Welcome, welcome, welcome, to the 30-day primer challenge! What the heck is a primer challenge? Well, this challenge is meant to instill habits in your life that will make you fundamentally better at everything you do. We’re talking self-discipline, general intelligence, purpose, feeling great, persistence, resilience, and more. It probably sounds too good to be true. Now, before I continue, do you have a part of you that is convinced that you can’t change and are set in your ways? Good. Take that part of you, drag it outside, and shoot it dead. Is it bleeding out as you walk away? Great.
Now that that’s over, the concept of this challenge is to capitalize on the science of Neurogenesis and Neuroplasticity. Neurogenesis is your brain’s ability to produce new neurons. Neuroplasticity, in short, is how your brain chooses to wire these neurons. We are aiming to change our mindsets while providing the brain everything it needs to do so in full force.
The habits listed in this challenge all have their own individual benefits, but what we want to focus on here is that they all promote Neurogenesis and your brain’s ability to rewire itself for a quality of life you’ll have previously considered unattainable (Interesting tidbit – The brains of people with depression, PTSD and anxiety have been found to have reduced Neurogenesis).
THE FOLLOWING ARE IDEAS OF HABITS YOU CAN IMPLEMENT. PICK A COUPLE TO START WITH TO THAT YOU WILL COMMIT EVERYTHING YOU HAVE TO COMPLETE EVERY SINGLE DAY FOR 30 DAYS:
With Gratitude, our primary objective is to rewire our brains to scan for the good. This is how:
Writing out gratitudes. Take some time each day to write out three unique things you are grateful for in life. It will seem really easy the first few days. As you continue this, you’ll find yourself straining to pick out a few more things to complete your list each day without repeats. When you feel like your brain is straining to pick out a few extra items here, what you are essentially doing is challenging it to scan for the positives in your life. The more you do this, the more you will be training your brain for the good things in your everyday life (I.E, even when you are not actively writing your list down). Another great way to reinforce this is to spend some time in the evening to write out the good things that happened that particular day. You could have had an astronomically shitty day, but your goal is to just write out the good things. Again, here we are trying to drown out our natural negativity bias and develop a more neutral and positive outlook.
My favorite concept in this area is one I’ve read about uses gratitude and love to massively boost productivity. You want to take time each day to thank your past self for all that has been done to help you be where you are now. Job experience, education and knowledge base, skills; all of these things you have because of the labor of your past self. Focus on all you have because of that person, and express gratitude daily. Now, we’ll bring in love and the future self. Have you noticed how easy it is to go above and beyond for someone you love? How enjoyable it can be to make them happy, make their life a little bit easier, and so on? Well, it’s time to fall in love with your future self and develop a little selflessness along the way. Consider those moments when you’re on the couch, questioning whether you should go to the gym or sit there eating saltines until the end of the world. We rationalize it sayings things like: I know I’ll feel good but it’s such a chore. I’ll do it tomorrow. I, I, I. What about reframing this a little bit? I will do it for my future self”. Why? Well, it will make him happy, it will improve his quality of life, he’ll have an easier time with this habit because I took the time to develop it. And, bonus, he’ll be so grateful for all the work I did (cue gratitude for your past self). Change what drives you and you’ll change your world.
In this section, we want to focus on habits that will prime you for more mental energy. Again, each of these habits has their own host of benefits, but that isn’t the focus here.
Let’s start with exercise. This is literally the single most efficient thing you can do for your brain, period. Exercise puts your brain into Neurogenesis overdrive. While you are exercising, your brain is being overflowed with blood, oxygen and the nutrients it needs to develop itself at its highest levels. It is so overstimulated that it expends the extra energy it doesn’t know what to do with and starts creating the nerve growth factor protein you brain needs for growth. This is one of the things that comes down to: just do it.
Caloric Restriction is another thing that’s been said to enhance neurogenesis. The idea is that your body’s survival mechanisms are under the impression that you are unable to find food and therefore uses extra resources to prime your brain so you can more effectively search and hunt. In a modern time where the threat of being foodless is a rarity, this is a mechanism you can easily use to manipulate this process to your advantage. Heaven forbids we lose a few extra pounds in the process.
