Stress takes its toll in many ways - and its effect is compounding. At Biohack Your Life 2013, Dr Justin Marchegiani presented a framework to manage (and therefore eliminate) stress. He identifies 4 types of resilience: emotional, physical, mental and spiritual.
Achieving a state of coherence means successfully becoming resilient to stressors in all 4 domains. By addressing lifestyle stressors in each area, we can build a foundation of wellness on which to thrive. This is an opportunity to nip all those pre-clinical ailments in the bud, before they evolve into chronic disease.
It’s best to prioritise and tackle things in order of magnitude of possible improvement in any dimension while remaining ware of the stressors in each domain. Why is this important? Examples:
Training hard, but eating poorly and not getting enough sleep will negate the gains you are aiming for.
Eating well, but living in an environment with poor air quality and excess noise pollution is only part way there.
Compounding physical stress of exercise with a lack of resilience to daily challenges will mean your body is not given the opportunity to recover properly. In large amounts, cortisol causes an increase in serum amino acid levels by breaking down muscle and also inhibits protein synthesis.
Spending 8 hours a day seated in a chair with bad posture will give you OOS, RSI and places your body in a neurologically inefficient position that can compromise your ability to perform even simple physical tasks like bending and picking up a box without injury.
Our Top 20 Biohacks
Here are some of the more effective bio-hacks we use to help us lead healthy, resilient, coherent productive and fulfilling lifestyles. (a.k.a our super duper long list of little things that can make a big difference.) These aren't in any particular order:
emWave2 Training helps you make more objective decisions by gaining greater control over your emotions
Our brains were designed to experience anxiety in short bursts, not for prolonged stress.
It's why you can feel like a tiger is on the verge of devouring you. You have to convince yourself that the tiger is in fact, not in the room.
The emWave2 is a training device that helps you become less reactive to fight or flight triggering events. Make decisions while in a coherent state and train to become more resilient to petty stressors over time.
Brain plasticity means we can get smarter with training
Quantified Mind helps you figure out your peak mental performance routine. You can use their free tool to test different variables and track and improve your cognitive performance.
Lumosity's brain training games leverage the fact that your brain has the ability to strengthen and grow neural connections. The challenging games can make you aware of weak areas and improve concentration, productivity.
Start the Day Right. Fundamentally, your morning routine is the most effective habit forming opportunity available to you
Get things going on the right track from the start. Use this as an opportunity to make sure that you:
Rehydrate with water and mineral rich unrefined sea salt. This will reduce adrenal stress by providing a re-stock of the minerals that your body needs to get going (raise blood pressure etc) first thing in the morning.
Have all of your supplements (morning appropriate ones). See Dave Asprey's Great article on where to get started.
Get your Bulletproof® Coffee into you!
Alkalise with lemon and greens if you're so inclined
Use blue light therapy. When winter rolls around, this is an effective way to ward of S.A.D and keep your sleep-wake cycle in tune. The Phillips GoLite BLU comes recommended by Tim Ferris and I have one on order.
Drink Bulletproof® Upgraded Coffee for Breakfast (Of course we would recommend this one :)
Coffee is the number 1 consumed source of antioxidants in Australia. Upgraded Coffee helps you eliminate performance robbing mycotoxins (mould.) Ever get jitters, headaches, nausea or anxiety after a cup of coffee? Dealing with inconsistent coffee bean quality week to week? You don't have to! Mycotoxins can form at any stage between farm and bag. Only Upgraded Coffee's vigorous quality assurance process can guarantee you get mycotoxin-free beans every time.
Upgraded Coffee Beans are single origin, organic, carbon neutral and Rainforest Alliance Certified. Grown on a family owned farm at height of 1,250m in Guatemala, we know exactly where the beans are coming from and the high standard of care with which they have been handled.
perform better for 6 hours before you even begin to think about lunch (great for intermittent fasting.) Adding Vanilla and/or raw chocolate powder will not only add flavour, but additional antioxidants, potent anti-inflammatories and magnesium (from cocoa powder), which so many of us tend to be deficient in. Lots of people like to put butter in their coffee...but it's not Bulletproof® unless you include Upgaded MCT oil and mould free Upgraded coffee.
