Eric Edmeades is a leading beahvioural change expert and serial entrepreneur who, when he isn't investing in start-ups and clocking in one of his 10,000 hours on stage as a public speaker, is at home in the Dominican Republic.
So you know he knows all about the good life.
The handy thing is, Edmeades has distilled his life lessons into a list of just nine things he reckons are essential for human happiness. These nine needs range from the obvious to the slightly more complex, and are mapped out "roughly in order of urgency".
He spoke to RTÉ Lifestyle all about them while at the Pendulum Summit 2022 in Dublin's RDS.
A need so fundamental to us that our bodies take it in without us even thinking about it, air is by far the most urgent need our bodies need. Edmeades, however, makes the distinction that it's just just breathing, but how we breathe and the quality of air we take in.
"Many of us are breathing bad quality air, and on top of that most of us are breathing badly", he says. "We breathe shallow all of the time." This is why he suggests doing deep breathing exercises.
"An animal breathing shallow is an animal in danger, it's an animal under stress and it's an animal producing stress chemicals. An animal breathing loudly is an animal that feels safe." Now you know why those gut-deep exhales in yoga feel so comforting.
Deep breathing, he says, is one way to signal to the body that you're safe, and decrease stress levels.
A need so urgent we can live only hours without it, water is our life force. "We need to have the best quality water that we can get", Edmeades says. "We should be getting a lot of our water from the food we eat, but we don't."
— LifeStyle on RTÉ (@LifeStyleRTE) April 26, 2022
Once again, you guessed it, quality of sleep is key here. Understanding how to get the best night's sleep we can is vital and "it's never been easier to figure that out", Edmeades says thanks to the glut of sleep technologies that are now available.
"One of the best upgrades to anybody's quality of life they can have is improving their sleep."
While many of us consider what food we put into our bodies, Edmeades says this need is "a little bit more complicated" than just what we eat. "We require a balanced metabolism, and our metabolism are capable of processing and using as fuel sugar, fat and protein, and it needs to do all three of those things on seasonal rotation.
"The way life is now, people only ever burn sugar, and that's really stressful. It's bad for your immune system, it's bad for your emotions."
As well as giving the body endorphins and aiding stress relief, movement serves a specific purpose for our lymphatic system. Unlike the cardiovascular system, the body's lymphatic system, the cleaning system of the body, doesn't have a pump, Edmeades explains.
We didn't need to develop one because "our ancestors had to walk 10, 15, 20 miles a day. They had to bend over, lift stuff up, climb trees". The lymphatic system uses muscular contractions to move lymph, he says, but current lifestyles where people spend lots of time in cars or bent over laptops, that function isn't being performed as well.
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While what you eat is crucial to your wellbeing, Edmeades highlights the importance of "non-energy nutrition" such as vitamins, minerals, amino acids and fats.
"One of the challenges we have right now is the diet industry is taking a bunch of people who are overfed sugar and stimulants and underfed nutrients and then asking them to eat even less."
"The focus for anyone wanting to turn their diet around shouldn't be about removing the bad stuff. It should be first about putting in enough of the good stuff."
We all love the buzz from a sunny day, and as well as lifting our spirits, sunlight helps the production of vitamin D in our bodies, which is essential for our immune function and bone health. He also says that many of us are somewhat vitamin D-deficient, as we spend more time indoors.
"We saw during the Covid-19 pandemic two very interesting things: vitamin D deficiency exists in something like 90% of adverse Covid cases and it's even worse among people of colour as their skin is darker so they get even less sunlight through."
— Pendulum Summit (@PendulumSummit) April 26, 2022
"We are social animals, we are designed for being with each other", Edmeades says, whether that's physical touch or a great conversation. "When people don't get that real connection, they increase their production of stress chemicals, they become more neurotic, their immune systems suffer", he says.
He adds that immune systems are strengthened by contact as each person's "microbiomes" interact with each other. "When we isolate... it's generally bad for our mental and physical health."
"I mean personal peace", Edmeades says. "While we live in the safest times in the history of earth, you wouldn't know that by measuring anybody's stress levels. These days, we can be stressed out by the wrong post on social media.
Stress chemicals are not inherently bad, Edmeades adds. "As long as they're not in you all the time."
Teenagers, in particular teenage girls, aren't getting nearly enough peace, he says, thanks to the constant deluge of social media posts and unrealistic beauty standards.
"Peace means disengaging from those things. It means taking the time to do breathing exercises, walking in nature, listening to the birds sing, getting the sun on your skin.
"We need about 20-30 minutes of peace every day."
Watch the full interview with Eric Edmeades about his nine needs for life above.