Sleep

http://www.raptitude.com/2012/03/were-quite-different-but-we-cant-help-but-sleep-together/

There are exceptions, such as when I travel, where I end up unconscious on some other horizontal surface, but it’s as sure a rule as any that no matter what kinds of wild or unpredictable events happen during the day, the conclusion is quite predictable: me, horizontal and comatose.

~ David Cain

Elsewhere, I’ve written specifically about sleeping. Sleep itself is fascinating, and a critical component to—well, everything; Life, quality thereof, the ability to think, and so on.

But until I read David’s piece, I’ve never had the vertiginous perspective of millions of people laying out horizontally and slipping unconscious. A rolling wave of countless people passing into unconsciousness as the world rotates. It’s eery, a third of all people are unconscious right at this moment. Also this moment. And in a relatively few more moments, I will be unconscious again.

I’m not certain, but I think my perspective upon first awakening may have shifted a little towards the, “oh! This is interesting,” end of things.

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Sleep smarter

https://www.librarything.com/work/17512525/150336148

The International Agency for Research on Cancer has now classified overnight shift work as a Group 2A carcinogen. This means that staying up late repeatedly, and working overnight, is a strong enough cancer-causing agent to be lumped in with lead exposure and UVA radiation. That might sound crazy, but there s now a ton of scientific data showing exactly how this happens.

~ Shawn Stevenson, pg 43 of Sleep Smarter

Shift work that involves circadian disruption? Carcinogen.

A while back I wrote a piece on Sleep. It turned into three parts and after writing it, I felt I had only scratched the surface. Then I stumbled over this book.

I read the book and it’s really good! I blasted through it agreeing all the way. If you know everything about sleep, you’ll still enjoy seeing it all laid out in an approachable fashion. If you have NOT YET MASTERED SLEEP — wait, what is wrong with you?! Sleep is the single most important thing in your life. It is the activity you spend the most aggregated time doing. Remind me why you have not spent time studying sleep and improving yours?

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§6 – Sleep Epilogue

(Part 6 of 9 in Changes and Results)

Here are a couple more things which I’ve read about, but haven’t tried as part of my sleep hacking.

Sleep journaling

Some people have suggested keeping a sleep journal. In it you record everything related to sleep: notes about your last meal (what and when), what time you go to bed, when you wake up, perceived quality of sleep, dreams… everything. You would then be able to review this sleep journal periodically and use it to inspire changes in your sleep rituals.

The best way to improve you sleep is to conduct experiments. Change some detail and then sleep with that for a month. Then review your sleep journal notes to compare with the previous month.

In my general life hacking, I was often changing many things at the same time. Some of the details of sleeping which you would hack on with a sleep journal, I was already hacking and tracking.

Sleeping alone

My Grand-parents’ generation seems to have slept more frequently in separate beds than is popular these days. (A quick search of the Internet leads me to believe as many as 1/3 of couples currently sleep in separate beds on a regular basis.)

I haven’t graduated to this level, yet. But I can tell you that having another person immediately next to you whose movements, or snoring, may wake you, is just another thing to mess up your sleep. When I first started hacking my sleep, I realized that we were waking each other up frequently in the night. It turns out that if I’m only sleeping lightly, the other person’s movements will wake me. But it seems that as my sleep quality has improved, movements and sounds are now much less likely to make me.

That said, if you wanted to try separate sleeping, you could try sleeping on the floor (with futon cushions, or air mattresses.) You could then move your bedding closer or farther apart as the mood strikes, and still be on a solid surface which would not convey any sense of movement from the other person. You’re still close enough, of course, that sounds could be an issue.

Aside: This is one reason why I prefer to sleep on my air mattress on the floor when I travel. Sharing a pull-out sofa or large bed with someone I don’t know, is the worst-case scenario for being disturbed all night.

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§5 – Sleep

(Part 5 of 9 in Changes and Results)

Q: I’ve been entirely preoccupied by a most frightening experience of my own. A couple of hours ago, I realized that my body was no longer functioning properly. I felt weak, I could no longer stand. The life was oozing out of me, I lost consciousness.

