The quality of your health and vitality can be narrowed down to 6 pillars.
If these 6 pillars are as solid as possible, you’ll have the most opportunity to squeeze the most out of what you’ve been given from your mom and your dad. The opposite is also true, one weak pillar will break the collective bond.
The old idiom attributed to Aristotle “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts” holds true here. Each pillar is strong on its own but when you put them together, you have “wholistic” health and incredible vitality.
Let’s get on with it, shall we. The first pillar is Thoughts.
Everything begins with a thought. The more you think about something the closer it comes to fruition. That thought turns into an action, many actions turn into progress, progress ends with a result. Be it a chisel and a piece of rock turning into a statue or following a recipe for tonight’s dinner. It all goes through a process that begins with a single thought.
When you wake up in the morning, your mind starts working. For some a little slower than others, which is an indicator one or more of the pillars are less than their optimal.
Just imagine, that smartphone, laptop or tablet you’re reading this on, was once a thought. They’re powerful beyond measure.
Your thoughts happen with or without your control and even your permission. Meditation is a way to practice controlling your thoughts, some succeed, most keep working on it.
For improved health, less pain, increased vibrancy, you can practice refocusing and redirecting your thoughts. Starting small and building on them is a true and tested way of improving the quality of your life.
Starting with setting a goal and basing some of your decisions on that goal will begin strengthening your mental muscles.
For example, writing this post started with a thought. A question, actually. “How can I best share the foundations to health with the most number of people?” The answer was to write a blog post. You’re reading the result of it.
Moving onto the second pillar to health. Luckily for all of us, this happens even without having to think about it.
Without breathing, life ceases to exist.
It can alter your mood (for better or worse), it can increase your body temperature and also cool it down. It can calm your mind, and get you anxious. It can give you energy or take it away. The good news is, you have full control over it.
As with thoughts, there are many who practice controlling breath. You can use it instead of coffee to make you more alert by increasing the frequency and intensity of taking a breath. You can also use it to help you fall asleep by taking slow and deep diaphragmatic breaths as you close your eyes for the night in bed.
Your breath is also an indicator of how you’re reacting to what’s currently happening with and around you.
Being aware of your breathing will give you the power to change it and with it your mood. You can be in control.
The third pillar is hydration
70% of our bodies is water.
It’s required for almost all chemical reactions in your body. Most of each of your cells in your entire body is water.
At 2% dehydration is when you start getting thirsty, you get skin flushing and start getting fatigue. So by the time you feel thirsty, you’re already dehydrated. You also lose a bit of alertness and your urine starts turning darker.
At 3%-4% dehydration you lose 3% – 10% of your power and strength, depending on the intensity of the exercise. This includes playing sports, which is why it’s imperative to be fully hydrated before and during any type of activity.
At 5% dehydration your sweating slows down to preserve fluids. This, in turn, increases the work your heart and lungs have to do to pump and circulate a more sludgy, thicker blood around your body.
At 10% dehydration your muscles spasm and get spastic. Confusion sets in, seizures are more likely and you can even lose consciousness.
The more cooked/processed foods you eat, the more water is required to process it. Think of dried fruits. They had their water content reduced to next to nothing. Your body needs to rehydrate it to process it so it requires more water and your digestive system will “steal” it from other parts of your body to do its job properly.
Think of constipation and hard to pass stools as another sign of dehydration.
I must distinguish between hydration and water, though. There are much better ways of hydrating yourself than with plain water. Your body has a hard time assimilating H2O. It needs to be bound to minerals in order to be optimally absorbed.
You want to make sure you consume the all types of fluids. Fresh fruits and vegetables have high water content as well as electrolytes, minerals and trace minerals that help your body get hydrated. Lemonade is great, anything with citrus fruits in it. Soups, like bone broths are full of minerals too. Apple cider vinegar added to your lemonade will also increase the enzyme and mineral content.
The food you eat gives you the strength and energy to be at your best.
You’ve heard the saying, “you are what you eat”, right? Well, the truth is, you are what your body absorbs and assimilates. Everything you put in your mouth has to go through the digestive process before your body can turn the food into usable nutrients and finally into you.
