Jaan Tollander de Balsch

Computer Science & Applied Mathematics

About

“At some point, everything’s gonna go south on you… everything’s going to go south and you’re going to say, this is it. This is how I end. Now you can either accept that, or you can get to work. That’s all it is. You just begin. You do the math. You solve one problem… and you solve the next one… and then the next. And If you solve enough problems, you get to come home. All right, questions?” – Mark Watney, Martian

In this page, I have written about my life philosophy. I share some of my routines and how I build structure into my life around what I consider the fundamentals for life:

  • Sleep and the circadian cycle
  • Nutrition, light, air, and water
  • Social, physical and cognitive activities
  • Healthy environment and exposure to nature

I believe that respecting these fundamentals will lead to better health, improve productivity and increase general life satisfaction. These consequently will help us to accomplish and build great things.

Contents

Academic Interests

Academically, I’m most interested in problem-solving using programming and mathematics. I find topic such as logic and algorithms fascinating. However, I try not to limit my thinking only to these fields but actively understand other points of view including biology, psychology, history, politics, business, and economy.

Reading is very important for learning about things that have already been discovered and educating yourself about the world. I actively read books and articles related to my interests and sometimes venture outside of them. Apart from reading, I have found listening to podcasts to be a good way to learn about certain topics. Podcasts are also a great way to find about interesting people such as authors and entrepreneurs and their work.

Writing is also important for learning. It forces to understand the subject at depth, use learned knowledge and communicate it with other people. I regularly practice my technical and non-technical writing skills, for example in the form of this blog.

I’m also learning photography in order to increase the quality of my photos in the blog and other online profiles. I have found visual images to be very important for influencing online because humans are very visual and respond strongly to them unlike to written format for example.

Daily Routines and Sleep

Routines create an important structure for a successful day. Morning and evening routines affect the quality and productivity of the day as they help us prime the body for work and wind it down afterward. Doing them correctly is very important for good sleep and proper circadian cycle, both fundamental for good health.

In the morning after waking up I check my sleep data from the Oura ring. It tells me when I fell asleep, when I woke up, the total sleep time, and a break down between each sleep stage; deep, REM, light and awake. It also shows me my morning readiness score which takes into account the sleep and nighttime heart rate variability. The readiness tells me how stressed my body is and whether I should be doing any hard physical exercise that day. After I’m done reading the Oura stats, I go for a 20-minute walk outside. The purpose of the walk is to get sunshine and physical activity for a wake-up signal to the brain. Once I’m done with the walk, I have some tea or hot chocolate and begin working.

My evening routine begins one to two hours prior to bedtime by putting on my blue-light blocking glasses. Ideally, I would also avoid using electronic devices and do some light social activity. Since that’s not always feasible, I watch some non-stressful tv-series like sitcoms or read books instead. I avoid hard physical activity in the evening. Usually, I sleep my window open in order to cool down the room. During sleep, I wear earplugs and a sleep mask to block out noise and light, and I have my Oura ring on to record the sleep data.

Physical Fitness

I have been physically very active and interested in physical training since childhood. I practiced competitive swimming for a decade before I quit at eighteen years old. The training included swimming and gym training, and the training volumes were at the highest more than eighteen hours per week. The experience from swimming has contributed to my views about the human’s ability to push over mental and physical limits. Later I have also come to understand the importance of being physically active especially in a group setting.

After I quit swimming I have been keeping up my physical fitness with free weight, body weight and high-intensity training. I aim to do a workout once every two or three days. My typical workout consists of warmup and heavy lifts. The warmup includes jumping jacks, burpees, jackknifes, pushups and pistol squats. The heavy lifts are chosen from a set of free weight or body weight exercises. Free weight exercises include squats, deadlift, bench press, overhead press, and rowing. The body weight exercises include pull-ups, dips and hanging leg raises which can be done with added resistance using resistance bands or weights.

In the university, I joined in the cheerleading team where I have been practicing amateur cheerleading since 2016. Our team has performed in American football games, university events, and competitions. Cheerleading has taught me about teamwork, managing performance anxiety and managing simultaneous physical, cognitive and psychological stress.

I also include sauna and cold thermogenesis to my physical health-related practices. As everyone knows, Finns love saunas, and I personally go to the sauna regularly. I always combine my sauna sessions with some kind of cold exposure, such as cold showers, rolling in the snow or jumping into a cold lake or sea.

Nutrition

I became interested in nutrition after experiencing chronic digestive issues, acne, and general fatigue. All of these issues were related to poor gut-health, which I discovered after addressing the digestive issues by changing my eating habits. Also, the use of antibiotics contributed to poor gut health. Eventually, I managed to fix these issues with a combination of nutrition, probiotics, and other lifestyle changes.

Today, I embrace eating quality, unprocessed food and the importance of correct preparation techniques. Typical foods that I eat include:

  • Animal products from healthy animals such as Grass-fed beef and eggs.
  • Vegetables and fruits such as cucumbers, apples, cabbage, and coconut products.
  • Fat sources such as butter, olive oil, and animal fats.
  • Salt, herbs and spices.
  • Cacao products.
  • Green tea.
  • Honey and bee products.
  • Vitamin D3 and magnesium supplements.

I don’t subscribe to any specific diet, but my diet does closely resemble an ancestral, paleo, and low-carb diet. However, I try not to define my diet by what I eat, but rather what I am trying to accomplish and what my current goals are.

Generally, I think that an ancestral view of nutrition, such as the Weston Price Foundation’s dietary guidelines, is a good starting point for a healthy diet. It makes the case that we should be eating foods that humans evolved to eat.