Picard: You fell asleep.

sigh Sleep. Sweet. Rejuvenating. Blissful. …when you can get it.

Preamble

There is a huge amount of information about sleep available on the Internet. Over the years, I’ve collected a wide range of references upon which I’ve based my actions and opinions. I do this for a lot different topics, and I have a companion web site where I collect all the health related information I’ve found. In the case of Sleep, please see Sleep Quality, Light Sensitivity in the Human Brain, and Magnesium and Sleep over on Hilbert’s Library.

Darkness

I sleep best in complete darkness.

Long ago, I had no idea that light was messing up my sleep quality. Light is everywhere in modern life: it comes from windows, from doorways, from the alarm clock’s LED numerals, from the blinking LEDs on the WiFi router. But, after a lot of reading, and over ten years of experimenting, I’m convinced that light is enemy number one.

Sure there are other things which will wake me, (noise, movement, etc) but light is pervasive. Light is subtle. Light is insidious. Rage! Rage against the light!

So the goal for me is complete darkness.

Aside: Yes, I’ve considered using a sleep mask to cover my eyes. However, the human brain is broadly sensitive to light, so I’m not convinced a light mask is as good as a good old-fashioned dark room. See Light Sensitivity in the Human Brain.

My life is organized around the time on the clock, so I do not have the luxury of arranging my sleep around the sun’s rise and set. Therefore, I needed to manipulate my environment. When I began hacking my sleep at our apartment, my first light source to tackle was a street light that completely illuminated our bedroom through a high window in our cathedral ceiling. I had to buy a tall ladder just so I could climb up and cover the entire window with cardboard wrapped in velvet. Although we only had nearly-useless mini-blinds on all the other windows, this first light-reduction hack made an improvement in my sleep quality.

When we bought a house, the bedroom was the first room we remodeled. We set it up to be PITCH BLACK. The alarm clock is dimmed, there are no chargers or electronics in the room, and I added black-out curtains to the windows. Each night, when I first lie down to sleep, I cannot perceive a difference between having my eyes open or closed. (Of course, by the middle of the night, my dark adapted eyes can easily tell the difference.) If I step out of the bedroom in the wee hours of the night, the rest of the house seems so bright! There’s a light on the smoke detector, all the windows admit outside light, the microwave’s clock, the standby light on the TV, and on and on.

So my first suggestion is to get as close as you can to pitch black. Change things, move things, buy things, whatever — sleep is the most important part of your life.

The alarm clock

Initially, I had a generic alarm clock… beep beep beep BEEEEP! There’s nothing like waking up with a shot of adrenaline and cortisol to start me off on the wrong foot for the day.

First, I changed to an alarm clock which played music, but it had blindingly bright green numerals. Eventually I read about alarm clocks which have a bright light which slowly — over a half hour — fades up to fully illuminate the room. (Search for “Philips HF3470”; It’s discontinued, but it will get you going in the right direction.) Some mornings, the fact that “the sun has come up” in the room is enough to wake me up. But usually, the alarm clock proceeds to an audible alarm, and ours urges us by playing various tweeting bird sounds. (If I wasn’t so deaf, the light would probably wake me up enough to hear the actual birds outside.)

When to sleep

If you have all the above under control, you can technically sleep at any time of day. But there’s a catch: You need time to physiologically wind down before going to sleep. If it’s bright daylight when you want to sleep, you’ll need to craft a dimmed, calm space where you can relax and wind down. (But not where you actually sleep, don’t lay on the bed to wind down. More on not making your bed a multi-use space below.)

Consistency in sleep times is key. There are physiological processes which occur in the body which are not under conscious control. The body works on habit (and environmental cues) and it’s sluggish about changes. Wonky work shifts that make you change your sleeping patters are not healthy; if you’re into that type of work, just realize you’re trading your quality of life to accomplish your job. Be sure it’s worth it.

Remember: For me, sleep is the most important thing in my life. Work, play, scheduling, consistency… these are all things I’m will to work on, hack on, and change, to improve my sleep schedule because poor sleep leads to a poor life.

