Are You Getting Your 10,000 Mental Steps a Day?

What if you made as much time in your day for mental wandering as you do for getting your 10,000 steps in?

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How Can You Resist the Brain Buffet?

My phone counts my steps.
It’s full of stuff to keep my 
mind from wandering.

If you’ve been reading this newsletter for a while, you’ll know I struggle with information overconsumption.

I’ve made interventions in the past:

Those all helped, but haven’t solved my problem. 

My brain is too ravenous and my phone is more irresistibly bountiful than the Bacchanal Buffet in Vegas. Whenever I have the space to squeeze something onto my plate—while bottle-feeding my son, washing dishes, working out, waiting for a bus, not listening to my wife—I dip into the brain buffet and gorge. Podcasts, newsletters, Twitter, ESPN, you name it. Shove it all in.

Buuuurp.

Lucky for my mental health, I have zero appetite for TikTok Twinkies. Even so, my excessive consumption of self-help, business, and sports content harms me. My attention span has shortened as much as the average American’s waistline has stretched. My brain is constipated with other people’s thoughts. Most terrifyingly, my 3-year-old son uses a Magnatile as his “phone” to pretend to read and listen like me.

What to do?

One day a few weeks ago when phone ran out of batteries, a new strategy popped into my mind.

Where’s My Mental Sixpack?

The healthiest minds
Strengthen, stretch, rest, nourish, play,
And wander freely.

What if we further extend this ‘information is food’ analogy?

A wholesome, varied information diet is good for you but too much will make you sluggish and sick. You’ve got to burn the calories you take in. Mental exercise comes in the form of creating—writing, teaching, debating, applying. It builds information into useful muscle.

And me? I’ve become an overweight mental meathead. Consume, strengthen. Consume, strengthen. While it’s pleasurable and helps me earn money, it’s also making feel stiff, sore, and stressed. I’m not performing at my best. 

What’s missing? 

Active rest and recovery, i.e., walking.

Everyone says to target 10,000 steps a day. Maybe I can try to do the mental equivalent. 

What might 10,000 mental steps entail? Ten thousand seconds of letting my mind wander? No, that’s almost three hours, too much of a daily commitment. 

How long does it take to walk 10,000 steps? Approximately 100 minutes, ChatGPT tells me. That feels more manageable. 

Me for about 100 minutes of every day.

300,000+ Steps Later

I’m more than a month into targeting 10,000 mental steps / 100 minutes of mental wandering a day.

I’ve stopped using my phone for workouts, walks, chores, and a lot more. No more podcasts, no music, no checking my phone. Just letting my mind wander. It’s drastically cut back on my phone use and distraction.

Am I hitting 10,000 mental steps every day? Not sure. My iPhone doesn’t have a pedometer for the mind like it does for the body. That’s fine. The intent matters to me, not the exact numbers.

As some guru probably said, “It’s all about the mindset.”

The reframe of accumulating 10,000 mental steps a day works better for me than the “embrace boredom” advice I’ve seen others preach. I’m not avoiding distraction; I’m working toward getting my mental steps in. It feels more proactive.

But is it “life-changing”?

Umm… My mental wandering has yet to lead me to any life-changing discoveries. But then again, my indulgent information diet hadn’t won me any Nobel Prizes, either. At least now the ideas I come across are my own. I’m feeling lighter, fresher, more nimble.

Most encouragingly, I’m starting to crave my peaceful mental meanders as much as the internet’s delicious buffet.

About the author

👋 I'm Chris. Everything you read on TheZag.com is my fault. This site is like a gym for your comfort zone, full of challenges to make your status quo sexier. Join my 'Consider This' newsletter for a fun new challenge every 10 days. Try it!

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