Could a return to 'primal living' help us live longer and healthier lives?

There are Ten Primal Laws to abide by...

primal living

With the world navigating health concerns on a global scale, in an unknown climate asking us collectively to slow down, simplify our living, return to our roots and reassess our values, it seems fitting that when itcomes to our wellbeing, going primal is the new progressive.

The mind/body connection is well versed and well understood and the new decade sees us move away from faddy diets and false promises of fast results in favour of optimising our health through holistic approaches, yielding long-term results on both the physical and metaphysical level.

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We chatted to leading health coach at Primal Health, who is a solicitor-turned-spiritual Holistic Health and Paleo Diet Coach, Charlène Gisèle, about how taking note from our ancestors could boost our health today.

How to easily incorporate the Ten Primal Laws into your everyday life and the health benefits of each

Eat plants and animals

Primal principles recommend that we eat as our ancestors would have done, so think foraging, hunting and gathering. Of course that may not be possible in today’s society, but the point is discernment - moving away from instant availability and industrial processing in favour of quality and nutrient-dense foods - and treating your body with respect by loving what you are fuelling it with.

For me, a truly holistic and healthy approach to food is one that gets as close to the source, (nature) as possible. Choices that we can all make are to select foods that are local, organic, seasonal and whole, when it comes to eating in a Paleolithic way.

Enjoy meat, poultry, eggs and fish as healthy sources of protein, try cooking with butter or extra virgin coconut oil as these fats are very good for you, eat your fruit and vegetables as fresh as possible to benefit from all of their nutrients, and sprinkle seeds on your meals for extra nutritional value.

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Avoid poisonous things

For me, a healthy approach to eating is to see your diet as abundant, to love what you eat and to think about it in terms of what you are ‘adding’ - so a richer variety of fruit and vegetables or good quality, organic meats.

However, going a little Konmari in your kitchen is essential as it’s crucial to also know what you should be eliminating from your diet as well. Think foods that were entirely absent prior to civilisation, which includes all refined sugar, sugary beverages, all processed food, refined grains such as pasta and breakfast cereals and industrial/chemically altered oils (canola, sunflower). The Primal Principles also recommend limiting the consumption of alcohol.

Move frequently

We know we are not meant to be sedentary creatures, with numerous health implications associated with spending too much time seated – or inactive.

You may not be able to help having an office job, which requires a fairly sedentary lifestyle but there are so many helpful ways that you can stop it having a negative impact on your health, wellbeing and fitness levels.

Start the day with some yoga, a morning workout or a short bike ride (even if to the shops or to run errands) before you set yourself up for work. Break your day up with lunch time activity – perhaps a brisk walk to ensure you are getting your heart pumping, your blood circulating and a break from your computer screen.

Studies have found many mental health benefits for a 30-minute walking lunch, such an increase in enthusiasm, a greater ability to relax, improvements to physical fitness and other measures of health

Lift heavy things

This law harks back to the days when our Paleolithic ancestors, in their tribes, would have carried wood for fires, large stones which were used as tools or heavy buffalo and bison that would have been hunted.

The modern equivalent might be to incorporate some functional bodyweight training into your routine - essential movements that humans were designed to be able to do, such as lifting your own body weight, push-ups, pull-ups, squats, and planks.

With so many, free online body-weight and Calthinestic work outs available online at the moment, this primal law can be done from the comfort (and isolation!) of your own home.

Weight training isn’t just about building muscles, its benefits include improved posture, better sleep, gaining bone density, maintaining weight loss, boosting metabolism, lowering inflammation and staving off chronic disease.

Sprint once in a while

This law also nods to our ancestors’ ‘hunter gatherer’ lifestyles and the short bursts of cardio required to chase and hunt their food.

A great way to replicate this way of living in modern routine is with Tabata or HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) work outs. Trainers everywhere love HIIT because they’re usually fast, always efficient, can be adjusted to just about any level of expertise, and can be done from your living room. Short bursts of cardio are also a great way to burn maximum calories in a minimal time.

