The Immortal Jellyfish and You: A Blueprint to Live Long and Prosper


Behold: Immortality (kinda)

In the past, we’ve discussed the difference between fitness as sport and fitness as a life-long pursuit – these are starkly different end games. If you find yourself in the ‘fitness as sport’ camp, these following opinions of mine (and others) are of lesser concern. However, should you find yourself in the ‘live long and prosper’ camp, I believe the subject quite relevant and worth the noodle. Want to live forever? Continue reading.

Imagine, if you will, the ability to respond to a life-threatening injury, illness or stress by reverting to an earlier stage of your life. With little effort, you could snap yourself back to a more youthful you predating the condition and essentially start again, but with deeper knowledge. You could live forever. Sounds like a fairy tale, doesn’t it? It’s not! Through a rare, natural process called, transdifferation, this process actually happens. However, I’m sad to report that unless you share genes with the immortal jellyfish (Turritopsis dorhni), the shadow of mortality still follows you (and me) everywhere. 

Now, while we may not be born with such transdifferation traits, we are armed with a slightly-different-but-somewhat-as-nifty process called autophagy. Rather than transforming the injured and stressed parts of our body into more youthful versions (like the immortal jellyfish), we’re instead able to live longer and increase prosperity with the aid of a process called autophagy (pronounced: aw-TAH-fuh-jee). In Greek, autophagy literally translates to ’self-eating.’ Lucky for us, the process is a bit more refined than the translation. In layman terms, autophagy is our body’s way of cleaning out the fridge. It rids us of damaged, injured, or otherwise useless cells and promotes the generation of healthy, replacement ones. In other words, it contributes not just to a longer life, but an increased health span too (health span is the portion of life that’s worth living).  

Mark knows about sleep, coffee, red wine….and lots of other ways to live long and prosper.

Want to stave off senescence? How do you live a life that enhances and optimizes longevity? Want to bio-hack your way to autophagy all-stardom? There are a number of basic lifestyle habits that appear to encourage the utilization of autophagy. We’ve learned these strategies by studying the Blue Zones. The term Blue Zones, coined by researcher Dan Buettner, are known as areas of the world where people live both the longest and healthiest lives. The good news: if you’ve followed some of our suggestions along the way, you’re well ahead of the curve. I’ve done my best to synthesize them into basic DO versus DON’T practices below:

ON RECOVERY

  • DON’T:
    • Be beholden to your stress 
    • Smoke (obviously)
  • DO:
    • Prioritize practices to minimize stress
      • SLEEP! 7-9 hours seems to be the sweet spot for most of us.
      • Implement mindful breathing practice through meditation, the Wim Hoff technique, box breathing or other similar approaches.
      • Pay attention to the quality of air you breath. It’s true, we spend less time outside inhaling the ‘good stuff’ than did our ancestors. However, essential oil diffusers and HEPA air filters can bridge that widening gap.

ON NUTRITION

  • DON’T:
    • Eat processed, packaged foods
      • Generally, these foods are pro-inflammatory and encourage glucose instability (blood sugar problems). And that’s bad news if we aren’t aiming at chronic disease and illness. 
  • DO:
    • Restrict calories and periodically fast
    • Eat to develop metabolic flexibility
    • Eat seasonally. Eat resistant starches. Eat whole, unprocessed food. Eat wild plants and animals.
      • These dietary practices are not only anti-inflammatory and promote glucose stability, they introduce us to another evolutionary beneficial process called xenohormesis. Xenohormesis explains how certain molecules such as plant polyphenols, which indicate stress in the plants, can have a longevity-conferring effect in consumers of plants (i.e. mammals). This is the idea of antifragility in real time. 
        • Need more simple terms?
          • Drink red wine and black coffee…and eat wild plants like dandelion, various herbs, some mushrooms, and countless of other species.

ON MOVEMENT

  • DON’T:
    • Exercise to complete exhaustion too frequently
  • DO:
    • Enjoy your athletic endeavors. Exercise shouldn’t always feel like a chore.
    • Develop strength
    • Incorporate low-level activity throughout the day

ON SOCIAL CONNECTION

  • DON’T:
    • Go at it alone. Do you know the worst brand of punishment for imprisoned felons? Solitary confinement. There’s a reason behind that. 
  • DO:
    • Prioritize your social connections. Belonging to, and being active in, a community is very important
      • Eat together. Celebrate together. 
    • Remain reproductively useful…
      • In 2 words: have sex!

ON LIFE’S PURPOSE

  • DON’T:
    • Subscribe to a world view of hopelessness – don’t be a nihilist. 
  • DO:
    • Commit to a lifelong pursuit of becoming more spiritually disciplined. There are a number of routes leading to the promised land on morality’s map, but the general ‘way’ is typically found in forms of religion and spiritual practices. 
      • The common threads that appear throughout all the spiritual disciplines are:
        • Study and self-examination
        • Silence and solitude
        • Simplicity and gratitude
        • Service and stewardship
      • Consider writing a one sentence mission that describes the impact you aim to make with your life.
Tennessee isn’t too far from the longitudinal mark of other Blue Zones.

Now, this simple idea of mine is already a bit long in the tooth. And clearly, each bulleted point deserves its own blog post (some have them already), but in brevity’s name, I opted to distill them as best I could. Like me, I believe you all subscribers to the 80/20 principle. Wherein, we might gain 80% of the understanding we seek by applying a mere 20% of the effort. This sort of approach allows us to glean the lion’s share of comprehension – the principles to live long and prosper – without committing to the masterful process of granular research. With that extra time and energy, we’re left to live our richer, more vibrant, and now extended #10exlife. As a bonus, we also afford ourselves a bit of space to work up a mental sweat – whittling away at the idea of our life’s mission. 

Can the immortal jellyfish do that?

G-

Resources:

Blue Zone. (2019, March 09). Retrieved April 22, 19, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blue_Zone

Brett, and Kate McKay. “An Introduction to the Spiritual Disciplines.” The Art of Manliness, 28 May 2018, www.artofmanliness.com/articles/introduction-spiritual-disciplines/.

Turritopsis dohrnii. (2019, April 14). Retrieved April 22, 19, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Turritopsis_dohrnii