5 Factors Influencing Your Health
Do you feel like you are doing all you are “supposed to do” for your health, like eating your vegetables and moving your body regularly, but you still do not feel right? Like the commercial for a cholesterol medication on TV where the handsome, appearing to be fit man strolls over to a diving board, catching many people’s eye on his way, but when he gets to the diving board, he bounces and flops. On the surface, maybe we seem healthy and well, but underneath it all we feel tired, irritable, anxious, achy or our stomach and body just do not feel right. This usually happens when we cross over to middle adulthood, 35-55 range… as our body starts screaming because it has pressed hard to overcome blips in our health, endured some hard play or abuse, or maybe we have been through high amounts of prolonged stress. These things can lead to our body balance being thrown off and in need of some TLC and balancing. Our immune system takes some serious hits over time and our SAD (Standard American Diet) of processed foods, white flour, pasta and high sugar assaults the immune system and body’s ability to bounce back and repair itself. Personally, and professionally speaking, based on experience, research and intuition, I have found the following 5 Factors to influence health the most. If I were to add a 6th factor, it would be environment, namely chemical/metal and toxic exposure through people and surroundings.
5 Main Factors Influencing Health:
- What We Put into Our Mouth. Good, clean, whole food nutrition that has been minimally processed and is as local as possible is what our body craves and needs to restore, balance and fuel our body and brains. Many studies have shown sugar and white flour to negatively affect health through exacerbating inflammation and gene expression or Telomere length. The aging process gets accelerated with poor diet.
- Exercise and Moving Your Body Daily- Moderate exercise has been shown to improve body mass, cardiovascular health, insulin management, bone density and joint/ ligament health. In addition, resent research is finding exercise can help alleviate and prevent mental illness such as depression and anxiety, and regular exercise is linked to stress resiliency and strengthens our biochemical resistance to stress. In addition, regular exercise boosts self-esteem and enhances brain cell growth and neuron firing.
- Get 7-8 Hours of sleep a night. Sleep is where the body rejuvenates, repairs and heals through the release of cytokines. This only occurs if the body can get into a deep sleep cycle as that is when the cytokines are released. Sleep deprivation contributes to accidents, carbohydrate and fat cravings, poor decision making, poor focus and mood disturbance. Studies have found anything less than 7 hours of sleep a night can contribute to problems with health and immunity.
- Mindful Living and stress management. Meditation and slow, deep breathing practice has been shown to reset the stress response and slow down the release of cortisol- the stress hormone that can derail homeostasis in the body if excessively release. Stress is inevitable in our lives, but learning how to slow down, be present in our lives and live with purpose will enhance enjoyment and connection to our lives, loved ones and environment. Living mindfully reduces anxiety, depression and stress.
- Support and Connection to others. Much research has shown that people who feel connected to others and who have support of others are more resilient and lead healthier lives than those feeling isolated or alone. In times of stress, our body releases a hormone, oxytocin, which motivates us to seek support and connection to others. This is how we can often manage stressful times and situations- by knowing we are a part of something bigger than self and by feeling we are not alone. Therefore, many chronic illnesses or trauma patients have support groups- so people do not feel alone in their struggle.
Usually, when we feel out of sorts in our health, it is because one or more of these factors is lacking. When I work with clients, these are the 5 key areas of lifestyle management that we focus on. Paying equal attention to all Five of these areas and ensuring we incorporate these mindfully, on purpose and with awareness and intention into our daily life will enhance overall health and wellness. It will create an environment where the body and brain can maintain balance, homeostasis and overall health and vitality.