Temperature

Slightly cooler works for me (and agrees with what I’ve read.) But it doesn’t seem to matter too much. As long as you’re comfortable. But if the temperature is consistently UN-comfortable, you need to correct that.

There are obvious ways to hack the temperature, (e.g., air conditioning, a fan,) but you can also hack the general room environment. Figure out where the air moves through the room. (For example, if air normally moves from your open window to the door, move your bed to be near the window.) Get creative and sling a hammock across your room and sleep close to the floor, (where it’s cooler in summer, or closer to the ceiling where it’s warmer in winter.) Find the room with the best sleeping temperature and move your bedroom there.

Different mattress and sheet surfaces will feel cooler or warmer, so experiment to find what works best for you. Different types and extent of clothing obviously matters, but have you actually experimented to see how what you wear (or don’t wear) affects your perception of temperature?

Comfort

In general, splurge on things for your bed: Mattress, sheets, covers, comforters, pillows etc. Buy the most comfortable mattress, and the sheets you love to slide into. Then go another step and buy two sets of the sheets you love. (When you change the sheets you can strip and immediately remake the bed with clean linen.)

Improve the psychological comfort of your bed. Make changes, and build habits, which make the bed a comfortable, inherently relaxing, space. Room details such as color (hint: darker hues and blues are relaxing), lighting and general “busyness” of the room all have a subtle effect on your mood.

Slightly less obvious is to make your bed every morning. It doesn’t have to be fancy with specific folds or tucks, just make it up to whatever your definition of “made up” is. Later, each time you see the bed it will look inviting all made up, and you’ll look forward to peeling it open and sliding in.

Because it is a large, clear, open, space it will generally attract — but especially if you make it up each morning — random items throughout the day. Pay attention to what ends up on the bed and find proper homes, or invent systems, to keep those things off the bed. (For example: Clothes go ‘here’, worn-but-still-wearable items go ‘there’, pets are excluded by closing the door, put a chair in the room for sitting when dressing, etc.)

Avoidance

I’ve read various things about avoiding blue light in general, computer screens, TV, etc. But I’ve found that simply avoiding whatever it is that “winds me up” is sufficient to not sabotage my sleep. So, while I will look at my computer or phone near bed time, I don’t go to web sites or apps where I know I’ll get sucked down the rabbit hole. Instead, I’ll read through news feeds, e-books, or review my personal productivity systems and to-do lists. A lot of being able to readily fall asleep is related to my thinking-brain being relaxed. If there are things on my mind then I find I’ll be stuck laying awake in bed.

Eating

As with everything here, the key is to figure out what foods, and what eating times, affect your sleep.

I try to avoid eating within a few hours of going to sleep.
(In another part of this series, I’ll talk about intermittent fasting.) I find that I can sleep very well after a meal, particularly if I’ve had a couple hours for my digestion to get started.

What I’ve eaten also has a huge impact on my ability to fall asleep, and on my sleep quality. Too many sweets, or almost any amount of alcohol, to close to bed time will affect my sleep; I can fall asleep, but after an hour or so I find I’m wide awake. Same thing if I drink too much coffee. I’m pretty sure the stimulants (sugar, caffeine) and depressants (alcohol) affect my ability to reach the deeper sleep levels, and so I wake up instead of sleeping deeply. There’s a tremendous amount of information available about food and diet. Related to sleep, it’s worth looking into issues of digestion and experimenting to see what works for you.

Magnesium

There is solid evidence that Magnesium deficiency can cause sleep problems (restless legs, muscle cramps and more.) It is also a well-known relaxant. So that’s doubly suggestive that Magnesium (reading, experimentation, supplementation) could be very useful in improving your sleep. See Magnesium and Sleep.

Technology

There’s a lot you can do in terms of tracking sleep with things like Fitbits and Beddits. (Tracking is part of the “quantified self” movement.) Here again, the goal would be to measure something (sleep duration, quality, presence of sleep apnea, number of sleep cycles, etc.,) correlate that with how you feel and how it affects your life, and then make adjustments to your sleeping environment, habits and life in general. I did a small amount of tracking with a Fitbit. (I didn’t like the blindingly-bright green lights it uses for the pulse sensor. That’s how dark it is where I sleep.) But, for the period of time when I was tracking my sleep quality, it certainly helped focus my attention and efforts on improving my sleep.