Sleep Well. The Ultimate Biohack?
Quality trumps quantity. Sleep deficit and low-quality sleep are culprits in negatively impacting quality of life. Poor sleep is a result of poor diet, excess emotional, mental or physical stress.
Lack of sleep is typically the result of overworking / overplaying. Sleep deficit has a compounding effect itself. In combination with our lifestyle factors, the result can be stress piled upon stress. Sleep deficits can lead to depression.
A lack of sleep disprupts gene expression. Just to show you how one dimension can affect another: A lack of melatonin may be linked to an increased risk of developing diabetes. While many of us are able to fall asleep after a cuppa at night, quality of sleep suffers.
Alcohol is probably the most common substance we willingly use to disrupt our circadian rhythm.If you drink alcohol, you can use antioxidants like Vitamin C, NAC, l-glutathione and Activated Charcoal to mitigate the effects of alcohol's toxic by-products. Check out Dave Asprey’s more comprehensive guide to Bulletproof alcohol consumption.
Hack your sleep by:
Blackout curtains and make sure there is no light pollution in your bedroom (this includes removing TVs, laptops and tablets) A sleep mask is a simple workaround. We’ve written extensively about the impact of artifical lighting on sleep.
Cut back on alcohol.
Don't consume coffee within 8 hours of when you plan to sleep (or drink decaf.) Yes, this has as much to do with the stimulatory effect of the caffeine but it also raises your cortisol levels which gets in the way of melatonin production. Some people are still able to fall asleep easily after drinking coffee at night, however, it can affect your sleep quality.
Take magnesium (glycinate / citrate / l-threonate) or spray on some magnesium chloride and consider adding in l-theanine and GABA supplements an hour before bed to help you relax, fall asleep faster and keep you asleep.
Try Huperzine-A 30 minutes before sleeping to help induce R.E.M sleep. For more on the value of this, see Tim Ferris’s Guide to Lucid Dreaming
You can take this further by wearing blue blocker glasses after sunset and also using apps like flux to strip blue light from your computer display.
Dave Asprey's sleep recipe: Don't drink coffee atleast 8 hours before bedtime. Take some MCT oil, raw honey, protein and krill oil before bed. Also check out his podcast with Dr Wisor about how to hack your sleep and why it is so important.
Talking20: Measure and track key biomarkers with in-home blood test kits
How do you change what you cannot objectively measure? We love the idea of being able to get a blood panel every month without getting the third degree from our GP. Talking20 enables you to take your own blood samples and send them off for testing, with your results made accessible to you online. Ever wondered if those supplements are actually working? Taking too little? Taking too much? What impact are those early morning workouts having on you?
Movement: Train your nervous system to enable optimal human performance
At Biohack Your Life, EvoUltraFit advocated that “movement was the key everything.” We learned that how we move (or don’t move) conditions our parasympathetic nervous system.
Every movement you make counts towards your ability to live pain free and maximise enjoyment of recreational activities. Modern lifestyles in offices, cars etc. contribute to breakdowns in proper movement patterns which can lead to injury. (Weekend Warrior Syndrome anyone?)
In his TED talk, Dr Eric Goodman distills this biohack down down to the ability to hinge at the hips and presents a simple hack for alleviating pain:
Dr Mark Hyman also points to chronic repetitive motion as a source of inflammation: http://drhyman.com/blog/2013/04/19/were-not-going-to-take-it-anymore/
(side note: It’s funny - our narcissistic tendencies mean we focus on what we can see in the mirror - The front of the body. What we see is more important than what we feel. Our workouts focus on building 6 packs and bulging biceps and we neglect our posterior chain which is supposed to be the strongest group of muscles in our body!)
(Good) Position is Power
See how to do the push up and the squat, demonstrated by people who have never done it wrong their entire lives!
Go Barefoot: You are the stability, arch support & pronation control.
