Remembering Micro-exercising and Mindful Eating
Hello to my new subscribers! I'm David Gasca and this is Mystical Silicon, a ~weekly newsletter on mindfulness, how to make the world more alive, and a variety of other things I find interesting.
Welcome to the year 2023! If you are reading this, you and I both made it. To quote Bill Bryson, every single one of our ancestors since the dawn of time has successfully reproduced and brought us to this very moment. Congrats!
This week’s post is a short reminder to myself about re-centering for the winter.
I used to write a lot of New Year’s Resolutions. There was a time in my life I spent a good chunk of time on them - it was fun to spend days dreaming about what could be. Like a child writing letters to Santa, I would list things I wanted to be at some point during the year: lose X pounds, do exercise Y times a week, learn how to speak language Z… Overall, I had a terrible completion rate, but it was a fun exercise nonetheless and each year I would dream anew.
Nowadays I’ve stopped with resolutions and I’ve instead switched to habits and routines (which shouldn’t be a surprise to those of you that have read some of my posts). It turns out evergreen habits are much more effective in achieving my once desired outcomes, albeit less fun to daydream about.
But even though I have strong habits, winter is always challenging; I need habits in winter more than any other season and it’s the toughest time to keep them. While the fall season is also dreary, the holidays provides welcome, people-filled way-stations along the way to the new year. Once January 1st arrives though, the holidays are gone while the dark skies and rain remain.
Historically, winter is the toughest quarter for me. Looking back it’s pretty clear I had my most depressed and moody periods during these months. I never used to attribute it to the season but I now notice the patterns since I’ve been paying attention.
A year ago I wrote a post called “Focus on January” where my main point was that I needed to take it easy on myself at the start of the new year: focus on small goals, be kind to yourself about getting things done, and make sure to exercise. All worthy goals.
Re-reading my January posts from last year there are a few lessons for me to re-learn. Two really key ones are to really focus on exercise (via micro-exercising) and diet (via mindful eating):
Micro-exercise throughout the day: The main insight from this post is that exercise helps you think and feel better. Doing it many times a day in small burst is a great way of improving your mental acuity, especially in the winter months. I’m going to try to do at least three times per day this winter. This includes going for a walk-run, doing 5-10 minutes of push-ups/squats, and just putting on a 10-20 minute Peloton/YouTube workout (look for bodyweight strength or HIIT cardio and you get a bunch of great options). All of this in addition to a bigger workout. When I do this it really does feel like a superpower…
Mindful eating: This post is an other great reminder that I need to eat more slowly and mindfully. Eating this way leads me to pay more attention, which leads to better mood and less lethargy. I re-read Jan Chozen Bays’ book on Mindful Eating this week and it was a great refresher. There basically are 9 different forms of hunger (i.e., eyes, nose, touch, smell, mouth, stomach, cellular, heart and mind hunger) and by mindfully paying attention to each before/during eating you can transform your eating experience. From the post:
“What I’ve also found is that mindful eating is a bellwether for whether or not I’m present. If I can’t focus on my meal, it’s usually a sign that I’m not grateful for things around me at all. If I’m rushing, flipping on my phone, reading the news or multitasking while eating, it’s almost always a sign that I’m distracted and need to take a break.”
I’m also starting to learn more about Ayurveda (the Indian ancient nutrition system) since the little I’ve dabbled in it, the more I find it has results. (I classify as “kapha dosha.”) I’m still a little bit skeptical about the system overall, but I think it’s a good complement to mindful eating and I’m curious - we’ll see how it goes!
My final reminder to myself is to make use of my sunlamp (I use a little one that fits on my desk). I’m not sure how much it’s placebo, but when I use it in the mornings while working I find it improves my mood…
And so, off into January we go.
See you next week!
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Hey David, from a newish subscriber. Thanks for sharing the Mindful Eating book. The quote about eating and gratitude resonated.
Looking forward to reading more of your writings this year.