Sometimes I wonder about the filters we place between reality and perception.

I can be moody at times, and when I finally pull myself out of the funk, I often realize that my attitude has been influenced by a gap in personal maintenance.

Lack of sleep can hit me hard, and the effects of sleep debt tend to build over time. Not enough healthy food, an excess of unhealthy food, or too little water can all make a big difference in my daily mood. Regular exercise is tough at first, feels great when I get into a routine, and is the first commitment I let go of when things get busy.

Whenever these sorts of personal maintenance tasks get out of whack, it’s like I’ve put on a pair of tinted glasses. Something with me is wrong, but instead of realizing it I feel like something in the world is wrong. In my mind, there’s something external that I have to fix.

After a short while, I usually get a glimmer of insight that my situation may be coloring my perceptions. I’m often tempted to improve that situation with with caffeine or alcohol. In the long run, neither is a great solution. They just add another pair of tinted glasses over the ones I’m already wearing.

Beyond “simple” biochemistry, we’re affected by all the habits and opinions we’ve built up – good and bad – over the course of our lives. Those habits of mind and body often place yet another set of tinted lenses in front of the others.

Anyone who’s played with colored filters and lights knows that if you stack up enough filters it’s hard for anything to shine through. We can get so used to squinting through these filters that we can’t remember what a world without intermediaries looks like.

It’s hard to figure out how a trap works from the inside. It can be even harder to figure out how to open it from the inside. We can’t begin to soften our perceptive filters if we don’t realize they’re there in the first place.

I wish the solution was as simple as taking off a pair of glasses. It’s probably just easier to avoid putting them on in the first place.