I’m not particularly concerned with how specific your diet is. It’s more so specific nutrients you’d want to be getting on a daily basis. Whether it’s through diet or supplementation, whatever. These are the nutrients I’ve found to be an easy addition to your day (all of which enhance the process of Neurogenesis in the brain): Vitamin D3, Fish Oil, Vitamin B12, Folic Acid, Resveratrol, Antioxidants (berries and tea in particular), Zinc, and Magnesium. Also, challenge yourself to drink as much water as you possibly can during the day. It makes everything run better and provides you with better mental energy.
Stretching and Foam Rolling. These two aren’t ones I can necessarily relate to the brain, but it stands to reason that the less tension you have in your body, and the better you can make your posture naturally, the better your whole system will run and the better you’ll feel. The goal here is to maximize your time in an efficient, good feeling, productive state, and these two help tremendously to achieve that.
Skill and Misc.
Your brain craves and rewards novelty. The hippocampus, the area primarily focused on memory and emotional regulation in response to memory, is the area which is found to be the smallest in people who are stuck in the past and people with PTSD. To put it bluntly, their brains experiences a significant reduction in Neurogenesis in this hippocampus. If neural generation isn’t being optimized or even working on an average level, it isn’t going to have the ability to move forward because it doesn’t even have the fuel to do. It’s been proven time and time again that through the activities that promote neurogenesis, these brains have shown to regenerate on their own when given the fuel they’re craving. The following is a list of activities and skills you can do to promote this:
Read every single day. Again, just do it. Reading is the best thing you can do in life to grow as an individual, bar none. In terms of the priming goal, novelty promotes neurogenesis and every time you read, you’re learning something new and streamlining this process. I can write and write about the benefits of reading, but for the sake of brevity, just do it.
Practice a new language or an instrument. These two are considered to be above and beyond the most challenging workouts your brain can go through. Every minute spent on either of these activities is quite literally time spent building a better brain that will be more efficient at absolutely everything it does.
Try a new thing once a week. It’s been said that an ‘enriched environment’ is crucial for Neurogenesis. Whether it’s trying a new coffee shop, a new route to work, trying a meal you’ve never had, or visiting a museum, and so on, it’s a great idea to try at least one of these things once a week. You can even watch a couple ted talks on subjects that interest you but you’ve never quite gotten around to really checking them out. Your brain cannot thrive if it is constantly doing the exact same things on a regular basis. It will atrophy because it will not be able to justify expending resources on its growth if it isn’t being challenged. Novelty is a huge sign to your brain that shows gets it to realize it needs to pep the hell up and work through the new stimuli you’re providing it with.
Meditate. Period. Meditation is lifting weights for your brain. Calmer, happier, more resilient, more focused, more productive, less irritable. Literally changes your brain by making the anterior cingulate cortex and amygdala, the two regions responsible for stress, overthinking, anxiety, and so on, smaller while making the regions such as the prefrontal cortex and the hippocampus, areas responsible for emotional regulation, automatic thoughts, and so on, physically larger and stronger.
And lastly, work towards a goal you’ve been putting off. Reinvigorate yourself by being able to wake up knowing that you’re working towards something. When you can manage to make these primer habits a routine in your life, you will have all the energy in the world and a great mindset to really make the progress you’ve been dreaming of making, all the while feeling like the whole universe is conspiring to help you move toward this. Wouldn’t it be incredible to wake up feeling energized and excited to face the world you’re about to take by storm? Waking up, knowing that today is another day that you get to be 1% better than you were yesterday? Every single day you want to be able to go to bed knowing that you are ONE PERCENT better than you were the day before. Frame your life to be 1% better every single day. Imagine what 1% added up over 30 days, three months, three years, and so on, could look like. Doesn’t that excite you? It’s time to realize that there’s a world out there that’s been missing out on you. A world that isn’t as complete as it could be because it’s been deprived of the best version of you. It’s time to turn that around and give it all you’ve got because frankly, the alternative just isn’t fair to anyone out there.