Drink when you’re thirsty. In short – take care of your bodily needs immediately. If you feel hungry, go eat now. By the time the signal is strong enough to rise to consciousness, it already is time to deal with it. As quickly as possible, when you feel like you need to eat, drink, pee, rest – do it. The longer you wait the crappier you’ll feel and the less patience you’ll have.
I don’t know about you, but my ideal state of being is calm AND energized. As I move throughout the world I want to have the patience and presence of mind to look at all the possibilities each moment brings. This is physically not possible if I’m desperate to go to the bathroom, dehydrated, or hungry (I do love that word so).
I feel rather ridiculous writing all of this out. Shouldn’t I have mastered these basic needs by elementary school? I just about fell over when I read a story entitled “A Drinking Problem” in the New Yorker.
In the autumn, I passed out again while getting out of bed, at which point the possibility of my impending death really started to bother me. I lay awake at night listening to my pulse suspiciously, as if surveilling an enemy within.
Finally, another doctor wanted to know if I was drinking enough water. Dehydration could cause my naturally low blood pressure to fall even lower. Low enough for me to faint abruptly? She shrugged. Maybe. It was true I drank very little water, some days none at all. And this benign explanation for my blackouts had a lot of appeal for me: it was nonfatal, and it was something I could fix. I seized it for all it was worth, and arguably more.
Why wasn’t I drinking enough water? I just wasn’t thirsty, or wasn’t sure what thirst felt like.
It appears I’m far from the only one. The author proceeds to find an app to remind her to drink more water.
Good goddamn, more apps interrupting us with more notifications are not the solution, which the author also figured out herself after a couple of months.
You will not learn how to notice when you’re thirsty by blindly following the orders of a push notification.
More than a year has passed since the last time I fainted, and, frankly, the threat of total bodily collapse just isn’t the motivator it once was. When I hear the app’s chirpy tone emanating from the bottom of my handbag, I am no longer struck with terror. I don’t take a break with a cup of water. I have contracted out one of the essential functions of my body to a piece of software, only to find that—like my body—technology is surprisingly easy to ignore.
I do believe technology can help us reconnect to our bodies which is why I’m founding an org, Hack Reality, to explore exactly that. Throw us your email if you want to hear about those experiments. In the meantime, you might as well be doing what we’re doing to digital detox-- walking.
Wanna know how to listen to your body to tell you it’s thirsty? Go walk. Every time you hear the faintest glimmer of the word “water” come into your mind, take a drink. This is not rocket surgery. The term neuroscientists use to describe this is “what fires together wires together.” Stimulus-- response. Unconscious brain surfaced the word “water”, conscious brain took drink. Body felt better. Repeat, repeat, repeat and you’ll strengthen the connection between those neurons.
The problem is we’ve become numb to our bodily needs. Those neurons aren’t strongly connected. We know our body feels crappy, but we don’t know why. We can’t tell the difference between hungry, thirsty, sleepy. The immediate hack is drugs – caffeine and/or sugar. Feel like shit? Go get a coffee or chocolate bar. That’ll work for an hour or so and then you’re back to feeling like crap. Like we all know to eat better, drink more, sleep more. What I feel like is missing is how to rebuild awareness of what our bodies need moment to moment. We also have the opposite problems – eating too much, sleeping in till afternoon on weekends. We have no balance. It’s no wonder we’re suffering an epidemic of obesity, anxiety, and depression at all socioeconomic, geographic levels and for every age group over X years old. We are numb to the signals our body is sending us about what it needs right now.