A Self Quantification Experiment to Do Daily…

So Self Quantification is the quiet the rabbit hole to go down.

In principal it’s a pretty good idea, you know we have all these options for self improvement or Biohacking — it seems like every week there is some new supplement, technology, app, device, meditation technique or productivity hack to try. Yet we know that a lot of these options won’t really work for us…

For example;

I’ve personally tried at least 70 different smart drugs and Nootropics and for me at least, less than half of them actually work and have any discernible short or long term effect.

The point of self quantification is getting objective feedback about what’s really working. But there’s also some real pitfalls to self quantification;
It’s the highway to analysis paralysis. Spending so much time analyzing your data that you’re not really making progress towards meaningful goals.
It’s expensive; both in money and time. It makes sense to spend a couple hundred dollars a month on blood tests and meticulously document the caloric quantity of everything you consume to see exactly how some new supplement or diet is effecting your unique neurobiology if you are Tim Ferriss and you’re writing books about your body that are going to sell millions of copies.
But if you’re just a normal guy (or gal) that has limited time and money to spend on Biohacking and you just want to be as productive and happy as your biology will allow, I’ve got a really simple and insightful self quantification experiment for you to do daily.

Here it is; breath counting during meditation.

One of the first things that you learn when getting started with meditation is focusing on deep, rhythmic belly breathing and the counting of your breaths can be used to gage your state of mind.

If your attention is very disparate, if you’re not very focused you’ll have trouble counting.

I find this pretty accurately reflects my very recent behavior, habits and consumption.
If I’ve been out partying the night before and I ate an indulgent sandwich for lunch, my mind is going to be all of the place; I’ll be thinking about all these different things while counting:
One…
Two…
I need to pay that invoice!
Three…
I should really check how many days left I have on my visa here
Four…
Should I text Maria about dinner or should I wait for her to text me?
Five…
I wonder what the Bitcoin price is?
Six…
Seven…
God! I fucking suck at meditation. Fucking idiot!
I may even lose track of which number comes next.
But if I’ve gotten good sleep, I had a coconut or salmon salad for lunch and I took a focus promoting smart drug, my counting will be very precise:
One…
Two…
Three…
Four…
Five…
Six…
Seven…

I play a little game with my mind doing this counting; if I get distracted by something for more than about 2 seconds I have to start over counting. Your unconscious mind is constantly delivering up information to your conscious mind, so it’s ok that little thoughts pop up while you’re meditating, that’s pretty natural but if I dwell on them for more than a second of two then I have to start over. This makes you really exercise your focus muscles.

I do the taoist breathing method which is a little more complicated, you can read my article on it if you are interested, but just counting the breaths while breathing deeply works just fine.

If you’re trying a new supplement, Nootropic, diet or brain training software this method will give you pretty accurate feedback as to how effective of a focus promoter it is.

My findings:

The best focus promoter is Modafinil.
Vying for 2nd place is Caballo and Dual N-Back brain training.
What I’ve eaten and drunken has a lot to do with how focused I am. Healthy fats are a lot better than carbs, sugar is better than carbs. A little coffee helps but more than two cups is detrimental to my focus. Green tea is a little better than Adaptogenic tea.

Interestingly, supplemental Nicotine stimulated what I’m going to call passive problem solving during meditation, this is because Nicotine stimulates what’s called your default network. From a 2011 meta analysis:
The default mode network (DMN), one of several resting-state networks (RSN) in the brain, is thought to be involved in self-referential thought, awareness, and episodic memories… the absence of visual stimuli or effortful processing suggest that nicotine’s cognitive effects may involve a shift in activity from networks that process internal to those that process external information.
When you come up with a great idea while you’re in the shower or sitting at a red light, you can thank the default network, which is what Nicotine fires up, promoting expansive thinking. Meditating on nicotine is a very interesting experience, if you’re a none-smoker I recommending you pickup some supplemental nicotine and try it.
If you’re smoker, trying having a cigarette before meditating; you probably won’t get as cool of an effect on your expansive thinking because your Nicotine tolerance is several thousand percent higher than mine but all these great writers and thinkers throughout history were voracious smokers — Tolstoy, Dostevesky, Tolkien, Ayn Rand — so it obviously is a creativity promoter.

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