What is good health? And why do we care about it?
Good health may mean different things to different people but there are some basic elements of good health I believe are universal. Having good health means you can have a normal life, you are able to breathe, eat and do things you want to do with little to no impediment.
Besides the basic characteristics as explained above, good health goes deeper than that for me. My family health history includes cancer, heart disease and mental health problems including depression and schizophrenia, so to me, good health means preventing all of the above. Also, I care about having good health because it is part of my happiness, a bit part of it actually. So how can we achieve good health – whatever that may mean for you but including the basic elements of it?
I recently attended the NYC Vegetarian Food Festival. Here I was introduced to the concept of Fresh Medicine by Doctor Robert Graham, MD. He explains that good health can be achieved by a combination of conventional medicine, clinical nutrition, positive psychology and health coaching. Makes sense, right? Now let’s go in a little deeper. How can we actually do this? We know medicine can cure us, nutrition is important and our mental health is key to our happiness and overall well-being. Dr. Graham recommends we follow these 5 key pillars to good health under his “Fresh Medicine” concept.
#1. Food – we all need to eat, so this is obviously very important. The act of eating is a requirement to live and function. What we need to focus on is what we feed our bodies. We need to make sure when we eat we provide our bodies with enough calories and nutrients to be able to have energy and perform daily tasks. If we don’t balance our meals, our bodies react differently and inefficiently. Every person is unique and what works for me may not work for you, that’s why is so important to be aware of our bodies and not fall into the latest fad diet.
#2. Relaxation – most of us live in a “fast-paced” society, especially if you live in the North East area of the US. We have demanding jobs, family and friend commitments plus all the responsibilities that come with being an adult – pay the bills, do laundry, get gas, car service, clean the house, get groceries, you get the idea. We rarely make time to relax and play, we may tell ourselves that we relax when we go out with friends, or just sit on the couch and read a book or watch a movie. Most of the time we can’t do these things on a daily basis, that’s why mindfulness and meditation are so important. Meditating daily is a way to completely relax your body and your mind, those other forms of “relaxation” can only achieve one or the other but not both.
#3. Exercise – this is definitely a touchy subject. Many people like the concept of exercising and understand the benefits of it, but also most of them don’t do it. Why? Because it is not a priority in the already overbooked schedules. Unless you are a sports fiend or you really, REALLY make an effort to exercise, this usually falls at the bottom of the list of things to do. I’ve been there, trust me. This is a daily struggle for me too! We have to find a way to include exercise in our routines, usually, the best way to accomplish this is to start a more active hobby like biking, dancing, hiking, whatever gets you moving and can get your heart rate up is a good place to start.
#4. Sleep – this is a biggie in my book. If I don’t sleep enough I get cranky like a 3 year old that gets woken up way too early from their nap. Did you know that at least 30% of the adult population in the world suffers from some sort of sleep disturbance? (data published by the World Health Organization) If half of those people are like me you get a bunch of cranky adults going around their day not very happy – ouch! There are many short term, medium and long term health effects due to lack of restful sleep including an increase in stress hormones, a reduction of cognitive performance, and even impact to your immune system. Long story short – we need to sleep and rest in order to be closer to achieving good health.
#5. Happiness – Feeling fulfilled, giddy and happy makes a world of a difference in our health. We have a positive attitude towards life and the world, our immune system is rewarded by the release of endorphins, dopamine and many other happiness hormones. They will help you combat stress, reduce aches and pains and could also strengthen your immune system.
WOW! That’s a lot of information I just dumped on you. Feeling a bit overwhelmed? Don’t worry, my head is still spinning a bit. I am looking forward to making these 5 elements a priority in my life, but of course without stressing out about any particular one. If you would like to discuss food wellness and your food habits, which is just one of these pillars, let’s talk! I have appointments available in the next few weeks, just check here and book the one that is most convenient for you. Pick here.