Intermittent living is a method to stimulate moderate, short-term stress stimuli such as cold, heat, cognitive challenge, or intensive exercise. In this way, our survival instinct is stimulated that has fallen into hibernation mode due to our modern lifestyle. According to believers, it would make us more vital again.
The effects of modern life
Our modern living environment has changed from dangerous to safe. We have exchanged variety for regularity, discomfort for comfort, and scarcity for abundance. Through those changes, we have created a lifestyle that makes us vulnerable. Muscles and brain cells have to be used less intensively and certain control systems in the body also work less well. This ensures:
- ever-shrinking brain volumes
- a decrease in muscle mass
- an increase in adipose tissue
- an overactivation of the immune system
In order to counteract these effects – which are at the basis of the diseases of affluence such as diabetes and obesity – it is good to occasionally integrate acute stress stimuli into our lifestyle. As long as that stress is short-lived, it’s good for us. Only when the stress is prolonged, it becomes unhealthy.
How do you do intermittent living?
The stimuli that trigger a short-term stress response have to do with hunger, thirst, cold, heat, movement and breathing. Examples of intermittent living methods are:
- Intermittent fasting/drinking. With these methods you will eat or drink according to a fixed pattern. A popular form of intermittent fasting is the 16:8 schedule: you fast for sixteen hours (including the night), and eat only in the eight hours that follow. Intermittent drinking means that you limit your drinking moments to a maximum of four per day.
- Intermittent heat/cold. These techniques create positive stress stimuli that restore thermoregulation, the ability to regulate our body temperature. A session in the sauna is an example of intermittent heat. The ice bath you take afterwards is a way to do intermittent cold.
- Intermittent exercise: During intermittent exercise you will increase your heart rate by moving briefly, but intensively, as you do during interval training.
- Intermittent sleep. By creating a short-term sleep deprivation, you can reset your sleep pattern and improve the quality of your sleep.
- Intermittent cognitive pressure. If our brain is not sufficiently stimulated, it will lose its malleability. Intermittent cognitive pressure helps to stimulate that malleability. For example, you can teach yourself something new, or solve a sudoku.
Integrating intermittent living techniques into your daily life would have positive effects on your health, strength, intelligence, motivation, flexibility, creativity and resilience.