Non-Internalized Lessons

July 30th, 2021 by Potato

It’s been a hard slog for mental health this last year. Tough on physical health, too.

Err… year and a half. Damn.

Anyway, it just never seems to end.

There are some things we can do to help cope better, of course. They’re not panaceas, but they can help at least a little. The thing is, I have never managed to internalize those lessons.

Some pretty basic things can help with mood and energy levels: if I do some exercise, if I eat some fresh fruit, and I do it consistently, I’ll start to feel a little better in about 2 weeks. I’ve done enough tests with getting into a depressive funk where I don’t do those things and then forcing myself to do them again and it helps (not a full cure, but helpful).

So I try, every day, to at least go for a walk and it’s such an easy sounding thing to do and yet so hard. The eating is even harder — pandemic baking and potato chips have done a real number on my diet, but I consciously work in at least one piece of fresh fruit.

Then someone posted this meme of a determined/upset-looking bald eagle and that has become my new slogan. “I’m going on a stupid walk for my stupid mental and physical health. See you in an hour.” and I repeat it each night.

It’s still not a habit, and it’s still not an internalized lesson — I very much consciously get up and go for that walk (and repeat my refrain about my stupid mental and physical health). Maybe one day I’ll be one of those people who jumps out of bed and then exercises before staring the day, though that has always sounded just terrible to me. I also have to try to remember the gremlin rule: no snacking after midnight (I mean, no snacking ever would be even more effective but it’s not as cute and super-hard).

Am I feeling better now that it’s been a few months of semi-consistent bare minimum self-care? I don’t know, I guess, a little.

I think there was also something about sleep? Crap, forgot about that one.

Anyway, I think because the effects are so delayed I never learn that lesson. I don’t often feel energized after exercising, I feel tired and sweaty — but after a few weeks of doing it every day, I do feel more energized. But such a long stimulus-response delay keeps me from internalizing that message, and without that constant conscious effort, I quickly slip back into slothful inaction.

I can of course relate that back to investing: there are lots of lessons that aren’t easily internalized and we have to keep reminding ourselves of. Market timing and adding complexity are two that immediately spring to mind, especially in the current age of meme stonks and bubble warnings.

4 Responses to “Non-Internalized Lessons”

  1. Michael James Says:

    I thought I’d share what seems to help me on the chance that some part of it might help you.

    I learned when I was young that I go a little crazy (mild paranoia and generally unhappy) when I don’t get exercise for a couple of days. A walk certainly helps me if it’s long enough, but I get more benefit from something more vigorous, even if it is brief. Just swinging a baseball bat hard 10 times helps, though it only takes about 2 minutes. Physical games with my sons used to work well when they were young because they would ask me to play frequently. The trick was to make up a silly game that was fun for all and got my heart pumping.

    On the diet side, I figured out that the times when I eat the healthiest food were meal times (definitely not snack times). So, trying to show self-constraint at meals was counterproductive because I’d just eat garbage later. I don’t seek to bloat myself, but once I started holding back less at meals it became easier to eat less chocolate and potato chips between meals. I find it particularly important to eat enough at dinner so that I can comfortably fast from about 7:00 pm to 7:00 am.

    Good luck.

  2. Brett Lee Says:

    As someone who has greatly benefited from your guidance and perspective on investing, I thought I’d share a few tricks that have helped me throughout the pandemic and as new dad.

    First, it’s okay to feel down – particularly in these times, it’s critical to acknowledge our mental well-being, and that we naturally gravitate towards ways of coping. And if only our easy coping methods (hello, video games, beer and pizza!) were better for us! The unfortunate truth is it often requires conscious effort (on our parts and sometimes on others) to address our mental and physical wellness. So yes, it feels hard. Because in many cases, it is: taking care of ourselves is usually an intervention.

    Start small. Build that positive feedback loop and successfully take on more ambitious things. You’d say the same if you were giving someone investing advice.

    For walks, find some podcasts or audiobooks you’ll be interested in and listen to them on your walks. You’ll get your steps in and engage your brain while you’re doing it – maybe it’s a novel series you’ve been wanting to get to, or maybe it’s personal/career development you’ve been wanting to get through. As someone who just became a manager at a tech company, this book was Kim Scott’s Radical Candor. And now I look forward to lunch walks and evening walks to get some dedicated “reading” time in. Maybe one day that becomes a jog or a bike ride one day, maybe not and that’s okay!

    For food, I’ll offer two different tactics: (1) blending, and (2) what I like to call micro-battles.

    Blending is just that: finding ways to integrate fruit and vegetables into things you already eat or will enjoy. Throw handfuls of blueberries into yogurt and top with a little granola for crunch. Head to Costco and pick up a bag of frozen berries and blend with bananas, milk and a touch of honey for smoothies that you can drink as a small meal to stay cool and full throughout the day. Google up recipes for (shockingly) toddler muffins and you may be quite surprised by how tasty some can be: toddler morning glory muffins are loaded with carrot, apple, and zucchini and remain surprisingly good.

    Ultimately though, we’re going to indulge (and it’s okay!). This where I turn to micro-battles, which is about celebrating the small wins. The battle isn’t McDonalds vs. Weird Salad Bar at the mall – you’re *in* the lineup at McDonalds, so what are you ordering? Get your fries and drink, but decline the supersize (stretch goal, get a Coke Zero instead of normal). Ask for half salad, half fries or go for the grilled chicken burger with bacon instead of the double beef burger at White Spot, Milestones, or wherever. Share a dessert with a friend or partner rather than get one each. The point is: indulge and enjoy, and celebrate the small victories where you made a conscious choice for the benefit of your heart and waistline.

  3. Potato Says:

    Thanks Michael, it is helpful.

    And when I was making the most progress on the weight loss journey, it was a bunch of things, but there was definitely more exercise than I’m getting now. I’d take the stairs at work a few times a day (I was on the 5th floor)… I’m hoping we can get covid under control and get back to curling this winter!

  4. Potato Says:

    Thanks Brett (and sorry your comment got stuck in the spam filter for a bit there).