Developer Tea

3x3: Three Habits for Mental Hygiene

Episode Summary

Most of us grow up learning skills to help us take care of things. Unfortunately we are not often taught how to keep our minds clear. In today's episode we're talking about ways to regularly help reduce our stress and maintain a healthy mindset.

Episode Notes

Most of us grow up learning skills to help us take care of things. Unfortunately we are not often taught how to keep our minds clear. In today's episode we're talking about ways to regularly help reduce our stress and maintain a healthy mindset.

Today's Episode is Brought To You By: WooCommerce

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Jon's Cup of Tea -
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Episode Transcription

Most of us grow up learning skills about how to take care of things. We take care of our homes, we take care of our cars, we take care of our bodies. We brush our teeth, we bathe often, we try to keep our clothes ironed and ultimately we try to keep things clean. Unfortunately we are not often taught about how to keep our minds clear. In today's episode we're talking about mental hygiene. My name is Jonathan Cutrell and you're listening to Developer Tea. My goal on this show is to help you uncover your career purpose as a driven developer so that you can have a positive impact on the people you have influence over. And how can you find your purpose when your mind is cluttered? I call it mental hygiene because the concept of hygiene is a proactive thing. You don't practice hygiene in an emergency scenario. That's not really the common understanding of that word. Instead it is regular, it is consistent. It's something that we take on in order to live better rather than address and acute problem. And so what we're talking about in today's episode is ways of regularly inspecting and cleaning out or perhaps preventing build up of poor thought patterns of stress, anxiety. Of course it's necessary for me to remind you that I'm not a mental health professional. Not by a long stretch actually. And if you're seeking advice for mental health then this podcast is purely for your entertainment and your pondering. So if you are dealing with a mental health issue then by all means seek the help of a professional that you trust because everyone's situation is different. Please do not take what I say here on this podcast for face value. We said this from the very beginning. Remember everything we say on this episode and on this podcast in general should be taken with a grain of salt and you should consider it for yourself and decide if it applies, decide if it works for you. With that very clear disclaimer, I do want to dive in and talk about these. This is a three by three of us. By the way, we've done three of these this week. This is the three practical takeaways for the week. We have three episodes and each episode has three of those practical takeaways. So this is a three by three episode. We're ending the week out with this topic of mental hygiene. But really this is a bigger topic. This isn't just a way of hacking your way to mental hygiene. Hopefully you know this about this show. We don't really like taking shortcuts with things that are supposed to be hard fought. And in mental health and taking care of your mind, that's not something that you can flip a switch and accomplish. First, if you're like most people, you will have moments of breakthrough. You will have experiences, you'll have memories, you'll have even conversations that you can look back and point to and say that was a moment of breakthrough for my mental state, for my mental health. That moment was a key kind of turning point moment. But overall, we're not trying to hack our mental health. This is a regular and arduous process of staying healthy. In the same way that a good nutritionist is not going to find a way to hack your way around, eating really bad food for you. They're going to teach you how to develop the patterns of discipline for healthy eating. And that's the kind of thing that I want to help you do with your mental health and not only your mental health, but your thinking processes. Beyond just getting back to baseline, beyond being able to function, which is so often the topic of mental health discussions, everyone who's listening to this podcast has a reason to be invested in your positive mental health. Not just preventing these things from happening, whether you're dealing with stress or anxiety or depression or anything else. We're not just trying to prevent these, we're trying to also increase the effectiveness of our minds. We want to think better. We want to have more productive uses for our minds. So that's what this episode is about. It's not just about finding the quick ways to clean out the clutter and the cobwebs in your brain. As soon as I finish recording this episode, I'm going to go downstairs and I'm going to boil some water and I'm making loose leaf tea. And if you haven't had loose leaf tea, I highly encourage you to check it out. Mad Monk Tea is offering you 15% off. This is one of my picks that I like to tell people about whenever they're asking, well, when they ask me about Developer Tea, do we have any tea providers? We haven't had tea providers for the history of the show until Mad Monk. Mad Monk has loose leaf teas from all over the world. If you haven't had loose leaf tea, this is the one to try. Go to and