Contrary to western ideas about what health is I assure you that it is not simply a lack of disease and that people who are not sick are not necessarily healthy. Pills, surgeries and a whole host of anti-type interventions have become the frontline of health care in our nation, when really what we are lacking is more pro-health measures. I cannot and will not deny that they have their place. It is unquestionable that advancements in medical treatments over the years have saved countless numbers of lives. My problem is that with a little more focus on preventative care that a lot of these interventions would be unnecessary and the risks associated with them would be moot.
Healthy living can be a complex topic, especially nowadays when we are inundated every day with the newest fad diets, exercise programs, supplements, etc. I would argue that it doesn’t have to be so complex, so I set out to find a way to organize my thoughts on what it takes to live a healthy lifestyle and narrowed them down to four broad categories and will explain them to you in ascending order of their importance to building a better, balanced you. So let’s start at the base of this four-tiered health pyramid.
Most people understand THAT a healthy diet is good for them, but when pressed to answer they don’t really understand WHY it’s good for them. The phrase ‘you are what you eat’ can be used in a literal sense to answer this question.
Your body is an extremely complex biochemical factory that utilizes a vast number of elements and molecules that come mostly from the things you eat and drink. The microscopic constituents of your food can be thought of as construction materials essentially. These materials are used by the body to run chemical processes in your body necessary for life as well as to maintain the cellular structure of your muscles, bones and organs which are constantly turned over from environmental insults as well as the natural process of aging.
If you are any good at reasoning things out, then you probably understand where I am going here. A simple analogy would be to say that feeding yourself poor quality food and expecting to be healthy is a lot like handing an architect only Lincoln logs and asking him to make a functioning skyscraper. Our bodies are indeed very adaptable, but when it comes down to it, if you give it inferior building blocks, it will make inferior products.
It gets more complex from here when you consider that our bodies also have to deal with the damaging effects of the large number of food additives and harmful processing left overs that as we seem to find out nearly every day are linked to various diseases. Maybe we can leave that for another time though.
The important thing to understand is that there is a very simple reason why you should try to make better food choices. If you haven’t checked it out already, you should read my blog about 10 nutritional tips to help you eat healthier. It goes more in depth on how to make some simple adjustments to your eating habits that can pay large dividends on your road to health.
On to the second tier…
Make no mistakes about it, human beings were meant to move. If you don’t believe me, then take a look at this article from The World Health Organization, which describes sedentary lifestyle as one of the leading causes of disability and disease throughout the world. The best part though is that it’s a pretty simple risk to modify.
It has been my observation that nature is not a huge fan of immobile and unattended things. Cars left un-driven and cared for seize up and rust, un-eaten crops rot, both returning the materials they borrowed from the environment to be reused in some new fashion. We are no different.
In as little as 30 minutes a day you can reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity, colon cancer, hypertension, anxiety and depression to name a few. Let’s be honest we could all use one less re-run of 90’s sitcom X every day in exchange for a little health. The best part is, it doesn’t matter what you do doesn’t matter as long as it gets you out of a chair and gets your heart rate up.
Many new studies are coming out reporting the life shortening effects of occupations that our bodies weren’t designed to do, stressing the importance of movement. I’ll stress it too, if you want to live healthy, you had better get moving.
Positive Interpersonal Relationships
Humans are social creatures who need interaction with one another to survive. It is through our connections with our fellow man that we find joy, comfort, inspiration, support, and any other number of things necessary for a balanced psyche and a sense of well-being.
The emphasis should be placed on the word POSITIVE here. Not all interpersonal relationships are created equal and you should be able to recognize those that are not and minimize if not end them all together. Surround yourself with people who give you the things I listed above and enable you to be the best person you can be. Eliminate those who belittle your ambition, take advantage of you and refuse to communicate open and honestly. Easier said than done, I know, but it will pay off.
Most importantly attend to your relationships. In today’s world it is easier than ever to be in-touch with people through various social networking sites, texts and email, yet people report feeling lonelier than ever. So make an effort to foster the relationships that are important to you in real-life and start seeing the positive influence that spending time with people can have on your health.
The last tier.
Focus on Self
We all live very busy lives. In between rushing to and from you job, meetings, taking care of your kids or pets, doing chores around the house it can be a little hard to get much needed ‘me’ time.
No, I’m not suggesting that you run off to become an egomaniacal mirror-gazer, but a little bit of self-love is important for living a healthy life. Whether it be daily affirmations, meditation, hobbies, reading, writing etc. you should make it a point to take some time (maybe a half hour or more) out of each day to reflect and focus on you.
I would also encourage you to make occasional appointments with a massage therapist, chiropractor, or acupuncturist to take care of your body. These therapies in particular are very well suited to work WITH your body and can be very effective tools for managing the physical manifestations of negative emotional stress as well as every day aches and pains that come with life.
So that’s my rant on health, hope you enjoyed it. If you want more information on any of the tiers there are some pretty good book recommendations for each of them. If you are interested in them, drop me a message here, on twitter or facebook and I’d be glad to share. Also if you are interested in making regular spinal adjustments a part of your plan for health and live in the Denver area, I am more than happy to help out with that.
Remember that while I tried my best to un-complicate a complex issue such as this, I do indeed realize how difficult and trying making these sorts of lifestyle changes can be. I will not claim to be perfect myself, and it’s okay not to be. All I ask of anyone who is serious about trying to live healthier to do is try. Leave room for missteps along the way. Like anything else, these things get easier with time and the benefits are plenty.
Those who put an honest effort into seeking balance in their lives are sure to find health and happiness along the way.