In the endless race of this modern age towards living our dreams, many of us end up overworked, exhausted and stressed – with little time to do what we love – or sadly, even be with those we love. Worst of all, our bodies bear the brunt and take the beating. If this scenario sounds familiar to you, then the time has come to Upgrade Your Life and Workplace!
In James J. Lachard’s ‘Interview with God’, when asked: What surprises you the most about humankind? God answered: “They lose their health to make money, and then lose their money to restore their health. They live as if they will never die and die as if they had never lived.”
According to Olli Sovijärvi (MD), Teemu Arina (Serial Technologist), and Jaakko Halmetoja (Nutritionist), co-authors of the bestselling Biohacker’s Handbook, “upgrading” consists of a deep look at the five key areas to living a happy, healthy and well-balanced life: Exercise, Nutrition, Sleep, Mind and Work.
If you have been suffering from any of the 90-95% of all illnesses which are ultimately stress-related, or even an undiagnosable illness, or any aspect of your world is not what you had imagined for yourself, try looking at your life and the way you live it with new and open eyes. The upgrading process engages every sense and urges us forward to perfect health with a renewed boost of power to take responsibility for our own wellbeing and experiences, and also take advantage of the technology and latest discoveries available to us.
You can wake up energetic and revived with an excitement and zest for life by incorporating these simple hacks into your daily routines: eat quality nutrient-dense foods, upgrade your beverages, improve your work conditions, optimize ergonomics and fix your posture, and most importantly, train your mind and nervous system and become part of nature! By optimizing your biology you are on the road to surpassing all physical limits!
The Japanese have a concept called ‘Ikigai’ – a reason for being – which they believe each one of us possess, though we must search to find it. It’s interesting to note that Ikigai is not a reason for ‘doing’, which in our collective culture, what we “do” is more often than not where identities are drawn from. To find your ‘Ikigai’ ask yourself:
- What do I LOVE? (Your Passion)
- What am I GOOD AT? (Your Profession)
- What can I be PAID FOR? (Your Vocation)
- What does the world NEED? (Your Mission)
When you set out to become clear on these foundational questions without all the unnecessary distractions of our surroundings, health becomes simply a state of being. As the adage goes, “You are what you repeat.” It is not the new diet or the new exercise routine that will change our lives; it is the small choices we repeatedly make every single day which determine the quality of our lives.
Hence to “upgrade” means to be in touch with oneself. We do that by becoming completely self-aware of where we are at this moment. From that place of realization we can take the next steps (like all great and successful human beings on earth do), to foster morning and daily rituals and explore what kind would most benefit us personally and give us the needed momentum for the day. A ritual could be as simple as a cold morning shower.
Through increased consciousness, we can also further explore how our bodies are programmed. Dopamine is the ‘feel good’ organic chemical in the body and if we get to the bottom of all the gadgets and software we buy and use, they are all to the same end of filling the void of this primate need to feel good and be connected. Evaluate what your habits of patterns and addictions are, in order to best evaluate what serves you and what doesn’t.
Biohacking expert Teemu Arina measured his activities using apps like RescueTime to see how much time he spent at a computer. He combined that data with the Moment App to check time spent on his phone. Together it gave him a relatively accurate gauge of his daily habits. This type of information can in turn become a platform for crucial improvement upgrades.
SLEEP: Once routines are measured, focus is more wisely placed on recovery rather than productivity, as recover is more than half of training. The amount of sleep you need depends on the individual and also on the state of health. With sickness or an inflammatory infection, obviously more sleep is needed. At least 20% of sleep should be deep sleep because this phase is the most restorative part of sleep when the lymphatic system flushes out the metabolic byproducts and toxic waste that accumulates in the brain. REM sleep (the lighter sleep) is difficult to measure accurately, but it’s the phase of sleep when learning from the day is consolidated. This is why taking breaks and short naps throughout the day for 20 to 90 minutes 6 to 8 hours from wakeup is beneficial. Biological rhythm is important and good sleep can help in preventing diseases such as Alzheimer’s. Sleep hacks include wearing a sleeping mask and using noise protection.
To wind down before sleep, try lavender oil which lowers cortisol and wear blue-light blocking glasses like the ones Arnold Schwarzenegger wears from Swannies when looking at a screen or phone 90 minutes before bed, to protect your body’s natural ability to produce melatonin.
WORK: To understand what happens in the workplace we must broaden our perspective of ergonomics from only physical and organizational, to also include cognitive ergonomics. This is about how you recover, and can maintain productivity and performance without burning out in the process. The most important factor in ergonomics is indoor climate. Thyroid and gut problems can come from poor air quality and too much carbon dioxide literally makes us dumb, because it affects our cognition. Essential oils such as rosemary in a diffuser can help to combat mold and also alleviate pressure on the sinuses. Great air purifying plants are: Dwarf Date Palm, Boston Fern, Kimberley Queen Fern, Spider Plant and Chinese Evergreen.
Hack your work day with at least a few breaks where you cut down stimulus for your visual cortex. Lie down for 10 minutes with noise-cancellation headphones, or listen to binaural beats to increase alpha and get into the creative zone along with diffused pine oil and lots of plants around.