Mental Activity

If I have too much on my mind, I sometimes have trouble falling asleep. When I first started working on my sleep I wasn’t yet journaling. Years later I started journaling and I found that emptying my brain in the evening was a wonderfully relaxing way to prepare for bed. Over the years, it became clear that as my time ran out each day, sitting down consistently to journal was difficult. So these days, I don’t regularly journal in the evening. (Instead, I write as part of my morning routine.) But sometimes I will journal to empty my thoughts if I feel that I’ve too much on my mind to readily fall asleep.

Room Usage

Don’t do anything other than sleep in your bed. Don’t read in bed, watch tv, or use digital devices. Whatever you do regularly, that is what you’re training yourself to do in that space. Have a “going to bed” routine, and turn out the lights.

Napping

For me, I can take a half hour blink-nap in the afternoon without it missing up my sleep. (A blink-nap is where I’m thinking, “I feel like I need a nap,” I lay down, blink, and a half hour has elapsed.)

Next up…

A few things I have not tried…

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§4 – Sleep Prologue

(Part 4 of 9 in Changes and Results)

I’ve been talking about writing a post about sleep for years. But as I started writing, it turned into a huge article. Which makes sense, because fixing my sleep is the single most important healthy change I have ever made.

I realized that if I wanted to get a sufficient, healthy amount of sleep — let’s say around 8 hours — I would be spending ONE THIRD of my life sleeping. That means sleeping vastly outweighs any other activity in my life. I became determined to optimize the time spent sleeping and to ARRANGE MY LIFE AROUND SLEEPING. This was the critical, first step.

Failing to plan is planning to fail

I only know how much sleep works for me. You’ll need to find out for yourself how much sleep you need. This is another spot where the habit journal will really pay off. If you can track when you go to sleep, when you wake, how much sleep you get, and your quality of sleep, then you can make changes as you review each month.

One detail I’ve discovered is that some days I simply need extra sleep. So while I have a consistent plan, some days I’m stumble-down tired a half an hour before I’d normally turn in for the night. In these cases I just go to bed a little early, and with that extra half hour I usually feel terrific the next morning. There’s no feeling to match that of walking up, fully refreshed, a few minutes before the alarm.

I started by considering the time I needed to be at work, and subtracted time working backwards (commute, breakfast, shower, etc.) to determine what time I actually needed to get up. It was basically when my alarm was already set for, but it was good to double-check by consciously figuring this out. From there I just backed up 8 hours and that told me when I needed to go to sleep.

That gave me my very first sleep hack: Get to bed at the appointed time. That would lead to sufficient sleep (sufficient is the first hurdle, quality comes next), and a reset of my life at the start of each day. But it was immediately clear that I would have to change much of my evening habit. Dinner had to be coordinated at a more consistent, earlier time, and I had to break the habit of lounging in front of the TV.

This is all VERY hard to do.

I worked to consistently use my habit journal, and to review each month. Each day that I wasn’t in bed on time, I reminded myself that SLEEP was the most important thing in my life. These days — a decade later — I do deviate from the plan. Usually it’s when I’m traveling, or intentionally out late. But the point is: I HAVE A PLAN. My sleep plan sets me up FOR SUCCESS, rather than having no plan, and sabotaging the rest of my life each day, before I even open my eyes.

Partner Buy-in

Since I share sleeping space, this was the first, serious issue I had to solve.

I found that every night we enacted the following scene: I would get sleepy, and ask her, “What time do you want to go to bed?” The response was usually, “I just need ten minutes to finish this up.” Ten minutes later, it’s role reversal: She’s ready for bed, but I’m busy with something new and it’s my turn to ask for 10 more minutes. We’d then repeat this until 1am when we’d both crash, exhausted, and get yet another terrible night of sleep.

