Engage Your Brain

Today’s contest post will be published at 1 p.m. PST. It is a time urgent contest so you’ll have to move quickly. The first contestant to solve every brain teaser is the winner. Check back in a few hours for all the details.

As Tuesday’s post noted, we’re now midway through our 30-day challenge. I hope the second half of your adventure has gotten off on the right foot. What are your thoughts, reflections, questions since the halfway mark? What are you looking forward to in these last couple weeks? Where do you hope the experience will take you by month’s end? As we enter into the second half, two challenge points take center stage – points that call up powers of the mind more than the body. The Primal Blueprint of course garners its foundation from evolutionary principle, but it’s delineated by good, old-fashioned common sense and a modern interest in overall wellness. There are guidelines, tools and even challenge points, but you direct your own practice from there. I tell people, it’s less about formula and more about experience. Specifically, an ongoing Primal practice hones your ability to read your own body’s signals. Because you’re eating, moving and living in accordance with your body’s natural, optimum functioning, you gain a new appreciation for living in tune with it, responding to its signs. Additionally, when you’re feeling healthy and taking control of your well-being, the process get you thinking about other means of wellness actualization. Pursuing better health, readers often tell me, leads to ultimately pursuing a fuller life for themselves.

First thing’s first though. Let’s check in with Challenge #9. Now that you’ve had time to experiment with new routines, new foods, and new activities, you’re probably learning what works best for you and what doesn’t totally hit the mark. You’re sensing what feels good and where you overreach. You’ve been getting your bearings, figuring out where you’re at in order to tailor how you’ll proceed. There’s nothing slow or underachieving about this approach. In fact, it’s just smart.

Challenge #9: Avoid Stupid Mistakes

Listen to your body: This is such a broad Primal Blueprint law the challenge could take many directions. For the purpose of this 30-day challenge, though, I’d like you to be particularly aware of what your body is telling you during each of the other challenges. Feel a sharp pain during a sprint? Be smart and end your sprint session. Skin turning pink while out in the sun? That’s a sign to seek shade and avoid a nasty burn. I want this to be a pain and injury free event, so pay particular attention to what your body is saying.

(This is just one of many challenges. Learn about all of the 30-Day Primal Blueprint Challenges here.)

Although it might seem obvious, #9 trips up more people than you think. Although I’m all for going whole hog – throwing full energy and enthusiasm into an endeavor, there’s a risk with such unbridled fervor. My experience is that people tend to get into trouble when they focus too much on an idea – a goal, a principle – rather than the implementation. It’s not just about the execution: it’s about the experience, too. How is your body handling the transition? Maybe it’s telling you that a full cup of nuts – soaked, they might be – is too much or that you could use a rest day from the weight room. Maybe your body’s telling you that it really digs the new yoga class, but take it a little slower on a few positions. Are you skimping on sleep to fit in new Primal activities? Are you letting stress distract you from proper exercise technique? Name one area where you could probably apply a little more caution? Think about it for yourself, and share it on our comment board.

The key to #9 is to go at your own pace. Ultimately, let your mind learn to be present with your body. It’s maybe the most important and abiding lesson some of us will take away from the Challenge.

The Cost of Perfection

Why Skipping Meals and Workouts is Healthy

Bodyweight Exercises and Injury Prevention

The 7 Rules of Summer Safety

10 Unnecessary, Worthless or Dangerous Exercises

3 Ways to Keep Exercise Fun and Rewarding

While you’ve got your brain engaged, think about giving it a little love this month. It works hard for you, too. As part of this month’s Challenge, you might have reworked your schedule to ad in some extra fitness or food prep time. Let me tell you, there are few investments as worthy as this. Nonetheless, there’s more to full well-being than physical health. We’re a species blessed with intellectual and creative ability. Exploration, experimentation, and reflection run to the very core of our humanity. Although curiosity might have gotten Grok and his clan in hot water once in a while, mostly it saved their skins – and likely our species at various points. Adaptation was crucial in the face of adversity, when brains mattered as much as brawn, endurance or speed. Beyond evolutionary survival, however, intellectual endeavor offers us plenty of benefit in the here and now.