Certain foods can help you and others hurt you. Some increase inflammation (the main cause of pain) while others decrease and even eliminate it.
You have the choice of making your next eye ball cell out of coffee and donuts or a piece of grass fed, organic beef (which is very easy to turn into human cells.)
Food and nutrition are a massive topic. Hundreds (probably thousands) of books have been written on it so I’ll keep this section to the foundations.
The main point is quality always trumps quantity. So instead of eating large volumes of low quality food, looks for the highest quality you can find.
Eat it as close to its natural form as possible to get the most nutrients out of it. There’s this myth that your body needs calories. The truth is, your body requires nutrients (they just happen to have energy that people measure in calories.) The more nutrient dense your food is, the less you need of it.
The other point for you to be aware of is human interference. Look for foods with the least human interference you can find.
Buying local and organic foods (with less chemicals on and in them) should be your first choice.
If you have any type of pain, avoiding grains would be a good idea since they’re extremely hard for humans to digest (which is why they grind them to a powder most of the time) and they cause inflammation in the body.
Life is movement.
Everything that’s alive moves. No movement equals death.
The more you move the more efficient the pumps in your body become. This translates to better circulation, cleaner arteries, improved hormonal function, greater energy and strength, longer endurance as well as better and more restful sleep.
Your body was designed to be moved. It improves with use and withers away from inactivity. Finding a balance between too much and too little activity is key to health and longevity.
The types of movements that give you benefits are vast and what’s best for you depend on you current activity levels. A simple walk can improve your digestion and circulation. Sprinting will strengthen your whole body and help improve your hormone levels as well. Playing sports improves hand-eye co-ordination, balance, bone strength and numerous other systems.
With technology today, we tend to move less as a society. Elevators, food delivery, online shopping, cars/uber/lyft bring things to us or take us places, eliminating the “need” for us to move.
You already know you feel better when you move so all you need to do is start small and the benefits you receive will keep you going. You can start by parking your car a bit farther from the entrance or getting off the bus a stop or three sooner than you need to. You could even take the stairs instead of the elevators.
What’s your favourite excuse?
6. Circadian Rhythm – Sleep/wake cycle
Nature’s natural daily reset so we can be optimal when we’re awake
Everything works in cycles. The sun comes up in the morning and it goes down at night. The moon has its own cycle. Those are daily cycles. There are also a weekly, monthly and yearly cycles.
We also wake up, take care of things during the day then go to sleep at night.
Your body is wired to work at peak efficiency through its optimal cycle. Your liver works on regenerating itself at a certain time of the cycle, your cells get repaired and new ones built at regular intervals. You need food at certain times a day, sometimes more, sometimes less. You operate and your optimal effectiveness when you follow these natural cycles. Skipping meals, staying up late, using stimulants all break the natural cycles and take away from your effectiveness.
You know what staying up late or having a little too much alcohol (which dehydrates you) does to your next day.
Flying to a different time zone also confuses your system unless you take some precautions ahead of time.
If you have ongoing, chronic pain or if cuts and bruises seem to heal too slow. Check what time you go to bed and what the quality of your sleep is. Going to bed late could be causing your system to work well below it’s full capacity.
Your cells repair physical damage roughly between 10:00pm and 2:00am, in line with the natural cycles of the sun and moon so even if you sleep in until noon, the next day after staying up to 4:00am, and get 8 hours of sleep, you still miss out on your body’s regeneration window.
Your psychological repair happens roughly between 2:00am to 6:00pm so taking advantage of deeps sleep in those hours will ensure you’re in your peak state the next day.
The previous pillars help with your quality of sleep as much as your quality and quantity if sleep helps with the other pillars. This is why the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
Everything is connected. These are the foundations to a much higher quality of life. Before reaching for that magic pill or silver bullet that will solve all your problems (at least according to the advertising that tells you they do) have a look at the bigger picture. All of these 6 pillars are within your control. They give you tremendous power.
They all may sound overwhelming at first, which is why I suggest you pick one of the pillars and start examining how you could improve it. Take a few days and choose to change a small thing for the better. Drink a home made lemonade instead of a can of coke, for example or turn off the lights 10 minutes earlier than usual.
Let me know how I can help you implement some of these to increase the quality of your life, one step at a time.