Biohacking - A Holistic Perspective
In the last 5 years, the concept of biohacking as taken the world by storm. By no means new, it's rise in mainstream social awareness comes with a global movement towards self-empowered health optimization.
People are taking health and mental clarity into their own hands and looking to increase their overall sense of wellness using natural inputs to maximize the biological systems of the body.
In this blog post, we'll discuss the concept of biohacking within a broader social and biological framework, as well as some easy to integrate practices that you can start today.
A holistic take on biohacking
Biohacking, also known as DIY biology- is the art, science, and practice of changing the environment around you and inside you in order to optimize your own biology.
In other words, biohacking means making conscious, intentional decisions throughout your day that support and optimize your body's natural functions.
Reading this, it may be tempting to see your body/biology as a separate entity to your thoughts, emotions, and external environment.
However, I find it much more helpful to understand the mind, body, heart, soul, external environment, relationships, and community as integral components in shaping our biology. Every thought, feeling, conversation, decision, and action we take throughout our daily lives have ripple effects on every other facet of our beings.
Yes, seeing the physical body as a distinct organism with a set of biological functions and operating systems can be helpful in cultivating conscious choices with the food, water, and supplements we take.
Expanding that view to also understand how the food, water, and supplements we take are also a reflection of the broader environment around us- which businesses we support, who and where we consume these things thing, the culture we create around food and eating (check blog post here), and the thoughts and emotions we're experiencing while we consume said food, water, and supplements- is equally as important.
(old mate got the wrong idea)
The typical goals of biohacking are to increase energy, focus, and mental clarity. Often these objectives rest within a paradigm of productivity and longevity.
While these are extremely important and desirable (who doesn't want to be more productive and live longer?), it's also important to balance these masculine/yang objectives out with more feminine/yin components- presence and pleasure.
While these concepts may seem to be dualities, they are also mutually supportive. Presence amplifies productivity. Pleasure expands longevity (depending on your vices). When you're present, you're super aware of what's going on around you and within you, and can discern how your outer environment affects your inner one. When you're present, you're more like to fully enjoy whatever it is you're doing, without distraction, allowing you to fully experience the pleasure of whatever you're eating, drinking, or activity you're engaging in.
Productivity and longevity are great, but if you're not present and enjoying every day, what's the point?
I bring this masculine/feminine ideology into the discussion as I feel biohacking is, in essence, a masculine concept. As an educator in the world of women's health, I feel it's so important to recognize the difference of how mainstream biohacking practices affect men and women differently.
Men operate on a 24-hour hormone cycle, and women operate on a 28-day (ish) hormonal cycle. Men and women's biology have extremely different daily and cyclical requirements to be optimized and fully supported to carry out the functions they were designed to.
For instance, intermittent fasting may be great for men, but could cause a serious hormonal disruption in women and delay ovulation and menstruation. If you're looking into biohacking, make sure you research each practice for your specific biological makeup!
6 biohacking tips you can easily integrate into your life
Now that we've got a basic understanding of biohacking, as well as an expanded perception of how it fits in within the interconnections of a single human with a specific biology living within a broader society, let's look at 5 biohacking tips you can try at home.
1. Meditation & mindful breathing: I had to start here. Meditation is medicine, as well as a thread that weaves its way through biohacking, spiritual, productivity, and holistic wellbeing circles. Learning to calm the mind, tune out the chatter, and connect with the stillness within supports every aspect of our wellness. Mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual health are all amplified when we take even a few minutes a day to sit in silence.
Taking 5-10 minutes a day to practice meditation or mindful breathing can support your physical and mental health in SO many ways. It's simple- these practices help the body tap into the parasympathetic nervous system, as opposed to the sympathetic. Sympathetic is the stress and action function of the body, while the parasympathetic is the rest and digest function. If your nervous system is in a state of calm and ease, every other facet of your body will benefit.
This can mean sitting for 5-10 minutes in silence in the morning or with a guided meditation or breathwork recording. Or, you can set a reminder on your phone to take 10 deep, mindful breaths a few times throughout the day. Give this a go for 7 days straight and see how it impacts your clarity, mood, digestion, and focus.
2. Cold water exposure: If you haven't heard about cold water shower or immersions, you have been missing out on one of the simplest biohacking practices to integrate into your day. Wim Hoff breathing and ice baths have grown in popularity exponentially over the last few years, and for good reason.
Cold water exposure benefits the immune system, decreases muscle soreness, and improves clarity and alertness (just try falling asleep in an ice bath).
The easiest way to bring this practice into your life is to integrate it into your morning shower. When you're done washing up and about to get out, switch the water to the coldest function, and let it pour onto your forehead. It will likely come as a shock. Start out with 10 seconds and work your way up to 30 seconds or longer.
For women- cold water exposure is NOT recommended during menstruation! Smooth, pain-free menstruation is supported by warming foods, environments, and drinks. You may find cold water exposure increases menstrual cramping and blood clotting.
3. Movement: Move your body every day! No matter why type of movement you enjoy- dancing, yoga, swimming, working out, running, tai chi- just do a little bit every day!
Daily movement practice supports a healthy immune system, digestive system, and mental health. You'll likely find you feel better, have more energy, and general zest for life if you're moving your body regularly.
Especially important for keeping muscles, joints, and ligaments healthy, to avoid injuries and degeneration long-term.
4. Good quality sleep & nighttime routine: Good quality rest supports every function in the human body. If you're not sleeping regularly and getting enough of it, chances are you'll feel tired, drained, lethargic, and maybe even stressed out and anxious.
There are lots of schools of thought on sleep and biohacking- but it's a rabbit hole I'll plant a seed for here and allow you to explore on your own.
For general sleep quality, the following simple tips go a long way: Limit screen time throughout the evening and at least 1 hour before going to bed. Create a nighttime routine or ritual that supports the mind and body to transition into rest mode. Either a meditation or some mindful breathing may support this, or writing a to-do list for thoughts that are racing in your mind. Go to bed at the same time each night. Keep it simple.
5. Swap coffee for medicinal mushrooms: You had to have seen it coming. Swapping your daily coffee (or one of many coffees each day) for a medicinal mushroom tea will give your nervous system and adrenals a break.
You can still boost your mental clarity, energy and focus, without the caffeine crash or come down. We've got you covered here with our functional mushroom blends (insert hyperlink to mushy bundle).
6. For women- track your menstrual cycle: This is the ultimate feminine side of biohacking. Tracking your menstrual cycle! You can do this on an app, or you can use a printed cycle tracker (available from here).
Learning to pay attention to the fluctuations in your mood, energy levels, food cravings, creativity, and emotions throughout your cycle will empower you to make decisions around your life that work in sync with your hormones.
Cycle tracking enables you to be the ultimate expert of your own body, knowing what to expect throughout your cycle and how to work with it instead of against it.
I hope you've enjoyed reading about a holistic take on biohacking, and have learned something useful you can integrate into your life for more productivity, longevity, presence, and pleasure!