Barefoot is best. Ergonomically correct and probably the most comfortable shoes ever, Vibram’s let you move how you were meant to - without being hindered by raised heels and toe suffocating shoes that contribute to physical strain and biomechanical inefficiency.
Over time, you can strengthen the muscles in and around your feet and eventually run around happily barefoot like you did as a kid. Speaking from personal experience, I can say that since moving away from shoes with heels and arch-supports, all pain in my lower-back and knees has dissipated.
If walking around with 5 toe shoes is a little too unconventional, at the very least seek out shoes like innov-8s and Skora’s which have been designed with function in mind.
We simply were not designed to sit at a desk or in a car / train / bus / tram for the majority of our waking hours eating high calorie nutrient deficient junk food and doing minimal movement.
Stand while you work and start to wake up some muscles that have been left to atrophy and keeping your body in a more neurologically sound position throughout the day and reap the benefits. Yes it will be hard to begin with, but you will get used to it.
Electrostim. EvoUltraFit use the ARPWave to accelerate injury rehabilitation and performance gains with any movement pattern. For instance: By applying one of their modalities to your treatment or training, you will be able to train your nervous system faster thereby eliminating problematic compensation patterns while perfecting athletic movements.
Most of us appreciate the importance of diet and movement, but there isn’t much talk about the quality of our environments. Cube sensors let you easily monitor and optimise your environment for performance. They claim you can effect changes like:
REDUCE STRESS by modifying the humidity and adapting to noise levels.
IMPROVE COMFORT by managing air quality with aeration and air conditioning.
INCREASE PRODUCTIVITY by changing the lights and temperature when notified.
Noise Cancelling Headphones will keep you sane in the company of crying babies
I bought my first pair of noise cancelling headphones 5 years ago. Today I use the Bose QC15s so I can get through my day, minus the noise pollution that inevitably imposes itself on a modern lifestyle - at the train station, at the office etc. They are also great for air travel to block out engine noise, in-flight announcements and crying babies! Noise pollution has been linked to depression, anxiety, lost productivity and even increased heart attack risk.
Dave Asprey recommends in-ear noise cancelling headphones in order to avoid accidentally activating acupuncture points around the ears. My very first pair were in-ear, but these broke within a year. My first pair of noise-cancelling headphones were in fact in-ear, but they broke within a year. They did get me through backpacking for 6 months in South East Asia though :)
Laser Eye Surgery
20/20 vision without prescription glasses or meddling with contact lenses everyday. If it’s good enough for astronauts, then it’s good enough for me. At least that is how I rationalized things when I got the surgery 5 years ago. I have no regrets. After the 15 minute surgery I felt l had woken up from years of hibernation! Today my vision is still 20/20.
This is one serious biohack!
Meditate to improve everything from immune function to vagal tone (HRV) without the need for biofeedback
A simple way to bio-hack yourself is through meditation. The main types with strong bodies of research to support them are:
Mindfulness (vipassana) is practising being aware of where you mind is giving its attention. Being aware of the present and when you are drifting into ruminating about past/future events is the crux of mindfulness training. Daniel Goleman’s book “Destructive Emotions” is getting a bit old now but has a great summary of mindfulness and general meditation research outcomes.
Loving kindness meditation (metta) is pretty self explanatory. It is a useful tool to have to be able to “switch” on a positive mind state and is the mechanism that you’re effectively training with your emwave. Dr Barbara Frederickson is a leading researcher in this field.
But you can also just build meditative practises into your day to day routine. Use tools like idonethis to help prompt you to reflect and give gratitude regularly.
To get started on any of this stuff, if you’re in Sydney we’ll give a shout out to the buddhist library which runs regular meditation courses, in particular the ones with Dr Chien Son Gooi are great because his clinical psychology training (PhD) gives the courses a very practical flavour.
Get a pet: Pets are cool, plus they instantly make you 10x more interesting to people you walk past in the park.
(Frankie - the OptimOZ kelpie as a pup)
They’ll create random social interactions and also just keep you company themselves. Aside from the social benefit and having a bit of fun teaching them tricks and playing there is a fair bit of research supporting that pets are a pretty powerful bio-hack:
Pet owners are less likely to suffer from depression than those without pets.
