The Fifth Pillar Of High Performance
The environment is the fifth step on your wellness journey towards better sleep, more focus, energy, and less stress.
Optimising your physical and social environments is essential for enjoying your life to its fullest.
The World Has Changed
The world has changed dramatically from the days when our ancestors were still hunting and gathering.
Our bodies haven't changed much from the days when our ancestors lived in bands of no more than 100 people strong. They lived outside, and they were experts at using their environment to support themselves.
Fast forward to the 21st century when we barely step outside. And when you do, you see more people on your way to the supermarket than your ancestors would have seen during their whole lifetime.
If you live in a developed country, the chances are that your physical environment is very different from that of your ancestors.
Don't get me wrong. I love the fact that I have a place to sleep in that's weather-proof, insulated and protects me against other humans.
No matter how cosy the indoors can be, it is a stone-cold fact that we evolved to live outside.
An increasing amount of research shows that people who have access to green spaces like parks and nature reserves close to their homes have lower circulating stress hormone levels than their concrete jungle-dwelling counterparts. (1,2)
Sunlight has many benefits to the body, ranging from regulating our sleep-wake cycles, boosting energy production, improving brain health, improving immunity, and allowing our skin to manufacture Vitamin D. This vital pro-hormone has multiple health benefits to the body.
Yet, on average, people spend less and less time in green spaces and instead more and more time indoors under incandescent lights that fail to match the real deal, sunlight.
Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals
Another significant change in our physical environments is the introduction of Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals (EDC).
EDCs are chemicals that interfere with your body's endocrine (hormonal) system. An example of such chemicals are petroleum-based microplastics.
EDCs are substances found in the air, soil, water supply, food sources, personal are products and manufactured products.
Some EDCs mimic our hormones and trick the body into thinking that they are the real deal, while other EDCs straight-up block natural hormones from doing what they are supposed to do.
The extent of possible damage to our bodies is vast. EDCs have been linked to numerous adverse health outcomes in both humans and animals. These include alterations in sperm quality and fertility, abnormalities in sex organs, endometriosis, early puberty, altered nervous system function, altered immune function, certain cancers, respiratory problems, metabolic issues, diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular issues, growth alterations, neurological and learning disabilities.
Common ways in which EDCs enter your body:
- Industrial chemicals, herbicides, pesticides etc leach into soil and groundwater. This is how they make their way into the food chain.
- Household chemicals such as cleaning products, fabrics treated with flame retardants
- Personal care products such as cosmetics, lotions, any products with "fragrance", anti-bacterial soaps
- Processed foods
- Household dust
The insidious thing about EDCs is that they are entirely ubiquitous at this point in the modern world. There is no way you will ever get rid of all of them, so becoming neurotic about removing them is not a great idea.
With that said, there are very straightforward strategies to lowering one's and their family member's exposure.
Our social environment has changed dramatically from close-knit relationships with no more than 100 people to thousands of "friends", followers, likers, haters.
You no longer compare yourself to the people in your tribe, and you compare yourself to the rest of the world. There are currently 4.66 billion active internet users worldwide, and 65.6 percent of the entire world's population has internet access.
We are social animals, and the trait of comparing yourself to the other members of your tribe used to be very advantageous.
Those who didn't care what other people thought of them were likely to become outcasts, and therefore be extracted from the gene pool. We've all inherited this tendency to constantly think about what others think about us and evaluate ourselves against the others in our circle.
The problem is that it's much easier to feel inadequate when you compare yourself against the other 4.66 billion internet users than it is when you compare yourself against the ten others in your tribe of the same age as you.
To enjoy your life to its fullest, you need sound "Social Hygiene"- practises.
You must choose very carefully who you give your energy to.
As the saying goes, you become the average of the five people you spend the most time with. Don't spend it with energy vampires who only want to tell you about their problems.
Spend your time with people who inspire you to become the best version of yourself, and who appreciate the energy you give them.
Do an inventory of your social media use. Only follow accounts that inspire you (such as @coachpyry).
Consider using an app that allows you to set daily usage limits, such as Screen Time on Apple products.
This is how you can optimise your physical and social environments to accelerate you on your wellness journey.