The quality of your mind determines the quality of your life. If your thinking is foggy, unfocused, circular, or random, your results will reflect that. If your mind is sharp, focused, and clear, your results will reflect that too.
If you care about having a good life, then care about cultivating a strong mind since a strong mind will provide you with a good life.
If you’ve been weakening your mind in some obvious ways, know that caring for your mind requires addressing these weaknesses.
If you consume alcohol, scale it back or drop it from your life. Alcohol is a neurotoxin known to damage the brain in various ways. It has a particularly damaging effect on memory. It’s difficult to cultivate a strong mind if you regularly poison it. The same goes for other toxins that negatively affect the brain.
Avoid eating fish since fish is among the most toxic and neurologically damaging “foods” you could possibly consume today. Due to the pollution of nearly all the world’s waterways, the fish consumed today are nothing like the fish consumed hundreds of years ago. Fish absorb toxins easily, especially heavy metals, and these toxins get concentrated in their tissues, so you get a hefty dose of neurotoxins like lead, mercury, and arsenic with every bite. Eating a fish today is like taking a sponge, dipping it into a vat of toxic chemicals, and then eating the sponge. The negative effects are cumulative as these toxins build up in your tissues (including your brain) and degrade your functioning. If you’ve been consuming fish, I highly recommend that you consider doing a heavy metal detox, and most definitely drop the fish from your diet unless you’re trying to poison your brain. You have absolutely no dietary need for fish or fish oil supplements. These items are simply way too toxic to be healthfully consumed.
If you fail to exercise regularly, realize that not exercising is at least as health damaging as smoking regularly. Exercise has such a wide variety of physical benefits, including significant neurological benefits. Cardio exercise in particular has been studied the most and has a large amount of positive research touting its benefits, including rebalancing hormones and neurotransmitters, improving mood, making sleep more efficient, increasing focus and concentration, enhancing memory, and more. If you want an immersive tour of the mental benefits of exercise, read the book Spark.
Generally speaking, pay attention to what degrades your mental performance, and make an effort to drop those bad habits from your life. Cutting the bad habits is often much more important than adding good habits. What difference will it make to add some good habits if you’re re-poisoning your brain with a fresh supply of toxins every month?
Consume Quality Input
Your mind is trained by sensory input. If you give your mind low-quality input, such as a high volume of television, web surfing, or social media, your mind will suffer for it. Heavy users of social networking sites, for instance, have been found to have lower attention spans and impaired academic performance (source, another source). That isn’t necessary causal though. It may be that such services attract more users with lower attention spans and worse academic records. Regardless of the causal relationship, this doesn’t bode well for people who are active on such services.
Instead of random and chaotic input, feed your mind focused, high quality input. Read several highly rated books on a subject that interests you. Take notes on what you read, and seek to apply what you learn, so you can test the ideas for yourself. Get book recommendations from the smartest people you know.
If you’re taking in a lot of input but the input isn’t helping you grow and improve, then change the input that you expose yourself to. This is a key difference between people who practice conscious mental management and those who don’t. The mental drifters accept whatever input flows their way. The mental managers pause to consciously choose input sources that will provide their minds with quality mental fuel.
Do Deep Dives
The Internet can provide us with a high volume of shallow learning experiences. It’s easy to bounce around from one topic to another and feel you’ve learned some worthwhile ideas. But if your exposure is shallow, random, or irrelevant, your mind can’t intelligently digest the info and apply it to your life.
Our brains aren’t well suited to random direction changes day after day. We’re better off doing deep, immersive dives into focused subjects. This can produce strong transformational effects that benefit us.
In 12+ years of blogging, I’ve seen the greatest transformations among readers who digest my work in a deep dive fashion. Instead of just reading new articles as they come out, they use my website in a more focused and deliberate way. For example, they’ll visit the Archives page and spend several hours reading every article on a topic that interests them. They create the experience of reading a book compiled from the collection of more than 1000 articles. Some people have made a habit of reading a few articles per day until they’ve read every single one, usually going in order from oldest to newest. That’s equivalent to reading about 25-30 books on personal development, a truly deep dive although this would span many subtopics.
A great way to do experiential deep dives is with a focused trial for a given length of time, such as the famous 30-day trial. When it comes to new experiences, the exterior view looking in is markedly different than the interior view looking out. A temporary trial gives you the opportunity to experience the interior perspective, which is especially valuable when considering lifestyle changes. You can test new habits and possibilities for a short length of time to see how they feel, so you don’t have to overcommit in the dark. This is a great way to give your mind a taste of new experiences, so you can make informed decisions about whether to pursue them long term.
Embrace Intelligent Friends
Our mental standards are heavily influenced by our peer groups.
If your primary peer group has low standards for mental development, this will surely drag you down as well. If you want your mental development to surge ahead in a positive way, perhaps it’s time to release the mentally sluggish peers from your life, and fill your life with bright, clear-minded friends who are constantly learning, growing, and improving their minds.
We seek to earn the respect of peers that we respect. It’s hard to be in a group of avid learners and not become one yourself.
Move towards people who challenge you, who inspire you, and who can be a constant presence in your life preventing you from wallowing in an intellectual wasteland.
Sometimes you can seek out more intelligent people to include in your peer group first, such as by joining a new club, and you’ll gradually reduce the time you spend with the less inspiring connections. But if that approach isn’t readily working for you, it may be because the presence of too many mind-numbing people in your life effectively blocks more intelligent people from wanting to connect with you because they figure your standards are too low. So you may need to reduce some of that social drag (which could be influencing you in ways you don’t even notice) to successfully invite higher quality connections.
I’ve seen this work both ways. It’s rare to see people make significant changes in their lives without also shifting their peer groups. Often the peer group shifts first, and then a bigger personal transformation is made. The higher standards of the new peer group help provide the motivation to make personal changes as well.
Conduct Mind Management Reviews
As a final recommendation, I suggest using your journal to do monthly or quarterly reviews of your current mind management practices. Ask and answer the following questions:
- How have I been weakening (or poisoning) my mind lately? What do I need to stop doing?
- What’s the best input I’ve been feeding my mind? How can I increase and improve this input?
- What’s the worst input I’ve been feeding my mind? How can I reduce or eliminate these sources?
- What deep dives have I done, and what have I learned from them? What deep dives shall I do next?
- Who are the most intelligent and inspiring people in my life? How can I spend more time with them?
- Which people in my life are dragging me down or negatively affecting my standards? How can I reduce their influence?
Treat your mind as a precious resource. Protect it from negative influences. Feed it quality input. Invite it to be influenced by quality people.
The better you consciously manage your mind, the better the quality of your life will be.