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5 essential pillars to become a healthier person.

Ok, there are thousands of books, blogs, seminars, gurus and medical experts out there with a lot of information on how to become healthy. Most of them emphasize on one specific aspect of life like nutrition or exercise. Most also ask that you dramatically change the way you live. We have all come across these with some initial excitement, motivation and even success. But most don't last long.

Becoming healthy is a very broad term and may have a different meaning and goal for each person. But regardless of your goals, aspirations and current health status, there are really 5 pillars to a healthy life, in no particular order here they are:

  1. Nutrition

  2. Exercise and activity

  3. Sleep

  4. Mental wellness

  5. Social wellness

All 5 are interdependent. To be healthy you need them all. For example, if you are stressed and anxious you may stress eat, you are not motivated to exercise, your sleep is disturbed because you are up all night worrying. If you are not eating a healthy diet then you may feel sluggish and lack energy, so you wont exercise, you gain weight and you may develop sleep apnea. If you do not have a fulfilling social life then you may feel sad and depressed which in turn affects your sleep and motivation to exercise. And most importantly, according to one landmark study poor social connections can be as detrimental to your health as obesity, smoking and high blood pressure. The point is that an over all healthy life is more than just food and exercise.

Now, we all have a busy life, so for me to say you need to have a perfect 5/5 every day, well, it makes me a big hypocrite. But by making simple, long lasting and fundamental changes in your daily life you can significantly improve the quality of each category. Making small incremental changes in each category will accumulate in significant and big leaps on your health. Lets look at each one very briefly:

1) Nutrition:

  • The quality of the food: are you making most of your food using fresh, unprocessed ingredients?

  • Are you eating at least 3-4 servings of fruits and vegetables?

  • Are you eating a high fiber diet?

  • Are you including a healthy source of carbs, proteins and fats in each meal?

  • Are you avoiding snacking?

  • Are you well hydrated?

  • To learn everything you need to know about a healthy diet see HealthierlifeMD section on nutrition.

2) Exercise and Activity:

  • Are you staying active throughout the day or are you just sitting behind a desk?

  • Are you exercising at least 5 days a week?

  • Are you doing cardio, strength and core workouts?

  • Are you eating a nutritious meal after each exercise?

  • Do you have a good posture or are you slouching over?

  • To learn more about how to exercise and stay active visit HealthierlifeMD section on exercise.

3) Sleep:

  • Do you have a good sleep hygiene?

  • Are you sleeping at least 7 hours, optimally 8?

  • Are you waking up multiple times per night? (a sign of sleep apnea, prostate issue or anxiety).

  • Are you using your bed for anything besides sleep, sex and a brief night time light reading?

  • Are you putting away all electronics (besides reading a book) at bed?

  • Are you cutting from your sleep hours by aimlessly scrolling down social media or other apps?

  • If possible, do you take a short 10-20 minute nap every day?

4) Mental Wellness:

  • Are you practicing mindfulness?

  • Do you do some sort of self meditation at least 10 minutes a day?

  • Are you exhausting your brain by filling every single free moment by staring at your phone?

  • Are you letting your brain just wonder and be bored every day?

  • Are you taking steps to reduce stress?

5) Social Wellness:

  • Do you have a good circle of friends and/or family?

  • Are you keeping in touch with them?

  • Did you know that genes activated in social settings may affect your immune system?

  • Are you leaving some time every day to interact and socialize with a close circle of trusted friends and family?

  • Do you feel well connected physically instead of electronically?

Most of you are probably well aware of the first 2 pillars: nutrition and exercise. But research has shown that sleep, mental wellness and social wellness are equally as important to your health. And unfortunately due to advent of social media, COVID 19 outbreak and our busy lives there has been an increase in mental illness and social isolation over the past few years. In my own clinic I have seen a significant increase in number of young or middle age patients with new onset depression, anxiety and poor sleep. So while you may be overtly focused on your nutrition and exercise, it is very important that you take some time and focus on the other 3 pillars of a healthy life. I will expand on these less familiar topics in the upcoming blogs. You can also read more on your own at HealthierlifeMD.

For now try and identify one or two things in each pillar that you can improve on. For me, I have stopped looking at my phone every time I am free. For example, instead of reading the news at the grocery store line, I just let my brain wonder. I had forgotten how fun people watching is. I have also started a 10 minute meditation every day after lunch. After a week I feel significantly more calm and now I really look forward to that 10 minutes (I can tell the biggest difference on how much more level headed I am when my two boys drive me nuts). So, pick just a few simple steps, give it a week and see for yourself.

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