10 Principles for Optimized Living
Better health, better bodies, better mental health, better sex, better relationships and just all-around optimization of body, mind and spirit. We all want it, but it often feels unachievable. We have time constraints, we don’t have the energy to read conflicting literature and studies that leave us more confused than before and it’s becoming apparent that we are all so individual and gloriously different, that its near impossible to know if the advice you’re given will work for YOU!
The good news is that the saying “Keep it Simple, Stupid!” is particularly relevant when it comes to our health and finding needle-movers for almost everyone, whether you’re looking to gain weight, lose weight, build muscle or heal from injury or chronic illness or just looking to make a good thing even better!
Getting the basics right is so important before we shoot for the big fancy biohacks and various out-there procedures. It’s estimated that if you implement the below principles into your life, that’s 90% of the battle won! The stem cell injections and cryotherapies and expensive training equipment are absolutely fabulous, but once the basics are in place, these are really just for going next level and make up the balance of 10%.
So, let’s dive right into the building blocks of better living! Each principle is covered at a very high level so investigate them in more detail where you believe you need to implement them more extensively into your daily routine.
Principle One: Breath
First up: super effective and super free! We have forgotten how to breathe. For example, breathing through our mouths so much more than we should has been shown to directly result in skew teeth and jaws, chronic inflammation, impaired immunity and overall worse health outcomes. Something as simple as not breathing through your nose is making society sicker! True story.
Breathing through your nose allows you to filter the air entering your system, which humidifies the air and introduces more nitric oxide, one of the most potent molecules for good health. If you struggle to breathe through your nose, it could be due to disuse – work hard to increase nasal breathing and it will become easier with time!
Apart from nasal breathing, engaging in regular breathwork practices (such as box breathing, Wim Hof breathing, 4-7-8 breathing, Kundalini, meditation etc) has indisputably shown to increase nitric oxide, allow you to sleep better, increase cellular oxygenation (good for anti-ageing and fighting disease) and increase energy levels.
Breathwork also allows us to move our systems into a parasympathetic (rest and digest) state away from a sympathetic state (fight or flight). This allows us to regulate our hormones better (particularly cortisol), resulting in a better ability to lose stubborn fat and control stress levels.
Top Tips: when walking, try exhaling for as long as you can and holding that exhale. Before napping or sleep, use breathwork to calm yourself. Focus on your breathing for at least 5-10 minutes both morning and evening – the benefits are endless!
Principle Two: Walking
Walking will: facilitate blood circulation, result in neuron growth, decrease cortisol, improve eye health when you’ve been looking at screens, strengthen your body, support weight loss, stabilise blood sugar and allow for lymph drainage. And you thought walking was the poor cousin of running!
The benefits of walking have sadly been underestimated but cannot be emphasised enough. If you are someone who is overweight, running is the worst idea ever for your joints and the stress that this places on your body may actually make you resistant to weight loss. But even if you are in epic shape, from a health standpoint, walking is one of the most beneficial activities that you can participate it – mentally, physically and spiritually.
Top tips: Breathing stacks beautifully with so many things, including breathwork, getting sunlight if walking outside and mindfulness. Walking for 10 minutes after a meal is a seriously powerful intervention for better health!
Principle Three: Cold Therapy
Sitting in an ice bath or simply seeing how long you can stand under a cold shower could be one of the best things available to us for energy, clarity of mind and weight loss promotion. Let’s face it – it’s not comfortable! But that’s exactly the point: the discomfort is actually a mild stressor on your body (known as a hormetic stressor) and this promotes increased cellular resilience and also improves your immune system.
In terms of fat loss, cold therapy is amazing, especially if you do it in a fasted state. The best part – it really takes so little time out of your day and carries a minimal cost, if any at all (unless four bags of ice in your bath is your preferred method)!
Top tips: The first four days are going to suck. Big time. After that, it really becomes so much easier so just try stick it out! After your shower, turn the water to the coldest it will go and let it hit you solidly on your face and chest for as long as you can – this could be 10 seconds which you then work up over time to a minute or two or five. Hot/cold contrast showers (10 seconds warm, 20 seconds cold for 5 minutes total) are also popular.
Principle Four: Heat Therapy
Heat is another hormetic stressor which has incredible health benefits, including blood sugar regulation, stress resilience, brain and muscle optimisation and better endurance.
Regular sweating is one of the best way to detoxify our bodies of toxins and heavy metals. It again stacks really well with breathwork and the benefits are myriad.
The best ways to incorporate heat into your daily routine is by working up a deep sweat through exercise, or preferably albeit less readily available, sauna (infrared or traditional are both fine).
Four to five sauna sessions of 20-45 minutes each have been shown to decrease most causes of all-risk mortality and even the effects of dementia and Alzheimer’s.
Top tips: If available to you, incorporating sauna into your routine will improve your health drastically. Tales of joint or other pains disappearing abound and it is a worthwhile investment in your health. Alternatively, exercising to sweat out all those toxins is an equally powerful intervention!
Modern life makes screens and LED and fluorescent lights unavoidable. Overexposure to these result in brain fog, an inability to sleep properly due to circadian dysregulation, headaches and eyesight issues. We very rarely think that the light that we are exposed to can have such a drastic impact on our health.
Conversely, exposure to good light like sunlight first thing in the morning and vitamin D promoting sunshine during the rest of the day has benefits far beyond what we’ve ever previously imagined. Light is, quite literally, medicine! Morning, afternoon and evening light all have specific roles to play in our circadian rhythms (our 24-hour internal clock system that regulates sleep-wake cycles). An optimised circadian rhythm is essential for sleep, digestion, mental health, immunity and muscle repair, so make sure you’re getting good light at the right times!