use the code Developer Tea. That's with a space when you check out for that 15% off. So we're going to talk about mental hygiene in just a moment. But first, I want to talk about one way that you can actually kind of de-stress yourself. If you have a common problem, something that you are constantly needing to solve, then one of the ways that you can de-stress is by creating your automatic go-to, giving yourself a good default, a way of offloading that decision making and offloading the stress of having to weigh the options and having an immediate option available. Who commerce is that option for you for commerce? And here's why. WooCommerce powers 30% of all online stores. So it has a great track record. That's thing number one. Thing number two is that if you choose WooCommerce, you get to keep all of your data forever. It's built on top of an open source platform, which means that it's totally hackable. And if you're a developer and you have the chops, you can integrate it with anything that you want to integrate it with, any external service. However, even if you're not a developer, WooCommerce has over 140 services that you can integrate with. Now if you're listening carefully and you're a developer and you don't really have an e-commerce problem that you need to solve regularly, you probably do have the chops to build one of these integrations. And you can actually, now, this is brand new, you can actually go and sell this in the WooCommerce store. Head over to slash WooCommerce to get started today. Now listen up to this part. This is very important, especially if you're listening to this episode on the day that it aired. You can use the code Developer Teaat checkout to get 20% off, but you have to do that by the end of this month, by the end of March 2018. And if you've got about a week left before you really need to use that promo code to buy in. And you really have nothing to lose here. WooCommerce is not going to wall your data in. You have the ability to export it anytime, so it's an excellent option. It's an excellent default option because it is so flexible for the average developer. I encourage you to go check it out. Once again, slash WooCommerce. Thank you again to WooCommerce for being today's sponsor. So we're talking about mental hygiene, and I promise you I'm going to give you these three things that I believe you should do to maintain and proactively maintain your mental hygiene. But here's the reality. There's so much more to this discussion that we can't finish in a single episode. So if you're interested in these kinds of discussions, creating better thought patterns as a developer so that you're solving problems in a more effective way, this is the biggest lever you have in your career is bettering your mind. If you're interested in this kind of stuff, I encourage you to subscribe. And I'm not just giving you that line. I'm telling you, this is the kind of thing that we talk about on this podcast all the time. So this is a constant topic. It's something that I'm very interested in studying and I bring that to you through this podcast. So if you are interested in that, that is an excellent reason to go and subscribe. So let's get into this three by three, these three habits to adopt for brain hygiene. Number one, clean your room. Clean your room. Your mother probably told you this as a child or maybe your father or another authority figure. Certainly if you went to school, you had to keep your desks clean. You probably couldn't go to recess unless you cleaned your desks and there's a real research behind why you should do this. The reality is clutter, first of all, there's research behind clutter and how clutter can create a lack of focus no matter what environment you're in. Sometimes it is quite literally at the visual level. Having clutter disallows you from having clear thoughts because you are visually distracted. So that's a very simple and good reason to clean your room. But what about cleaning your room? Why can't you just close the door and you get the same benefit, right? You're not having to look at your room. You're not having to look at your house if you go to an office. Perhaps you can shove everything into a closet. But as it turns out, shoving everything into a closet doesn't really take this away from your brain. And this is something that you can Google. It's called the Zegnarek Effect or the Zegnarek Effect. I'm not really sure how to pronounce it. What is Zegnarek Effect? Essentially, this is the effect that undone tasks way on our minds more heavily than done tasks. Now, this may seem obvious, but the idea of having an unfinished list actually makes you less effective. Having a list of things that you have left undone makes you less effective. So if you have a closet at home that you're supposed to clean and it's on your to-do list, to do that, then it's very possible that you are, unfortunately, cluttering your mind with that particular task. Now, it's not cut and dry. Unfortunately, the research isn't perfect on this because what you may view as undone, I very well may view as done. And this is very much a perception and person by person kind of thing. But most of the time, especially if it is obviously cluttered, we all view a dirty room the same way. So the real takeaway isn't necessarily about picking up the clothes off your floor, although that's probably a good idea. What the real takeaway here is managing your