The Importance Of Self-Care for Optimal Health | The Hart of Health Podcast S1 E24
Joané & Jonathan: (00:03)
Hi, I’m Joané Hart, and I am Jonathan Hart. This is The Hart of Health. A show where we focus mainly on health and self-optimization. Here, we like to talk about our experiences and knowledge when it comes to health and biohacking. We hope you enjoy the show.
Hey, everyone! On today’s podcast, we are talking about self-care.
It is probably the most individual thing we can think of.
Yeah, well, it actually has the word self in it. So basically, we’re starting off this podcast saying that self-care looks different for everybody. You can Google self-care and find a list of things to do. But maybe there’s not anything on that list that actually applies to self-care for you, or maybe you only like doing a few of the things on the list but,I really think it’s important to find things that work for you and your life and can be part of your self-care routine and makes you feel good and helps you to relax. What do you think?
Well, I’d first like to say that people need to think of self-care as the opposite of self-neglect because I think a lot of self-care is based on those things you should do to make sure you don’t neglect yourself. That’s going to be different for every person. When someone looks at themselves in the mirror or whatever, and they’ll see like: “Oh, I neglected to brush my hair”, or you know, “fill in the blank”. There are so many different things you can see and they say, “I should do that”. And those are the obvious things like people will say: “Oh, you know, like basic hygiene and sort of just getting the basics right”. The basics of self-care.
Just taking care of yourself.
Yeah. Like, don’t be super dirty.
Yeah. Look after yourself. Personal hygiene is part of self-care. Looking after your environment, I think is also important, like make your bed and clean your room. I just feel if your environment is chaotic and your house is messy, it can make you feel bad about yourself and taking care of your environment is kind of like saying: “Well, I take pride in my environment and this is part of me taking care of myself and my environment and putting my life in order.” So that’s maybe an important element.
Yeah. So, there’s obviously like almost two ends of a spectrum because the basics are sort of the easy, simple things that everyone’s going to do and trying to change your environment for the better is probably a lot more complicated. Especially if you live with other people. You don’t have full reign of how you can change your environment and what exactly gets to go on. Some people who are like single bachelors or whatever, they’ve got a lot more control and they can make decisions and change their environment really rapidly without having to consult anyone or have other people to worry about. I think you definitely notice that a lot of biohackers are sort of in that situation where they are soloing their life. So it’s actually quite easy to make a decision and change things where you’ll see that couples have to make compromises. You can’t just go on and radically change your environment without at least not consulting your family or your significant other.
Yeah. You can’t just turn the spare room into like, a Zen meditation self-care centre for yourself without consulting your partner, you know? They also need a say in what happens to their room or if you decide to just say: “Well, I suppose it’s fine if you throw out all the junk food”, and say, no, we’re going to take care of ourselves and not eat junk food anymore, then it’s fine. An important part of self-care is taking care of your body by eating healthy foods.
Yeah. That’s what I was about to say. There’s sort of like an intermediate self-layer. Because it’s still your own personal decision, what you put into your body and what you do with your body. So, that is something that will be not as simple as the basics, but it’s still much more simple than trying to change your environment for self-care. You know, like just looking after, what do you eat? What do you drink? What do you put into your body? And what do you do on a daily basis? Exercise wise and sleep-wise.
Yeah. Are you sleeping enough? Are you taking some time for leisurely activities? Are you socializing? You don’t just want to like, sacrifice everything for the sake of work. You can maybe go all in on like work, work, work, work, but then you’re not focusing on what you’re eating. You’re not focusing on exercising. You’re not making sure that you are taken care of and that you are okay. So, it’s like you can work, work, work, and burn out because you didn’t take care of yourself. You didn’t rest enough. You didn’t make sure that you were socializing with other people, which is a very important part of health and when people are isolated and they’re not social for long periods of time, it can make them depressed. It can affect them mentally and physically. If you’re not exercising, you’re not taking care of your physical body. If you don’t make self-care a priority, you can regret it later. Even sooner rather than later.
