Here we are, navigating the third wave of a global pandemic that none of us wanted to surf in the first place. Reports are already predicting that the fourth wave of Covid-19 will happen in the last two months of 2021, and one wouldn’t be surprised to see beaches and gyms become the scapegoat once more.
The longer this pandemic drags on, the more real it becomes. Everyone has been affected, and watching the pain and suffering of loved ones losing the fight on such a grand scale has quite literally become the stuff of horror movies.
It’s also becoming outright bizarre, with hints of dark comedy as more reports surface — in reputable international publications — about a theory that started in Australia that the virus can be transmitted through flatulence. Something smells off.
Certainly in my household, zinc, magnesium and other self-help hacks have become the norm. The more you read, the more one sees a large shift towards taking our health — or as much of it as we can control — into our own hands. This is a grey area that charlatans could easily exploit, which is why we must never let our guard down and keep an eye on the bleach aisle — don’t for a second think that rationality has Trumped populism, especially in the land of opportunity that still tends to dictate the opinions of some vocal, annoying South Africans.
At the start of 2021, I reached out to SA futurist Jonathan Cherry and asked what he thought the future of wellness would look like. He told BusinessLIVE and TimesLIVE at the time: “More and more people are making the connection between mind and body. There’s a growing understanding that what we think affects our bodies….”
He went on: “Before it was meditation and mindfulness from a spiritual sense. Now we’ll see the shift towards a practice that benefits health and the body. From this year onwards we’re likely to see more and more research, development and commercialisation of this space.” This is likely to be a very big industry.
By now, you’ve probably heard about biohacking, which started in the early 2000s as an underground movement but is now far more mainstream and popular. Biohackers say they assess the body’s internal environment and our external environment, and then make changes to optimise mind, body and soul.
Johannesburg-based professional biohacker and performance coach, Steve Stavs, believes that this DIY, self-health approach improves quality of life and longevity. He says: “Biohacking equips you with the tools to transcend society’s stressors. While it sounds new to some, you’ve probably already biohacked yourself,” says Stavs. “If you’ve checked your blood pressure or blood sugar levels and made lifestyle changes to improve those data points, then you’re a biohacker.”
It would, naturally, be outrageous to replace medicine and professional advice with a DIY home kit. We all know how terrifying it is spending an evening with someone who has read a Wikihow article on the toilet and now believes they have the keys to curing ailments that require serious medical intervention.
But for Stavs, who runs the popular podcast “The Made To Thrive Show”, biohacking is not meant to harm or trigger irresponsible behaviour. On the contrary, it is quite the opposite. He says that the pandemic has meant more people are looking for proactive ways to look after themselves.
He told Wanted: “Personal accountability has traversed the financial sector into the health arena. People have become more aware of their vitamin D levels and have educated themselves regarding the use of zinc, selenium, ECGC (Epigallocatechin gallate), and other immune boosters. Biohacking has also grown exponentially because people have been more proactive with their own health audits. My new clients want to know their numbers. They measure their heart rate variability (HRV), deep and REM sleep, and food intolerances to ensure optimal health. It’s empowering to take control of your own wellbeing.”
If a responsible person who takes wellness seriously wants to give it a try for the sake their health and wellness, what can they do? What would it look like? We asked Stavs.
He gives Wanted readers practical tips to give biohacking a test run.
- Find a health coach who you can trust that will go on a journey with you.
- Discover your unique purpose and delight in it. Living out your purpose is one of the greatest internal drivers. When you need to say no to eating junk food for the second time in a week, knowing you want to perform both at the office and in the bedroom, becomes a huge motivator.
- Respect your circadian rhythm. This is how you do it:
- Get the morning sunlight into your eyes without sunglasses.
- Download blue blocking and flicker blocking software onto your PC
- Wear orange blue blockers once the sun has set.
- Light your night time world with candles and fire.
“The eye is more than a camera. It is the most important clock in the body,” he says. “The light you expose your eyes to is the most powerful signal to regulate your circadian clock. In other words your day night cycles and how your body determines when it should down regulate for sleep and up regulate in the morning. Melatonin is the master sleep hormone and antioxidant in the body. It is first made in the eye, when you expose your eyes to sunlight. The retina, lens, ciliary body and lacrimal gland all make melatonin.”
He says that wearing sunglasses inhibits this process, “which detrimentally affects the SCN, (suprachiasmatic nucleus), and subsequent pineal gland functioning”.
It would appear that being healthy and fashionable are mutually exclusive. He does add a disclaimer: don’t be silly and look directly into the sun. He suggests protecting your eyes from junk light at night, “which gives the wrong signals to your circadian clock”.
It is unclear which is more trendy — biohacking or the term itself. Ultimately, people are the captains of their own bodies, and if what they are doing is improving their lives and not harming them, then taking charge of things we can control would be a step in the right direction.