🎧 WEEK 5 // Assignments
👪 WEEK 5 // Self-Reflections + Group Explorations
🎧 // Transcript: Building a Human OS
🎙️ What we'll be discussing today:
Welcome to our final week of Nervous System Mastery.
The purpose of this week is to tie together the last 4 weeks of nervous system theory, protocols and self-experiments into a personalised 'Human Operating System' that is unique to you and that you're able to follow for the next 8 weeks, and perhaps beyond.
This episode is designed to be a walkthrough of this Human OS Notion template linked to this week's course notes which is for you to duplicate and to make your own.
We'll approach the sections one by one as they're listed in the template so that you can make notes in your own version as we go.
- The first section of this Human OS template will take us right back to the first week to revisit your underlying intention for exploring this work.
- The second section will invite you to design your Two Modes of Being.
- In the third section we'll be discussing what I call the Four Nervous System Archetypes of Robot, Ninja, Zombie and Architect and inviting an exploration of how we might re-design our external environments to be more supportive for our nervous system functioning.
- In the fourth we'll explore the question of how we can create Social Support Structures to enable long-term nervous system mastery.
- Finally, we'll be introducing the concept of 'Hedonic Calendaring' which will invite you to reflect forwards into the months and year to come and ask how you can be a good steward of your future self.
So remember, this week's assignment is to duplicate the Human OS template and over the course of the final week, explore each section and tailor it to your unique needs and desires. It would be amazing if you're willing to share your template in Discord to give ideas and inspiration to the rest of the community.
There will also be an optional Zoom call in 8 weeks time that you're invited to for celebrating progress, sharing challenges and exploring questions together that relate to any area of this work.
🙏 1: Intention
The first section is to re-visit your intention to join Nervous System Mastery. Here there is space for you to articulate your primary intention for creating and following this Human OS over the coming 8 weeks. What will following this enable in your life? Why does this matter, how does it align with your values and the type of person you wish to show up us.
My example that I gave here was: "I desire to wake up feeling more energised as well as structure in more recovery time during my days and weeks so that I can be present with my partner, feel inclined to play more music and wake up without an alarm clock at sunrise. This is important to me because in the past I have had a tendency to over-effort and push myself in a way that is not sustainable in the long-term. I will track and reflect on my progress through a combination of tracking my HRV baseline score, the quality of my sleep as well as my interoceptive sense of how I feel each morning."
🧠 2: Modes of Being
It's not realistic to imagine that we will be able to perform at our best 24/7. Rather, the aim is to have an anti-fragile & adaptable set of habits, such that you can gauge in real-time each morning upon waking to sense what your body is ready for that day.
IF fully recovered & energised THEN #FLOWMODE
IF under-rested & tired THEN #RECOVERYMODE
I know I'm in #FLOWMODE when... [e.g. my Oura score is above 85]
I know I'm in #RECOVERYMODE when... [e.g. my Oura score is below 75]
*Of course something may happen during the day which knocks you from an energised #focusmode and into #recoverymode—in which case stay adaptable and listen to what your body needs.
*If you want to go the extra mile, you could even buy a reversible wristband (or similar) with two different colours to wear as a reminder during the day of which mode you're in.
You'll see in the template that I've given a few examples for suggestions for possible habits in each of the two modes. Again I'd encourage you to keep this super simple so that you'll get to the point where you won't even need to think about it.
🤖 🥷 3: Archetypes + Environment Design 🧟 👩💼
To recap: up until now we've focused primarily on becoming more aware of our internal state by cultivating interoception and then understanding how we can leverage our biology to change our state and support our nervous system regulation. I call this shift going from operating in ROBOT mode into NINJA mode.
🤖 The ROBOT is always on autopilot, reacting to internal stressful triggers & unable to self-regulate.
🥷 Whereas the NINJA consciously responds to his or her triggers by self-regulating their nervous system using a variety of physiological tools + protocols.
This week I want to discuss another important aspect of nervous system mastery that involves consciously shifting our environment to be more supportive of our biology and the incredible capacity that we have as humans to be the architects of our environment.
I'm not in the habit of quoting British Prime Ministers, but Winston Churchill was reported to have once said that:
I love this idea and would even extend it to say that:
In each moment that we move through our days, our home and work environments are having an effect on our nervous system through our 5 senses.
However, it's common for spaces have been optimised for aesthetics or something else — so this week I'm inviting to you to explore your spaces through the lens of how they impact your nervous system.
🧟 We mentioned the idea of going from robot mode to ninja mode earlier, well I think of this shift as going from operating in ZOMBIE mode where we're essentially sleepwalking through our environment and perpetually reacting to external stressful triggers...
👩💼 ...to shifting into the role of an ARCHITECT where we feel creatively empowered to reshape our environment and sensory input to support our full aliveness throughout our lives.
