Us altruists often overlook the human needs our body has, instead we opt for pushing ourselves to achieve more or over invest in downtime. I believe getting a conversation around a simplified system of health can drastically improve the effectiveness of our altruism. Through my studies of psychology and neurology and personal growth with self-help books I have consistently found just four areas of our lives effect the most of our lives. Specifically maintaining both the quantity and quality of these areas daily (in descending order of importance):
Sleep (8 hours with as-consistent-as-possible bed times, with an hour of screens-off downtime before bed - enough to secure the 90 minutes of REM sleep to allow your prefrontal cortex to function most efficiently when you wake)
Sustenance (1-2 litres of water and 8000kj/2 meals & 2 snacks of nut-focused Mediterranean diet food - enough to fuel the body with slow-release energy and balanced amino acids, structured with an eating schedule of splitting breakfast into evening snacks so as to maintain lean body health)
Exercise (1 hour of moderate exercise, reaching 120-150bpm - enough to maintain general health and build consistent hormonal release and stimulate hormonal growth, such as in the case with endorphins)
Mindfulness (10 minutes, two times a day of meditative breathing - enough to activate your parasympathetic nervous system which provides you control over your mind and diminish your sympathetic fight/flight/freeze nervous system)
Are you maintaining each, every day? Let me know if this system helps you or if you think it doesn't suit you and why!
(additional details) The core four is undoubtedly an oversimplification seeing as the balancing of hobbies, social support networks and career/study consumes and provides for the majority of our daily life. However, it is these core four areas of our life which affords us the capacity to balance the rest of our life. Below are issues associated with not maintaining the core four, however, some of these issues may be chronic which requires professional support (I personally see a psychologist even though I study psychology). By maintaining the core four you clarify which issues you face are intermittent/dependant on circumstance and which issues are chronic/bound by habit or biology.
- Depression: Many altruists experience depression, but often this is due to being unable to quiet our mind, being subject to negative environments or simply overextending ourselves to help others. Depression is a serious illness which can take years to cope with. Even if your depression is chronic, you deserve the best chances at coping by starting with maintaining sleep to give yourself the energy and brain function to think long term in both positive and rational perspectives. Following securing sleep, sustenance, exercise and mindfulness must also be maintained healthily to give our mind the best chance at mental health and disciplined control.
- Illness: Do you get sick more than 4 times a year? I do! Last year I was sick for eat least two days over 14 times. After looking at family history, personal biology, white blood cells and iron deficiencies, there were no signs of increased sickness risk. Quite the opposite infact! My family are resiliently healthy, my biology has very few weaknesses and my blood is average by all metrics; my illness isn't chronic. However, I fall ill because I push myself to exhaustion to meet many responsibilities, eat sugary foods when I'm sad and I have a history of intermittent depression and anxiety. By going through the core four, starting with healthy sleep, I have drastically improved my resilience and decreased events of sickness because I break the cycle at each step; I am less exhausted, I eat healthier, I have proactive happiness practices (power walk with an audiobook) and I am more mindful of what too many responsibilities looks like.
- Hopelessness: Not to be confused with depression, but it is certainly a precursor. To be hopeless is to encompass any of many feelings such as loneliness, apathy and procrastination. It is fear which manifests as hopelessness and often it starts with traumas which we carry with us in the form of a schema. A psychologist can profoundly help if hopelessness is a consistent hinderance, but the odd hopeless moment can be reduced with exercise and mindfulness. But, as always, starting with sleep, we can maintain the core four and remove the hinderance which is hopelessness.
- Self-Doubt: A common social illness which can spread from person to person but cannot be cured as easily. Feelings of inadequacy, uncertainty or general unrest will often start when we allow our mind to wander while we are vulnerable. This is due to how our mind is wired to look for immediate faults and risks. Thankfully we can regain control when we practice mindfulness. There are a number of mindfulness themes, such as Socrate's stoicism, situational acceptance or creative mindfulness. However, I suggest simplifying the process and just focusing on your breathing, as this is enough to bring clarity to your thoughts. Rather than outright believing a self-doubting thought, you can focus on your breath and ask yourself if your negative thought is entirely rational. Of course, if you secure the core four in order, you will drastically reduce the number of self-doubt incidents.