscientist, athletic trainer and physician – would give me a reading list of the materials I’d need to know for my preliminary exam. (if you didn’t read an earlier blog posting – the preliminary exam is the gatekeeper for continued progress toward a Ph.D.) Of the three committee members, one committed to getting me his reading list by the end of the week. I’ll be meeting with another committee member next week to review his reading list. And last week I met with the third committee member, which didn’t quite go as-planned. Not in a bad way. In fact, probab