Biohacking with Jevan Pradas
Jevan Pradas talks about his view on biohacking
THIS IS PART #1 OF THE MENTAL HEALTH OVER MATTER SHORT INTERVIEW SERIES: BIOHACKING WITH JEVAN PRADAS.
Jevan Pradas is the author of The Awakened Ape: A Biohacker’s Guide to Evolutionary Fitness, Natural Ecstasy, and Stress-Free Living. Fascinated by existential questions, he earned his B.A. in Philosophy and later worked in the Personality and Well-Being laboratory at San Francisco State University, while getting his M.A. in Mind, Brain, and Behavior Research. After graduating, he started his career in the burgeoning field of brain training, conducting one-on-one training sessions with clients to improve their cognitive skills. He has traveled to the Amazon to live with hunter-gatherer tribes and goes on meditation retreats at Buddhist monasteries whenever he has the chance.
What is the importance of biohacking?
I use the term biohacking differently than how it is popularly perceived. For many, biohacking relates to gadgets and supplements. But I like the idea of the human body as a biological machine consisting of flesh, skin, and neurons.
If you figure out how the body works, you can use that knowledge to have better health and well-being. As I believe we’re designed by evolution, it’s important to know our evolutionary history, biology, and psychology.
For a very long time, we were hunter-gatherers and lived in small tribal societies of 40 to 200 people. We should understand that human biology has adapted to that environment and not today’s environment. Many artificial things, such as lights at night or computer screens, don’t comport with the way we evolved to live. We should try to live as closely as possible to our ancestral ways.
What biohacking practices gave you unexpectedly good results?
Being out in nature. I used to be fascinated with cities, but I always felt stressed. I calmed down when I started to visit nature more. So, I’ve tried to bring myself more in tune with the flora and the fauna around me. Now I’m focused on immediately getting sunlight in the morning, being around trees, and having plants in my house. It doesn’t cost any money to go for a hike in the woods or to get sunlight in the morning to reset your circadian rhythms.
What topics should people talk about less in the biohacking sphere?
We should stop focusing so much on supplements. From the research I read, very few supplements end up working. You’re mostly just peeing expensive urine. Now, if you have certain dietary restrictions, then you want to replenish your vitamin deficiencies. But people often get way too much into nootropics and supplements, when we’re better off having whole foods.
What are the most important factors for good mental health?
I would start with exercise, sleep, and diet. If you get those dialed in, focus on meditation, and getting out in nature.
Social connections are also very important to emotional health and happiness. I recommend finding a tribe for social connections. It can be anything such as jujitsu, CrossFit, yoga, or playing in a band. You’ll derive much happiness from finding your tribe.
The way relationships have changed is quite significant. We now have hundreds of connections, but very few good friends.
Seneca famously said: “When a person spends all his time in foreign travel, he ends by having many acquaintances, but no friends.”
He used it for travelers, but it applies to everyone in the digital age. Relationships are shallower nowadays; we care more about our status on social platforms, compared to building “real” connections.
What are other adverse effects of technology on mental health?
You’re more focused when you don’t use as much technology. Scrolling on Twitter or Instagram has horrible effects on your attention span. And it’s hard to be present when you have a bad attention span.
A significant connection exists between being present and happy. If you watch your mind and notice the times you’re unhappy, it’s usually because you’re either dwelling on the past or worrying about the future. Once you’re more present, in a so-called “flow state,” you’ll find yourself in a better mood.
How can we let technology not affect our daily lives too much?
I recommend having daily phone-free timeframes, especially when waking up in the morning and before going to bed at night. I at least spend the first and last hour of my day without my phone.
It’s almost impossible to only respond to one message when opening your phone. I keep my phone in a different room than my bedroom, so I’m not tempted to touch it when I wake up. I also have my phone in grayscale to prevent being distracted by all these attractive colors.
How do you biohack your brain to focus more on the present?
I’m a big advocate of doing hardcore meditation. Although one minute is better than zero, I gain the most benefits from doing it for a much longer time. It becomes extremely enjoyable once you get past the initial discomfort.
I started attending hardcore meditation retreats in 2014. Since then, I’ve spent over a year in Silent Retreats. I once stayed for two months in the jungle of Thailand, sleeping in this hut, with no bed, no pillow, nothing. I slept on the hard ground with my meditation cushion as a pillow. And I’ve never been happier.
I’m not a naturally good meditator. When I first started meditation, 20 minutes was extremely difficult. Many body parts would hurt. If I can do it, anyone can.
What is your book recommendation?
Can you summarize your idea on the meaning of life?
You will only live once; I don’t believe in the afterlife or anything religious. So, make the most of it and enjoy it as much as possible. Not just by yourself but also with the people around you.