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Top tips: Aim for being outside at least an hour each day (preferably while being active). A potent tool is a morning walk! Limiting use of sunglasses as much as possible (which disrupts the effects of sunlight and remembering that your eyes weren’t designed with them in mind in the first place) is also very useful. Invest in a red-light therapy device and blue-light blocking glasses to upgrade your light game! View the range of TrueDark products here.
Principle Six: Water
Water is so much more than water. It contains (or should contain) a rich array of minerals which are crucial to human life. Unfortunately, water has to be filtered extensively to make it potable to us these days and often, the good is filtered out with the bad.
That being said, the most important thing you can do for the quality of your water is to filter it. I used to think unfiltered water is just fine – even seeing any bad things in the water as another hormetic stressor of sorts. I’ve been convinced otherwise – prioritise the filtered stuff!
And not to make this more complicated but stay away from filtered water sold in plastic bottles. Environmental issues aside, there are a number of health concerns with plastic bottles such as BPA, phthalates and microplastics which are in the water and exacerbated when those plastic bottles are exposed to any heat at any point from filling to you drinking it. BPA itself is an endocrine disruptor (cancer, low testosterone, early puberty, reduced fertility and it literally makes fat cells bigger)! Your plastic water bottle is causing you more harm than just drinking unfiltered water.
Top tips: Drink filtered water as far as is possible (installing a water filter in your home is a great investment) and add back minerals with a pinch of unbleached sea salt!
Connecting barefoot with the Earth or splashing around in the sea or even using a grounding mat reconnect you to the Earth (this is science not fiction!). Electrical charges from the Earth can have a positive effect on your body and the scientific community has explored grounding for inflammation, cardiovascular disease, muscle damage, pain management and improving mood.
Top Tips: Walk barefoot when possible. Standing in the sea is life-giving. Buying a grounding mat allows you to have all the grounding benefits while being indoors.
Principle Eight: Nutrition
You are what you eat and you are also what you eat, ate (so prioritise grass fed, regeneratively raised meat and organic vegetables when possible)! Your health will be a reflection of the foods that you eat. Eating the right diet can CURE Type II diabetes, it can prevent cancer and result in positive health outcomes. Eating things like inflammatory vegetable oils or processed foods or excessive sugar will result in chronic inflammation, which is typically at the root of pretty much everything that can go wrong with a human body.
Top tips: Stick with whole (real) foods as far as possible. Be pedantic about avoiding vegetable oils (like sunflower and canola) and processed foods. Everyone is different so no one diet is perfect for everyone but if you stick to the above, you’re way above the curve!
Principle Nine: Strength Training
Do you want to stay young? Lift heavy sh*t. It’s about more than looking great (which you will when combined with a sensible diet), but weightlifting (I’m not talking bodybuilding) becomes even more important as we age to stave off sarcopenia (age-relates skeletal muscles loss which equals broken bones and difficulty walking as we age).
Mitochondria (that power our cells) appear to be significantly younger after six months of resistance training, so strength training should really be incorporated from as early as childhood, noting that you are also never too old to start!
Read More: How To Increase Your Mitochondrial Health
Granted, it’s intimidating to start if this is new to you. The gym, the unfamiliar exercises, the outfits! But give it a go, it’s truly not as scary as you think, and our bodies were designed for this kind of movement! Whereas excessive cardio could be quite detrimental to your health, simply engaging in strength training could add years to your life!
Top tips: Incorporate full-body training (even 30 minutes is plenty) two to three times a week, trying to push your muscles to failure. Feel the burn baby!
Principle Ten: Spirit
Woo-woo alert! Actually, not really. Building your spiritual muscles is non-negotiable for a long, happy life. Emotions like anger, unfulfillment, resentment, trauma and sadness have been linked to a number of diseases – how crazy is that? Feeling anger could actually be a root cause of a disease in your body?!
When we talk about spirit, it’s so much more than a chosen religion or meditating. Sitting around a table with friends and family feeds your spirit. Hugging a friend, having sex, playing with animals or even having a coffee with a mate all contribute to not only a happier life, but also a healthier life!
Top Tips: This might not be comfortable at first but keeping a Gratitude Journal has shown to have wonderful health benefits. Studies show that we are happier and therefore healthier when we focus on what we are grateful for!
The Final Word
Get an Oura Ring to track your sleep and make improvements. Have your genetics tested to focus on what works for YOU. Buy the best supplements and gadgets that you can afford.
All of these are great, but they mean very little until you have the above principles in place. If you can work towards improving on the above, your life will change drastically for the better and you’ll be happy and healthy for far longer.
Someone near to me once said that good health was the only thing that he wasn’t able to buy when he got sick (driven by stress and poor lifestyle choices). It is never too early to accumulate good health for ourselves which will last us and reward us for the rest of our lives.
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- Thea is the founder of Neolaia – Biohacking SA and passionate about all things biohacking, functional medicine, holistic and ancestral wellness. She enjoys the occasional triathlon, is fanatic about yoga and the gym and loves n=1 biohacking experiments more than anything else! Learning about the latest in scientific research for health and wellness and applying this knowledge is what makes her happiest!
This information does not serve as medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is for informational purposes only and does not provide a comprehensive explanation of the different compounds. Always consult your doctor first when making any changes to medication or supplementation.