As one of our central tenets here at Single Dude Travel we believe that it’s exceptionally important to not suck or at the least to go to great lengths to limit the degree to which you suck. Nobody is impressed with a sucky dude, especially when he sucks at his job. Life, in my opinion, should be a constant effort at self improvement. Getting in better shape, learning a language, getting better at a sport, playing a musical instrument, or creating a new business are just a few examples of the “self-improvement” projects that are an essential part of life.
Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that you are too old to learn something new. True, you probably won’t be a concert violinist, or NBA starter if you haven’t been doing those things all of your life, but you can certainly learn Spanish or take up golf even late in life. The benefit of learning a new skill or getting appreciably better at an old one go much farther than the extra money you will make or new chicks you’ll meet. Learning new skills is what keeps our minds young and flexible.
I’ve written before about the importance of health in life and how it is quite simply your health is your most important asset. Hopefully you’re taking care of yourself with a good diet, regular exercise in and out of the bedroom, and you aren’t killing yourself with cigarettes or too much booze. If not, go back and reread that article and get control of your body’s health today.
However, your physique is not the only part of you that needs exercising. The human brain is susceptible to the same kind of atrophy that its muscles are subject to if unused. All the senile old people sitting around at the old folks’ home staring off into space are like that because they did not not exercise their brains. Do you want to end up like that, being wheeled from your room and put in front of the television all day, with the occasional sponge bath by some hairy dude named Stan? No thank you.
Luckily there are steps that you can take to avoid this mental slowdown and prolong your sharpness long into your golden years. The most important principle is:
Use it or lose it.
The brain is a very flexible instrument if kept limber and strong. Most people don’t keep using it throughout life the way they did at first. Kids are always getting dragged to piano lessons and soccer practice; learning new subjects at school, and generally just being challenged mentally by new situations regularly. But something changes when people get older. How many people in their thirties do you know that regularly challenge themselves mentally? Not that many compared to the legions of people who do the same mind numbing job every day and then come home and vegetate in front of the the TV eating prepackaged food. Those are the future Alzheimer’s cases of tomorrow.
This brings me to step one of the plan: Get rid of your television. TV is poison for your brain.
I know, it’s hard. Television is so comforting. It’s always there, a click of the remote away. With all the different programming options on cable and with the miracle of Tivo there is always something good on. The problem is it’s all bad for you. Sitting on the couch watching TV is a 100% passive experience. You’re not asking anything of your brain, and your brain responds by doing nothing. “But Charlie, I watch the History Channel, I’m learning things!” Bullshit, you’re not asking anything of your brain. Merely taking in information does nothing for your brain, you then need to do something with that information.
I had a nagging suspicion throughout my twenties that I was getting progressively stupider and stupider. I figured at the time that it was a product of not being in school and my party focused lifestyle. I went out a lot, drank a bunch and smoked a lot of pot and I figured it was that this was what was making me dumber. It’s true, I really was getting dumber that decade. Then around 30 I got rid of my cable TV and quit watching it. I party at least as much now as I did then, but I’m getting smarter again. The amount of time it freed up to do more worthwhile activities is amazing. The first year without TV I read over 100 books. It also represented a savings of 60 bucks a month. Over a year, that’s $720, enough for a plane ticket and a week on the beach looking at hot Russian girls in bikinis in Playa del Carmen. Or you could watch The Hills.
It does make relating to people in America more difficult these days. But who wants to do that anyway? As far as I can observe, American people have two main subjects of conversation: money, and what’s on TV. When I’m in the States and groups of my colleagues are standing around the proverbial water cooler talking, if they’re not discussing money I am completely lost. It’s amazing how much TV people watch.
There are other things you can do to help give your brain a chance to be function well:
Get enough sleep.
People really don’t give sleep enough credit for it’s impact on overall health. Your body and brain both need time to recover from the waking day. Especially if you’ve actually been using your brain you need to give it time to process the data it’s receiving. After a important learning or practice session of between 30 minutes and an hour, I will even lie down and take a fifteen minute nap. That really recharges my brain and helps me learn deeply whatever I just studied. Try it.
One of the most important recent discoveries in neuroscience of the last several years is the importance of myelin. Myelin is the fatty material that your body builds around neural pathways that your brain creates when it “learns”. It acts just like the insulation on a wire and speeds up and isolates the electrical impulses that your brain uses to instruct your body and mind to do things. The only way to build it is to do a task, over and over. This is why TV watching is useless; you’re not doing anything and therefore aren’t myleinating anything but your lazy fatass circuits. Check out this book by Daniel Coyle for an excellent explanation of myelin.
This brings me to the last rule of brain health:
Your diet matters.
So Mom always used to tell us that fish was good for your brain. She’s right. The reason is that myelin’s building block is found in the Omega-3 fatty acids (fish oil). If you want to learn a skill, the best way to lock it in is to do it over and over, and then eat fish. Other sources of Omega-3s are fish oil capsules, flax seed oil, and Chia seeds (that’s right, like the Chia Pet).
Eat right. The thing is, it’s not just about looking good, or how you theoretically might feel health wise in 30 years. Your diet can literally make you smarter or dumber in a matter of weeks. Try it and you’ll see.
The Single Dude’s second most important asset is his brain. We are trying to be smarter than the competition. That’s what is going to get us the chicks, the cool careers, and everything else that makes life worth living. You need to think of your brain as a high performance sports car. It can really take you places, but only if you take care of it. Start today.