What is Biohacking?
Biohacking also known as wetware hacking is an umbrella term for a movement which is based around the idea of engaging biology with the ‘hacker’ ethic. When you hear the word ‘hacker’, most people conjure up the image of a techno wizard trying to break into the CIA, banks or any other computer system. However, the process of hacking is all about exploring and improving or modifying. The ideology and definition of Biohacking then is all about breaking down, exploring and finding ways to alter and modify biology (life in general). This perfectly sums up the ‘hacker’ ethic, which is all about:
- Increased Access
- Freedom of Information
- Improvement to Quality of Life
Biohacking covers a huge range of practices and movements on anything that lives. As a fast growing movement, biohacking these days refers mostly to managing your own biology (your own health and wellbeing) using a combo of nutritional, medical, physical and technological technique and items. So it can be anything from:
- Taking supplements such as nootropics and cognitive enhancing supplements to improve focus, motivation and attention
- Using a cybernetic device or program which collects useable data such as the Fitbit or an app like MyFitnessPal
- DIY body improvements
- Performing advanced gene sequencing experiments at home or in the lab
Where Does Biohacking Come From?
While Biohacking is a relatively new term, the idea of improving ourselves through the use of technology and other means is nothing new. From tailoring your nutrition to using the latest fitness gadgets and health supplements; this process of finding ways to be better, physically, mentally and otherwise has always been a big part of our lives. Essentially though, biohacking came about as a more scientific based approach to our health and wellbeing. Treating our bodies in a systems approach simplifies things dramatically. By doing so, biohackers really look at three main things:
- Inputs – What we put into or do to our bodies
- Outputs – The results of our inputs
- Data – Also known as ‘Quantified Self’, this just means being able to track all our inputs and outputs over a period of time.
Having data is extremely important. When you collect weeks and months of data, you can more accurately track your progress and decide whether changes need to be made.
Because data is so important to successful biohacking of health and wellbeing, make things easier for yourself by having the right tools. With most people owning a smart phone or a handheld device with similar functionality, apps are going to be your best friend. Here are some of the best apps on the market to do so:
- Tracking Anything – AskMeEvery, IFTTT or Daytum
- Tracking Activity – Moves, FitBit, Amiigo or Strava
- Tracking Sleep – SleepCycle, ZEO or Lark
- Tracking Mood – Happiness, MoodPanda or MercuryApp
- Tracking Heart – Cardiio, Emwave2, Polar
- Tracking Posture – Lumoback
- Tracking Diet – MyFitnessPal or HapiLabs
- Tracking Productivity – RescueTime
- Tracking Mental/Cognition – Quantified Mind
Biohacking - Getting Started
While there are endless opportunities in terms of what, how and when to Biohack; as with any long term endeavour, it’s important to start small. Pick one thing that really matters to you. Then track it for a week. Soon, trends and behaviours start to emerge which you’ve never really seen before, which can help you ‘hack’ aspects of your life for the better. For example, you can easily track your mood throughout the day along with hunger levels, which you can then use to time caffeine and snack consumption for optimal effect.
Quick & Easy Guide to Biohacking for Beginners
Still not sure where to start? Here are 7 of the best and easiest biohacks that you can start off with as suggested by researchers from the Bulletproof Biohacking Conference of 2014:
1. Biohack Your Posture
You’re probably slouching right now. Whether it’s on the work desk staring at your computer or on the couch while reading your smart phone or tablet, most of you will be bending your spine and rolling your shoulders forward. While for many of you, this won’t be an issue right now, you’re going to feel it much more when you’re older. Biohacking your posture though is easy and requires 5 easy steps:
- Squeeze your Butt Muscles – Clench that coin between your cheeks
- Exhale and lower your rib cage and shoulder girdle
- Engage your Abs – Tighten that core slightly
- Bring your Head Back – Tilt your head back and line your ears up with your shoulders
- Constantly Reassess – Set a timer every hour to help you go through steps 1-4
2. Biohack Your Food, Diet & Nutrition
Biohacking your food choices and overall diet is one of the key areas of the movement. After all, the majority of our inputs into our body is going to be food. Nutrition doesn’t have to be complicated, but many people either go overboard ending up with an unsustainable process constant dieting. Here are 5 of the best ways you can start to biohack your diet:
- Stop thinking of it as a diet – it just conjures up the idea of restriction.