Yeah. Well, not even just mentally, not socializing can have negative physical consequences. It almost puts your body into a state of distress where it’s almost like, you know, we’re not supposed to be isolated. We supposed to be in a group and then your body almost gets in this sort of state where…Oh, that’s the thing is you obviously get people who are able to tolerate that more, like you do get those people who can be loners better. It’s almost like you can’t do it indefinitely. I think you’ll just continue to get less and less healthy until eventually you, I don’t know if you’ll die, but you won’t be in a good state. You will be mentally very unhealthy that’s for sure.
Yes, definitely. One thing that I want to mention is that self-care and self-love are often linked, you know, and when people talk about self-care, they also talk about self-love and loving yourself, and then it kind of links to the whole body positivity movement. And you know, so some people like I’ve heard say: “Oh yeah, you focus on self-love and self-care”. And they’re like wellness advocates, you know? So some people talk a lot and say: “Oh, yes, they’re very interested in health and wellness,” but their main focus is self-care practices like relaxing and meditating, which are important. These things are important. Like taking baths, doing skincare treatments, you know, everything, but look at what you eat and your exercise routine so they’re the main focus in self-care. And you know, a lot of people say: “Oh, don’t be so hard on yourself about your diet and your exercise. Just focus on self-love and self-care. And just take a break, treat yourself, have some ice cream if you want some ice cream, just like treat yourself”.
Smoke cigarettes, you know? Same kind of logic… like, you really want to smoke those cigarettes. It’s self-care too, you know? Giving in to your craving to smoke that cigarette. You can maybe try and frame it in your own mind as self-care and it doesn’t mean that it is because you have to look at the net outcome of it. That’s why I bring up the cigarettes. Yes, in the moment, it’s probably helping you manage your stress. It’s nicotine. It does have some benefits, but we all know in the longterm, the use of cigarettes is not going to be good for your health. You have to think about all the levels. You can’t just think about the here and now and be like hedonistic and just live for the pleasure.
And say it’s for the sake of self-care. Like, I’m going to just take a day to have fun and take care of myself and like, oh, I’m gonna get like some burger and chips. It’s like my “treat myself meal”. And like maybe an ice cream sundae, you know, because it’s my self-care day. I think you can easily go down a bad path because if self-care just means doing things that bring you pleasure in the moment, you’re not working. You’re not, you know, doing things that are stressing you out. But if the thing that you are doing to help you relax is having negative consequences on your health, then is that really self-care? Because you’re not actually taking care of your body. You’re not, you know?
Yeah. So that’s what I said. It would be like labelling smoking cigarettes as self-care. We definitely a hundred percent agree on that. I think the trick is, it’s not as obvious that it’s not self-care. Sometimes it can be very difficult to know that it’s not self-care. You can think to yourself: “I’m really looking after myself”. Even though there could be something that you’re doing that you’re not necessarily blind to, but you’re just sort of unaware that it’s having negative consequences specifically for you. Therefore it’s actually not self-care if you’re not aware of the consequences of what’s going on.
Yeah. Like the vegan diet comes to mind. I know he does the vegan diet sometimes, but sometimes you can say: “Oh, I’m going to take care of myself. And I’m going to go vegan and not eat any animal products. And I’m going to go on a juice cleanse and I’m going to eat 25 bananas in a day. I’m going to do all of those for the sake of self-care”. Then you’re actually just messing up your hormones.
It depends on how you do it, but most likely you will mess up your digestive system.
Most likely you will mess up your digestive system. And that’s the thing, your intentions are good. You are pursuing a healthier diet for the sake of self-care, but then here’s the thing. So, if you’re following a diet and it makes you feel bad, taking care of yourself in that moment would be to change your diet so that it doesn’t make you feel bad.
Who was that dermatologist we were looking at? Dr. Dre? That’s right.
Yes, she does not look healthy.
But I feel like she’s checking all the boxes. She’s like, I have eliminated all the fat. I’ve eliminated all the sugar. I’m eating my 2000 calories a day. She’s almost like ticking all these big boxes of like what she thinks is healthy.
I’m eating a lot of vegetables every day and I’m not eating any animal foods.
