I had an interesting discussion with one of my medical colleagues the other night. We were talking about trying to help people get their hormones to really work the way they are supposed to and how difficult it can be if the patient’s lifestyle isn’t good. We both noted that the same thing could be said of virtually every chronic health problem from cardiovascular disease to cancer and from irritable bowel disease to low thyroid. Even if we consider powerful medications that can suppress symptoms and make the person feel better, the real solution lies in creating a lifestyle that will make a difference over the long haul.
The problem is that everyone thinks that there is a quick fix solution out there that will give them the health they want without any effort on their part. Sorry to break it to you – it doesn’t exist. The only way for long-term results is to develop a balanced way of living that supports the way our bodies are designed to work. So what are the key elements to this lifestyle and how do we apply it on a daily basis? Let’s dive into the basics and break it down together.
The Simple 7 Wellness Strategies
When it all comes down to it, there really are 7 major areas of life that we need to address on a daily basis to support health. I like to call them the Simple 7 Strategies.
Strategy #1 – Think Well.
Let’s face it, happiness in life really boils down to how positive and optimistic we are about our life and our future. Most of us are carrying around a fair amount of negative baggage that seems to creep into our thoughts on a daily basis. We pick up patterns of thinking and beliefs about ourselves early on in life and often these patterns continue to play out in our minds for years or even decades. In many ways, we can never outgrow our own limiting beliefs about ourselves until we learn to recognize them and critically evaluate them. Something as simple as daily affirmations, a vision board or a powerful purpose statement can shift our mental state almost immediately.
I am aware that my thoughts impact my life. I choose to be positive.
Strategy #2 – Sleep Well.
Sleep is one of the most often overlooked aspects of a healthy lifestyle. In fact, we quite frequently see people who start a lifestyle program sacrifice an hour of sleep so that they can workout. In effect, robbing Peter to pay Paul. Our bodies need 7-9 hours of quality sleep every night in order to repair and heal. Unfortunately, many aspects of modern living have sabotaged our sleep and the number of people with some level of insomnia is continuing to grow. We offer powerful tips and solutions to help you get the sleep that your body is quietly craving.
I am mindful of my nighttime routine. I choose habits that allow rejuvenating sleep.
Strategy #3 – Breathe Well.
You might think that breathing is so fundamental to life that we wouldn’t need any reminders about it. Unfortunately, nearly 50% of people habitually breathe incorrectly and that creates a wide variety of breathing-related health issues. Becoming mindful about how we breathe and controlling the rate and depth of our breath has been shown in over 45,000 studies to have a direct impact on our mental and physical health. Learning to breathe more efficiently may be the simplest health practice of all and, like most other things on this list, it’s 100% free!
I consciously reconnect with my breath to improve energy and lower stress.
Strategy #4 – Eat Well.
There may not be a more contentious topic in the health world than that of diet and nutrition. With literally dozens and dozens of competing camps, each with their own smart sounding scientists making the claim that following their own code of eating is best for humanity. Instead of promoting 1 particular approach as better than all the rest, I think that we can actually tailor our dietary choices to our specific needs and based on our health status (or disease status as the case may be). Based on my research and clinical experience, I have found that starting from what some authors call a “paleo template” is the most appropriate starting place for most people. A paleo template would include a foundation of a variety of starchy and non-starchy vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, fish, shellfish, grass-fed beef, game, fowl, eggs, grains, fats and oils, legumes and dairy. From these basic categories, we then customize the diet based on individual needs for proteins, carbs, and fats. There may be times when certain elements of this basic “Real Food” approach need to be eliminated altogether.
This strategy isn’t just about the food we eat but also about what we choose to drink. We are 70% water. You’ve heard that statistic since you were in 5th grade. It’s pretty strange to think that with that basic fact of nature well ingrained into our heads, we still think that we can get away with drinking just about everything BUT water without it affecting our health. We need to dramatically reduce our intake of soda, coffee, milk, fruit juices, and energy drinks and increase our water intake on a daily basis.
I am conscious of what I put into my body. I choose nutrient-dense, real foods, and pure clean water.
Strategy #5 – Move Well.
