Your body constantly updates the information it receives. It learns. Through that learning it regenerates itself, remaking itself constantly. Most of your heart is replaced in about three days.
Change is the true constant. You’re never the same from second to second.
For what you do is what you become. The experiences you have – conscious and not conscious – are literally embodied into you. They change how you look, feel, move, and think.
But can you take control of that transformation?
For a lot of things, yes. We can’t change our genes – at least no so far. But we can change gene expression. We do that all the time.
But how can we regenerate the way we want?
Since what you do is what you become, regular, repeated activities have the best chance to change you. We rarely think of eating and resting as skills – but they are. You can argue that elements like happiness can be learned as skills through different kinds of thinking and action. And if we perform simple actions regularly, we can reshape brain and body along the lines we like.
Practice does not make perfect, but it sure can improve things. We can train our minds and our bodies to influence our continuous transformation. Here are a few simple ideas and skills that can dramatically affect your sense of physical, mental, social and spiritual well-being.
Skills That Transform
1. Eating as a skill. For much of human history eating was relatively simple – you ate whatever food you could get your hands on. The result – a body built to survive chronic, intermittent starvation.
Now we have to survive superabundance. Because much of the time we can eat whatever we find tasty – except lots of it is no longer food.
We did not evolve to eat industrial products – we just evolved to love how they taste.
So one trick to obtaining a healthy life is to eat stuff that your body is actually built to eat.
Many old and established human cuisines do nicely. Simple eating skills include:
A. Eat whole foods – that’s what we’re built for.
B. Eat lots of different kinds of food. Selecting for greater variety means greater nutrients and greater information to our bodies.
C. Eat foods when they’re meant to be eaten – particularly at breakfast, when your body is literally starved. And not in the middle of the night, which leads to greater glucose and fat levels and in animal experiments to far greater weight gain.
D. Eat socially and at regular times. Cooking is one of the great skills that every society values.
2. Physical activity as a series of skills.
As readers of “Healthy Without Health Insurance” know, the body views all voluntary muscle activity as “exercise.” Survival seems to maximize with about 60-90 minutes of such activity. So:
A. Put physical activity into your most ordinary activities. Standing takes a lot more effort than sitting. Sitting is associated with shorter life. So try
– A standing desk.
– Using self-transport – walking or biking – whenever possible.
– Walk with others to and from lunch and dinner.
– Look forward (at least sometimes) to cleaning the dishes and cleaning the home as forms of “exercise” that help update your body.
– Stand or move around when watching TV, films, or media (pacing while talking on the phone may be fine but don’t, as one patient reminded me, stand when you’re in the movie theater.)
– Try sports. Don’t worry too much about winning or virtuosity. Sports should be about health and well-being. Enjoy the change to use your body through the electrifying, reviving skills that play creates.
3. Learn to rest. There are innumerable rest skills.
I spend a lot of time explaining quick, easy and active rest techniques in “The Power of Rest.” Rest is a much greater and larger topic than sleep.
Yet sleep obsesses people now because we’ve often lost the skills we need to enjoy it. Here are a few to help you out at night (even when you’re shiftworking):
A. Rest before sleep. Get your mind into a state that allows your body clocks to promote sleep. You can do that by:
– Simple meditation techniques (there are thousands).
– Reading before sleep, especially material that neither excites nor bores.
– Doing yoga or simple stretching.
– Envisioning the dreams you want to have – then watching how your dreams change.
– Comfort your brain, cool off the bedroom, and calm your environment. We did not evolve sleeping with cellphones and televisions. They’re meant to alert us – not to kill our chance to rest.
Remember, you need rest like food. And there are many restful skills you can learn and use each day.
Transforming Each Day
There are innumerable other skills you can use to transform your body. Socializing involves many. We are social animals. Social support and engagement not only provides for love and meaning in life, but for a much better shot at a longer one.
And times rules life. Body clocks influence large parts of human performance. Know what they are and you can use them better – the many skills of circadian health.
Many factors transform the human body. Many, like knowing how microRNAs we eat in our food change our gene expression, have just recently become noticed.
And those facts mainly reflect our ignorance. Most of the information that goes into regenerating and transforming body is not yet understood..
But a lot is known. The different skills of how you eat, rest, move, socialize, and time your life can transform you at virtually any age, whether you’re three years old or 93.
What you do is what you become. Use some very simple skills and you can transform what you are – even what you want to be.
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