Health - The Invaluable Currency
Our health is our most valuable resource. It is the vehicle through which we’ll pursue all that matters to us: loving relationships, meaningful work or a spiritual calling. More precious than wealth, success, novelty or security,
it is the very means by which we may enjoy anything at all.
Moreover, nurturing our physical health may be a moral responsibility, for any meaningful contribution to others is premised on the vitality, energy, strength, mobility, flexibility and sustenance of our bodies.
Looking after one's health is a prerequisite for George Bernard Shaw’s resounding clarion call to purpose and action:
“This is the true joy in life, being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one. Being a force of nature instead of a feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances…I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work, the more I live... Life is no brief candle to me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got hold of for the moment and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.”
Exercise & Nutrition - How To Burn Brightly
There is no mental health without physical health, irrespective of how much therapy, meditation or breathwork we do, for the state of our minds is the integrity of our bodies.
It has long been known that exercise and nutrition are master-keys to well-being. Together with sleep, they form the ‘golden triad’ of health and wellness. Indeed, the concept of human flourishing is bereft in the absence of serious consideration of this triad.
Every bodily system benefits from regular movement and proper nourishment. The strength of our physiological, anatomical, biochemical, emotional and cognitive functioning is dependent on these two master functions.
For this reason they form the foundation of Equanimity’s ‘Pyramid of Well-Being.’
Exercise truly is ‘the nectar of the gods.’ Regular movement reduces the risk of:
Cancer by 40%
Stroke by 45%
Diabetes by 50%
Amazingly, walking between 20-30 minutes per day may reduce the risk of premature death from heart disease by 50%. Convert the walk into a jog and one study found that biological age may be reduced by an average of 9 years. Or, consider an astonishing finding from a 2018 study which found that muscle mass is as important as blood pressure and weight in determining overall health. So dramatic were the differences in health between subjects with high and low muscle mass that Professor Carla Prado of the University of Alberta stated: “muscle mass should be a new vital sign.”
We have evolved to move, run, stretch, lift, play, climb and make love. It is no wonder that our sedentary lifestyle is harming us. Hence the haunting new adage from the medical community that ‘sitting is the new smoking.’
Similarly, many findings agree on the physical health benefits of adjusting the notorious ‘Western diet’ - excessive red and processed meat, high fat dairy, refined grains, copious sugar and salt - to include more whole foods, plant based proteins such as beans, peas, nuts, seeds and whole grains, along with moderate portions of complex carbohydrates like vegetables and fruit, as well as moderate amounts of fish. This regimen aligns with the diet of the centenarians in ‘longevity hotspots’ within the mediterranean who have significantly lower levels of obesity, diabetes, hypertension, cancer, asthma, arthritis and cardiovascular disease. As the author Michael Pollan said: “If it came from a plant, eat it; if it was made in a plant, don't.”
Yet, one of the curiosities of human nature is the egregious lacuna between knowing and doing:
Information, however compelling, doesn’t guarantee that we’ll act on it.
This is because, as the behavioral economist Dan Ariely says, we are ‘predictably irrational’ - our decisions are governed more by our emotions than our reason.
But what if we had access to ancient (organic) and modern (synthetic) biocompounds that perturb the nervous system in precisely the right ways, allowing us to act on what we know?
Psychedelics, Nutrition & Exercise - From Knowledge to Wisdom on Well-being
Trailblazing neuropsychiatric research over the last half decade suggests that psychedelics - organic and synthetic compounds which induce non-ordinary states of consciousness - may be potent catalysts for healing, recovery and behavior change. By tempering the brain’s habitual modes of functioning, these medicines kindle an ‘explosion of communication’ across different neural networks.
At the cognitive level, this globally connected brain state leads to fundamental shifts in our perceptions of reality, compelling us to renegotiate our most basic priors and core assumptions. In addition to enhancing cognitive flexibility, they may even alter aspects of our personality by increasing scores on the trait 'openness to experience.'
Psychedelics, quite literally, change our minds.
Intriguingly, this often leads to a renegotiation of our relationship to self, including how we treat our bodies. This entails reevaluating our relationship to food, substances and exercise, allowing insights that were merely intellectual (‘I know what to do’) to become embodied truths (‘I consistently do what I know’).
Given that most of us spend our waking lives in perpetual states of analysis and intellectualisation, idling along in ‘cognitive neutral,’ by radically connecting us to our limbic (‘emotional’) brain, a psychedelic journey may allow us to feel the consequences of our habits.
Our sedentary routines and consumption of unhelpful or unhealthy substances may suddenly become repugnant. Following an intentional medicine journey, we may no sooner harm our body than the body of a loved one. This is an infinitely elastic but simple mechanism of change: when we can feel what we’re doing, we stop doing it, the way we remove our hand from a hot stove. Moving and nourishing the body aren’t so much routines we perform but extensions of our identity: they become integral to who we are.
Moving & Eating - First Principles
While a deep psychedelic journey may compel us to renegotiate our habits around exercise and nutrition, the practical challenge of what to do remains. There is copious peer reviewed data, literature and anecdotal reportage on what constitutes best practices in the fields of exercise and nutrition. We are all overwhelmed with advice, much of which is contradictory.
EQNMT’s approach is to ‘cut through the noise’ and revert to first principles. It may be summarized thus:
Move for at least 15 minutes a day. Have fun doing it.
(With a nod to Michael Pollan): “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”
Or, heeding the 2500 year old wisdom of Hippocrates:
“If we could give every individual the right amount of nourishment and exercise, not too little and not too much, we would have the safest way to health.”
Making Change Manageable - The Compound Effect of Tiny Adjustments
EQNMT’s philosophy of change is premised on the power of tiny but consistent adjustments. Small, seemingly insignificant daily changes compound over time. By analogy, consider the nose of an airplane shifting course by 0.5 degrees. Initially, it seems as if the aircraft’s trajectory hasn’t changed. However, should it continue on this path, it will soon be in a different time zone.
It is our hope that you may recover and sustain your physical health, guided by the principle of ‘small things often.’ Through this, may you burn a little brighter for yourself and others during this brief but wonderful flash of sentience that has been gifted to you.
Please see References below.
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DISCLAIMER: This article was written for educational purposes only, and is not intended as advice. Psychedelic-assisted therapy is not helpful or indicated for everyone, and professional, trusted advice from a qualified healthcare professional should always be sought before entering into any new form of treatment. Similarly, we advocate for the safe, legal use of psychedelics in a therapeutic setting, guided and administered by qualified professionals.
Li, et al (2018). Impact of healthy lifestyle on life expectancies in the US population. Circulation. 24; 138(4)
Murtagh, EM et al (2010). Walking: the first steps in cardiovascular disease prevention. Current Opinion in Cardiology. 25 (5)
Tucker, LA (2017) Physical activity and telomere length in U.S. men and women: An NHANES investigation. Preventive Medicine. Vol 100.
Prado, C.M. (2018) Implications of low muscle mass across the continuum of care: a narrative review, Annals of Medicine. Sept. (Pg 675-693)
Levine JA (2015) Sick of sitting. Diabetologia. 2015 Aug;58(8):1751-8
Levine, et al (2014). Low protein intake is associated with a major reduction in IGF-1, cancer, and overall mortality in the 65 and younger but not older population. Cell Metabolism 19(3).
Griffiths, et al (2011) Mystical experiences occasioned by the hallucinogen psilocybin lead to increases in the personality domain of openness. Journal of Psychopharmacology. 25 (11).