( Sound familiar? Maybe for you it’s roommates, or guests that are around all the time. Whatever. )

Our solution was to set a bed time, and a lights-out time. Everyone goes to bed at bed time. At “lights-out” time, the ready-for-bed person, is permitted to turn off EVERY light in the house (because we sleep in darkness), leaving the other to stumble into bed IN THE DARK — no turning lights on after bed time! This means you have to learn to plan the end of your evening so you can have time for your bedtime routine.

Why bed times? Why lights out rules? Because we realize that we must go to bed on time, so we can wake up on time, having slept well.

Sleep is priority number one.

Next up

A long list of sleep hacking ideas…

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The Big Sleep

(Part 8 of 12 in Stephan Guyenet's "Whole Health Source")

wholehealthsource.blogspot.com/2010/10/big-sleep.html

The term “adrenal fatigue”, which refers to the aforementioned disturbance in cortisol rhythm, is characterized by general fatigue, difficulty waking up in the morning, and difficulty going to sleep at night. It’s a term that’s commonly used by alternative medical practitioners but not generally accepted by mainstream medicine, possibly because it’s difficult to demonstrate and the symptoms are fairly general. Robb Wolf talks about it in his book The Paleo Solution.

~ Stephan Guyenet

I yap about sleep a lot, for a very good reason. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again:

Improving my sleep was the single most important thing I’ve ever done for my health. The first small improvements in sleep led to further steps onward and onward.

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Being a great guest

(Part 5 of 5 in Parkour Travel)

This post is entirely rules, tips, and ideas about how to be an insanely great guest in someone’s home. It’s organized into three sections. The first two sections are meant to get you thinking about how your host, and other guests, perceive you. The third section is focused on the day-to-day details of living in an unusual space. It’s meant to get you thinking about solutions to problems, and ways to make travel more enjoyable.

tl;dr: Empathy.

For my purposes here, empathy is the psychological identification with the feelings, thoughts, or attitudes of another person. I’m not suggesting that you must continuously empathize with everyone. I’m suggesting that empathy is a tool that can be used to inform your plans and behavior. Simply put, artfully using the soft skill of empathy will transform you into a great guest.

Why Bother?

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Why? Because decent human beings treat other human beings decently. (Did I need to write that? I hope not.)

If you are not already motivated to improve and to be a good guest, consider these benefits:

Lubrication: If your host likes you, they’ll interact with you more, you’ll experience more of their life, knowledge, and culture, and they may even help you more by driving you somewhere, or introducing you to someone. There is a wide margin of experiences which you cannot plan. But if things are going well via your being an awesome guest, then you’ll more often find yourself invited into that margin by your host.

Pete and Repeat: If you want to be invited back, you need to be a good guest. If you enjoyed a first visit (with your host, to the community, to the city, to the country), you’d probably enjoy a second visit. Notably, second visits are logistically easier because you know the lay of the land. So it’s a double-win if you visit again. Rare and valuable are hosts who become true friends through repeated visits.

Avoiding self-sabotage: Invitations generally only appear when meeting someone in person, so new invitations are fairly rare. If you are an annoying guest, your reputation will quietly precede you, and invitations won’t be extended.

Lead from the front: We are social animals. (Everyone varies as to how much social interaction we prefer, but no one is an island.) So it’s wise to help weave the social fabric by setting a good example. An excellent way to save the world is to be the change you want to see in the world. Be the traveler who breaks the ice, (appropriately of course,) who dives into the distasteful chore, who finds ways to include everyone, and who kicks off the cascade of cohesion and camaraderie.

The Cardinal Sin

Invitations are never extendable to others; Never invite another person to your host’s home.

Invitations are never extendable to others; Never invite another person to your host’s home.

Corollary: Be cautious with social media. Avoid, revealing your host’s exact address, or the details of their private life.

Here are cringe-worthy examples I’ve seen: Someone you’re training with needs to use the bathroom? Someone needs a place to stash their belongings? A place to shower? A place to crash for the night? No, no, no and no. You should always and forever consider yourself a guest. Guests are, by definition, not the host and only the host can invite others.

Treat your host’s home like a magic kingdom. It’s a rare privilege, reserved for the select few, to even know where it is located, let alone be permitted to glimpse the interior. Only your host may pierce that veil and reveal the kingdom to those whom they alone choose.

