After working in the health and wellness industry for over ten years, I’m the first to agree that there are no quick fixes and you really do need a holistic approach to achieve great health.
Being a 6 '4”, 220 pound (100 kg) ex-rugby playing Welshman, I’ve certainly been guilty in the past of looking at what’s deemed as "alternative" as a bit crazy or out there.
But over the years, especially after interviewing several health experts on my podcast, it’s taught me that the more I know, the more I realize I don’t know—and it’s fun to explore new ideas.
So here are five health hacks I’ve explored and have felt personal benefits from over time:
1. Ice baths
When I tell people I usually have 2 to 3 ice baths a week, I get funny looks. It’s well known that many professional athletes will use ice baths or even cryotherapy to reduce muscle soreness and speed up recovery.
So the next question I ask myself is: could there be even more benefits for us regular folk? Cold exposure in a controlled environment has been shown to improve sleep, increase hormone production, reduces inflammation, restore the nervous system, increases blood flow, improves moo,d and increases metabolism . Here are a few tips if you want to try it:
1. Start with cold showers first. Aim for 30 seconds to 1 minute daily. You can always finish off with a warm shower.
2. When you get used to this, aim to have the whole shower cold daily. You’ll be amazed how quickly you will get used to this and how invigorating it is!
3. Once this becomes normal, move over to a cold bath with the whole body submerged except the head (without ice). Aim for 5 minutes. Do this 2 to 3 times a week then have hot shower after.
4. Then start adding ice to your baths. I put enough ice in to cover the surface of the water. Aim for anywhere up to 5 minutes. Repeat 2 to 3 times a week.
I have found regular cold exposure to be highly invigorating physically and mentally.
I once heard you could survive 3 weeks without food, 3 days without water and about 3 minutes without air (not that I’ve tried it), when I heard it put that way, truly highlighted the importance of oxygen.
For many years, the idea of a daily breathwork practice sat well and truly in the "woo-woo" category until I gave it a go for a week … then I was hooked!
Many of us spend our days sitting and hunched over a desk, which encourages shallow breathing. This can lead to low energy and feeling pretty unmotivated. But what I've found is a quick blast of air-pumping breathwork daily changes my state more than any cup of coffee would.
So what technique do I use? It’s called "Breath of Fire". If you Google it there are plenty of instructional videos, but in a nutshell, it's a rhythmic breath with equal emphasis on the inhale and exhale, done through the nostrils with a closed mouth. You pump the navel point towards the spine on the exhale and releasing the navel out on the inhale, no deeper than sniffing.
I do this for 2 minutes every morning upon waking. I'll also do a quick 1 to 2 minute session during the day if I’m feeling low energy. This is something I love doing and really notice it if I miss a day.
3. Skipping meals
You may have heard the term intermittent fasting, as it has certainly become more popular. It simply means not eating food for anywhere between 12 to 48 hours, sometimes longer. It's been shown to potentially help anti-aging, cognitive function, inflammation, hypertension, and diabetes to name a few.
This seemed like a very foreign concept to me, as I’m a big guy with a hefty appetite. But I've found over the years that since I’ve eliminated sugar, processed carbohydrates, and processed foods (and eaten a much more clean diet with lots of fresh vegetables) my cravings slowed down and it was clear to me that it was more about quality over quantity.
For me personally, I skip one meal a week, which is usually breakfast. If I eat 6:30 p.m. at night, I won’t eat again until early lunch the next day. I find this works best on a restful day like the weekend when I can take it slower than normal.
When I do the intermittent fast I find I have more energy, my digestive system loves it, and it feels like I’ve just hit a mini reset button for my body.
4. Putting fat in my coffee
As I’ve eliminated the sugars and processed foods over the years, I've also made sure to include a dose of healthy fats in my diet every day. This makes for great fuel for the body and mind and helps keep blood sugar levels stable.
I will add either heavy cream, a teaspoon of coconut oil, or butter to my coffee. Yes I know it sounds weird, but I think it tastes great!
I love my morning coffee, and I will often do this if I end up exercising early in the morning. The fats keep my mind sharp and energy up and I’m not exercising on a full breakfast stomach. I often do this when I skip my meal once a week, too.
5. Wearing orange (blue light-blocking) glasses at night
So why would I want to walk around the house looking like a construction worker at night? I heard a theory that orange glasses block out the blue light from things like TVs, smart phones, tablets, and computers that inhibit the production of melatonin (our sleep hormone).
The one thing I do know, is that sleep is one of the most important things you need to maintain great health and feel awesome.
So if I’ve had a stressful day, or I have spent a lot of time in front of the computer, I wear the glasses for an hour before bed. I have found they help calm my world down and I get quite sleepy before bed.
Apple have also introduced an update called Night Shift to their phones that eliminates the blue light from their screens in the evening. If you are struggling with sleep, I believe it’s certainly a hack worth looking into.
While these five points I've mentioned may seem a little crazy to some, I've had a lot of fun exploring them and seeing if they make a difference to how I feel on a daily basis.
For great health, I'm a big believer in doing the non-glamorous fundamentals well—eating, sleeping, and moving daily, along with cultivating a positive attitude and stressing less—but I've found these hacks have made a great addition to my life and are certainly worth trying if you are feeling adventurous.