In the search for the elusive Shangri-la, we call “Health”, most of us misguidedly focus our attention on a single aspect and say, “that's it!”. Then we knuckle down and focus our effort, energy and devotion on the so-called magic pill in the hope that it will reveal what we’ve always been looking for.
But what is the answer? The gym? Your diet? A meditation program? Your social life? Your love life? Superfoods? Supplements? Yoga? A massive joint (lol)? In reality, the answer lies not in one, but in The 5 Pillars of Health.
To truly find and sustain lifelong health and wellbeing, there are five integrated aspects that need to be understood, nurtured, and cultivated. No one aspect is more important than the rest, and all are required to complete the journey.
1st Pillar of Health - The way you eat
When it comes to a diet plan, there are many possibilities for macronutrient breakdown. High fat, low fat, high protein, keto, carnivore, vegan, etc. However, to be most effective and efficient, I believe it’s more important to look at nutrition on a much smaller scale.
First is micronutrient content. These would be your essential vitamins, minerals, amino and fatty acids and fibre. Every individual biological system on this planet has specific elemental requirements they need to take in to maintain proper function.
Ensuring you take in all of your essential micronutrients (meaning stuff your body can’t make for itself) will provide your body with the raw materials it uses to create……. well, …you. By focusing your attention on attaining the proper amounts of all of these necessary nutritional contributors, you will ensure your diet plan is right for “your” specific biological system.
Secondly, there is the bacterial contribution to the equation. Our bodies contain roughly 37 trillion human cells. However, on and within our bodies lives another 38 trillion bacteria that need to be fed and cared for. This can be achieved by way of either fermented foods like yogurt, kimchi or sauerkraut, or through probiotic supplementation.
When it comes to what we eat, it is equally necessary to maintain the internal biodiversity of the bacteria that contribute to a multitude of biological functions such as the health of your skin, menstruation, digestion, metabolism, mental health and elimination of waste.
To ensure you are covering all your micronutrient needs and to educate yourself on the food that will do the job, I highly recommend using Cronometer. I have used this site with my patients for years. It is easy to use and has a massive food database.
2nd Pillar of Health - The way you Breathe
For such a seemingly natural process, most of us breathe incorrectly. Beneath our lungs is a muscular wall called the diaphragm. As this muscle contracts, it forces the abdominal contents (intestines, stomach, liver, spleen and kidney) downward creating space for proper oxygenation of the lower lobes of the lunges.
As this happens the stomach wall expands outward to allow space for everyone in there to stay happy. This compression from the diaphragm stimulates peristaltic movement through the digestive tract promoting proper digestion of food materials. It also stimulates organ massage on the liver, spleen and kidneys, helping them to release toxins and absorb new blood and nutrients.
Most people breathe into their chest. What is known as a shallow tidal breath. Using only the accessory muscles, namely the scalene, intercostals, and levator scapulae, this method of breathing only takes in about one-third of the oxygen possible for the lungs to take in.
Our bodies are designed to work aerobically (with oxygen) most of the time. When the mechanical respiration function is compromised, the ability for cellular respiration (using oxygen at the cellular level) is as well.
To retrain this forgotten natural ability, you can simply push your stomach out as you breathe in, and pull your stomach in as you breathe out. With a little time and effort, your body will reconnect to this natural physiological function, improving not only your breathing but your health and wellbeing as well.
3rd Pillar of Health - The way you Move
There are many ways to get active and promote physical health and wellbeing. Lifting weights, yoga, pilates, qigong, hiking, swimming, dancing, walking, or martial arts, just to name a few. The reality is, it doesn't matter what you do. What’s important is that whatever way you choose to move and condition your body, it needs to incorporate three specific aspects.
Flexibility - It is important to stretch our muscles to keep our bodies supple and playable. The more flexible your muscles are the less tightness, restriction of movement and pain you will have. That being the case, the activity you choose should contain a component that loosens the muscles and promotes flexibility.
Range of Motion - When it comes to the range of motion, “if you don’t use it, you lose it!” If the joints of the body are not moved through large ranges of motion, over time the connective tissue will create restrictions leading to an inability to move properly. That being the case, the activity you choose should contain movements that explore large ranges of motion throughout the major joints of the body.
Muscular Stability - Our muscles provide strength and stability to our structure. They provide us with the strength to move our bodies through space, fight against external resistance, as well as counteract the effects of gravity.
Additionally, when large amounts of muscle are used in combination, they use a great deal of oxygen at the cellular level, resulting in cardiovascular improvements. That being the case, the activity you choose should be taxing enough on your muscles to promote growth and development.
4th Pillar of Health - The way you Think
Our brains are incredible computing machines. They have the ability to take in and process information in the moment. Store that information for future retrieval. As well as using past and present information to plan for future interactions.
Because of the complexity and power of this processing engine, proper and efficient thought processing and overall mental health have three important facets;
The ability to stay connected to the present moment.
The ability to remember past information and events clearly without
The ability to contemplate or plan future interactions and events
without repetitive and exhaustive over-analyzation.
Meditative practice is essential to overall mental health. Meditation is a process of training the mind to be under our conscious control versus being subject to its subconscious whim. No different than training the muscles to lift heavier, or training the lungs to breathe deeper, meditation trains the mind to stay connected to the moment.
Remember the mind is a computing machine. That being the case, it needs to be connected to the present moment to take as much information as possible, which will allow it to make the best decisions possible. The more the mind remains connected to the moment, the less we suffer from worry, anxiety and overthinking about the future.
5th Pillar of Health - The way you Feel
Our emotional well-being is the last pillar to tackle. Whether we are plagued with anger, irritability, stress, hate, fear, sadness, depression or grief. All of these emotions are rooted in fear. These fears are generated during our early years as a child between the ages of 0-7. At this time humans do not possess reasoning capability.
That being the case, our understanding of situations, people and events are very limited. That limited understanding creates fear of all those unknowns. Understanding your fears and their connection to your present emotions is a necessary step to take in order to heal and modify your emotional response to situations you encounter.
When “that” feeling arises, take a few moments and ask yourself three questions;
What are you afraid of right now?
Answer the question as exhaustively as possible. Then ask yourself,
Why are you afraid of it?
Once again, answer the question as exhaustively as possible. then ask yourself,
Was there a moment in your childhood that you felt similarly, and why?
Once again, answer the question as exhaustively as possible.
Then remind yourself,
“This is not that moment!”
Understanding is the remedy to fear. By shining the light of wisdom on our fears we can heal the initial emotional seeds that were planted in childhood. It’s those seeds that trigger our emotional response in the moment causing us to continue to suffer as adults.
Lastly, cultivating the positive emotional counterpart to the negative emotions we experience is a great way to heal that emotion's physiological effect. Here is a link to a powerful Emotion Healing Meditation designed specially to do that.
By mindfully nurturing and cultivating all 5 Pillars of Health, it will allow you finally experience the glowing health and wellbeing of mind, heart and body you have always wanted.
…. give it a try!
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