No secret here. The modern lifestyle has become sedentary. We are sitting more and moving our bodies less. Research has proven that even those who try to exercise an hour every day can completely lose all of the benefits from that exercise if they remain sedentary the rest of the day. We need to learn how to create a foundation of movement and activity every day and then add to that smart and sensible exercise. We advocate High-Intensity Interval training (HIIT), bodyweight-based exercises, and yoga to build strength, stamina, and flexibility.
I am physically active every day. I choose to keep my body fit and strong.
Strategy #6 – Love Well.
As the famous Dean Martin song so clearly states, “You are nobody until somebody loves you…so find somebody to love.” Without connection, intimacy, friendship and knowing that we are important in other’s lives, people simply can’t feel lasting happiness. We are social creatures that need connection and love. That said, developing and maintaining deep and lasting relationships is one of the hardest things to do. Other people let us down and frustrate us. They don’t do what we want them to do and we often take for granted those who are closest to us. Taking time to nurture the most important relationships in your life on a daily basis is vital to wellness because as Dean Martin continues, “You may be king. You may possess the world and its gold. But gold won’t buy you happiness when you’re growing old”.
I am honoring the best in myself and others. I choose to create deeper connections.
Strategy #7 – Play Well.
This powerful strategy is also often gradually lost as we grow into adults. We forget all of the great things that we learned through having fun, being creative and playing games as kids. In addition to being a powerful stress reducer, time spent in “play energy” activates parts of the brain that are often neglected and helps us function more wholly as human beings. When we put some attention to recreation, fun and play every day it balances our body, mind, and spirit. Time spent playing, whether that is playing a sport, a board game or even writing and creating is not time wasted! It is a powerful aspect of wellness.
I am balancing work with fun and playful recreation. I choose to enjoy life.
Creating a Simple 7 Lifestyle
There you have it. Building a perfect lifestyle is super simple right? Well, it’s obviously easier said than done. It takes lots of work and effort. Some of us are just out of practice on many of these strategies and others seem to require swimming completely against the stream of the rest of the world. It kind of feels like we’re trying to spin 7 plates at the same time but we don’t have to be perfect overnight.
For some reason, our society has the idea that there is a quick fix solution out there that will give them the health they want without a lot of effort on their part. Guess what? – it doesn’t exist. The only way for long-term results is to develop a balanced way of living that supports the way our body is designed to work.
The Simple 7 Strategies are the key elements to a healthy lifestyle, how we apply them will determine our expression of health. They are habits that will create an environment for healing and health to thrive in your life.
Although it is not possible to be perfect in all seven of these areas every day, research continues to show, that even small incremental improvements make a big difference in our health. We can self-evaluate and find our weakest area and focus on that first. As we get better in that area we can shift attention to the next in line.
Begin by performing a self-evaluation.
This exercise will help you see how well you are implementing the 7 Pillars of Wellness in your life and help you recognize which pillars need your attention. With that awareness, you will be able to set goals and make a correction to create new habits that will help make these habits stronger.
Each spoke on the Wellness Wheel represents one of the Simple 7 Strategies. For each strategy make a dot on the spoke that represents where you feel you are in that particular habit right now in your life. The closer you are to the center of the wheel the least satisfied/developed that habit and the further from the center the better that habit is in your life.
Here is an example:
- Begin by drawing a circle, add a small dot in the center of that circle. Now draw 7 spokes radiating from the center circle to the large outside circle.
- Begin by placing a dot on each spoke, don’t over analyze each point, just make a mark.
- Connect each dot, like a dot-to-dot around the wheel.
- Is your Wellness Wheel a smooth circle or is it a bit bumpy and lumpy?
- Think about that for a minute. Is your wheel going to efficiently get you where you want to go?
- Do you need to make some adjustments so that the road to wellness is a smoother ride?
Now that you have plotted out your current situation you can set some goals. Find a point that is closest to the center, the least developed, and start writing some goals that will help you improve this lifestyle habit. Make a plan so that you can begin to implement these goals.
When that habit is improving and you have established a new habit, move to the next point on your wheel. This will not be something that is accomplished overnight, or even in a week, it might actually take you several weeks or even months to establish these new habits.
While you are concentrating on creating new habits in a particular area, keep up on the others that you have already established, don’t let the habits that are already strong get weak.
This self-evaluation can be done every few months to help you track your progress and find areas that you are still struggling with.