People with pets have lower blood pressure in stressful situations than those without pets.
Playing with a pet can elevate levels of serotonin and dopamine, which calm and relax.
Pet owners have lower triglyceride and cholesterol levels (indicators of heart disease) than those without pets.
Heart attack patients with pets survive longer than those without.
Pet owners over age 65 make 30 percent fewer visits to their doctors than those without pets.
It doesn’t need to be a dog, you can have a cat, a fish or an alpaca if you want!
Get a financial education and spend time worrying about the important things in life rather than running out of cash the day before payday.
Eliminate financial stress and spend time worrying about the important things in life rather than running out of cash the day before payday. Just read a book and don’t even think about “getting rich quick”, easy come, easy go. You want your money to be working for you, not the other way around. Make some friends with similar interests and you’ll be surprised how quickly you learn.
Some of our favourite books are “Rich Dad, Poor Dad”, “The Millionaire Next Door” , “How to get Rich” and “The Warren Buffett Way”.
Optimise Diet & Nutrition: What works for you specifically?
Without opening a can of worms here, I’ll just say that a diet consisting of whole organic foods and pasture raised meats are important for me to tackle all four dimensions. It’s easier to have a productive day without experiencing sugar cravings or insulin spikes to counter massive blood glucose spikes.
I also have positive feelings about eating ethically and i’m confident that limiting the introduction of pesticides, antibiotics and genetically modified crops is a good thing. Effectively I follow a Bulletproof Diet (a.k.a Upgraded Paleo) which aims to eliminate consumption of inflammatory foods.
In addition, I take a probiotic and supplement with fermented cod liver oil for Omega 3s, Vitamin A & D, Vitamin C, magnesium l-threonate & citrate, B12 / folate and organic turmeric. Good nutrition is essential to optimal performance and controlling your hormonal system. I also have a supply of Activated Charcoal and NAC on hand for occasions where I need a little extra helping hand like eating something that i'm intolerant too or consuming alcohol.
Herbs & Spices used in combination offer synergistic gains in absorption and bioavailability
Our favourites include Cayenne pepper extract, Vanilla, organic turmeric and ginger. They are all potent inflammatory and antioxidant compounds that have promoted wellness for 1000s of years across Asia and the Middle East.
Turmeric has been show to make meat safer by reducing levels of heterocyclic amines.
It protects your liver, enhances your cooking, has noth anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties.
According to a study in Okinawa where they drink turmeric tea daily - It may help you live longer.
Turmeric can help you recover from ailments faster and more importantly, help you maintain resilience against common lifestyle diseases.
Eat Grass Fed and Finished Meats for CLAs and a healthy Omega3 to Omega6 ratio.
Contrary to the pop science, saturated fats are in fact an essential source of nutrition, not that there is actually that much in red meat! 55% of the fat content of red meat is oleic acid... Whats that? Oh its just the same thing as olive oil which is strongly touted for its health benefits... Double standards much?
Grass fed beef is a source of Omega 3 fatty acids. Significantly lower levels of Omega 3s and CLAs occur in grain fed beef. Grass fed beef has higher levels of Vitamin A & E. Did you know that feedlot / grain finished beef negates the effect of a lifetime of pasture raising? It takes just 7 days to neutralise the extra Omega3 and CLA benefits. Also, buying grass fed means that you dodge the antibiotics that are inherent when using CAFO. Check out our blog post with more science about grass fed/finished meats and a handy buying guide.
Hack your microbiome with uBiome
With an increasingly large volume of research being published about the gut-brain-immuno connection (how our gut bacteria essentially drive so much of our lives including manufacturing the molecules that eventually feed our brains.) Understanding what is living in your gut is a primary step to figuring out what to do to make improvements and then continue to quantify if the changes you make are actually making a real, rather than just subjective impact on your wellbeing.
As weird as it may sound, fecal transplants are becoming a more common biohack to rapidly resolve lingering gut health problems. Listen to our podcast with uBiome founder Jessica Richman.
What's your number 1 stress management biohack? Please comment and share below!