Oldskooler Ramblings

the unlikely child born of the home computer wars

What does normal living feel like?

Posted by Trixter on September 30, 2019

Technology has human physical cost. The year I started using computers daily may have been the most formative year of my life, but it also started a lifetime of bad habits. For decades, I haven’t slept more than 5 hours a night except maybe on weekends. I’ve spent those same decades sitting in a chair instead of moving around in the real world. Both of my feet hurt, and not from the same cause. My upper back has pain that doesn’t match my lower back pain. I am deficient in vitamin D. I process information more slowly than I used to. I no longer feel like the smartest kid in the room.

October is my month to unplug from everything and perform personal experiments on myself. Last year, it was watching one horror movie a day and commenting on it. In 2012, it was completely disconnecting from the internet. This year, it will be attempting to live life like a normal human being is probably supposed to:

  • Get 8 hours of sleep every night
  • Exercise (cardio) every morning

That’s it. No other changes, nothing crazy or extreme; just live life like human biology meant for me to live. Burgers and pizza are still on the table.

Why haven’t I done these two basic things thus far? Why is it difficult? Maybe it’s the low-level anxiety that makes me fear going to sleep. (90% of my dreams are nightmares, which doesn’t help.) Maybe it’s FOMO. Maybe it’s because I don’t drink alcohol or do drugs, and so computer time is my vice. I don’t know, and I’m not ready for therapy.

Will I feel better? Will I have less pain? Will I think more clearly? Will my outlook on life change? Will I be more productive? Will I have more energy? Will I lose weight? I’ll be recording and charting my physical and mental status every day, and will share the results with you at the end of October.

7 Responses to “What does normal living feel like?”

  1. malvineous said

    Looking forward to seeing the results. I know myself getting enough sleep makes a huge difference, as difficult as it is to achieve.

    Next October, or perhaps before, I’d also recommend trying to go without sugar for a month. I’ve done it myself and know of a couple of others who have done the same, and they all reported their anxiety symptoms drastically reduced, among other benefits (more energy, mood improvements, calmer, more patience, etc.) Of course they also said giving up sugar was one of the hardest things they had ever done, as it turns out it’s incredibly addictive and you get withdrawal symptoms similar to smokers and nicotine addiction. But after about three weeks without any refined sugar at all, there’s such a huge change in your feeling of wellbeing it’s unbelievable until you’ve actually gone through it yourself.

    It seems to have something to do with changing the populations of the different bacteria that live in the gut, bringing the distribution back in line with what humans have had historically. Too much refined sugar (sucrose) in the diet seems to promote the growth of some detrimental bacterial species over and above others, with this imbalance then causing flow on effects with the health of the “host” human. There is quite a lot of research coming out now about how important the make up of the gut microbiome is, and how many different ailments seem to be related to having the wrong type of bacteria in the gut. An interesting thing is that the bacterial species that feed on sugar seem to release a chemical when they are hungry which causes the host to crave sugary foods. This is part of the reason why it’s almost impossible for most people to stop eating sugar, because the cravings induced by the microbes become too overpowering. Personally I had to wean myself off it over a period of about three months because my willpower wasn’t strong enough to go cold turkey – I was getting the shakes and having mood swings and it was actually a pretty rough time, I couldn’t believe it was all because of sugar.

    Also just to be clear I’m only talking about refined sugar (white sugar, sucrose) not natural sugars like you get in fruit – those are still fine if you are getting them from eating the fruit itself. But anything that includes sugar in the list of ingredients on the packet is problematic. Which also makes you realise just how many products contain added sugar! It can become really difficult to figure out what to eat as there’s not a lot of choice once you exclude foods with added sugar.

    Anyway good luck with this month’s experiment and I hope you notice some real benefits from it!

    • Trixter said

      I appreciate the advice and background on sugar, and I completely agree. If I could live my life without processed sugar, I’d definitely be happier. It’s unfortunate that my most common coping mechanism for anxiety is food, usually bad food, so if I’m to avoid it, I need to gain willpower in other areas.

      I’ll say this: I’m definitely aware of the sugar I consume, because it is (unfortunately) a very conscious choice.

  2. Neil C. Obremski said

    Your very first sentence grabbed me. “Technology has a human [physical] cost.”

    There’s so many aspects of this post I could comment on … do I provide advice, rant on the state of modern technology, or provide anecdotal experience of my own? There seemed to be a lot of negativity underpinning the writing here.

    In any case, your contributions are interesting to me and I’ll be curious to see what your findings are … or aren’t.

    • Trixter said

      The negativity came from a place of growing desperation. I feel like any extended interaction on social media results in a dopamine hit, then a longer and more severe crash. It’s like drug addiction (for me personally), and I always seem the worse for it.

      I’ll be posting an update in a few hours.

  3. […] What does normal living feel like? […]

  4. cuvtixo said

    Looks like I’m overdue, or perhaps right on time(!), posting a year later. I’m living in a very different mindspace. After getting on Disability in 2004, I’ve discovered that setting aside 8 hours for sleep and a regular bedtime means nothing in ACTUALLY getting a good night’s rest, although if putting aside that time actually works for you, than good for you. Physiological research suggests we have bursts of movement and awakening each night, and really several periods of REM: basically in a good sleep we have 5 or 6 dreams, we just remember the last, or combine them as a single dream if we remember waking up. The estimation of 90% nightmares is VERY unscientific. It certainly could be accurate, but it would be more accurate to say you forget 90% of all your dreams: we all do. If 90% of the ones you remember are nightmares, just take that estimation with a big grain of salt. Also sleeping separately helps increase the amount of sleep we get. Having two people sleep together regularly is a stupid idea, at least since central heating came to northern climes.
    Oh, and the vast majority of therapists are delusional about their own abilities. It’s pretty much prostitution where the prostitute gets paid for NOT touching you, just listening to you and keeping your stupid ramblings private. Maybe “Geisha” is more appropriate, although that suggests some sort of elegance or sophistication. It’s true most of the therapists I’ve hired were on the cheap: “truck stop ho.. shrinks”. But I worked professionally with the high-end psychiatrists too, even gone to their cocktail parties. But generally “wham, bam, thank you” and you feel a little better for a day or two. Can be worth it depending how shitty your life is. But the benefits last about the same amount as being “serviced” otherwise, maybe less.

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