Yeah. I’m like completely avoiding any oils or saturated fats or whatever. But my issue is that the results are not there. If you don’t look healthy, it’s too obvious. In certain situations, you can be following a vegan diet and getting things right by like, you know, supplementing correctly. And making sure that you’re actually plant tolerant, first of all. If you can handle eating a large amount of plants, it can be an option. But if your body’s not good at dealing with plants. I don’t think there’s a way around it by supplementing. If you get it right, cool. But you have to be getting the results. You have to be obvious that this person is being healthy. But if you look just from watching one video and you go like, no something looks wrong here. They don’t look healthy. Then you have to sort of question it. Is the mentality they’re stuck in still self-care if it’s deteriorating their health?
Like yeah, their self-care strategy is actually not taking care of them very well. However, once you realize that this is not actually helping my body. Then you realize this is actually not the best way to take care of myself. You should be willing to adapt and try something else. I think that’s very important. I thought of something now. So it’s like, if you have a plant, okay? And you water it or whatever, but you now give it like the wrong nutrients like…
You give it Gatorade.
You give it Gatorade instead of giving the plant water. You’re giving it Gatorade and you’re like, yeah, Gatorade has all these like nutrients in it or whatever. It’s gonna be so healthy for plants. It’s going to give the plant, all this glucose and everything, you know? So now you’re giving those plants, Gatorade and saying like, I’m doing this for the best interest of the plant. Meanwhile, you’re just actually slowly killing the plant, you know? You think you’re taking care of the plant, but you’re actually killing it.
Yes. And the plant will tell you very quickly that it does not like what you’re doing. It’ll give you a sign saying like, hey, what you did right now really upset me and it was bad for my health and well-being. Whereas humans can sort of delude themselves past the point of health, that it’s so clear to everyone around them that something’s not right health-wise and you’re still going down the same path and not changing anything. You just doubled down on the same thing you were doing the whole time. I think if you keep on going in that trend of looking worse and worse, you need to not double down. You need to take a big step back and try to do a reset and completely try something different because you are stuck in the same farrow the whole time. Yes, it’s a scary thing to turn around and backtrack, because then you feel like you’re going backwards. But if it’s clear that you’re not going in the right direction, why keep on going that way?
Well, yeah, an example is skincare. It’s a part of self-care. So, taking care of your skin and having a good skincare routine is part of a good self-care routine. So, what if you now buy a product that everybody’s saying, “Oh, this is like the best product for your skin”. If you really want to take care of your skin, you use this product. Then use it and it gives you a rash, but you keep using it because everybody says, this is what you should do to take care of your skin. So if everybody says this is what you should do for self-care and you incorporate these things in your life and you have a bad reaction to it, then change, don’t start. So if you’re somebody that feels like I want to take better care of myself, I want to make self-care a priority in my life. Then you Google it. You find this list of self-care tips on somebody’s blog and you say, okay, these are the guidelines I’m going to follow for now. And the rest of my life, I’m going to incorporate these self-care tips in my life. You’ve now decided what you were going to do from the start. And from there on you, weren’t willing to change your mind. You weren’t willing to let some habits go and adopt new ones. You just decided the thing I learned first is the only thing that I need to learn.
Yes. It’s like what Jordan Peterson says, burning of the dead wood. Everyone’s afraid to burn their dead wood. For example, if you’ve got a tree, there are often lower branches that have sort of died and become dead. And they’re very flammable and that’s actually the best firewood. It’s often you have these very deep, old seeded ideas on how things are supposed to be, but there’s nothing to say that they are a hundred percent true. Like a lot of people say, facts are facts. No, it’s objective truth. We’re learning new things every day. So, you have to actually be open to change and willing to try and burn your dead wood and maybe get some new growth from a foundational point.
So, how are you taking care of yourself? What is your current self-care strategy in life?
Well, I’m basically trying to stick to the four pillars as best as possible. So I try and prioritize things in that order.
So the four pillars of health being; sleep, diet, exercise, and social interaction.
Yeah. I think when you mess your sleep up, a lot of other things get more difficult, like you’re tired. So then you’re less likely to exercise and you’re more likely to make bad diet decisions. And you also be like, no, I don’t feel like going out and talking to my friends, I’m too tired, you know? Like it’s the one that has the domino effect on all the pillars. So that’s the one that’s a challenge because like, there’s also a lot of things I want to do and you’re not trying to balance the things you want to do with sleep. I think everyone’s in that sort of juggling act, but you know, I try to at least set a minimum of seven hours for myself.