I’ve spoken to many people, and there are differing views held by persons in the guest role. Some incorrectly believe that a guest’s behavior may change, pushing, or crossing, the boundaries I’m describing, based on the host and the situation. (Pro-tip: Be the host and then you can do whatever you want. Until then, you are a guest.) The guest’s role is unwavering. Hosts and their “homes” vary widely from open-door, dog-pile, continuous-house-parties, to Zen-temple-like retreats of peace and quiet known to only a select few. The boundaries of acceptable behavior are set by your host, will vary widely, and are usually not explicitly detailed. But that variety in homes and boundaries does not change the guest’s role and responsibilities in the least.

Lead from the front, be considerate, and practice empathy.

15 Suggestions

Be careful what you wish for: Your host may go out of their way to arrange something you didn’t actually want. If this happens, you should follow through with what you asked, enjoy it, and remember to pass your heartfelt thanks to your host. (Ask me the story about the swimming pool in Japan.)

Be predictable: Since, as a good guest, you are actively paying attention to how your presence is imposing on your host, you can work to minimize friction and problems. Once you start to see how this works, you’ll think of a myriad of small things you can do to be predictable. Think about your communications from your host’s point of view. (Here’s that empathy skill again.) Always let your host know what to expect.

Everyone has routines: Your mission is to figure out your host’s routines, and to figure out what their intentions are. (The later is much harder than the former.) Do they want no disruption of their normal routine, or do they want to get up early to do things with you? Do they want you to feed yourself, or do they deeply enjoy cooking and sharing meals? The inroad here is found by realizing that your goal is to make your interaction with your host, and your affect on them, intentional.

Sleeping: The biggest challenge is to tease out when your host expects to sleep and expects to awake, and to try to fit yourself to that. This can be hard to do well. If you wait too long, they will eventually ask you, and it can get awkward if you give an exact response—”I go to sleep at 9:30 and get up at 5:30″—if that is significantly different from their normal routine. I usually open the conversation about sleeping by mentioning what time I need to get up (for an event, transportation logistics, etc..) But, challenges can still arise because sleep is the thing I’ve arranged my life around, and it is rare that I encounter others with this same level of attention to sleep.

Scheduling: Of course, if you have a specific thing to do (event, train, plane, etc), and they watch TV (or play games, etc.) at night, you should join them a little, but then go to sleep. Hopefully your sleep spot is out of the way. Sometimes sleeping on the floor is great because you can say goodnight and head off to your nest. Sometimes sleeping on the floor is a problem if your assigned space is the common space where staying-up is happening. Know your schedule in advance and factor that in when planning where you’ll sleep.

Bed: In the morning, stow your bed by putting your sleep system away or putting the sofa back together. If you’ve found yourself in a guest bedroom, make the bed.

Bathroom etiquette: This is hero-level stuff done by dream guests. If the shower is in the only bathroom, before you head to the shower, politely ask if anyone would like to use the bathroom. Always bring all your own bathroom stuff, (soap, shampoo, whatever you need, you should be able to carry it when traveling.) Leave absolutely nothing in the bathroom. (If there are multiple guests, the bathroom can get insane.) The exception would be your towel: If you’re the only guest, it should be hung neatly to dry in the bathroom. But if there are lots of guests, your towel needs to go dry in your sleeping space. (If you have a tech towel that dries quickly and shower before bed, it will dry by morning in your sleeping area.)

…and more Bathroom tips: Showering at night keeps the bedding cleaner, (your host’s, or yours if you’re using your sleep system.) Technical clothing that dries quickly can be washed with you as you shower to dry as you sleep. Take cooler showers to save hot water for others, and to make less fog in the bathroom. Always run the fan. Next, imagine you are being timed while in the bathroom. …and imagine there’s a line of people waiting. …and then imagine yourself waiting desperately in that line to use the bathroom. If there are many guests, get yourself presentable as quickly as possible, and then crack the door while finishing up the things you can do while dressed. Most people will knock on the door if it is cracked open. You can then pause your work to politely step out for them.