to-do list in a way that limits the number of things you leave undone on a regular basis. So what does that mean? Well, there's also some research that says that simply writing down your tasks, the things that you have in your mind that you need to do, simply writing those down may relieve some of that cognitive overhead, some of that load that you're carrying around, trying to remember all of the things that you need to do. And this is kind of intuitive, right? If we write down our list, then we can kind of put it in our pocket. If you're going to the grocery store, you don't have to remember everything that you're going to buy. However, nothing is as effective as completing that item except one specific exception. And that is removing the item from the list altogether. So the takeaway that I want you to have for today is to examine your to-do list, examine the number of things that you have in your mind and get them out onto that paper, examine them and decide, can I resolve this without any further action? Can I go ahead and mark this off of the list for today or remove it entirely and decommit yourself to some of those actions? What you'll tend to find is that decluttering the things that you are responsible for, whether that's your room or your to-do list, that's going to have a positive effect on the level of clutter that you're actually carrying around in your brain. So this is Brain Hygiene 101, understanding the things that you need to be doing on a day-to-day basis. This is the source of a lot of anxiety, and it's the source of a lot of that kind of future, planning and worry. And am I going to be able to finish all of the things that I've committed to finishing? Some of this can be managed by simply shrinking that to-do list and being very proactive at finishing the things that are most important on that list. Now this isn't groundbreaking stuff. Hopefully you're not listening to this podcast, and for the very first time, you're considering that there's going to be positive effects of making your to-do list smaller. So this isn't rocket science, but as it turns out, it can also be very difficult to remember that our mental health is not decoupled from our daily activities. In fact, it's very tightly coupled to our daily activities. And that really leads us into the second point here, and that is to get out of your mind. We already mentioned getting the twos that you have out of your mind and onto paper, kind of de-loads your brain a little bit. It takes some of the cognitive load off of your brain and puts it into a format that you can manage, and you can kind of pass around. But there's more to this idea of getting out of your head that needs to be discussed. Specifically, getting your thoughts onto paper, no matter what they are, whether it's a to-do list or even if it's just an emotional thought or maybe a good memory that you had. Getting these thoughts expressed onto paper, it can help you process through what is going on in your head. And this is very important, because if we don't process what's going on on our heads, very often it gets kind of repressed or it gets moved around into places that we don't really want it to be, or perhaps it doesn't get the attention that we feel it needs. This is an additional moment that you can take to look at that list that we talked about in point number one, and prioritize it. Decide today what you're going to do. Too often, the result of this cluttered mind, the result of this chaotic and kind of cobwebby mind, is that we go through our day and we get to the end of it and we realize that the day kind of ran us, right? That we didn't really decide to do anything, that we were told what to do it seems from the moment we woke up until the time that we went to sleep. Because we weren't proactive about deciding and prioritizing, this is what I'm going to do with the time that I have available today. So it's very important to get out of your head because you may have those intentions available to you. You may have those, even those priorities available in your mind and you may even set those in your mind. But so often they get lost in the midst of other kind of mental chatter and mental traffic that's incoming from other people, perhaps incoming from all of the stimuli that we use on a daily basis like email or social media. It's incoming from your own processing of the external world. And additionally, if you're looking for other ways to kind of get out of your mind, to bring things that are inside, take them out. You can think of this kind of like taking everything out of the garage so that you can reorganize it and put the things back in that should be in the garage, right? Another very effective option for many people is to see counseling. Of course, we already mentioned this earlier in the show that I'm not a health professional, but beyond me not being a health professional, seeking counseling is not just something for people who have identified that they have a mental health problem, a issue that they want to resolve. That's not the only people who can benefit from counseling. In fact, this proactive type of counseling is incredibly effective and important for many people. Another way you can get out of your head and into the present moment, into your body, paying attention to what's around you is through exercise. And in fact, a lot of studies support the idea that exercise is as important and as effective of