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The 5 Pillars Of Health – A Whole Body Approach To Wellness

Written by: Lindsey Champney, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.

 
Executive Contributor Lindsey Champney

What does it truly mean to be “healthy”? Depending on whom you ask, it can mean many different things. There is so much information out there that people can get overwhelmed and confused about how to improve their health.


The 5 Pillars of Health

This article explains the 5 interconnected pillars of optimal health: Sleep, Nutrition, Movement, Stress Management, and Social Connections. Addressing your health through these pillars builds a whole-body approach that helps you achieve a high state of well-being. The key is to treat each pillar equally.


Pillar 1: Sleep


Sleep is essential for survival and it is a time when the body and brain repair. Without proper sleep, the body struggles to keep up with the demands of everyday life, and it becomes even more challenging to maintain a healthy lifestyle.


During sleep, our bodies go through a series of stages, broadly categorized into two main phases: non-REM sleep and REM sleep. Deep sleep occurs during non-REM and is the most therapeutic and rejuvenating sleep stage. Deep sleep is when toxins are flushed from the brain, cells repair and rebuild, and hormones are secreted to promote bone and muscle growth. During REM sleep, the brain processes and consolidates new information, regulates emotions, and enhances creativity and problem-solving.


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends adults get at least 7 hours of sleep per night and kids/teens get at least 8-13 hours (depending on age). It is critical to think about sleep quality and whether the time spent sleeping is restorative. Lack of quality sleep can interfere with work, school, driving, and social functioning. According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), sleep deficiency is also linked to many chronic health problems, including heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke, obesity, and depression.


Tips to boost sleep quality:


  • Keep your room cool and dark

  • Avoid eating at least 2 hours before bedtime

  • Avoid or limit alcohol and caffeine at night

  • Turn off technology at least 30 minutes before bed

  • Keep a consistent bedtime routine and aim for 10 PM lights out


Pillar 2: Nutrition


Proper nourishment supports your body and keeps you sustained through life’s challenges. There are so many dietary theories and each has its unique stance on what to eat and not to eat. It can be very confusing and frustrating to figure out which diet plan is best for your own body.


Looking closely at each of the many dietary theories, several common themes lay the foundation for better nutrition. The first theme is eating whole, non-processed foods as much as possible. Eating whole foods is the key to strong gut and heart health and reducing systemic inflammation. Second, getting enough dietary protein is crucial for developing and maintaining muscle mass; this is very important past the age of 40. Another common theme to eating healthy is avoiding refined sugars and alcohol to protect gut health and keep blood sugar low. Finally, eating healthy fats particularly omega 3’s is important for fighting inflammation and brain health.


Tips to improve nutrition:


  • Shop the peripheral of the grocery store (fresh produce, meat, seafood, eggs, milk)

  • Plan your meals ahead of time and cook at home

  • Shop a local farmer’s market or food Co-op in your town

  • Read food labels and aim to buy packaged items with 5 ingredients or less

  • Keep sugar consumption low and aim to eat foods sweetened naturally with fruit


Pillar 3: Movement


Our bodies were born to move. Exercising keeps you strong, flexible, and balanced. Additionally, exercise releases endorphins, helps the body regulate insulin, and improves hormone levels and immune function. It’s well known that a sedentary lifestyle is a risk factor for a wide range of chronic ailments, including heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, and depression.


Daily movement does not need to be complex, and even a brisk walk can drastically improve mental and physical health. In addition to walking or jogging, yoga, weights, dancing, bicycling, and pilates are other ways to move and strengthen your body. With exercise, it’s important to give the body needed rest in between high-intensity or long-duration workouts.


Tips to make movement part of your routine:


  • Schedule exercise in your daily calendar

  • Put workout clothes by your bed and change into them first thing in the morning

  • Meet up with a friend for a walk or jog

  • Choose an exercise you enjoy

  • Hire a personal trainer or join a local gym and sign up for a class


Pillar 4 Stress Management


In our modern society, it seems that everyone is so busy and rushing from one thing to the next. It has become challenging to maintain a proper work/life balance. With technology and telecommuting, people are working longer hours than ever and getting more and more stressed.


This long-term type of stress keeps cortisol elevated, suppresses the immune system, and can put you at higher risk for many chronic diseases. All these demands take a toll on maintaining proper health.


Tips to manage stress:


  • Meditate and/or practice deep breathing at least 5 minutes a day

  • Manage your schedule to allow free time and don’t overcommit

  • Take a walk outside

  • Talk with a close friend or family member

  • Journal your thoughts and emotions

Pillar 5: Social connections


Last but not least, staying connected to others, from co-workers to friends and family keeps the mind and body in a positive state. Strong social ties contribute to longevity, mental health, and cognitive well-being.


Staying socially connected, is the most overlooked pillar, because people often focus on diet and exercise for their health, and neglect meaningful connections with others. According to the CDC, social isolation and loneliness have been linked to increased risk for heart disease, stroke, Type 2 diabetes, dementia, and depression.


Tips to stay socially connected:


  • Volunteer at a local organization

  • Join a local club

  • Meet a friend for lunch or dinner

  • Take a class on something new you want to learn

  • Join a recreational league like pickleball, tennis, golf, walking, biking or running


Conclusion


The 5 pillars of health are equally important and also very interdependent on one another. For instance, physical activity helps you sleep better and manage stress more easily. Additionally, you cannot exercise away a poor diet, or connect joyously with others when you’re exhausted and sleep-deprived.


Maintaining all five pillars of health is the foundation for becoming as healthy, vibrant, and energetic as you can be. When any of these pillars are out of balance, it can cause mental and emotional distress. Don’t worry about focusing on all pillars at the same time, because increasing healthy habits in one area makes it easier to strengthen the other pillars too.


How are these 5 pillars in your own life? Working with a health coach can help you determine an area of focus in one or more of the pillars, and devise a plan to reach your optimal health.


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Lindsey Champney Brainz Magazine
 

Lindsey Champney, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Lindsey is a board certified Health and Wellness Coach, which ensures the highest standard of care, and a client lead approach to health and wellness goals. Lindsey loves to help others achieve their best self by partnering with clients to determine achievable health goals and specific action steps to get there. She is passionate about leading a healthy lifestyle through proper nutrition, optimal sleep, exercise, stress management, and emotional well-being.

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