Nearly every topic in wellness is controversial. In part, this is due to individual differences and preferences, but it’s also a result of talking about behaviors without understanding how they work. To better understand the mechanisms of wellness, I began collecting information in June 2020 (nothing like a pandemic to spark an interest in health). I can’t believe I knew so little. This series has three goals:
- To synthesize information about wellness and health around mechanisms and goals
- To give my grad students a starting point for discovery when I ask them how they are taking care of their wellness
- To share curated wellness and health information with anyone else who is interested
The thread that ties together all of the posts in this series is healthspan. Healthspan generally refers to the time during lifespan before people start experiencing an age-related decline. As we age, we tend to get less mobile, more forgetful, and less resilient to stressors, like illness. My goal is to extend my healthspan, and I’ve been trying new things to apply what I’ve learned.
As a result, I have higher and more consistent energy, better focus, less pain that had started creeping into daily tasks, better sleep, fewer risk factors for chronic diseases, better mood, and I generally enjoy life more. Enough people have noticed these things that I wanted to write down what I’m doing so that I can share it.
I’m organizing the series around various wellness priorities. I rotate through these different priorities based on what’s going on in my life. Each of the items listed below will become a short blog post with a few rules that I follow and why. These topics are much more complicated and interconnected than I can capture in short blog posts. I’m trying to be as straightforward as possible while providing additional resources to dig deeper.
Not that we can’t make progress when we’re not recovered, just that it’s going to be twice as hard.
- Nutrition – Time-Restricted Eating
- Nutrition – Quality Fats
- Nutrition – Protein
- Nutrition – Carbohydrates
- Serotonin – Sunlight and Gratitude
- Sleep – Routines
- Sleep – Disruptors and Making the Best of Bad Sleep
- Dopamine – Recognizing Addiction and Good Hygiene
Good stress (aka hormesis) prepares you in a controlled manner for bad stress, which you can’t control.
- Exercise – For Brain Health
- Plants – Maximizing Benefits and Minimizing Inflammation
- Fasting – Multi-Day Fasting Reasons and Tips
- Discomfort and Doing Hard Things
Our species wouldn’t exist without the ability to handle stressors, but the prevalence of stressors has far outpaced our evolutionary mechanisms.
- Meditation – A Mental Pivot
- Philosophy – Stoicism
- Pollution – Plastics and Hormone Disruptors
- Pollution – Light, Sound, Air, and Water
- Alcohol and Sugar
Sources of Information
Because this is a curated series, it’s important to know where information comes from and who is filtering it. I’ll be the first to point out that I have no formal training in medicine, kinesiology, or health. My interest in this space came at the start of the pandemic when I noticed the negative effects of eating too much comfort food, drinking more, moving less, and being inside all day. I will be describing what I do for me and why, but everyone is different, especially when it comes to health. I am not giving medical advice. My perspective is as a scientist who is trying to understand the mechanisms underlying the effects of behaviors, in which circumstances they work, and what are the tradeoffs.
My primary sources of information are podcasts by medical doctors, PhDs, dieticians, and other wellness professionals, which are geared towards consumers. I rarely read the actual research articles that they describe, and I’ve never searched the medical research literature. That being said, I often find the PhDs in this space more compelling because they discuss the quality and limitations of research, which are hugely variable, in addition to the results. I also tend to find behavioral interventions based on evolutionary pathways more compelling than biohacking gadgets.
Some of my favorite sources are Health Theory with Tom Bilyeu, Found My Fitness with Rhonda Patrick, The Huberman Lab Podcast with Andrew Huberman, and The Drive with Peter Attia.