A handful of years ago, I was using all the new wearables and sensors, mostly out of curiosity. I wanted to see where my blindspots were and optimize anything wellness-related that needed work. I used InsideTracker which was kind of a waste of money as it didn't tell me anything I didn't know. But I knew what I knew because I was paying attention and I worked at it. I wore an Oura ring, a Withing, and the first Apple watch ages ago. And then I promptly gave them all away once I collected all of the data I needed.
I currently use no wearable. I sleep a lot, and very well, I exercise and meditate daily, I eat well, I don't drink alcohol or caffeine, and my bloodwork is always fantastic. I love what I do, I work with people I love and respect, and I have limited social media use. None of that happened by accident, and there was a time none of it was true. None of it.
I'm likely more obsessed with well-being than the average person. That might be because there was a time when mine was practically non-existent. Here's what I've learned.
Richard Davidson, founder of the Center for Healthy Minds talks about the neuroplasticity of well-being in the below video.
Well-being is kind of squishy in that there's not just one measure of it, there's not just one tool to measure it, there isn't consensus about many of the details or even the definition, and unlike your blood pressure or your white blood cell count, it's not objective. (Hence the term subjective well-being.)
When we talk about the neuroplasticity of well-being we're referring to the reality that well-being isn't static. You're not born with some quantity of well-being and destined to live within its parameters. Instead, like creativity, like meditation, like exercise, like kindness, you can get better at it with deliberate practice. And as you're doing that you're changing your brain. You're creating the brain of a person with higher well-being, as each of these elements has been associated with well-being and can be considered components of it.
You can learn the constituents of well-being, and as you're learning and practicing you're creating a brain that predicts higher well-being. For the Center for Healthy Minds, those constituents are awareness, connection, insight, and purpose, and mindfulness practice cultivates all of them. There's zero magic or mystery to it.
What this also means is that you might have more control than you want to admit over your well-being. That was a tough one for me to come face-to-face with. From sleep habits to social media habits to the people you choose to surround yourself with to how you spend your time, you make a lot of choices that affect your well-being. You might not think of it that way, but it's true.
With that said, your conscious choices become your habits. This means at some point you're no longer choosing to hop onto Twitter and get riled up for 30 minutes. Similarly, you're not choosing to have a few glasses of wine each night. It's just something you do; it has become the path of least resistance for your brain. It's like brushing your teeth.
Chapter 9 of my book is called "We become what we practice: Habits for well-being." I discuss 10 habits that really are skills, including sleep. You can get good at sleep. You have to practice, you have to set yourself up for success, and there are a lot of things that can negatively affect your sleep. But you can get better at it.
And it's worth the effort because if you're not getting adequate, quality sleep you're swimming upstream the entire day. Sleep is the foundation of clear thinking, coordination, movement, whether your brain predicts you're on edge, and even your ability to imagine positive futures. For more on the importance of sleep, check out Matthew Walker's Why We Sleep.
Awareness, connection, imagination, nervous system regulation, kindness, compassion, sleep . . . are all malleable. They can all be shaped with practice. You're shaping your brain to predict them when you practice.
Think of it this way—I wanted to get better at thinking about the future. I knew there was a way to do it, so I did 18 months of Imagination Leadership Training, and I continue to train. Thinking about the future is a skill AND it can boost well-being if I continue to practice (and focus on alternative, positive futures). If I stop practicing, my gains will trail off.
With all of this said, behavior change can be challenging. Fortunately, there's a lot you can do to improve your odds of changing your behavior.
Drop-ins are back this week!
There are 3 remaining: June 8, June 15, and June 22.
If you want to do some short, guided practices and then
Ask Me Anything, including about habit change,
come on by at 11 am, ET for 30 minutes.
May ease find you.