I’m in my beloved Italy as I write this, working with yet another spectacular group of happy tourists looking to immerse themselves in their own personal La Dolce Vita.
When I am here, even in high season, throngs of tourists filling the streets, I feel that I operate at my best, which got me to thinking. What does it take to “optimize’ our wellness? Optimization seems to be the newest buzzword touted in biohacking communities. Bio-what communities, you ask?
Biohacking is using technology and various methodologies to enhance your wellness, increase longevity and make you bulletproof.
There’s some kernels of truth in biohacking: controlling our biology to create the best health we can. Everything from “raw water” (untreated, unfiltered water for drinking…uh, no thanks), to hanging upside to hack your brain and adding butter to your coffee, biohacking was originally meant to help you find natural ways to optimize your health. It has, of course, become a business designed to sell us stuff we don’t need or to make us even more anxious about life.
The idea has gone from making the best of your health to the idea that you need to perfect every aspect of your biology. Interestingly, this ignores how our bodies actually work. Spending a lot of time and money trying to eliminate all inflammation in our bodies might actually prevent you from bouncing back after tough workouts. Wait…what? A post-workout inflammatory response can help your body heal. In all of this biohacking, we can’t forget that all inflammation isn’t bad; it can aid in recovery in many areas.
It’s when your body is chronically inflamed that you start to have problems with your wellness.
Since the advent of this new version of biohacking, we seem to spend soooooooo much time obsessing about minor details that don’t matter all that much…see the above raw water reference.
And the reality is that anxiety outweighs any potential benefits from the new behavior you’re trying out. That’s not to say tweaks (some big and others not so much) to your diet and lifestyle don’t help. It doesn’t mean there’s no time or place for upgrades or experimentation with how you live, work out and eat.
But like everything we overdo, trying to hack your health to perfection, is like buying premium gas when you drive a hybrid car.
Instead of placing the focus on optimizing every little thing, let’s start with creating the foundational habits of good health. These include:
Getting enough sleep (focus on 7.5-8 hours per night, rarely less than 6)
Moving your body 3-5 times per week (any type of exercise)
Eating well most of the time (well = plant proteins, whole grains, vegetables and fruits, and good quality fats, nuts and seeds). It’s not about a specific diet. Experiment with what works for you within the parameters of whole, unprocessed foods.
Stop stressing over the rare occasions where you don’t eat nutritious foods or you miss a workout. Beating yourself up creates the wrong kind of inflammation in your bodyStop eating two to three hours before sleep so that your body can rest and rejuvenate through the night. You’ll wake refreshed because your body was not working to digest all night long.
Connect with friends and interact with people, in person, face to face daily. The human connection cannot be overstated.
Scrub your skin each day (with just a wash cloth) in the shower under warm water to exfoliate, stimulate circulation and help your largest organ (your skin) to do its job more effectively.
If you consistently practice these basic healthy living behaviors, then you can focus on fine-tuning the smaller details as you like. Think of it like this: when trying to build good habits, a little less optimization and a little more mastery of simple, tried and true basics will do wonders for your results and your mindset.
In the end, do what you feel helps you to create your best health. Is it biohacking, which is (to me) living a healthy life taken to exhausting extremes. Or is it enough to just be in a place you love, doing work you love, staying fit, eating well and letting nature take her course?
In the end, it’s important to live our best lives because no one gets out of this thing called life alive.