Challenge #10: Use Your Brain

Challenge yourself intellectually: I won’t ask you to throw out your television or read War and Peace this month. But I will say that you are gifted with a huge brain, and you should flex it. We each have the power to solve difficult problems, be incredibly creative, and effect major change. And it all begins in our heads. This month I challenge you to identify one of the intellectually challenging things in your life you’ve been meaning to do and take the first steps to actually doing it. Apart from the pride and satisfaction you’ll derive from following through there are many health benefits conferred as a result. As the saying goes, use it or lose it.

(This is just one of many challenges. Learn about all of the 30-Day Primal Blueprint Challenges here.)

Earlier this summer I wrote about the power of an enriched environment. Intellectual stimulation, research suggests, supercharges our immune system. We best thrive in a life that fully engages our physical and mental capacities. While feeding our brains might prolong our lives, it’s also about putting life in our years. After all, we want to be healthy to have the energy and longevity to enjoy the people and activities that give us fulfillment.

Indulge your social self, your spiritual side. Your health will be better for it.

Social Wellness, or Why Friendship Should Be a Healthy Priority

Spirituality and Health

Compassion Meditation

Benefits of Benevolence

However, challenge yourself on a purely personal, intellectual front as well.

Pimp Your Brain: 8 Simple Tricks to Improve Cognition, Memory and Alertness

The Fit Brain

Cut out some noise from your life, and make the time and space for it.

Mired in Media

Relaxation Response

The Primal Blueprint for Busy People – Part 1: Sleep and Stress

The Primal Blueprint for Busy People – Part 2: Social and Naturalistic Wellness

Whether it’s taking up woodworking or an instrument, joining a book club or learning a language, delve into something that feeds your noggin. Use your brain in a way that invests in your personal curiosity and passion. What’s that one thing you’ve wanted to do lately, been meaning to do for yourself? Think about it. I’d love it if you shared it on the board.

We all know the feeling of slipping into bed with a pleasantly exhausted body. Exercising your brain can leave you with a similar contentment and feeling of accomplishment when it’s lights out at the end of the day. You’ve taken the Challenge to a whole new level, and you have that much more reason to continue and see where it leads you.

Thanks for reading today. Let me know what’s on your mind at this point in the Challenge and what today’s post has inspired for you. Grok on!

TAGS:  mental health

About the Author

Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.

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68 thoughts on “Engage Your Brain”

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  1. I have found this challenge to be such an eye opener. I tho’t that I was pretty savvy, since I’ve been living this way for several months, but I have really paid close attention to the details, like my sleep. In addition, I have taken time to read as opposed to simply watching mindless tv to unwind. I do have to say that I need to take heart to that “full cup of nuts” being too much. Other than that, our household is doing very well! ~Karyn

  2. I haven’t had a TV in years and there is no way I will ever want one either. I don’t understand how people have time or enthusiasm to watch TV.

    I’ve wanted to learn Italian so I think I will now just do it. Yeah!

    1. What about just a little TV?

      I watch Man vs. Wild every Wednesday night – its a fantastic primal friendly TV show.

      That along with sports once in a while is all the TV I watch these days!

      1. Yeah maybe some programmes are OK but I am so used to not having a TV I don’t miss it at all because I don’t know what’s going on. It’s the same with everything (internet for example), it can be good if used wisely but it’s so easy to slip and spend way too much time on something accidentally.

        1. I agree with you 100%. When I move out I do not plan on having a TV. It will be interesting to see how that goes even though I do not watch it much.

    2. Need to admit that despite not owning a TV, I have noticed tendency to “replace” it with Internet time. So that’s my Stupid Mistake to avoid going forward: stop screen-sucking late at night to give my body sufficient quality sleep time!

      I’m truly grateful for 80/20 rule in making the shift to Primal lifestyle and found today’s message from Mark the most meaningful to me personally by far.

      My Intellectual challenge(s): practicing my Spanish every day + committing at least 1 piano piece/month to memory.

      Viva La Vida Primal!!

  3. Funny that you mention stopping sprints if you feel pain. I am on a NO SPRINT restriction for at least 7 days due to an agitated Sartorius muscle. Of course when I first started feeling the burn i ignored it and figured it would take care of itself. I continued to push and ended up agitating it bad enough to where, despite all my effort I could not go fast! So in the future I will listen more to my body and stop when it says stop.

