My Java Journal

On Health. Part 2: A Healthy Mind

A healthy body promotes a healthy mind. A healthy mind enables a healthy spirit.

Much like I tried to simplify my approach to a healthy body, I am going to try to do the same here with respect to a healthy mind.

The mind needs novelty and challenge. It also needs creativity for growth. This, I believe, can come from an active approach to learning. Learning is something we should never stop doing. It is also one of the things we can do our whole lives.

Learning offers novelty, in that it provides new information; as well as challenge, as it can stimulate problem solving. Fostering a joy of learning is one of the most important gifts we can receive from educators and parents, society and each other. Creativity should be encouraged and can be expressed in many forms. Growth, I would suggest, is inevitable if learning and creativity are occurring.

Reading

Reading is just so important. It is important that we read, but true also that we read well. I wrote of conviction in On Health – Part 1. Conviction should not come easy. It needs to be shaped, considered, challenged, reconsidered, and modified when necessary. Conviction must come from a fulsome exploration of, and exposure to the full spectrum of a topic. Reading should be done in such a way as to defeat confirmation bias, and never done in an echo chamber.

Confirmation Bias

So, how do we defeat confirmation bias? Read everything on a topic you can; even, and especially, that which most challenges your assumptions and conviction, or point of view. For example, if you are reading on politics, read everything you can from across the full spectrum; and especially from the end of the spectrum which you don’t prescribe. True of religion as well; read about them all, understand as much about other religions and points of view as possible. Worst case scenario, a better understanding of each other is gained, and perhaps a sense of what we hold in common and not just that which we don’t.

Too contentious? Barefoot running is (perhaps) a less emotional example.

I firmly hold that barefoot running is the best and most natural form of running. Much has been written on the topic, both in support of the art, but also from industry and runner’s magazines that do not necessarily endorse barefoot running. Source becomes important when reading; companies need to make money and are huge supporters and promoters of the running industry. It is not in their best interest to support a form of running that does not sell product; as an example. So, I try to remain open to a good counter view that may get me back into shoes. I just haven’t read one yet.

Book Club

A book club is a good way to commit to reading in an environment that can add novelty and challenge, and through this, growth. One of the most laborious tasks I have undertaken in recent years was to create my list of 100 books that have influenced me. It was hard. I stagnated at 86 before adding the other 14 books required to complete the list. In fact, when I shared my first list I had to add a short list of books I was going to read since I wasn’t able, without making concession, to complete my list. I’ve read many more books since sharing that initial list. I have also had time to rethink how I would draft it. I am working on that through 2020 and will share the updated list in time.

Walking

One book that isn’t on the list, is one I just read (and will re-read): Hiking With Nietzsche: On Becoming Who You Are by John Kaag. Nietzsche is famously quoted:

All truly great thoughts are conceived by walking.

Walking is said to free the mind. Nietzsche for one, but also Socrates, Kierkegaard, Thoreau, and numerous other thinkers and philosophers saw walking as necessary to thinking.  Walking helps solve problems.

A Recipe For A Healthy Mind

I love my quotes. This one by John Locke had me thinking about the simplified list I would finish with to offer an approach to a healthy mind.

Education begins the gentleman, but reading, good company, and reflection must finish him.

I would suggest that a creative outlet is also necessary, be that writing, music, art, or other. Locke offers a great foundation though. I think also, that a project or focus to research, or learn about is also a good approach. For me, I have decided to explore a concept that is somewhat universal, but which Nietzsche contextualized in a theory that I find fascinating. This is his idea of Eternal Recurrence. You will get a great sense of this notion in John Kaag’s book, but the idea of having to live, exactly, the life you are living now, over and over again for eternity has really got me consumed. It is similar to reincarnation and karma beliefs of some religions, and is aligned with my current excitement in reading and exploring the Stoics. I’m just digging into this now.

In Summary

I wish to finish this with a bottom line and a simple approach to a healthy mind. Here, then, are my four steps to a healthy mind:

  1. Maintain a healthy body (walk, often)
  2. Never stop learning. In fact, take joy in it.
  3. Focus on a novel and challenging concept, task or skill; and dig deep.
  4. Output is as important as input. Read, yes! But also create.

Bottom Line:

Stay engaged; keep learning, create and challenge your convictions and point of view. There is much growth in learning, and failure and risk.

Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing. – Benjamin Franklin

 

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