Heath trends are a dime a dozen these days. It seems like every week there's a new superfood discovered or another exotic berry being touted as the ultimate all-in-one-cure-for-everything. The truth remains that our health is a profoundly diverse topic and there is no "one size fits all" approach. For example, can you imagine trying to convince people from remote hunter-gatherer regions that they should be vegan? What would they do; plant a kale patch in the middle of the tundra? Despite our bio-individuality, there are some scientifically proven ways to increase overall quality of life without breaking the bank or diving too deeply into the confusing world of health fads.
1. Eat The Rainbow
The most obvious way to "hack" your health is to eat well. Most of us have fairly good access to a wide range of fruits and vegetables, so a great way to ensure that you're consuming a multitude of nutritional goodness is to include foods of all different colors in your diet. Here's a general guide to the most common benefits associated with each food color group!
2. H.I.I.T. (High-Intensity Interval Training)
A 2011 study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology indicated that decreasing workout time, but increasing the intensity of each exercise, yielded positive results when compared to longer periods of low-intensity workouts. This method is known as high-intensity interval training (H.I.I.T.). Evidence from the Norwegian HUNT study also found that just a single weekly session of high-intensity training was proven to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease in both men and women.
Can you recall the last time you went a full 24 hours without using your phone, tablet, computer, television or radio? For most people, 24 hours without personal gadgets and gizmos would be a tough burden to bear! Granted, it's impractical to not have access to these things on a daily basis, however, limiting your use of tech, especially at night, can have huge benefits on your health!
The National Sleep Foundation claims that there is strong scientific data documenting the role of light-emitting "devices" in promoting wakefulness. Photoreceptors in our eyes sense light and dark, indicating to our brains the status of the world around us and regulating our circadian rhythms based on the natural day-night cycle. This reception of light and dark allows us to be alert in the morning and sleepy at night. The same functional considerations apply to the light emitted from our computers, tablets and smartphones. Even our smallest electronic devices can emit an adequate amount of light to confuse the brain and increase wakefulness.
Try to set aside at least one hour before going to bed during which time you stop using any light emitting devices. It’s likely that you will have a more restful sleep with noticeable flow-on benefits for your health.
4. Get Into Nature
Even if you're not the jump-in-a-muddy-puddle type, assimilation with nature can be instrumental in improving your overall wellbeing. A series of studies published in the Journal of Environmental Philosophy found that mental fatigue can be combated by immersing oneself in restorative environments; such as the "great outdoors". One study even discovered that people's mental energy increased simply by looking at pictures of nature - incidentally, pictures of cityscapes didn't produce the same effect.
Another professed benefit of connection with nature can be found in the ancient practice of "earthing" or "grounding". This tradition involves simply placing your bare feet firmly on the earth (grass or dirt) for a prolonged period of time and “absorbing” Earth's natural electrical energy. Dr Sinatra from Heart MD Institute wrote a book detailing this topic called "Earthing", which you can find here.
5. Water: Quality & Quantity
The health benefits of water have been well documented across all cultures throughout history, after all, it is essential to our survival! The human body is comprised of about 65% water, which we require for many significant processes, including blood circulation, metabolism, regulation of body temperature and waste removal/detoxification. The commonly accepted recommendation is that adults should drink roughly 2 liters of water per day to support good health, however, the quality of water we drink is an important factor also. Both chlorine and fluoride, which are commonly found in many public water supplies, have been linked to increased rates of cancer.
If you can't control the purity of water that you have access to you, it's a good idea to install a high-quality filter. If you're unsure of your water quality, just do a quick google search for "water quality home testing kit" and test your own!
6. Ice Baths (Or Cold Showers)
We've all experienced that unpleasant scenario: the hot water cuts out mid-shower and you’re rudely jolted out of your blissfully warm, meditative state. Interestingly though, some people believe that practices such as ice baths and cold showers can actually have very positive effects on your health. Benefits include increased alertness, deep breathing, improved circulation and decreased levels of stress. Sounds good, right?!
If you’re a little nervous about the whole idea of an “ice bath”, just start by enjoying a regular shower, then turn the hot water off for 1 minute before you get out. You'll notice the effect on your breathing and mental state immediately.
7. The Science of Smiling
This one is almost self-explanatory. Wise men and women through all ages have claimed that the simple act of smiling can transform you and the world around you. Common sense and natural instincts indicate that smiles are contagious and that they make us appear more attractive to others. Some studies have even linked this humble muscle adjustment to increased lifespan - that's a pretty good reason to put a smile on your dial!