Achieving optimal health is much more than living a disease-free life. A healthy life includes feeling happy in your body, having joy in your heart, fueling your body with nutritious food, getting restful sleep, and moving your body on a daily basis. So how do you create optimal health in your life? By building a strong foundation called the Four Pillars of Health. If you compare your body to a house, without a strong foundation the house will collapse and deteriorate over time, creating a state of “dis-ease.” The Four Pillars of Health set the architecture of the house for overall health and well-being, which are as follows:
1. Emotional Well being
2. Sleep and Rest
4. Physical Activity
Your emotions affect every physiological function in your body even when sleeping. Emotional imbalances create energy disturbances, especially those of chronic anger, hatred, bitterness, greed, hopelessness, loneliness, and depression. Can you guess which emotion has the greatest impact on the body’s well-being? Did you say stress? Gold star for you! Your stress levels and coping skills influence your physical, emotional and mental health. The higher the levels of stress the greater the risk of developing Illness. For example, you’re more likely to catch a cold or the flu when you are coping with high levels of stress. There is also evidence that stress can aggravate disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis, insulin-dependent diabetes, multiple sclerosis and more. How do you strengthen this pillar of your house? Studies have shown that using mind-body techniques, such as relaxation, meditation, and biofeedback greatly reduce your stress on a daily basis. If you are new to meditation, check out your local yoga center or online meditation applications to guide you.
Sleep and Rest
Getting adequate sleep and rest is the most powerful anti-aging tool, giving your cells time to heal and repair. The brain, our central nervous system, requires sleep for recovery. Most of us know that getting a good night’s sleep is important, but few actually make those six to eight hours between the sheets a priority. For many of us with insomnia or sleep disturbances we have forgotten what being truly rested feels like. To further complicate matters, stimulants like coffee and energy drinks, alarm clocks, and external lights – including those from electronic devices ¬– interfere with our circadian or sleep rhythm. To restore this pillar, restful sleep is pivotal.
As you are going to sleep at night, practice this simple relaxation technique. First take a deep breath, imagining you are exhaling out all of your stress and tension. Then working from the toes to the top of the head, tighten and relax each muscle group until your entire body is relaxed. Implement this technique each night before falling asleep, as well as making sure to not eat or drink at least three hours before bed. Also, sleep in a dark room to generate restful sleep.
Nutrition provides every cell the fuel for bodily functions. Optimal nutrition is about eating a whole foods diet and drinking filtered, pure water. Unfortunately, the standard American diet does not provide a strong pillar of health with its high fat, high carb, and high sugar levels. When our cells are fed toxic foods and live in toxic environments, they are not able to divide and create new, healthy cells. The DNA of the cells is damaged and when the cell duplicates, it makes another damaged cell, leading to disease and toxicity. Focus on improving this pillar by eating a rainbow of veggies and fruits, and staying well hydrated each day to support proper elimination and detoxification of the body. If this pillar is an obstacle for you, seek out a practitioner specializing in nutrition to help guide you as you make simple dietary changes.
Physical activity increases circulation throughout the body, establishing an easy route for toxins to leave it. When the toxins of the body have no route of elimination they build up over time and cause the body’s systems to dysfunction. In the beginning, these small dysfunctions might not seem very noticeable but as they accumulate over time, chronic disease begins to take shape. Staying physically fit is critical to longevity and quality of life. Studies have shown that exercise not only keeps our bodies vital and fit, but also produces neurons. Neurons help increase cognitive function and memory, which are primary keys in anti-aging. As you develop an exercise plan, make sure to incorporate full body fitness: aerobic, strength, flexibility, and balance to strengthen this pillar. If you need an energy boost throughout the day, get outside and take a brisk walk to restore your energy and clear brain fog.
Coming Home to Health
With the fast pace of today’s society, it’s easy to forget the importance of health and your body’s ‘home’ begins to fall apart. A disconnection between health and home begins to develop as this foundation crumbles. When you take time to go inward and reconnect with your body, the basis for healing begins. Dive deep and examine cellular toxicity and damaged DNA in each system of your body to see the connection of dysfunction with each of the pillars.
How do you integrate these four pillars of health and create a solid foundation? First, create a diagram or chart with the four pillars and write out your strengths and weaknesses. Start to make simple steps to lay the groundwork and restore your health. When chronic disease sets in, the road back to optimal health can seem indomitable, so it is of utmost importance to have a strong support system of friends and family.
Increasing your health and vitality can be simple. Pick one or two of the above and incorporate them into your life today. By doing so, enjoy feeling a little pep in your step!
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2. Kim SH, Schneider SM, Kravitz L, Mermier C, Burge MR. Mind-body Practices for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. Journal of investigative medicine : the official publication of the American Federation for Clinical Research. 2013;61(5):827-834. doi:10.231/JIM.0b013e3182906862.
3. M Seppälä E, B Nitschke J, L Tudorascu D, et al. Breathing-Based Meditation Decreases Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Symptoms in U.S. Military Veterans: A Randomized Controlled Longitudinal Study. Journal of Traumatic Stress. 2014;27(4):397-405. doi:10.1002/jts.21936.
Bio: Dr. LuLu Shimek is a Naturopathic Doctor practicing in beautiful downtown Asheville, North Carolina. She is a graduate of Bastyr University’s doctoral program in Naturopathic Medicine in Seattle, Washington. Dr. LuLu specializes in chronic disease such as Fibromyalgia, Autoimmune Disease, Irritable Bowel Disease, Eczema, Insomnia, Chronic Fatigue, Anxiety and Depression. Dr. LuLu is the Solution to your inner Pollution!