Posture: The ‘mobile device posture’ is highly alarming especially in humans as young as seven years old, with head and gaze fixed downwards. This posture can cause many serious physical problems including vertebral disc degeneration. The best angle to sit is at around 130 degrees. Sit with as little pressure as possible, even from restrictive clothing as it only takes light pressure to cut off or hinder blood flow through the veins. Contrary to common belief, sitting is not a natural resting position or the best way to relax, nor are standing desks the solution. Squatting is a better way to rest, and the main point is to alternate positions and try to sit on the very edge of your chair and find your sitting bones because pressure on your soft tissues increases pressure to the organs. If you sit a lot, a saddle chair like Sauli’s is a good idea.
NUTRITION: Rethink diets away from the traditional framework, and instead cater nutrition to your environment and the work you do. Those who train in the gym know they need protein to lift heavy weights, but we rarely think about eating for the other things we do. A person ploughing fields is actively engaged in physical work and needs different food from someone maxing out their brain at a computer. If you’re looking at a screen all day you need to feed your eyes with foods rich in beta carotine and lutein. Research is still being done on if eating the right things for our eyes can increase our ability to see in the dark. We also need food for our brains and nervous systems in order for them to be able to manage our work longterm.
Blood Sugar: A steady blood sugar level is essential, however the normal recommended blood sugar is not optimal for health. The classic porridge and OJ breakfast is sure to make you crash and crave only hours later. In the future we may have real time info and trackers to help us know our optimal energy and blood sugar levels, but even if the devices we have today are not entirely accurate, they can still give a good idea. 100 grams of Blueberries/bilberries are good for memory and brain function and research has proven that they aid recovery and are natural nootropics. Other hacks for balancing blood sugar are: Vinegar (decreased gluconeogenesis), Fenugreek (decreased gastric emptying), Ginseng (decreased carbohydrate absorption), Cinnamon (enhanced insulin signaling), Barley & Oats instead of wheat (beta-glucans), Medicinal Mushrooms like Reishi, Chaga, Cordyceps, Maitake, Shiitake (beta-glucans), and the now trendy Coconut Oil (medium-chain triglycerides).
Fasting: From an evolutionary perspective when you don’t have food available your biology makes you better at finding food and increases your higher functions. Fasting types include: Eat Stop Eat (24 hour fast 1-2 times/week), The Warrior Diet (20 hour fast and 4 hour feeding window), Alternate Day Fast (36 hour fast and 12 hour feeding window), Leangains (16 hour fast and 8 hour feeding window), Bulletproof Intermittent Fasting (18 hour fast). If you have stomach problems it is good to not always put things in there. Hunters and gatherers did not eat breakfast in the morning, they hunted and gathered. Fast in a way that doesn’t make you feel irritated, and you can use MCT oil to help trigger the fast.
Brain: The brain is 60% fat. 15-20% of cerebral cortex and 30-60% of retina. So check your DHA (omega-3) for optimal brain functioning.
Staying Warm: For combating the chilly autumn and winter seasons, add cinnamon, cayenne pepper, black pepper or any thermogenic ingredients to your coffee or tea to make you feel warmer and to clear your head.
Coffee/Tea: Coffee can also balance blood sugar because it increases insulin signaling and reduces risk for type-2 diabetes. Yet coffee is not for everyone. Check if you have the CYP1A2 coffee gene to know if coffee will work for you. Coffee can also affect your eyes so sometimes hacking is also going back to the basic: “listen to your body”. Upgraded coffee can help combat the negative effects of coffee and add more boost so the crash is less pronounced. The jury is not yet out on light or dark roasted, so it’s a good idea to alternate and mix it up a bit. You can hack your coffee using beans grown at a high altitude and made in an aeropress with spring water. Easy coffee hacks include adding MCT oil, Grass-fed butter Butyrate, CLA, Cinnamon (balances blood sugar levels), L-theanine from Green Tea (reduces coffee side-effects), Cacao and Tumeric (gives an anti-inflammatory effect). Yerba Mate “Titanium Tea” (caffeine + theobromine + theophylline + saponins) is an excellent beverage to add to your repertoire according to expert nutritionist Halmetoja.
Bitters: Add some to your diet, as especially some kind of bitter drink in the morning with spices and herbs can help suppress appetite.
MIND: The good news is that stress management is a learnable skill. The side effects are exhaustion, fatigue, failure of body systems, and all the nasty you certainly want to live without. Some amount of “good stress” is important for getting things done because cortisol is needed for activity. Where we want to place our attention is to make sure that we are not in the active state of stress for too long without adequate recovery as this can be dangerous for health. Devices like the FirstBeat sensor that tracks HRV (heart rate variability) over a period of several days, can show you if your body’s resources are being replenished as much as they are consumed. In Japan they have a saying that for every one hour at office, spend five minutes in nature. An excellent restorative practice for the body is to spend an hour in nature a day. Find out what is best for you.
Hacks for the mind can be as easy as rituals in your daily routine to help you calm down. The best hack for this purpose is deep breathing or pranayama or box breathing, all of which raise your HRV. Doctor Sovijärvi noticed shallow breathing with the upper lungs instead of slow diaphragm breathing whenever a patient came to his office stressed out. A long hard deep breath out is the quickest hack for relieving stress. Even if you have good quality food, if your sympathetic nervous system is running and you’re stressed when you’re eating it, your body won’t absorb as much, so an upgraded life begins with a healthy mind!
Join Biohacker’s Handbook team at Biohacker Summit in Helsinki, October 13-14.