I have so many pleasant memories of when I first started out on my health journey a little over 4 years ago; like when I became a vegetarian, the joy of entering Planet Organic & Whole Foods Market for the first time, and the many hours spent on my yoga mat just taking in the newness of meditation and deep breathing. Today, I share the 7 Pillars of Health that guided me to possibilities that forever transformed my reality.
1. DIET & NUTRITION
What I want to emphasise here is to not overcomplicate nutrition which means simply focusing on eating real, fresh food, limiting processed food, and cooking from scratch as much as possible. This will ensure you’re getting optimal nutrition by knowing exactly what ingredients you’re consuming and in what ways.
When you’re at the grocery store, focus on adding as much colour to your cart as you can. This indicates a variety of fresh plants that are loaded with phytonutrients and fibres that support the health of our gut and whole body.
Get inspired: When I think back to when I began my health journey over 4 years ago, Pick Up Limes was a great inspiration to me, so get inspired with different kinds of books / cookbooks / YouTube Channels to help you out along the way.
Simply ensure the food you eat is wholesome, using the highest quality ingredients and produce, organic where possible but not essential. Above all, the meals should be tasty and easy to prepare.
Don’t forget about hydration! Our bodies are made up of around 60% water. Being properly hydrated helps our bodies better distribute nutrients, supports our digestive function and promotes energy and healthy skin. If possible, aim to use a filter for your water – we use a Zero Water Jug. TIP: Keep a reusable water bottle or glass of water near you throughout the day. When creating new habits, having things in sight makes it much easier.
If you do have specific health conditions or concerns, it is worth speaking with a health professional to help you address these so that you have a clear plan to help you achieve your health goals.
2. EXERCISE & ACTIVITY
Our bodies are designed to move. Daily physical activity is crucial; whether it’s a formal exercise class, yoga or pilates session or simply walking or cycling and even housework. These activities must become a set part of your daily routine.
Activities such as yoga vary in style and are designed to focus and improve the quality of your breathing to improve stamina and energy levels, whilst the gentle rhythmic breathing techniques focus more on reducing stress, to help induce sound sleep.
Don’t feel like you need to work out for an hour every day of the week. Remember to listen to your body (much like with the foods we eat) to avoid over-exerting yourself. Instead, start slow, and even better – find an activity that you enjoy. Here are some of my favourite ways to move my body daily:
- Going on a brisk walk (my daily step goal is 15000)
- Yoga & Pilates (I aim to do a 30-35 minute Pilates workout and a 15-20 minutes Yoga session daily)
3. RELAXATION & SLEEP
In our busy lives, it is important to take the time to relax and reflect. However many see this as an indulgence but I cannot stress enough that this is far from an indulgence! Giving yourself permission to relax is quite often a good way to start; even if it’s just for 5 mins during the day with a cup of tea and most certainly at the end of the day; there needs to be a cut off from the chores / work when you allow yourself to slow down and relax. Allowing the wind-down time along with good sleep hygiene will help induce a good night’s sleep.
Reducing stress and getting a good night’s sleep is fundamental to a healthier life and should not be overlooked. Sleep is when our cells and tissues have a chance to regenerate; our immune system is supported, and our energy levels, cognition, and memory are boosted for the next day. Sleep is a bit of a ‘cleansing’ experience for our brain as our mental cache is cleared out.
Some ways to promote good sleep are to go to bed and wake up at the same time each day (this supports our circadian rhythm and strengthens our sleep routine), sleep in a cool, dark room, and try diffusing lavender to promote a sense of calm.
4. MENTAL HEALTH
Our mental health is just as important as our physical health. The two are intricately connected and we can’t have one without the other.
It’s important for us to manage our stress levels and consider things like our mindset and internal dialogue. Our thoughts impact our emotions, and our emotions impact our actions.
Support your mental health by prioritising self-care, taking time out for yourself, setting boundaries (this means learning how to say ‘no’ sometimes), spending time doing activities you enjoy, or opening up to a trusted friend or therapist about what’s on your mind.
5. PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT
Personal growth and development differ from person to person but ultimately a common aim is to achieve a happy and fulfilling life. With tools and guidance, you can find a path that allows you to enhance the quality of your life and truly thrive. Your health plays a significant role in your ability to focus on your goals in life and establishing healthy habits undoubtedly makes this less challenging. Taking care of your health, along with a positive mindset, can have a profound effect on many aspects of your life. Growth must be a WAY OF LIFE!
6. ALTERNATIVE PERSPECTIVE
Finding solitude away from work and family commitments is invaluable, allowing you to escape the hustle and bustle of daily life and enjoy a new way of being, in the peace and tranquillity of a serene location. Escaping on a health retreat will of course provide this, but finding a calm spot; whether it’s a nearby forest, beach or local park and being close to nature allows you to see yourself in a different place; this can be very liberating and with calm surroundings offers an ideal atmosphere to truly relax and unwind.
7. RELATIONSHIPS & COMMUNITY
Prioritise the people in your life who lift you up. Reach out to those who make you feel good and supported – nurture your relationships. Doing our best to put in that effort and being mindful of the people we surround ourselves with can have a bigger impact on your life (and health) than you may realise. And when necessary, let go of friendships or relationships that may be unhealthy for you.
Challenging yourself to engage in new activities, eat new foods and learn new skills empowers you to continue a new way of living with more confidence. Often this will involve breaking bad habits and replacing them with new healthy ones. Even for those already practising a healthy way of life, challenging yourself to enjoy more exercise sessions per day, increase your knowledge or learn more recipes, for example, will help you progress and achieve positive outcomes more quickly.