  4. #9: Don’t run down hill in the dark with a dog pulling on the leash. (I didn’t crash but it was too close for comfort.)

    #10: School starts on Tuesday!!

  5. My stupid mistake: I ate smoked salmon without looking at the packaging. There’s a certain brand that I always buy that works for me. But I went to a new store and that new store didn’t have my brand! But I wanted smoked salmon, so I bought the other brand. Yesterday I ate it and immediately noticed symptoms of my allergies. Oops!! Next time, I will read the label!!

    My intellectual challenge: writing more. 😉

  6. Reading before going to bed instead of watching TV. I sleep much better. Also, got 8 hours of sleep last night and I feel really good. I think I need at least 7. I do not function well on 6 or less.

  7. Today I noticed controlling my urge to emotionally eat was easier. I was proud of myself.

    The 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle I opened on day 1 of this challenge is getting even harder. I refuse to give up, but, dang….

    So far, all month I’ve been reaching my goal of consistency with exercise. I’m so happy for it!

  8. And I have registered for a 2 session bicycle mainteance class for November:)

    I renewed my passion and commitmentfor tai chi, and I have actually been practicing and studying my notes.

    I can’t wait to begin reading “The Rise of Teddy Roosevelt” tonight – after my bike ride:)

  9. I need to work on getting more sleep. I’ve been staying up *way* too late and I know the problems that causes for me.

  10. I know the place in my life where I can apply a bit more caution boils down to watching what I’m eating. Sometimes I am too tired to make dinner and think ‘Oh, I can eat a little bit of this or that’ but later, it comes back to haunt me. “Avoid stupid mistakes”. It’s my motto now which goes right along with “Use your brain”, in more ways than one!

  11. My Avoid Stupid Mistakes moment: I started out September with a hip injury, and was told not to walk. Just rest and ice. Well, September in Wisconsin is BEAUTIFUL, and I find it very difficult to just sit around. So I do go walking–very slowly, and just for about five blocks. Well, now my hip hurts worse! So, lesson learned–don’t force myself to do more than I know I should!

    My Engage Your Brain moment: I taught myself to crochet from a book. Repetition makes perfect (or almost). I am working on a crochted quilt for my bed, and hope to be finished with it this fall.

  12. My stupid mistake for the week was having a 3rd cup of coffee, and it was after lunch. So it affected my sleep. So the next day was less than stellar. When I stop and realize what the cup of coffee cost me in energy and attitude, it sure wasn’t worth it.

    But I was smart today. I was doing sprints for the 2nd time ever, and had a goal of doing 10 sprints. On the 7th one, I felt a pain and when it seemed to be worse on the 8th one, I stopped.

    I have had a goal to learn how to use all the functions on my camera and the editing software for months now. Not a very scholarly goal, but one that I would enjoy. And just understanding basic photography concepts instead of just pointing and clicking in auto mode would make me a much better photographer.

  13. This post comes at a good time! After an 8 year hiatus, I am going back to school full time to finish my Bachelor’s degree! I am so excited, and thankful that my life situation is such that I can actually focus and wrap it up– should be done within a year.

    Also, I moved to a new country and am still learning the language, but spend most of the day on my own, since my daughter just started school here. So I have plenty of time to reflect and journal. This is such a gift, and aligns very well with the reflective aspect of the PB lifestyle.

  14. Hey Mark,

    I have to say that this challenge has been amazing for me. I’ve been a die-hard bread lover since I was young and would eat 4-6 slices a day. Now, I’m totally primal and loving it. I really don’t miss the bread as much as I thought. I used to use the carbs to fill me up but now I’m so full from some amazing primal dinners my wife cooks up like venison and wild mushroom stew over cauliflower “rice”. Your workouts are kicking my ass in such a short amount of time. Thanks so much for your sensible approach to health and wellness.

    1. Speaking as a veteran carboholic… it does get easier, the longer you stick with it. Sounds like you’ve discovered that already!

  15. A few weeks ago, I did finally discontinue my cable service and took up my love of reading again. Having no TV has also helped me get more sleep, something I’ve been trying to do for the past year without a lot of success. Now I just need to cut back on the internet time, but there’s just so much to learn! I’ve also been contemplating picking up some of my former creative pursuits that I’ve neglected for years, like sketching and writing.

