“Mindfulness Practice Is Truly Useful,” English Biohacker Greg Potter
What factors influence human health and why is it important to track different lifestyle aspects? An experienced researcher and biohacker from the United Kingdom Greg Potter highlighted this issue.
Greg studies sleeping patterns and has a PhD in Circadian Biology and Sleep. He specializes in health optimization thanks to health regime, the introduction of changes in the diet, and control of metabolism. Besides, the biohacker is engaged in research. The findings of his scientific work were highlighted by ВВС, Washington Post, Reuters, and other mass media.
You can read more about the correct approach to lifestyle changes in Greg’s interview.
Respondent: Greg Potter (G. P.)
Your research covers numerous topics. What findings related to lifestyle and health amazed you most of all?
G.P.: For example, findings connected to sleep. Sometimes the reduction in sleep can help people suffering from insomnia to improve the quality of sleep.
Speaking about health and longevity overall, we can view prognostic factors in various ways. One of the critical factors is how we assess our own health. If you simply ask the person how healthy he feels, you can understand what chances he has to live long.
People that start a healthy lifestyle often return to their old habits because the environment does not support their strivings. What kind of a mindset should a person develop to become more resilient in his endeavor and not to come back to the habitual lifestyle?
G.P.: It is important to choose habits that take little time to implement and require not much effort. It would be better to give preference to things that seem simple. If you choose habits that are more difficult, the probability of maintaining them reduces in the long term. For this reason, I recommend making small lifestyle changes instead of drastic ones. Then, when you have formed a certain habit, you can additionally develop a healthy lifestyle habit on top.
There are certain forms of mental training that can improve understanding of your mindset. For example, meditation. It is a form of metacognitive training or, in other words, training of the ability to think about thinking.
Before meditation, many people are not aware of how chaotic their thoughts are and that they simply arise in our head, and we do not have control over them. When people do mindfulness practice, they start to understand the nature of their mind better and learn to watch how thoughts arise in their minds.
Consequently, instead of instantly responding to your thoughts and act in correspondence with the stimulus, the person can make a pause. In this way, you can change your stance and, as a result, make better decisions. For this reason, I believe that mindfulness is useful.
In your opinion, what nuances should a person take into account if he decides to engage in biohacking?
G.P.: Many people that join the biohacking community cannot distinguish good information from bad in case they lack medical background. The problem is that some people are very careless and use untested methods to prolong life. It is unsafe in some cases.
Therefore, I would recommend primarily paying attention to the safety of used approaches. It is reasonable to look at the successes of people in the biohacking community and find someone whose opinions resonate with yours.
You should rely on two things. Choose somebody whose education allows differentiating good information from bad and who is likely to be a voice of reason. Then, learning from that person, choose methods and approaches that you believe to be safe. Use just one way to upgrade your body at a certain time and track corresponding health state parameters. This is the right way for biohacking.
How do you think, what is the role of diagnostics in health optimization?
G.P.: You should periodically track some things. I mean parameters that help us to predict overall health and longevity. They should be chosen individually.
In order to improve a certain health parameter, you need to track all related things. I recommend controlling results and behaviors that influence them. For example, you have problems with sleep. In relation to this, you may need to track the consumption of caffeine.
Besides, I recommend periodically tracking life quality that influences health. You can research sleep using wearable devices for two weeks, for example, three times a year. Moreover, you can periodically monitor your physical activity, which is a determining factor for the general wellbeing. Many people will find it useful to track their nutrition.
Interestingly, simple tracking of behavior models has a positive impact on human behavior itself. There has been some behavioral research lately, which viewed all possible techniques used by scientists for a positive influence on lifestyle. They defined that the most efficient technique that has a positive impact on our behavior is self-monitoring, just tracking our behavior. If you want to improve your diet, you need to track your nutrition from time to time. That is logical, is not it?
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Please, tell us what factors influence human health and longevity.
G.P.: The most important factors that influence health are already known. They are nutrition, physical activity, circadian rhythms, and sleep. Mindset involves all other things. However, I would also distinguish stress and stress management. Besides, I can mark the influence of environmental factors, exposure to compounds in the built environment that have a negative impact on health. Another factor is relationships. A rich social life and the lack of social isolation is a strong predictor of life expectancy.
Many people are interested in the development of new pharmaceutical products. I believe that medicine most favorably influences lifespan in the case when a person has health problems. If we take people with good health, I am not sure how efficient drugs intended to positively influence life expectancy are. Not to mention that in the future we might not find truly promising medicine.
However, everything depends on the person. For somebody, it is important to focus on sleep, and someone will find it more useful to pay attention to nutrition.
Scientists research the potential of some products based on supplements and intended to prolong healthy life and achieve longevity. What do you think about this approach?
G.P.: In my opinion, it is worth to follow. However, I think that it is not balanced now. Many researchers interested in the prolongation of healthy life concentrate on the development of new pharmaceutical products. But there are different means to achieve a similar effect.
The thing is that many people suffer a health decline just because they have poor behavior models related to health. Therefore, it is necessary to understand how one can help such people and improve their attitude toward health.
A growing number of people are speaking about the importance of behavioral science. But the reality is that the majority of companies that want to prolong healthy life only pay lip service to this science. A few of them systematically read the behavioral science literature.
Therefore, if we want to prolong healthy life in a rational way, I believe that the great amount of money invested in the development of some drugs should be redirected to help people change their behavior models related to health.
On March 26, Greg will make a report at Biohacking Conference Kyiv. He will speak about the importance of healthy sleep and explain how to use all its benefits.