As I mentioned a few months ago, I think it’s valuable to consciously mark time as a way to make gradual changes to one’s behavior. I’m trying out the idea of New Month Resolutions; the basic principle is to choose some habit or activity each month to commit to, one that is (a) big enough that it takes a focused effort to get it done, and (b) small enough that one can expect to make real progress in 15-30 mins each day over the course of a month.
Play along from home, if you want. 🙂 (If you do, I’d love to hear about your experience!)
Update from Last Month (March 2020)
In case you’ve been living under a rock: March has been weird.
Things are bad, and probably will be for the long haul. As of this writing (March 31), the number of confirmed cases in Israel (where I live) is just over 4000…
…and in the US (where I’m from) the number is nearly 150,000, the most in the world by a large (and growing) margin.
It seems likely that these numbers are underestimating the total case count, as tests have been difficult to distribute at scale in places like the US.
Anyway, this isn’t another COVID-19 post. I bring it up because, since March 5, I’ve been either in full or partial quarantine in my apartment. This just sets the stage for the ways my life has changed, and with it my resolutions.
I’ve also been doing a lot of stuff daily.
- I’m maintaining a Twitter presence for the first time in my life, at the suggestion of Jacob from PutANumOnIt; it’s just a quick daily post about whatever’s on my mind that day.
- I’m also keeping To Do lists in an attempt to stay productive and sane during the quarantine.
- Also, I got a cool calendar at a workshop last month, which has small blank boxes next to each date; I’m using this to log “what each day was about”. This is something like the advice of Tim at WaitButWhy, except in days rather than weeks.
So, y’know, keeping busy.
Last Month’s Resolution (March 2020)
Major Resolution: Exercise
I resolved last month to sign up for the gym, and attend at least once a week. Well, I signed up and did my first workout on March 3, only to be sent to home quarantine on March 5. A week and a half later, nationwide quarantine measures were put in place in Israel, which included a “stay at home” recommendation for anyone with a non-essential job (me). A few days later the gym was officially closed indefinitely.
So, you know, that made the resolution tougher.
But even though I couldn’t fulfill the letter of the law, I succeeded in fulfilling it in spirit. The weeks I’ve spent in quarantine, I started doing yoga through the livestream of a yogi in Tel Aviv that I like; she holds classes every day of the week, and I’ve been doing it twice per week. (It’s donation-based, so you can contribute if you want / can but you can also just join.) Yoga is a real workout, especially the vinyasa flow style she does. I take this as fulfilling my Resolution pretty fully.
The yoga has helped both physically and mentally; this claustrophobic living situation, staying indoors all day every day (modulo very short walks outside) gets to you after a while. It feels good to move my body, and especially to combine that with the quiet and meditative environment yoga brings. I recommend it if you are looking for some exercise while confined to your room, and if you’re into this kind of thing.
Also, I just feel stronger and more flexible than I have in months!
- Commitment: 5/5
- Difficulty: 3/5
- Results (+/- relative to my expectation, which corresponds to 0): 3/5
- Likelihood to do it again the following month: 5/5
I’m still tracking my alcohol consumption, but won’t report it each month. Suffice it to say things are going fine.
I’m still using Eat Right Now for mindful eating reminders and tools. I had planned again to end my subscription at the end of the month, but after finishing the Core Modules I unlocked the Theme Weeks, which are more focused on specific problem patterns. I’m doing one on “getting stuck” now, which is more enlightening than it probably sounds.
I’ve been focused on my physical health the last few months, which has been great. But it’s time for something very different.
An alternative title for this series was “Self-Experiments”. In that framing, the focus was on the fact that a month is roughly the right length of time to try something out, not knowing whether it’ll be useful or good. Then, if it was useful/good, you can keep doing it; if not, not. But this involves trying out some stuff that you don’t know will work.
So here goes: I almost never remember my dreams. Maybe, like 2-3 times per year can I actually recall a few details. On top of that, I’m super interested in what dreams are and what we can learn from them about our own minds (high on my To Read list is this book, which apparently discusses some of this).
Further, I’ve been reading about lucid dreaming, where you are fully conscious inside of your dreams. Some say that once you get the hang of it, you can actually control what happens in the dream, allowing you to fly, talk to old friends or relatives, face your fears, or become someone else. Given that our brains know and do way more than we are aware of, I take seriously the possibility that dreams allow insight into unconscious processes. In any case, even if you think dreams are essentially like computer screen savers, without any important or insightful content to discover, it’d still be cool to fly.
How do you cultivate lucid dreaming? There are a few techniques I see in many places:
- Keep a dream journal, and write down everything you remember about your dreams as soon as you wake up (this leads greater recall of dreams in the morning).
- “Reality check” often; that is, become a little paranoid throughout the day that you might be dreaming. Good reality checks include: trying to read something, looking away, then reading it again to see if it changed; press your finger into the palm of your opposite hand, to see if it feels solid; bite your tongue or cheek and see if it hurts; etc.
- Related: some say to use a “totem” noise that reminds you to reality check (this can be done with an app on your phone). Then, when you’re used to it, set your phone to play the same noise while you sleep; if you hear it in your dream, it can trigger a reality check that will fail, and you’ll become aware that you’re dreaming.
It sounds pretty interesting, and after a month I feel like I’ll have a sense of whether it works. I’ll report back with the results, of course.
Starting April 1, until (at least) the end of the month, I will experiment with lucid dreaming, by (1) keeping a daily dream journal and (2) performing reality checks many times a day.
Results and new Resolution will be given on or around May 1, 2020.