- Eat Food, Not Too Much, Mostly Plants – One of the best mottos regarding healthy eating behaviour
- Track your Diet – A lot of people are opposed to tracking calories and macros, but as previously mentioned, the more data you have, the easier it is to see what you’re doing and what requires change.
- Reduce the consumption of refined products as much as possible – this will help cut out a lot of junk food.
- Cut yourself some slack – The occasional drink or cheat day is not going to ruin your progress, so relax, enjoy it and get back on track the next day.
3. Connect With Nature
We’ve grown accustomed to being indoors, under clinical fluorescent lights and in front of screens. Most of us now spend less than 5% of our time outdoors and this is one major energy zapper in our lives. To biohack this, we need to reconnect with the outdoors. It doesn’t mean becoming all hippy and having a conversation with plants, but it does mean spending a little more time outdoors. Here are 4 things you can do:
- Breathe – Get outside for 10 minutes, preferably in a park. Stand still and just breathe.
- Get some Sunlight – Vitamin D deficiency is one of the fastest growing deficiencies in the Western world. Enjoy some sun for 10 minutes every day – preferably in the morning or around sunset.
- Go Green – Research has shown that spending some time looking at green things not only makes you more creative, but it helps you to relax.
- Walk it Off – Walking not only helps to increase your physical activity levels throughout the day, it actually helps you to refocus and also boosts creativity.
4. Biohack Your Perspective
Perspective really is everything. The way you judge a situation makes a huge impact on the emotions that you feel and how you’ll respond. These days, modern lifestyles have generally made us expect more and tolerate less. Changing your perspective on situations will help improve well being and foster resilience. Here’s how:
- Challenge Yourself – Make sure that you challenge yourself every so often. It can be anything from a Spartan Race to a cold shower. Be uncomfortable – this helps you adapt.
- Be Open – Changing your perspective is all about being able to see things differently. Gain more insight by listening and then questioning other viewpoints.
- Reflect – This is where processing of information occurs. One method is to build awareness through meditation.
5. Biohack With Music
Incredibly undervalued, music is an amazing and powerful way to biohack your mental processes and mood, which can translate to better physical and physiological outcomes. We all know that different types of music can affect us in different ways, from jazz to heavy better to pop. The way in which different music does this is by altering our brainwave response to the soundwaves. Simply put, use the right type of music to help you refocus and improve cognitive processes, whichever they might be for you.
6. Biohack Your Flow
Flow is one of those trendy buzzwords that has cropped up in biohacking circles and makes reference to the ‘flow state’. This is the state of consciousness whereby we perform and feel at our best. It’s that feeling where time is irrelevant and we’re on such a roll with our thoughts and actions. Unfortunately, the only group of people to achieve this flow state on a regular basis are athletes. Getting into a flow tends to follow some common steps:
- Struggle – This is where you’re actively learning and storing information
- Release – This is where you let go and let the subconscious do the work, where you consolidate the information and work with it.
- Flow – This is where you’re on a roll. You’ve collected, processed and sorted the information and now you’re just performing.
- Recovery – This is after you performed at your best and you require recuperation.
Steven Kotler, author of Rise of Superman has researched this concept of flow and the flow state for years and has identified 17 key triggers. Without listing them all, here are three of the most prominent ways to achieve flow:
- Concentration – This requires no distractions and no multi-tasking.
- Goals – Having clear aims and goals helps to facilitate flow.
- Be Open – Nothing stops flow more than the negation of ideas. Be open and additive.
7. Biohack with Gratitude
Studies on gratitude – or the practice of showing thanks has shown that those who practice it regularly are generally happier than those who don’t. Showing gratitude shouldn’t just be for situations where you receive something from someone. You should take a greater, more macro perspective approach to showing gratitude. It does take some getting used to, but being able to and be comfortable with showing gratitude is a sure fire way to improve your wellbeing. Here are 3 tips to help you show more gratitude:
- Gratitude Ritual – Done either first thing in the morning or just before bed, find 2-3 things that you’re grateful for, focus on it and say it out loud.
- Gratitude Walk – Take a short walk, be present and feel gratitude for the things you see.
- Gratitude Remarks – Instead of paying compliments, show gratitude to one person around you daily. It doesn’t have to be for a big thing and can be as small as working out with you or helping you with the dishes.
Biohacking isn’t a hard concept, it’s all about finding simple, effective and research driven ways to improve your health and wellbeing. It’s about using the right inputs (food, music, supplements, activities, etc) to help you obtain the best possible outputs. Start small and try out one of the seven hacks above for a week and notice the difference it can make in the long term.