Get plenty of sleep

In the Paleolithic era our ancestors started and ended their days in alignment with the sun and nature’s circadian rhythm, illuminating sleep disorders and ‘mid-afternoon slumps. -I certainly saw these benefits (and more!) when living by the sun’s ritualistic simplicity during my time living with monks in an authentic Indian Ashram, Govardhan Eco Village, north of Mumbai.

While I’m a huge advocate of living my life by nature’s circadian rhythm, I know that waking at sunrise and winding down as the sun sets isn’t possible for everyone. However, we can all create regular sleep habits – and even relaxing bedtime rituals - like going to bed at night and waking up in the morning around the same times (including on weekends), and aiming for around 6 hours sleep a night to help reduce stress, inflammation and depression, while improving your memory, keeps you more alert and may help you lose weight.

Play more

We know from studying cave drawings that the Paleolithic tribes spent around 6 hours a day playing, creating and making art – and under the idea of play is the importance of human connection, exploration, intimacy and sex.

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The number of adults dealing with stress and depression are increasing all the time – with work pressures regularly cited as a reason – so we know that we should be striving for a better work/life balance, and making more time for things we love.

Carving out time to play, make love and be creative boosts endorphins, improves cognitive function and reminds us that intimacy is a sacred part of our lives. I believe that we should make time every day for love, laughter and playfulness - perceiving play time as quality time where you return to your inner child with your own children, spending time with friends in activities that do not involve screens (think tribe-esque sister circles), enjoying your partner - and even playing with a pet.

For anyone in lockdown with a partner or lover, there is never a better time to embrace elements of a Tantric lifestyle, which I offer as part of my Holistic Coaching Service, whereby intimacy, connection and sex is considered sacred and pleasure considered a birth right!

Get plenty of sunlight

Primal law waxes lyrical about the benefits of spending time outside as our ancestors would have done. For me time outside in nature is an essential part of my wellbeing, and in fact, my approach to holistic health coaching is centered on the five elements:

Air for breath work and Pranayama (breathing techniques), Water for ice-bathing and fasting, Earth for Primal Diet, earthing and grounding, Spirit for meditation and Fire for Tantra and sacred sexuality as well as sun exposure.

Getting outside every day, even if just for a walk or run and a dose of vitamin D, produced naturally in your body when directly exposed to sunlight. Vitamin D fights disease, reduces depression and boosts weight loss.

Avoid stupid mistakes

This may sound an obvious one, but in the primal sense this law applies to not doing too many things at once - in essence, being present in the daily.

Today’s society is anesthetised to modern environmental dangers by distraction and overstimulation. We all do it: texting while driving, sending emails during meetings, chatting on the phone while eating dinner.

Taking time to do just one thing at a time seems downright luxurious, even wasteful but research shows that it’s not nearly as efficient as we like to believe, and can even be harmful to our health.

Doing too much can be harmful to your relationships, cause you to overeat as you haven’t processed what you’ve eaten that day, stifles creativity, is dangerous and causes stress. Make time to be present in your routine, fitting in both the things you need to do and the things you want to do

Use Your Brain

As Osho said, “To be creative means to be in love with life. You can be creative only if you love life enough that you want to enhance its beauty.”

Not only does creativity infuse life with a different sort of depth and richness; creativity allows self-discovery, the opportunity to share a hidden side of ourselves, promotes thinking and problem-solving and reduces stress and anxiety.

I know from my time as a London Litigator that using your brain does not (and should not) mean in the intellectual sense only when it comes to fulfilment and a healthy, functioning mind; so make time to do something you love, which stimulates you creatively, every day. It can be art, singing, making something, a hobby or a passion project.

A simple and truly beautiful way to integrate this law into our modern life is to start journaling and set some time aside to write every day.With practice, negative thoughts can be replaced with positive ones using tools such as a daily gratitude, simply writing a list of five things I am grateful for every morning to set myself up for the day.

With time and dedication to these practices you can replace negative thinking patterns with thoughts that actually help. This can make a huge difference in your day-to-day happiness and comfort

Lauren Hughes

Lauren is the former Deputy Digital Editor at woman&home and became a journalist mainly because she enjoys being nosy. With a background in features journalism, Lauren worked on the woman&home brand for four years before going freelance. Before woman&home Lauren worked across a variety of women's lifestyle titles, including GoodTo, Woman's Own, and Woman magazine.