How To Align Your Brain and Body

Your brain knows it needs to exercise and eat better.

But it would prefer that you start tomorrow.

This week, I’ve shared three different strategies to get your brain and body working together to improve your longevity and health. I shared three tactics: habit stacking, the Pareto Plan, and the Connect-3 strategy.

But there are a couple of other things you can do that really work.

  1. Practice adversity
    By now, I’m sure you’ve seen the “cold plunges” on Facebook. These are a good example of practicing adversity, but you don’t have to be that extreme.
    Simply doing something you aren’t really keen to will actually make it easier to do next time.
    The first time you take out the cat litter, it takes a long time and it’s gross.
    The second time, it’s faster.
    The third time, it’s easier.
    The first time you go to the gym, it’s stressful. You debate what to wear and when to go. You almost back out a few times.
    The second time you go to the gym, it’s easier. You still debate what to wear, but you hope to see the same welcoming people again.
    The third time, it’s pretty easy and you wind up welcoming another new person.
    Anticipation is always worse than the actual event. Practicing the act of doing uncomfortable things makes doing uncomfortable things easier.
    “Get comfortable being uncomfortable” is easy to say, but very hard to do. Start small.

2. Practice alignment
One great exercise I picked up during the pandemic is Box Breathing. It’s really simple:
Take a deep breath in. Count to four slowly while you’re doing it.
Hold your breath in. Count to four again slowly.
Exhale slowly (again to a four-count)
Hold your breath out. Count to four again slowly.
Repeat 10x. You’ll be more focused and self-aware.

3. Practice Presence

I don’t want to get hippy-dippy on you, but a lot of the friction between our mind and body comes from distraction. We’re so focused on everything around us that we feel outside of ourselves.
My psychotherapy friend Bonnie calls this a “check-in”. Buddhists call it practicing mindfulness or “presence”.
Because of the nanoseconds required for our brains to process information, everything we think we’re experiencing is already in the past.
The more distracted we are, the longer this delay in processing, and so the further out of touch we are from what’s actually happening around us.
Taking a moment to practice presence will realign your mind and body. And it’s really simple. Stand still, do a few box breaths from above, and notice:
5 things you can see
4 things you can hear
3 things you can touch
2 things you can smell
1 thing you can taste
…right now.
That’s it!

Your brain doesn’t always want to do the things that your body needs. It’s a challenge of the human condition: we’ve evolved to love sugar, prioritize rest and crave distraction. These were all traits that were necessary for survival in our primitive ancestors.

But we didn’t evolve for thousands of years to sit on the couch and watch TikTok. Our big brains need to learn to think long-term, and act against our own nature to extend and improve our lives. Our ancestors didn’t have to live past 30, and didn’t expect to live past 40. We do.