If you are handy: Fix things. But only if you are absolutely sure you can succeed! Sometimes you can just leave things a touch more organized, more clean, or less broken, then when you arrived. Do not make a big deal of it nor point out what you’ve done.

Disappear during the day: Not only you body, but all your stuff too, should disappear! Either carry everything with you whenever you leave, or have a large bag to leave at your host’s. (There are large, packable duffels that take up little space when stuffed.) This enables your host to move all your stuff easily if needed. (It also tends to keep children and pets out of your stuff.) If you do this well, instead of your host feeling like you’re there for three days, it’s more like three, separate, one-night visits; They have fun sharing a meal, some conversation, then everyone’s asleep, and then it feels like your visit ends in the morning.

Refrigerators: Use the fridge, but remove all of your stuff. Seriously, no one will eat your left-overs, (except obviously useful items like eggs.) If your host gives you a tour of the fridge, (literally, or by mentioning it in passing,) then do eat/drink their stuff. If they do not mention it, do not touch their stuff. Mastery level: change your eating habits so you don’t eat breakfast. Find your lunches and dinners out-and-about and place zero food-load on your host. Then, if they want to eat socially, you can add that back in.

Not seen and not heard: By default you should be invisible, and as quiet as a mouse. Make no noise, don’t watch TV, play games, etc. Let your host lead. If they want to interact, make noise, watch TV, playing games, etc., then join in!

Before arrival: Tell your host how and when you are arriving (“My train gets in at 4:30, so it will be about 5 by the time I get to your place by subway.”) This way they know when to expect you, and that you are not expecting them to pick you up. Then, if they want to offer you a ride, (or whatever,) they can. You should always be thinking: All I need is shelter and a bathroom; Anything else is icing on the cake. (wifi? electric power?! food?!! …omg awesome!)

Intentional updates: Your host should always know when to next expect to hear from you; This means you make the effort, not that you nag them. When you leave for the day you might say, “I’m not sure what time I’ll be back. I’ll send you a message after lunch.” …or, “I’m going to be late this evening, I’m having dinner with so-and-so.”

Oops happens: When things go wrong, own up to it immediately. If you break something, tell your host. However, if you ask, “can I fix/replace this,” most people will lie and say to not worry about it. Instead, you must first figure out how to fix/replace it, and say, “I see there’s a home depot across town. After breakfast I’ll take the subway over and get another one of these.” Sure, you will miss the morning of the event you came to attend (!), but you broke it and you should be the one who misses half a day fixing it. You’ll learn a hard lesson and be a better person for it.

Review: After each visit, take the time to think about what went well, what went badly, and wether your visit matched up with your expectations. Continuous improvement is the key!

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§7 – Exercise

(Part 7 of 9 in Changes and Results)

Exercise is not about weight loss.

Exercise builds physical ability and mental health.

For me, it began when I fell in love– with a bicycle.

The story of a boy and his bicycle

Long after college, way down in my downward death spiral, I bought a cheap mountain bicycle. Today, I don’t recall what possessed me to even want to buy a bike. I guess it just reminded me of the freedom I’d discovered when as a kid I first set out on a bicycle.

At the time, we were living in an apartment a short ride from a long park that followed a meandering creek. The park has long trails—some asphalt, some packed gravel—that follow the creek, and it has a few, short, side trails that almost resemble mountain biking.

I fell in love.

I fell in lust is probably more accurate.

I pedaled and pedaled. …and then I pedaled some more. …and then a lot more. I literally wore out that cheap, beautiful bike in the first summer.

During that summer we bought a mountain bike for my dad. He bought an hybrid bike for my mom. Then for a Christmas present, my parents and Tracy bought me a nicer bike. Whereas I was previously crazy about riding, with a new, better, lighter bike, I took things up several notches to addiction, and began riding the daylights out of everything.

I bought a “Mountain Biking Pennsylvania” book and started just heading out to ride trails from the book. Tracy bought a Cannondale when she changed jobs, and then things got out of hand—like Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas out of hand. In the end, I was directly responsible for 27 people going to a particular bike shop and buying bikes because I kept trying to find someone who had the bicycling bug as bad as me.