In order to illustrate the potential for reshaping our environment I want to bring in a framework that my resilience research collaborator Jan Chipchase and I developed called the 'Shadow Stressor' framework.
In this framework we various defined different types of stressor—in other words different sources of sympathetic activation and one distinction that we made was ambient vs. specific stressors.
- Ambient stressors are present in the background of our lives that are conducive to leaving our nervous system in a persistent low-level sympathetic stress response, for example, working in an office with flickering neon light.
As a reminder, your human nervous system will only differentiate the intensity of the stressor, rather than its origin.
This means that all stressors — whether ambient, specific, external or internal will generate the same biological sympathetic response.
We've been learning how to become self-aware enough to realise when this sympathetic state is activated and how to down-shift in any situation using breathing protocols.
Now you can probably guess where I'm going with this, there is a huge opportunity to audit your environments for any external, ambient stressors which you have the capacity to re-design.
I found particularly interesting literature review (link) in the journal for cognitive research in which the author Charles Spence wrote:
"...it is only by recognising the fundamentally multi-sensory nature of perception that one can really hope to explain a number of surprising crossmodal environmental or atmospheric interactions such as between lighting colour and thermal comfort and between sound and the perceived safety of public space"
And his research review goes onto describe how architecture is being reshaped to design for each of our human senses.
But of course this idea isn't only useful for professional architects, we're all the architects of our own spaces to a greater or lesser extent.
A second literature review that I came across examined Environment Design with people who have Autism Spectrum Disorder and the design requirements (link) for creating low arousal environments — from installing adjustable lighting and reducing visual clutter to materials and textures with smooth and wide surfaces, limiting colour contrasts, using plants to separate environments devoted to different functions, ensuring a good ventilation for hyper-olfactory sensitive acoustic stimuli that absorbs more sound.
Now you might be thinking, well I don't think of myself as neuro-divergent or on the spectrum, but the truth is that we are all sensitive to these ambient stressors to a greater or lesser extent. And especially as increasing smartphone usage and other factor seem to be shortening adult attention spans, investing some time to audit and redesign your environment to best suit your nervous system intention is to me a fascinating question to explore.
So coming back to our Human OS template, on a straightforward level, one example of this environment design might be to change the lighting in the room that you spend your evenings in from bright white overhead lighting to orange, dimmer lower lighting which will in itself significantly contribute to unwinding and down-shifting once the sun has set. If you want to get fancy you can even use something like the HUE bulbs to automate this at a certain time each day.
The aim for this section is to put on your ARCHITECT HAT and run through a full audit of how the sensory data coming to you — including visual, audible and olfactory inputs as well as asking how the nervous systems that you spend time with might be impacting yours.
🙏 4: Social Cartography Mapping
My friend gave me feedback on this section and she said so you basically invented a fancy way of saying accountability. Yes, yes I did.
I realised that the majority of the NSM protocols have been self-guided, these are essential, they also can only get us so far... putting in support scaffolding (both paid and unpaid) can make a huge difference. This audit of our support structures is split into three categories.
- Firstly, we often need emotional support (aka co-regulation) from others in times of uncertainty to help navigate the challenges.
- Second, we struggle to see our own blind spots. We need what I call a challenge network—a group of people who trust us enough to give compassionate criticism and highlight what we can’t see by ourselves.
- Third, by inviting others in we are creating external accountability structures to dedicate time + energy to our own regulation, resilience and thriving.
The two questions to reflect on are: Which of these three areas do you feel well supported in? Who comes to mind as being in your support network? And once you've answered this, feel into what potential gaps are there? Who might you ask for trusted recommendations?
📆 5: Hedonic Calendaring
The final section is termed 'hedonic calendaring' which was initially pioneered by Jamie Wheal in the Flow Research Genome project as a science-backed approach to generating more consistent flow and meaning in your life.
Only you will know what will enable you to feel the best and lead to a well-regulated and thriving nervous system in the long run.
One of the key concepts here is to remember that we are cyclical creatures and to fully thrive we require different forms of regulation on a daily, weekly, monthly, seasonal and annual basis — so pencilling events (especially the longer getaways) into the calendar is a great way of ensuring that you make time for them.
In the template you'll find three of four examples that you might want to borrow in each section.
📝 Summary + Wrap up
Okay so there you have the walkthrough of the HUMAN OS template. I hope you have fun creating this template for yourself and a reminder that this is just a starting point. You are absolutely encouraged to remix, add or remove whatever isn't serving you.
It's also preferable that you keep it simple in the beginning and be realistic about the extent of the changes you wish to make in the next 8 weeks—starting small and then building from there.
That's all for this episode, congratulations on making it all the way through these five weeks of NSM, you've reached the end of the beginning of this hopefully lifelong journey.