Wellness is more than just eating right and exercising; it’s also much more than just feeling “okay.”
Feeling well means feeling whole, balanced, vibrant, and alive. And there are many moving pieces that we can tap into to feel empowered in our own wellness journey.
The key focus areas that I always recommend my patients pay attention to are community, spirit, emotional health, relationships, nutrition, movement, purpose, and mindset. Within these areas, we can have a dramatic influence on our immediate and future health.
There is so much you can do to help yourself to prevent, treat, and heal dis-ease no matter what situation you’re in. You have the power to change your health and these areas are where it all begins.
I often see patients who feel they are doing everything right. They are eating nutrient-dense foods, getting adequate sleep, going to the gym…but they just don’t feel good. When I ask about their community and social connections they’re often surprised. But when we dig in and get to the real truth—loneliness, social isolation, and a lack of feeling that they belong—it becomes painfully clear that this is the missing link. And science shows us that a sense of community is correlated to longer, healthier, and happier lives. Volunteering, joining a class, and prioritizing time with loved ones are all ways to strengthen your social bonds and support your health in the process. Get involved in things you care about and your community connections will naturally fall into place.
A sense of spirit is like a very strong self-awareness, encompassing our inner passions, values, and beliefs, everything that makes us, us. And when we are tuned in to it we are better able to navigate the ups and downs of life. Our values and personal truths keep us grounded in integrity and deepening this connection to ourselves gives us strength and resilience. No matter what your religious or spiritual practices, you can tap into your individual sense of spirit by doing daily “gut-checks” to listen to your intuition and taking quiet downtime to reflect, journal, meditate or pray—whatever helps you feel more connected to yourself.
Our emotional health impacts our physical health, there is no way around it. I’ve overcome some of my own emotional barriers in the past; traumas and toxic beliefs are scary to unpack but when you do you give yourself freedom and the opportunity for dynamic growth. Work with a coach, speak up for yourself, let your feelings out. Deciding to focus on your emotional health as much as your physical health will have big payoffs for your wellness and happiness throughout life.
Just as community is essential to our wellbeing, so are our individual relationships. Do the people in your life lift you up, inspire you, give you joy? Or do they pull you down, cause stress, and create conflict? The relationships we experience have a cumulative effect, impacting both short- and long-term health. Recognizing and releasing a toxic relationship can be as powerful for our health as eliminating an environmental toxin. Spend time and energy supporting the relationships you do have and don’t be afraid to cultivate a new friendship with someone you’re interested in getting to know better, chances are they could use a new friend too.
I’m always talking about the power of food, and for good reason! What we fuel our body with affects everything—energy levels, weight, immune system, hormones, all of it. And though the nutritional landscape can get confusing with all of the diet wars (Vegan? Keto? Low-carb?) there is one major thing that all experts agree on: eat plenty of colorful vegetables. Think about eating the rainbow each and every day and you’ll be on the right path. Then, incorporate clean high-quality protein sources that suit your morals, like grass-fed beef or organic gluten-free tempeh, along with plenty of healthy fats like avocados, walnuts, olive oil, and coconut. A few simple dietary tweaks can make a world of difference in how you feel.
Exercise is called a polypill because it does so much to benefit the entire body. Cardiovascular health, mood, metabolism, bone strength, the list goes on and on. But you don’t have to go to the gym to move your body. Find an activity you like, something that is fun, and make it part of your wellness routine. Even a walk outside can work wonders. I love to get together with a friend and play tennis or go to a yoga class; not only do we both feel good getting the physical activity we also support and encourage each other to make it a regular habit.
Research shows having a sense of purpose actually relates to living a longer, happier life. When we feel we are sharing our unique gifts with others we feel useful, appreciated, validated, and meaningful. Think about what you feel you are best at, what you enjoy the most, and how you can put those things together to participate in a cause that matters to you.
Our mindset is what brings it all together. We have to get in the right headspace to help ourselves stay healthy and reach our goals. Your mindset is your collection of attitudes—how you respond to challenges, express gratitude, manage your time, and take care of yourself are just some of the parts of your life that you can assess to get a better understanding of your mindset. One study found that those with a “stress-is-enhancing” mindset, as opposed to a “stress-is-debilitating” mindset, had fewer psychological stress responses like anxiety, depression, and anger. So take some time to shift your perspective into a more positive light and your entire body will reap the benefits.
You can nourish yourself and cultivate lasting wellness using these key principles. I’ve personally experienced the powerful shifts that are possible using a holistic, functional approach that supports the body, mind, and spirit; take your first step today.
Wishing you health and happiness,
Mark Hyman, MD