Foundation of Health:
Nutrition: The data is abundant: A whole foods, plant-based diet is the optimal diet for humans. Consume an array of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans, legumes, nuts and seeds. These foods are high in fiber and are nutrient dense. They are health-promoting and can significantly decrease the likelihood of developing many of the chronic diseases that plague our modern world. For more information, check out the American College of Lifestyle Medicine website (Lifestylemedicine.org).
Exercise: Regular physical activity should ideally be performed on a daily basis. Moving naturally is best, such as walking, gardening, and doing push-ups and lunges. Set a goal of at least 30 minutes daily for physical activity. Ideally, exercise would encompass cardiovascular fitness, strength training, and stretching. For more information, check out the American College of Sports Medicine website (acsm.org).
Sleep: Adequate sleep is essential for health and well-being. Many bodily systems undergo repair during sleep. The brain also organizes thoughts and memories during sleep. The lack of adequate sleep puts one’s physical and mental health at risk. Also, sleep can be considered the best form of meditation!
Stress Management/Relaxation Response: Acute bouts of stress are indeed necessary for survival in critical situations. However, chronic stress can wreak havoc on the body, increasing stress hormones and blood pressure. The opposite of the stress response is referred to as the relaxation response. Indeed, fostering a relaxing environment can decrease stress hormones such as cortisol, while increasing production of oxytocin, a hormone associated with feelings of love, wellbeing, and social bonding. Indeed, one of the commonalities among meditation techniques is the induction of the relaxation response and the array of positive effects on the body and mind.
Relationships: Fostering healthy relationships with friends, family, a significant other, and your community, as well as with nature and animals is rooted in the very core of the human psyche. Indeed, above all else, humans seek out opportunities to feel a sense of belonging. Having healthy relationships is vital to health; it is one of the commonalities among the happiest and longest-lived cultures on the planet!
Ecotherapy: Ecotherapy is the term given to the therapeutic health benefits from spending time in nature. Intuitively, we are all aware of the benefits of nature, hence our yearning for spending time in and around nature. Proven health benefits include decreasing stress and inducing the relaxation response. Spending time in nature is so important to wellness that doctors in Scotland are now literally prescribing nature to their patients!
Positive Psychology: Positive Psychology is the scientific study of the strengths that enable individuals and communities to thrive. The field is founded on the belief that people want to lead meaningful and fulfilling lives, to cultivate what is best within themselves, and to enhance their experiences of love, work and play. It is rooted in the concept of eudaimonia, a Greek word which refers to a state of having a good indwelling spirit or being in a contented state of health, happiness and prosperity.
Sustainability: Sustainability is most often defined as meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet theirs. It has three main pillars: economic, environmental, and social. These three pillars are informally referred to as profit, planet and people. Sustainability is not a new concept. In fact, The Seventh Generation Principle, derived from the Constitution of the Iroquois Nation, is a great example of the wisdom and foresight of natives that preceded us by many generations: “In every deliberation, we must consider the impact on the seventh generation…” The Seventh Generation Principle is based on an ancient Iroquois philosophy that the decisions we make today should result in a sustainable world seven generations into the future.
Purpose: Having purpose can provide one with a moral compass, a reason and means of living a life of integrity. A purpose can give one reason to follow the path of eudaimonia rather than hedonia. Hedonism is the belief that happiness is derived externally, while eudaimonism expresses the idea that happiness comes from within. As stated by Winston S. Churchill, “It’s not enough to have lived. We should be determined to live for something.”