After working in the health and wellness industry for over ten years, I’m the first to agree that there are no quick fixes and you really do need a ‘holistic’ approach to achieve great health.
Being a 6ft 4”, 220lb (100kg) ex rugby playing Welshman I’ve certainly been guilty in the past of looking at what’s deemed as ‘alternative’ a bit crazy or woo-woo when it comes to supercharging one’s health. But over the years, especially after interviewing tens of dozens of health experts on our podcast, it’s taught me that the more I know, the more I realize I don’t know and it’s fun to explore new ideas.
So here are five health hacks I’ve explored and have felt personal benefits from over time:
1. Ice Baths & Cold Showers
When I tell people I usually have 2-3 ice baths a week, I really do get funny looks. It’s well known that many professional athletes will use ice baths or even cryotherapy to reduce muscle soreness and speed up recovery. So the next question I ask myself is; could there be even more benefits for us regular folk? Cold exposure in a controlled environment has been shown to improve sleep, increase hormone production, reduces inflammation, restore the nervous system, increases blood flow, improves mood and increases metabolism . Here are a few tips if you want to try it:
Start with cold showers first. Aim for 30 seconds to one minute daily. You can always finish off with a warm shower.
When you get used to this, aim to have the whole shower cold daily. You’ll be amazed how quickly you will get used to this and how invigorating it is! Once this becomes normal, move over to a cold bath with the whole body submerged except the head (without ice). Aim for 5 minutes. Do this 2-3 x a week then have hot shower after.
Then start adding ice to your baths. I put enough ice in to cover the surface of the water. Aim for anywhere up to 5 minutes. Repeat 2-3 x a week.
I have found regular cold exposure to be highly invigorating physically and mentally.
I once heard you could survive 3 weeks without food, 3 days without water and about 3 minutes without air (not that I’ve tried it), which to me, truly highlighted the importance of oxygen. For many years, the idea of a daily breathwork practice sat well and truly in the ‘woo-woo’ category until I gave it a go for a week… then I was hooked!
Many of us spend our days sitting and hunched over a desk, which encourages shallow breathing. This can lead to low energy and feeling pretty unmotivated. But what I have found is a quick blast of air-pumping breathwork daily changes my state more than any cup of coffee would.
So what technique do I use? It’s called ‘Breath of Fire’. If you Google it there are plenty of instructional videos. But in a nutshell, it is a rhythmic breath with equal emphasis on the inhale and exhale, done through the nostrils with a closed mouth. You pump the navel point towards the spine on the exhale and releasing the navel out on the inhale, no deeper than sniffing.
I do this for 2 minutes 2-3 times every morning upon waking. I will also do a quick 1-2 minute ‘hit’ during the day if I’m feeling low energy. This is something I love doing and really notice it if I miss a day.
3. Skip a Meal
You may have heard the term ‘intermittent fasting’ as it has certainly become more popular. It simply means not eating food for anywhere between 12-48 hours or even longer. It has been shown to potentially help anti-aging, cancer, cognitive function, inflammation, hypertension, diabetes to name a few.
This seemed like a very foreign concept to me, as I’m a big guy with a hefty appetite. But I have found over the years that since I’ve eliminated sugar, processed carbohydrates and processed foods (and eaten a much more clean diet along with lot’s of fresh vegetables) my appetite cravings slowed down and it was clear to me that quality over quantity was helping.
For me personally I skip one meal a week which is usually breakfast. If I eat 6.30pm at night, I won’t eat again until early lunch the next day. I find this works best on a restful day like the weekend when I can take it more slowly. When I do the intermittent fast I find I have more energy in general, my digestive system loves it and it feels like I’ve just hit a mini reset button for my body.
4. Have Fat In My Coffee
So why on earth would I want to do this?
As I’ve eliminated the sugars and processed foods over the years, I make sure I include a dose of healthy fats in my diet every day. This makes for great fuel for the body, mind and helps keep blood sugar levels stable.
I will add either thick cream, tsp of coconut oil or butter in there. Yes I know, it sounds weird but I think it tastes great! I love my morning coffee, and I will often do this if I end up exercising early in the morning. The fats keep my mind sharp and energy up and I’m not exercising on a full breakfast stomach. I will often do this too when I skip my meal once a week too.
5. Wear Orange (Blue Light Blocking) Glasses At Night
So why would I want to walk around the home at night wearing sunglasses?
I heard a theory that orange glasses block out the blue light from things like TV’s, smart-phones tablets and computers that inhibit the production of melatonin (our sleep hormone). The one thing I do know, is that sleep is one of the most important things you need to maintain great health and feel awesome. If you do have inconsistent sleep, this is well worth taking a look at. These are the glasses I’ve been wearing here.
When I’ve had a stressful day, or I have spent a lot of time in front of the computer, I wear the glasses for a couple of hours before bed. I have found they help calm my world down and I get quite sleepy before.
Apple have also introduced an update called ‘Night Shift’ to their phones that eliminate the blue light in the evening from their screens. If a giant company like Apple think it’s a good idea, then who am I to argue! If you are struggling with sleep, I believe it’s certainly a hack worth looking into.
I love having an inquisitive mind and exploring these ideas. I do find they can certainly help. In saying all that, I don’t believe they are going to solve all our problems either.
When you look at the big fundamentals of health; Our personal happiness, stress levels, daily activity, unprocessed whole-food diet, sound gut integrity, good sleep, purpose etc… I believe these need to be the cornerstone. But all these hacks can certainly make a difference and put a smile on your face whilst trying them :).
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