I pedaled on into the seasons. I commuted the short 2 miles to and from my office in rain and snow. I had studded snow tires for the winter. I replaced bike parts as they wore out, and modified the bike more and more until the bike shop owner, (at this point, a good friend,) finally said, “You know, there are other bikes.” It had never occurred to me that I could own more than one bike. he looked at me like the simpleton I was, “Craig, some people have so many bikes, they hide the newest ones from their wives.”

Re-learning to move

The story continues of course. (The new bike is named Beelzebub, and is the first bike I’ve ever named.) But this article is about “exercise”, not about my affairs with bikes.

In the midst of it all, I understood that it was all partly the runner’s high aspect. But also knew that I simply felt better the more I rode those bikes. Sure my wrists got sore, and I became a menace in the local park zooming around and around like it somehow mattered in the grand scheme. But in the process, my body was changing.

Much later I learned that what I had done was change my identity; changed the way I saw myself. I became the sort of person who would get up early on weekends to drive an hour to ride a bike all over some trail because it was “Trail number #87” in a book. I became the sort of person who learns about bikes, then learns about exercise, and then learns about glycogen storage in muscles.

At the very beginning of the bicycling epoch, I was building a lot of muscle. Well, a “lot” compared to the gelatinous blob of fat I had converted myself into after college. Muscle requires energy to build it and then some energy to maintain it. So in the beginning I got a small win on weight loss, just by adding muscle. As my daily caloric needs went way up, it halted the creeping weight gain.

Years later I learned that exercise is simply, generally healthy.

That sounds like a platitude, but it’s not: Even small amounts of exercise have out-sized benefits in your health and your daily mood. If I exercise just a little, (for example, 20 minutes of moderate walking,) then I sleep better that night, and every time I exercise I get a small psychological benefit.

The key point was the change in my mental health: Exercise made me feel better, and the better I felt, the more I wanted to exercise. Exercise didn’t make me lose weight: It improved my health, and I became the sort of person who weighs less. That sounds subtle, but it’s tremendously easier than trying to lose weight directly.

Compensatory adaptation

I changed my behavior (I added biking) and my body responded by adapting. (Compensatory adaptation from Ned Kock is a great, deep-dive.)

I added some muscle, changed some hormone levels and interactions, cleaned up some mitochondrial function, and other things improved. But soon (it was probably about a year) my body had adapted to where its new state worked well enough for the activities I was doing regularly. This is the famous plateau effect.

As I’ve mentioned, I didn’t realize this is what was happening (the plateau). I just bike bike bike bike biked all over everything. Meanwhile I was tracking things in my health journal, tweaking things here and there (sleep, moving dinner-time earlier, food choices, etc..)

How would you implement this intentionally? If you are even farther out of shape than I was at the start, I don’t suggest starting with biking. Walking is probably better, or maybe even swimming. Exactly what you do isn’t the point. It’s that you begin to exercise. Don’t to do in the sense that, “I have to go exercise now.” (This is why gym memberships generally don’t work as a New Year’s resolution.) Rather, you want to exercise just as something you do, and that will transform yourself into the type of person who exercises.

I am the type of person who…

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Our lives are not what we think

http://www.raptitude.com/2011/06/our-lives-are-not-what-we-think/

Everything there is, everything we know, hinges on this one bizarre, transient condition — existence — which just happens to be your current reality. We regard the miracle of existence as a goldfish regards water, which means we don’t regard it at all. But if you think about it, it’s an exceedingly peculiar fact — that we exist.

~ David Cain

My energy and drive to write waxes and wanes. But my desire for perspective is constant. Here’s a big ol’ chunk of a different perspective from David Cain.

My favorite sort of perspective—this has happened to me several times—is when I am completely exhausted. Not sleepy, but physically exhausted. Sometimes this has been when I have a slight fever, when a bout with the flu is beginning. But sometimes it’s just after a long day of physical labor. I lay down, and every muscle in my body is completely relaxed. There’s no urge to fidget, and no urge to move. When I’m completely relaxed like this, exhaling is such a delightfully emptying feeling.

…and sometimes my brain gets quiet enough to think, “oh! This is quite nice.”

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