Yes. Because adults need between seven and nine hours of sleep a night
Yeah. Also if I feel like I missed out on sleep, then I’ll maybe try to sleep a bit longer the next few nights. Also, we’ve done all the blackout in the room so that even if we can’t go to sleep in the sink with the sun, doesn’t matter, we can still adapt because we can keep the room dark.
Yes. Because we have blackout curtains and blackout grids.
And I try to avoid blue light late at night as much as possible.. That definitely helps. Try and get all your computer work, unless you have blue block sunglasses glasses, done early and then get an app for your phone. I know phones tend to be used later into the night.
Yes. You can get a blue-blocking app on your phone. So it kind of puts a filter over your screen. This orange filters so that your phone doesn’t admit blue light as much.
Yeah. So it basically prevents that triggering that you would get from the blue light.
Yeah. Because blue light exposure reduces melatonin production, which then interferes with sleep.
So yeah, you’re taking care of yourself by making sure you’re sleeping properly and getting enough sleep.
Then my diet is pretty clean.
Your diet is pretty epic. You’re currently on the carnivore diet?
Yeah. I liked the way Paul Saladino describes it. He says he’s like an astronaut. Like he’s going out there and he’s doing it fully committed. He’s putting…I don’t know if he’s putting his body on the line, but he’s willing to do the extreme things to see what happens. He’s almost like a pioneer trying to find a new patch of ground and put his flag in it and say look what I’ve done by eating this way. So that’s very inspiring. I also feel like sometimes a lot of people will say, “the way you eat is weird” or “it seems crazy” or whatever, but it doesn’t feel crazy. It feels so awesome.
So yeah, I do enjoy being carnivore, and things just seem to run well. I am willing to try reintroducing berries and maybe some avocado. I’m just going to focus on things on the lower end of the toxicity scale and see how it goes. You know? There has been a few months now where I’ve been pretty welcomed with it to animal-based only and yeah, the results kind of speak for themselves. In February, when I was vegan for one month I would get like nine hours of sleep and a 60 something sleep score. Where now, a few months into carnivore, I’m sleeping six and a half hours to seven hours and still getting a high 70 sleep score. If I sleep over seven hours, it’s like an 80 and up sleep score.
Nice. That’s really good.
So just tracking my sleep, I was initially tracking my body composition and I did lose some muscle mass in February, but then because of Coronavirus, I couldn’t really track them anymore, but at least I could carry on tracking my sleep. I think that is a very important one to keep track of if you can.
Yes, because you might think, Oh, I’m getting eight hours of sleep a night. I’m sleeping enough. You could be unconscious for eight hours, but that doesn’t mean that you’re getting quality sleep. You might be very restless during the night, you know? Your sleep might be disrupted, but you just don’t remember it. So, it’s nice to keep track and then you can also see what are the length of my different sleep cycles? You know, REM sleep, non-REM sleep. It’s a very good thing to check. And, yeah, we’ve got your sleeping and diet. You’re also exercising regularly, right?
I would like to be able to exercise more. I would like to be able to do a team sport again.
Yeah. That would be good. And that also brings in more of a social element.
Yeah. That really also half covers the next aspect which is social, but for exercise, I’m still riding a mountain bike. I still do pull-ups and pushups. I’ve got a pair of rings hanging outside that I like to hang from. Also, I’m very physically busy during the day, like doing things with my hands. It’s not that I’m physically inactive, but I would like to get more heavy, hard, heart rate elevating exercise in the form of a team sport event or whatever. I think that will come as soon as the regulations start allowing people to play sports more freely in parks.
And then you have a pretty decent skincare routine at the moment, you’re taking care of your skin. You’re wearing sunscreen. You’re exfoliating.
Only when I take the…
Only If you put vitamin A retinol on your skin the night before. Yes.
If I know today I’m going to be in the sun for a long time, then I put sunscreen on. But otherwise, if I know I’m only going to get a little bit of sun exposure that day, I don’t put sunblock on. Because I still like to get the sun a bit.
And we try to use skincare products that are made with natural ingredients so that you’re not exposed to a lot of chemicals. Like xenoestrogens and chemicals that act like xenoestrogens that can mess with your hormones, because you do absorb a lot of what you put on your skin. So part of self-care for us is making sure that we use products that are not toxic for us.
