Biohacking is the act of making intentional changes to your body in an effort to improve yourself. This vague definition can be used to explain many of my approaches in OHH. I am always looking for lifestyle “hacks” that can help my patients achieve. This blog puts together 5 of my favorite tools that I think can be applied to everyone. To apply anything though I ask my patients to understand their “why.”
Your vision will become clear only when you look into your heart. Who looks outside, dreams. Who looks inside, awakens.” Carl Jung
I ask all of my patients to look internally to find why they want to make changes in their life. Only with this understanding can successful behaviors be built. Changing lifestyle habits takes commitment, perseverance, support, time, faith that change can be made and forgiveness of yourself when you stumble. So, my top 5 “biohacks” are:
- Respect circadian rhythm and your chronotype!
We are all pushed to our limits with our schedules. Nearly every patient I work with and certainly every provider colleague I know is over scheduled, over committed and stressed about what isn’t getting done. When this occurs a natural and all to common reaction is to steal time from our sleep. Why not? What do we need that much sleep for anyway? You can view a summary of a talk I prepared recently here or the full webinar here on this topic. In short, sleep is critical to our performance and we should make an 8-9 hour window for sleep every day WITHOUT compromise. It is a nonnegotiable.
The human body has evolved for centuries with the sun and circadian rhythm of the day. Our brains are able to sync so closely with this rhythm naturally with hormonal signals based on light inputs from our outside environment. When we are out of sync our bodies experience stress. I believe this is a feature of chronic immune dysregulation and encourage everyone to get morning UV exposure (from the sun) and get outside whenever possible during the day for similar cues from our environment. At night limiting blue light exposure and have good sleep hygiene is critical to winding down for your critical sleep window.
In addition to that though we also need to respect our chronotype. Many of us know if we are naturally morning birds or night owls. Creating a schedule based on that genetically driven feature is also a key piece to this puzzle. Fighting your chronotype during the week only to try to “catch up” during the weekend is not an optimal solution.
2. Identify Addiction in your life.
We are all addicts. Some of us struggle with classically considered substances like alcohol or tobacco but many of us suffer from less understood addictions like caffeine, TV or our phones. Identifying where you have created dependence in your life can be key in making changes. Many of these substances and behaviors prevent us from growing and our addiction creates sophisticated excuses which help us quit trying. Take a look around at your behaviors and habits and ask yourself, “can I do without this for a week.” If the answer is no, you should try. Try not watching TV at night. Try turning your phone off and sticking it in a drawer when you are trying to spend time with family. Stop drinking alcohol for 30 days or caffeine for 3. You may find more addiction in your life than you think.
3. Live Your Purpose
“If you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.” Marc Anthony.
I find many patients struggle to realize their optimal self because they feel “stuck” in their life. I encourage everyone at any point in their life to look inside and make decisions based on how they feel in their heart. For some, myself included, this has prompted career changes but for many it simply requires a reframing of their current situation. Whenever someone feels “stuck” in their career, marriage or life that generally puts them in a victim mentality where all kinds of negative emotions and actions can occur. I recommend trying to find purpose in whatever you have in your life and being grateful for the opportunities that come your way. If you absolutely can’t find purpose in the situation you are currently in, consider changing it. We are never truly stuck, we just can’t see the solution.
4. Practicing Gratitude.
When we acknowledge gratitude our brain chemistry changes. The simple act of thinking or better yet saying that we are grateful for something can have an impact on our mood, thoughts and actions. This skill must be built for novices and it will feel awkward at first but once developed this tool practiced on a regular basis will improve your quality of life and those around you!
5. Celebrate your victories
“If we fall, we don’t need self-recrimination or blame or anger – we need a reawakening of our intention and a willingness to re-commit, to be whole-hearted once again.” Sharon Salzberg
A consistent truth I see among my patients is failure to celebrate success. We are quick to criticize our failures and frequently live with tremendously negative self talk. While internal review is important in improving performance consistently negative self talk will break us down and negatively impact our emotional state and growth potential. Celebration of our victories can be a simple recognition that you achieved something. Small wins celebrated frequently and big wins are important here. Simply taking a moment to acknowledge that success will encourage good habits and curtail negativity. Watch out for the human habit of rewarding success with an addictive substance though. Make sure your rewards are aligned with your integrity and goals.
These 5 “biohacks” are consistently recommended to my patients at OHH as a basis to living each and every day with integrity and optimization in mind. From this foundation individualized recommendations can be made based on each patient’s metrics and goal in pursuit of Optimal Human Health.