a treatment for certain mental health issues like, for example, anxiety as other remedies other treatment options are. And exercise is something that has shown benefits in pretty much every area of life if you look into it. So, this isn't the only soap box that we have on the show. Certainly, we've talked about exercise and the importance of exercise. This is particularly a hot button issue for developers because our jobs very often the patterns that we create because of our jobs can be detrimental unless we're very intentional about incorporating exercise and activity, regular activity into our day to day. The third and final habit that I want to encourage you to participate in is questioning yourself. Questioning yourself. Now, this seems very broad, but as it turns out, really all this means is applying the same level of thought to your own situation as you would to someone you were giving advice to. We spend very little time questioning our own perceptions, our own beliefs. And we spend a lot of time judging others' perceptions. And this can clog up our brain. This gives us poor thought patterns. And it's kind of self-feeding because those poor thought patterns ultimately produce bad behavior, bad ways of interacting with the world. And then this feeds back into our poor thought patterns because when we interact with the world poorly, when we interact with other people poorly, then we tend to reinforce those bad perceptions and it ends up being kind of a downward spiral. Now, this requires you. This particular point is extremely difficult because it requires that you lay down your ego and that you adopt a true perspective of humility. This is embodying the idea that you very well may be wrong and really wrong about anything. So it requires that you lay down your ego, ask yourself if you're being honest. And it's very easy to fool ourselves into believing what you want others to believe about us. We start to believe it so that we can project that for others so they can believe it. And unfortunately, this leads us to really believing lies about ourselves, believing lies that we're telling ourselves about ourselves. Even when we have all of the information available, even when we feel like we're being self-aware, if we're not being honest and if we're not laying down our ego, if we're not identifying our true motivations, for example, then we very often, again, we're going to fill that void with the story that we want rather than the story that is true. The parameters that we desire rather than the real parameters. So it's important to take a moment in any given decision, any given scenario to take a moment and remind yourself that you are observing your own actions like you observe others. In other words, if you're going to provide advice for another person, can you not also provide advice to yourself to process your own reactions, your own perceptions through the lens of healthy and critical inspection? This is incredibly difficult because we are afraid of change. And we don't want to identify a problem that we cost. It's very difficult to come to terms, especially with something that is long-running, something that we've accepted for many years, for example. We don't really like coming to terms with the idea that we have been wrong for so long. And so instead, we choose to stay in that denial state or we choose not to inspect ourselves because we believe this lie that we have figured out everything, that we're judging other people by our own standard rather than by something else. Adopting a true perspective of humility and questioning yourself is the first step to setting up proper thought cycles for your own mind. Thank you so much for listening to today's episode of Developer Tea. This has been kind of a heavy episode. I encourage you to give yourself a moment to reflect on your own life and on your own thought patterns and to accept things for the way they are. To take a moment to quiet your mind a little bit, find some space and kind of mentally create that blank slate mind and really just soak in the day. Soak in the opportunity that lays before you. And then take some time to start working through these brain hygiene items. Thank you so much for listening to today's episode. Thank you again to WooCommerce. If you are looking for your default go to e-commerce solution, then I encourage you to check out WooCommerce. You can get 20% off until the end of this month, the end of March 2018. Head of respect at FM slash WooCommerce and use the code Developer Tea. Check out for 20% off. Thank you again to WooCommerce for sponsoring today's episode. Thank you so much for listening to Developer Tea. This show exists because you listen to it. And we are so thankful for the people who are listening to it. If you believe other developers should hear about this show. If you think it's an effective thing, if it's making you a little bit better every day as a developer, then I encourage you to go and share that in iTunes. Give us a review on iTunes. This is kind of the central location for people to go and find out about podcasts. And for other apps and services that try to pull relevant podcasts that they believe people are going to listen to and find value in. So if you believe that this is a valuable podcast and leave us a rating and a review in iTunes, that's going to help other people find the show. Thank you so much for listening and until next time, enjoy your tea.