This is when you start going down the rabbit hole. Obviously, the food’s going to have a bigger influence in that because that’s the molecules that you directly put into your body and it’s going through a digestion process. I think it is a factor. What do you wash your face with? What water you use, you know? You can get into the finest of details. So you’ve got to really like look at it as a process of you’re going to do it one small step at a time like, I’m just going to change my hand soap this month. Then next week, I’ll get new shampoo when the old shampoo runs out, whatever timescale you feel comfortable with. Just start trying to swap out products for ones that at least claim to be safer for you.
Every week, do one extra thing to take care of yourself. Like this week I’m going to buy a shampoo that’s been made with ingredients that are good for me and will not increase my cancer risk. You know? I don’t know if it does, but I’m just saying it just in case.
Yeah. Or this one that has less artificial and more natural ingredients.
So you can say, Oh, this week part of myself self-care or like mind lifestyle, I’m going to have a healthy breakfast every morning instead of grabbing like a muffin every morning or donut.
Or a Pop-Tart.
Oh, whatever it is or sugary cereal. So say like, I’m going to start by just, even if your dinners are still like crap pizza, start with breakfast. Start with making one meal of the day healthier and then you can do all that.
That’s the thing, you don’t want to get too obsessed too quickly because it’s very easy to happen. If you just go and look at some biohackers on YouTube, all the things they’ve done to hack their house makes it seem like an overwhelming mountain of things that you have to do to be healthy. You can take it just one step at a time and not freak out that you’re not doing all the things that could be better for your health. Even just what washing powder you use can have an effect. Having your food products in plastic can have an effect on this.
But you can take it one thing at a time and you don’t have to do all of the things. If you say, “I don’t care about how much plastic I use”. Fine. Focus on the other things you care about and what not.
Yeah. Or you say, “I’ll just make sure I don’t heat up anything in plastic”.
Yeah. Maybe there’s a compromise somewhere.
Like each thing has different steps in it. Like you said, a healthy diet can be done. Okay, I’ll start with only having healthy breakfasts or you can even start with, I’ll have one healthy breakfast a week. Like you can really slow it down or you can speed it up and you should actually try and do it at a pace that’s in the zone of optimal development for you. For you personally.
The zone of optimal development is basically like just outside your comfort zone. That zone where you’re doing things that will help you grow and become a better person, but you’re not pushing yourself too hard. You’re not all of a sudden adding 20 habits to your new self-care routine and it’s going to be overwhelming. And now all of a sudden, you just don’t have time for all of these new self-care habits. If you’re currently not taking care of yourself very well, start small. Start with one or two things and then build up, you know?
Yeah, exactly. You can’t try and take it all on at once. I like what you said about how you gotta be a little bit uncomfortable. If you’re feeling completely comfortable, you’re not in the zone. You gotta be like, this is a little bit out of my comfort zone. Then you just stay in that zone and then the next thing you know, things will be vastly different. Don’t feel like, Oh, you know, I could do more. Be a little bit uncomfortable. So don’t just cruise because you’re never going to get anywhere.
Because if you’re too uncomfortable, then chances are you’re going to give up.
Yeah and if you’re too comfortable, you’re never going to get anywhere.
Yes. You’re not going to grow. So that’s why the zone of proximal development is where you want to be.
Well, we’ve gone and discussed how you take care of yourself. Basically, I do all the things that you do except I’m not carnivore. I’m kind of carnivor-ish. I do follow a healthy diet. I do follow a very animal based diet. I eat a lot of meat and eggs and all that. So I do try to take care of my diet. I try to take care of my skin and use products that have been made with natural ingredients and ingredients that will nourish my skin and help it heal and be as healthy as possible. I try to exercise as much as possible. For me, walking, going for walks is a big part of self-care because I also find it very relaxing to do things that help me relax. Those are important. Because I tend to be a bit of a workaholic, for me sometimes, self-care just looks like watching an episode of The Big Bang Theory or something funny on Netflix, just for 20 minutes and not working and just taking the time to enjoy something in life and to appreciate some piece of art.
