The Four Pillars That Will Make You Healthier and Happier
NUTRITION - EXERCISE - SLEEP - MINDFULNESS
“If we could give every individual the right amount of nourishment and exercise, not too little and not too much, we would have found the safest way to health.”
—Hippocrates circa 400 BCE
If you strive for good health, happiness, wealth, and acceptance, you can go a long way by recognizing how your lifestyle habits impacts how you feel and what you can accomplish.
You are what you eat
As a medically trained, naturopathic doctor in Toronto, I remind my patients that everything begins with what they eat. When you make poor diet choices, they can lead to digestive issues, stress, skin problems, fatigue, poor immunity, toxicity and ultimately poor elimination of waste.
Nutrition affects the digestive tract, which is a long tube that begins at the mouth and exits at the anus. Food and water passes through the long canal and isn’t really inside the body until it is absorbed in the bloodstream. Multiple factors affects how/when/why our bodies will absorb nutrients.
How can you find the foods that are kind to your digestive system?
Try to shop from the perimeter of the grocery store in order to get food in its most wholesome form. If there’s an ingredient list, it is not whole and it has been processed in some way. Aim for a minimum of 80% whole foods in your shopping cart.
Keep moving to stay healthy
Are you guilty of sitting on a chair for 8+ hours in a day? I hear ya! 2 minute walking breaks around the office every hour to fill your water bottle, stretch, or to chat with your coworker instead of sending another email are all manageable habits to add in your life that add up over time.
Now this is just the bare minimum - ideally you need to get your heart rate up and a good sweat a couple of times a week to really get the benefits of exercise.
Physical activity strengthens the heart and improves circulation to your limbs and organs (improving digestion, detoxification, etc.). Too little physical activity can lead to acne, hypertension, obesity, diabetes, sluggish digestion, depression, stress and much more. Too much activity can lead to anxiety, menstrual issues, adrenal fatigue, sleep issues and injuries.
There is a fine balance between too much and too little physical activity, start slow and listen to your body!
Get sufficient sleep each night
Sleep is one of those things that we all take for granted when things are going well, but become zombie-like when our hours in bed decrease. When asleep, you are repairing damaged tissues, replicating DNA, digesting, moving short-term memory into long-term memory, and we prepare the body for the next day.
Poor sleep management (going to bed too late, waking up too late, not sleeping enough or too much!), leads to hormone disregulation, poor digestion, obesity, poor immunity, cognitive decline, poor mood, etc. You should aim for a consistent bedtime routine that is in sync with our circadian rhythm.
As Dr. Matthew Walker said in his book Why We Sleep, “Mother nature wouldn’t waste time putting us into a state that wasn’t necessary.” Free of cost, available to everyone and beneficial side effects effective immediately, sleep should be one of our priorities when it comes to health!
Learn to live mindfully
Mindfulness is the practice of being fully present in the moment. As a professional primary health care provider with a holistic approach, I have seen how a lack of mindfulness can cause a lot of psychological and physical symptoms, which we often mistakenly attribute to stress.
For example, depression, forgetfulness, anxiety, difficulty concentrating, panic, distorted thinking, pain, are often all symptoms of failure in life in the present and an addiction to worry about the future.
You naturally possess the ability to be in the present - Just imagine you’re in traffic and someone swerves in front of you. You immediately stop daydreaming and react in order to avoid an accident. In that moment of fear, you’re not thinking about that comment your coworker said, or your never ending to-do list, the only thing on your mind is the car in front of you - the present moment.
Mindfulness is available to you in every moment, we don’t need a near-death experience to force us into being present. Research has shown that when practicing being mindful, you’re actually remodelling the physical structures of your brain! Mindfulness looks different to everyone, for some it’s during a good run, or while painting, or others prefer the stillness of a sit-down meditation, there is no right or wrong way to being present, just start and remember to be kind to your wandering mind.
Nutrition, exercise, sleep and mindfulness are all interconnected. By eating well, you have the energy to exercise, you sleep better and your brain can think clearer. By doing small improvements in each of these categories, your body can start to function better and true healing can occur.
Dr. Caroline Méthé is a medically trained, naturopathic doctor in the Greater Toronto Area. As a professional primary health care practitioner with a holistic approach, she consults with patients of all ages at her clinic. Her approach as a Naturopathic Doctor in Canada treating children, digestive concerns and running a general family practice is to focus on root-caused diagnosis followed by effective, evidence-based treatment plans.