The Only Task List That Guarantees You'll Get Everything Done
The following article is based on excerpts from Ben Angel's book, Unstoppable: A 90-Day Plan to Biohack Your Mind and Body for Success. Buy it now from Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | IndieBound. And stay tuned for The Unstoppable Journal, the only journal of its kind based on neuroscience, psychology and biohacking to help you reach your goals. (Coming February 4, 2020.)
The act of journaling is an ancient tradition dating back since about the 10th century in Japan. Sages, monarchs, and presidents have all kept journals, each for their own purpose. And many of us can remember unlocking our diary's brass key and pouring our soul into those small pages.
Journaling has made a comeback over the years, with plenty of highly successful people stating it’s the most important part of their day when it comes to setting goals, giving gratitude and finding purpose. But most journals are limited to what you transcribe onto the page. Most deal with only one aspect of the totality of you. How do you know if you’re not missing something that could be paramount to your total health and wellness? The old business adage, "You can’t manage what you don’t measure," rings particularly true today, and I’d like to show you what you can do to take your goals, purpose and mental fortitude to the next level.
A Task List Doesn’t Guarantee You’ll Get Anything Done
We all wake up with good intentions to smash through our task list and get as much done as possible. The problem is that reality doesn’t always reflect this. Our environment has changed, and it’s having a serious impact on our ability to focus, our energy levels and our mental health. And while many would blame this on a lack of willpower, our research shows otherwise. We found those impacted the most also had gut-health issues, nutritional deficiencies, poor eating habits, an overreliance on caffeine and experienced chronic pain and were highly likely to be overweight.
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The link? Inflammation. The first part of the body to be impacted by inflammation is the brain. Inflammation releases cytokines that wreak havoc on cognitive processes and has been shown to alter behavior. Researchers now believe that chronic inflammation removes motivation by reducing dopamine, as it has a very real impact on the metabolism of our neurotransmitters. Hence, when we feel sick, we don’t feel like doing anything. This could be the body's way of reducing energy expenditure for more critical functions such as healing.
It doesn’t stop there. This is why I encourage those of us who journal to optimize performance to also consider the following factors, as they all link back to inflammation and a decrease in productivity. They're factors we rarely talk about, but are essential to your mission of getting more things done in less time.
1. Poor Gut Health
According to a Special Medical Report from the Harvard Medical School, researchers stated that, “The gastrointestinal tract is sensitive to emotion. Anger, anxiety, sadness, elation and others can trigger symptoms in the gut. The brain has a direct effect on the stomach and intestines.”
The simple act of procrastination or rumination over stressful things (i.e. behavioral responses) leads to an emotional response like depression or indecisiveness that causes physical symptoms like stomach aches, nausea or poor concentration. By managing your behaviors around stress, you can alleviate the vicious cycle that can cause myriad other issues. In your journal, check in with yourself first thing in the morning. How does your stomach feel today? Is it bloated? Are you having trouble with bowel movements? This could be a symptom of psychological stress. It could also be a symptom of a gut imbalance and food sensitivities that are disrupting your natural balance.
In your journal, make note of any foods you have eaten recently that could have led to this, as gut health has a very real impact on our psychology. If you’re feeling tired and lethargic, it’s not as simple as blaming it on psychological stress alone. We have to dive deeper. Only then can real changes in performance begin.
2. Nutritional Deficiencies
When my depression and anxiety was at its worst, I sought out the help of many doctors who wanted to prescribe me drugs and told me it was all in my head. I was desperate and needed to find the answers before things took a dire turn. With the help of a Functional Medicine doctor, I discovered I was severely deficient in essential vitamins and minerals, especially Vitamin D, which was leading to brain fog, fatigue and, yes, even depression. I would have never thought I wasn’t getting enough nutrients in my diet, but our agricultural industry has changed to the point where we aren’t receiving the quality that our bodies need.
What a disservice we are doing for thousands of people who know there is something wrong, when a simple blood test could give them the answers they need. Ask yourself on a daily basis if you believe nutritional deficiencies could be impacting your psychology and throwing you off your game.
3. Medication Side Effects
The Old Models of Treatments I share in my book, Unstoppable, leave us with more questions than answers. The Medical Model diagnoses and treats illness, often prescribing pills to manage symptoms without always uncovering the root cause, resulting in possible side effects. We’ve watched too many tragic and unnecessary deaths in the celebrity world due to the mismanagement of prescription drugs.
Unbeknownst to me when I was having suicidal thoughts, my asthma medication has, among its list of side effects, possible suicidal thoughts. We have to be our own advocates and look closely at what is being prescribed. It could actually be causing the very symptoms you’re trying to treat.
If you are experiencing symptoms, speak to your doctor about whether there are alternative treatments available without the side effects. As we age, we may be prescribed prescription medication and not be aware of its impact on our mental health. It’s easy to overlook something that can have a powerful effect on how we perceive the world.
4. Brain Fog
This is one of the first symptoms we detect when our bodies can no longer support our stressed minds. Deficiencies in essential vitamins, minerals and even dopamine all can lead to brain fog, which feels like a pressure in the head similar to a headache, but augmented by a dulling effect where you can’t seem to find your words or feel clarity in your thinking. Stress, poor gut health and diet and other deficiencies might be at the root.
So, if you find yourself looking at your task list but unable to power through it, it could be a result of a deficiency due to stress or diet. As a possible solution, magnesium is one of the most important minerals we could be taking in times of stress to help calm the nervous system. I share several types of supplements that can help alleviate brain fog in this video.
5. Poor Diet
Poor diet is your gut's nemesis. Sugars, excessive alcohol, processed foods, GMOs ... the list goes on; our bodies are inundated with so many poor choices in the food aisles, and our bodies are finally protesting. It’s a good thing the American Dietary Standards will change in 2020, since the latest studies show that more than 40 percent of Americans are obese, and 20 percent are morbidly obese.
Our poor diets can trigger depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, brain fog and other mental issues. Remember what I said about nutritional deficiencies? Tired, mineral-void soils grow mineral-depleted foods. Our bodies need proper mineral absorption to aid in hundreds of functions in our daily life.
Choosing whole foods that are organically grown in rich soils without chemicals and pesticides gives your body a chance to recover and receive quality nutrients. The only real way to know if your brain fog has been triggered by any of these is to see a functional doctor and have a blood test done to see exactly what you may be missing out on.
In The Unstoppable Journal, which is now available for pre-order, I ask readers to take 20 seconds a day to perform a quick check-in so nothing ever catches them off guard, especially inflammation that can creep up on us.
Success in business and in life is reliant on momentum. If we want to reach a tipping point in life where things click and fall into place, we can’t just focus on psychology alone; we must also focus on our biology. It’s time the two meet in the middle, so we create an internal environment that allows us to become and stay unstoppable.