  16. I have always been a big reader, mostly esoteric non-fiction. I am now halfway through Robb Wolf’s The Paleo Solution and have a few more “health/lifestyle” books on the shelf waiting. I would have continued down the road of CW, and a mostly vegetarian/carb diet if I had not found this site. I am reaping all the benefits. Fat loss, satiety, energy, less pain, smiles… 😉

    Thank You,


    1. That’s what I just finished reading! Good book. Will read Mark’s book next. 😉

  17. I’ve been lifting for years, so I get a little too comfortable with weights sometimes. Yesterday, I bet over incorrectly to pick up some dumbbells, twisted as I came up – and POW~ out goes my back. It wasn’t much weight, and I’m only 36 years old. I should know better – picking up heavy objects is all about form, which I didn’t use. I hardly slept last night due to the pain, can hardly get out of a chair today – and I have a photo-shoot tomorrow I have to be prime for. STUPID, STUPID, STUPID. Just learned a lesson the hard way – don’t get comfortable ! Avoid stupid mistakes!

  18. Yes, we are 70 and 67 learning French for the first time. What a challenge! Way more fun than TV. I am spending too much time in the kitchen, so will simplify our meals for the next two weeks. Slumping on the exercise, so this will free up more time for the trails and squats, etc. Much more even energy and clear-headedness. Primal for Life…!!! Kaylean getting leaner…Mark, you are a gem!

  19. More caution is needed in safeguarding my time just to be. I spend way too much time doing and not enough being.

    For intellectual stimulation – I also just finished Robb Wolf’s book. I’m going back for my MS in Biology starting next fall, so I’m reading through a couple of textbooks to get my mind back in tune to real in-depth science (unlike what I teach at the HS level)

  20. My brain challenge will to begin Rosetta Stone to learn Spanish. We have a vacation going to Mexico, so it will be a fun challenge to enhance our adventure.

    1. I’m doing the same thing! I hope Rosetta stone is as good as they claim…

  21. Stupid mistake: Allowing others to influence my cheats.

    As far as a brain challenge goes, I’m in it. Thesis due in a week.

    1. Ah…. Same here!

      “Stupid mistake: Allowing others to influence my cheats.”

      Its crazy how much of a challenge this can be… enjoying a small family birthday party (my brother) at a cottage on lake michigan watching the Michigan vs. Notre Dame game and the 6 family members all enjoy none primal dessert. I of course dig in as well even though more than half of me did not want too!

      I wasn’t even pressured into it…

  22. trying to spend 15 minutes a night at least of non work related reading – just fiction and doing meditation/yoga at least once or twice a week.

      1. Maybe this is part of the teaser… how long does it take for us to figure out that we’re INSIDE THE PUZZLE?!?! :p

  23. While i was on the road to St. Ives, i met a man with…..thought I’d get you moving….

    1. So, does that mean I need to “refresh” in about 40 minutes? See y’all then!

  24. I need to shut down the computer earlier in the evenings, time can be sucked up with surfing the internet. For example.. right now;( Beautiful day outside and I’m waiting for a challenge. 🙂

    1. lol…I was thinking the same thing…other things I could be doing right now! I don’t even know what prize I’m waiting to try to win!!!

  25. Anybody want to buy some custom apparel or embroidery while we wait? jk

  26. Am giving up my TV when I move in 3 weeks. There are things I like to watch, but I hope I’m going to go back to reading more. I’m really not looking for more intellectual challenge — between the day job and the writing, that’s plenty! As for not doing stupid things — for me today that involved listening to my body and eating a late lunch, instead of just waiting for dinner.

  27. I have to say there’s so much information here, I could easily spend a few hours at MDA. My stupid mistake…. I ate 1/2 of a small, small pizza and I praying, now, that there won’t be horrid side effects from it tomorrow.

  28. I am dealing with bronchitis and my body is telling me to rest. But, my Conventional Wisdom is telling me to work out and not be lazy. I am struggling to listen to my body and forget the fear of getting fat because I am resting.

  29. Wow, fantastic blog layout! How long have you been blogging for?
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