9 Foundations of Health You Can't THRIVE Without
If you struggle with chronic illness or maybe you've just been feeling tired, unmotivated, or just plain "blah," you may be neglecting a part of yourself or a habit that is essential to good health.
The basic principle to having vibrant health is proportional to the amount of "stress" all your systems are experiencing on a regular basis.
Whether it be emotional/mental stress (what we're most familiar with and how we generally refer to stress), physical stress such as chronic back pain or a knee injury, biochemical stress from poor food choices and chemical stress from being overloaded with environmental toxicants or a high Toxic Body Burden/Toxic Load- the higher the amount of various stress our bodies are under, the more it prevents our body from doing healing and maintenance on it's own.
Decreasing overall stress to all of your systems- nervous system, digestive system, lymphatic system, musculoskeletal system, immune system and circulatory system- is the key to improving our health.
This is because when we have less stress occurring to these systems, the innate intelligence of the body can do its magic.
So, how do you decrease stress to these systems?
With these 9 Foundations to vibrant health I describe below.
And the best thing about these 9 Foundations is that you have influence over each and every one. You have the ability to make an impact on how you feel.
1. Whole Food that NOURISHES
Many people think they're eating as best they can when they're following the popular paleo diet or a whole-foods, plant-based diet because their health professional advised them to. And they've made great strides! BUT what they don't consider is that 1) this diet may not be ideal for them or 2) that their needs may vary from year to year, month to month, or even day to day.
Whole food that nourishes means food in its whole form that has been minimally processed or changed from its natural form.
- Raw, fresh fruit vs canned or jarred fruit.
- Lots of big, green salads, fresh veggies, veggies that haven't been overcooked vs canned veggies or veggies from a buffet that have been over cooked (you know, those green beans that are that icky green color?)
- Grains in whole form such as whole quinoa vs quinoa flour- if you do grains.
- Fresh grass-fed/pastured meat vs processed sausage (that may also have some weird ingredients that are best avoided such as canola oil, natural flavors, or citric acid) and meat that wasn't raised in the best of conditions- if you do meat.
One example of not-so-helpful foods that are often thought of as "healthy" are protein bars. Most have undesirable ingredients such as natural flavors (which is MSG) and various processed forms of sugar.
Stick with the FRESH, WHOLE foods and consider how your needs may be different today than from a few months back.
2. Decreasing Toxic Body Burden/Toxic Load
I wrote 4 blog posts about this topic (that's how important it is!) so I'll be brief here. The world is so much more toxic that it's ever been and our bodies are not accustomed to handle so much of it.
This causes our livers and lymphatic system to become overburdened where we may experience poor digestion, bloating, excess weight gain, headaches, and sluggishness.
We need to take action steps to lower our toxic load. You can find more info in these blog posts and how to go about this. Managing Toxic Body Burden Part 1: Sources of Contamination; Managing Toxic Body Burden Part 2: How to Protect Yourself; Managing Toxic Body Burden Part 3: The Connection to Illness; Managing Toxic Body Burden Part 4: How to Cleanse.
3. Quality Sleep
Not just quantity, but quality. There's more to a good nights rest than just trying to get 8 hours a night. Many people don't even need that much and do fine on 6 hours. Alternatively, there are many others that are trying to heal from chronic illnesses such as MS, Lupus or Chronic Fatigue that require 10 hours a night to feel rested and functional.
For instance, Anthony William, The Medical Medium says that the most important sleep window is from 10pm-2am. If we sleep in this window and miss sleep from 3 am-5 am vs sleep from 12 am-2 am, our bodies will be much more able to function the next day as well as recover and heal what needs to because of what the body can do in that sleep window.
Not necessarily exercise, but movement of the body. Using your muscles, stretching your muscles and fascia, getting the blood flowing the lymph flowing are necessary for so many reasons. Here are a few examples.
- Movement moves our qi (chee) around and prevents it from getting stagnant and causing issues and imbalances.
- With movement, the body is able to detoxify more efficiently. For example, when you do a yoga pose that involves twisting of the torso to wring out the organs followed by a gentle sweat.
- Movement keeps us feeling strong and feeling good. And when we feel good physically it opens us up to feel good mentally.
Sitting for hours at a time (as you may have heard) is one of the worst things we can do and has been compared to smoking cigarettes.
Walk, lift weights, stretch, do yoga, do qigong, dance, swim, jazzercise... just move.
5. Mindfulness & Resilience
Resilience to stress is partially a result of increased mental strength and mindfulness.
Mindfulness is having awareness of the present moment. It's knowing the difference between our higher selves and the ego mind.
Having the awareness of your circumstances and how you choose to respond to them (vs react) is a sign of mental strength and resilience.
Having the awareness that you are a spiritual being in human form that also has an ego mind... and being able to tame this ego mind is a characteristic of mental strength.
You can become more resilient to stress when both your mental, emotional, and spiritual strengths are stronger. Which leads me to the next...
6. Emotional Awareness
Emotional strength is not being "hard" and immune to emotion. No, it's being aware of your emotions. It's exploring why a particular emotion is coming up for you and letting it be so that it may pass.
The most classic example of what this looks like is this: When your significant other says something that triggers you, you say, "When you said I never make time for you, it made me feel angry and defensive." This is the most brilliant communication tool psychology has given us (and probably saving thousands of marriages!).
Be curious about your emotions. Feel them. Let them go.
7. Spiritual Awareness & Practice
This is as simple as acknowledging something greater than yourself that you are a part of.
Having a regular spiritual practice such as meditating, spending time in nature, praying, joining a spiritual circle, or attending church develop spiritual strength.
And spiritual strength is shown to be imperative to having vitality.
What drives you and what gets you up in the morning? What keeps you going when you're not at your best? What fills your heart when it's feeling empty?
That is your purpose. And without at least one, we can feel all out of sorts or often feel like we're not on the "right track."
To paraphrase the renowned, late psychic Sylvia Browne, "We're always on track." But, it's in our nature to question it until we know what our purpose is. People who can define their purpose never feel "off track."
Having the feeling of purpose can literally get us out of bed when we're at our worst.
And purpose can keep us going strong when we're 90.
9. Strong Relationships & Support
Having strong relationships and feeling supported directly impacts our mental and emotional health... AND our physical health like the immune system.
Having a support system, whether it be family, close friends- and even feeling supported by our peers- enriches us with positive feelings. Positive feelings strengthen our immune system, while negative feelings weaken our immune system.
How the 9 Foundations of Health all tie together
When we fortify these 9 foundations of health, each of our systems experiences less general stress. With less stress and with the right support for the body, it can take care of itself.
Because I've found each of these 9 Foundations to be factors in my client's health success, each are covered in my signature Health Coaching Program: Feel Like You Again.
Which of these foundations might you be neglecting?
To your health and healing,