Tech + Health

03.18.14

Change Your Sense: Biohacking for Beginners

From changing the way you taste, see, feel, hear, or smell something, you learn a lot about yourself and gain a heightened awareness of your senses—prepare to invest in some Miracle Berries.

The term biohacking has become a bit of a broad concept. If you do a Google image search you’ll see lot of pictures of the human body melded with machinery of one sort or another like the Borg from Star Trek. However, most people accept it to mean any modifications to yourself or your environment to augment or sometimes, shortcut mother nature for enhanced outcome.

Biohacking is really fascinating because through the process of experimentation you really learn a lot about yourself and gain a heightened awareness of your senses. Picking one of your five senses and then playing around with various methods and tools to see how external factors can either help you, or hurt you, makes for a good start. Here are some basic ways you can hack your five senses for a variety of results.

Sight

If you want to increase your productivity, light can play a big role. Lighting signals your body's circadian rhythm and can have a strong effect on your mood. Generally speaking we want to expose ourselves to red light in the morning and night and blue light during the day. This helps us regulate our cortisol and melatonin levels for a proper wake and sleep cycle. People who suffer from seasonal depression and those that live in parts of the world with long periods of darkness can benefit greatly from blue light therapies. If you want to get fancy, you can purchase the Philips Hue light bulbs which give you wifi control to choose any color of the rainbow you want and even automatically adjust based on time of day. When I work late at night I turn the bulbs to a deep red and it really helps me focus. You can get inexpensive color changing LED strips off of Amazon and even at IKEA as well. Of course, you can play around with it and find what works for you. I have found a pale greenish hue to be very soothing personally.

Taste

There are several plants that contain a substance called Miraculin, the most notable is the Miracle Berry. It does something pretty quirky when you eat it. The Miraculin binds to the sweet receptor in your mouth and makes sour, or acidic foods taste incredibly sweet. So for example, you could eat some Miracle Berry (which can be found in tablet form on Amazon) and then take a bite out of a lemon and swear you had just eaten honey.

"Peppermint is great if you have congestion or pressure in your sinuses, and it can help you maintain a clear mind as well when working through complex problems.”

How does this help you as a biohacker? There are a number of foods and substances that are good for you but aren’t necessarily that palatable. I personally love squeezing an entire lime into a cold glass of water but for many it’s too acidic. The health benefits of citrus fruits are numerous but lemon and lime in particular are very good at alkalizing your body even though they are acidic. A number of fermented foods tend to be sour such as kimchi, sauerkraut, and kefit. Now you can use them to satisfy your sweet tooth without any sugar.

Smell

Whether or not you believe in aromatherapy as a treatment for various ailments, certain smells can have an effect on your mood. You can buy essential oils at any health food store or off Amazon and while you don’t need an oil diffuser that heats up the oil and spreads it throughout a space, they are very effective. The smell of cinnamon can act as a pretty powerful pick-me-up when you get into that afternoon lull and has been shown to increase focus. Peppermint is great if you have congestion or pressure in your sinuses, and it can help you maintain a clear mind as well when working through complex problems. Lavender is very calming and can help settle your nerves, which explains why so many baby soaps come in lavender scent. Finally, lemon has a similar effect on the nervous system as lavender so next time you pop a miracle berry tablet, squeeze a fresh lemon, drink the juice and smell the fruit.

Touch

Reflexology is a type of massage focused on pressure points, mainly in the hands and feet that can stimulate release and relaxation in other parts of the body. If you find yourself full of stress or you’ve been working on something for a long time, take a break to give yourself a little hand reflexology refresher. It basically involves a lot of pinching and pulling but you can start by pinching each of your fingertips on the tops and bottoms and then on the sides. Then pull your fingers to give the joints some breathing space. Then keep working your way along the fingers, back of the hand, palms and all the way down to your wrist. Even if you do it wrong, the psychological act of taking a few minutes to give yourself a bit of self care will be worth it.

Sound

Research has shown that silence is great for meditation but not ideal for getting a lot of work done. On the flip side, really loud rock music or hip hop might be great for a hard core session of cardio intervals but can distract and overwhelm you when you need to write your weekly Daily Beast article. There’s a happy medium and the website Cofftivity provides it. Go to the webpage and you will immediately be greeted by the sounds of an active coffee shop. People talking in the background, cups clinking, and people shuffling around provide just the right amount of random noise to help keep you on task and avoid feeling like you’ve isolated yourself.