Even if it’s a comedy sitcom or some sort of creation that somebody has put a lot of creative effort into and you can just enjoy something. So just taking the time to enjoy something and not always be working is something that’s important for self-care for. Getting enough sleep is very important as well. I want to add like meditating again, cause I kind of stopped meditating for a while and I think that could be a very good part of a self-care routine. At some point, I want to do that again. What other things am I doing for self-care? Let me think…
Well, one thing I would want to add to my self-care routine is more stretching and yoga. Part of like exercise in conjunction with that.
That’s also something that I can do to take better care of myself, stretch more and do more yoga.
There will always be more things you can do.
Yes, there will always be more ways that you can take care of yourself. One day, and this is like the dream, part of my self-care routine will be getting a massage every week or at least every two weeks. That would be epic.
Yeah. That’s a very good example of just how personalized self-care is and to bring up Paul Saladino again, solve for the best quality of life at every point. You’ve got to analyze things and say like, yes, we are saying now that pizza is probably not a good idea. And the donuts are probably not a good idea, but if it’s not a regular occurrence and in that moment, it’s going to make you and the people around you happy, you can do it. However, it’s only a problem if it becomes like a regular two or three times a week occasion thing that then it becomes sort of a problem. Now you’re kind of not taking it as a special treat here and there, it’s like now becoming more of a staple. With everything, you’ve got to ask, what in this situation is going to give me the best quality of life?
Yeah. For example, about a week or two ago, I went on this day trip with my family and I’ve been working a lot. So I thought, I’m going to take the day off and I’m going to make it like a self-care day. We went and we had breakfast together and that was nice. Then we went food shopping and then my Mom and I saw these stroopwafel, which if you don’t know what they are, they’re these caramel like waffles that you get in the Netherlands. We bought those and ate them and even though they had sugar and gluten in them, it was like part of the excitement of the day. At that moment in time, we decided that eating these will give us the highest quality of life today and you just have to be happy with that decision, you know? So yes, you have to take care of your body by eating well, but if you are doing something and you feel like it is a very rare occasion and today I want to have this experience. Then you can do that.
Yeah. It’s just exactly how it’s supposed to be. It’s gotta be completely personal and individual. I can’t tell you what your best quality of life is. No one can really tell anyone what their best quality of life is because you have to sort of judge that for yourself. You have to be honest with yourself as well. So you gotta say, okay, I had the pasta and I felt like crap afterwards, but I wouldn’t take it back. Or you can be like, Oh, I had the pasta and that was a bad idea. And then you know for next time in a similar situation, don’t do it. You have to also learn from what you do. So if you do something and it was just all positive, like everything was good afterwards and there was no downfall or payback, then cool, you know? But you have to still keep yourself accountable and say, hey look, these things I’m doing are having an effect because I’m doing them too often or whatever, or this problem could be caused by this. So then you know.
And by doing it, I’m not taking such good care of myself.
Yeah. You’ve got to draw your own line of like, this is when I feel like now I’m not taking care of myself.
Yes. Because if you ate a healthy diet 80% of the time and then indulge 20% of the time, that’s perfectly fine. You’re still making sure that your body’s getting good nutrition, but if you now eat junk food, 80% of the time and only eat healthy foods, 20% of the time, then now you’re not in the zone of self-care anymore.
I think even at 50-50, it would be hard to argue.
Yeah. Even 50-50 I’d argue you’re not taking such good care of yourself. You’re eating a lot of junk food. Yes. But if you’re eating it now and then, you’re still in the zone of self-care.
Yeah. You’re at least in the right direction. That’s why we even gave the example earlier of just one meal a week or one day a week where you eat healthy as long as you’re in the right direction and you’re facing it and you keep facing that way, you will get there eventually.
Yeah, definitely. So yeah, those are our thoughts on self-care. There’s more that you can say about it, but like we said, it’s an individual thing and basically the whole point is to take care of yourself in the best way that works for you.
Yeah. Hopefully we gave you a few examples of things that you can think about, and we hopefully equipped you with a mindset to sort of navigate this kind of topic. Because you know, a lot of people sort of just float around and not actually think about these things. Hopefully we’ve helped you think about things in a different way and hopefully you’ll start solving for the best quality of life at every point.
Joané & Jonathan: (39:19)
Okay. Until next week. Bye.