The Four Pillars of a Healthy Lifestyle: Part Two

“What is called genius is the abundance of life and health.”
—Henry David Thoreau

It is the wise person who understands to have a fully abundant life you need good health. For with good health comes energy, wellbeing, and the ability to seek adventure. Without a healthy mind and body, we are potentially destined for despair, regret, and an unfulfilled life. Doing everything we can to stay in topnotch shape adds to the quality of our existence.

In part one of this series I shared with you the findings of Dr. Dean Ornish and his wife Anne and the work and research they’ve completed over their 40-year journey. The findings have been released in their newly published book, Undo It!: How Simple Lifestyle Changes Can Reverse Most Chronic Diseases.

The Ornishes summarized the results into four lifestyle categories as shown below.

                                                                                 Four Pillars of Ornish Lifestyle Medicine

Let’s take a look at each in more depth.

What you eat – Over the years you have heard the adage “You are what you eat.” Hippocrates, a Greek physician who is often referred to as the Father of Medicine said, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” This was evident even in 400 B.C. So, what should we be eating today?

In a recent USA Today article ranking the best diets for overall health, the Mediterranean Diet came out on top. It is modeled on the diets of individuals living in Italy and Greece; countries whose citizens suffer far less from the chronic diseases that plague the citizens in the U.S. today. The emphases is on fruits, green leafy vegetables, nuts, legumes, root vegetables, whole grains, herbs, and seafood.  The diet also recommends eating foods such as poultry, eggs, and dairy, but in moderation.

How you manage stress – Excess stress in our lives can lead to all sorts of health issues. According to the Mayo Clinic, “Stress symptoms can affect your body, your thoughts and feelings, and your behavior.” Here are five quick tips for regulating your excess stress when you are feeling overloaded.

  1. Meditate – Slow down and take time to sit, relax, breath, and feel more present.
  2. Exercise – Even a walk around the block will help. More on this in a minute.
  3. Journal – Write down your thoughts and examine them looking for clues to what is causing the undo anxiety. This exercise will also boost your feelings of control.
  4. Laugh – All of us will mess up from time-to-time. When this happens, laugh. This simple reaction will release endorphins that enhance your mood and reduce cortisol and adrenaline, the stress-causing hormones.
  5. Just say no – We bring some stress on ourselves. Being asked to serve, participate, or lead can provide an initial lift to our ego and self-esteem. But before you say yes, consider the impact on your time and mental wellbeing.

How much you move – Exercise can take many forms and levels of exertion. It can be as simple as taking the dog for an early morning walk or as intense as training for an Ironman competition. Maybe for you it’s a yoga class or rock climbing. What’s important here is to get consistently active.

How much love and support you have – Recently I‘ve seen several articles covering the newest health epidemic in the U.S. – loneliness. And, according to Dr. Ornish, the Love and Support pillar has the most positive impact on our overall health.

If this is you, put yourself in a position to meet others for professional, spiritual, or social connections. If you are in a relationship that has drifted apart, schedule a date night and or an activity you can do together, in order to reconnect. Even a couple who has been married for 25 or more years can feel isolated and lonesome.

I found it interesting that the underlying result from the 40 years of research is that, for the vast majority of chronic diseases, there was no evidence it was one set of lifestyle changes for reversing heart disease and a different diet and exercise program for diabetes or prostate cancer. It was the same set of lifestyle changes for all of them. Regardless of what plagues you today, these steps can provide benefits to improving your joy and satisfaction from life.

Enjoy your journey!

Gary A. Weuve, CFP®
Founder and CEO

Disclaimer: All information, content, and material in this article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to serve as a substitute for the consultation, diagnosis, and/or medical treatment of a qualified physician or healthcare provider. Before starting any new exercise program or dietary regiment, consult your personal physician.

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