Whole health can't be achieved with just one or two strategies. Good physical health doesn't always translate to good mental health. A great diet doesn't always prevent disease and being physically fit won't always stop a heart attack.
We need an approach to health that considers all elements of being human.
The 7 Pillars do this by addressing multiple elements contributing to health and how they interact with one another.
They encompass physiological and mental health needs well as emotional, environmental and even spiritual elements of well being. Each of the 7 Pillars is essential for health, but they are most effective when working together for the benefit of the whole, as you'll see below.
Here are my 7 Pillars of Whole Health and why you need not just one, but all of them.
Poor food choices affect your digestion, absorption and available nutrients. Literally nothing can work if nutrients are not available; not growth or cognition, not detoxification, muscle movement or cell replication. Thoughts, sleep, immune function, hormones, neurotransmitters all of these rely on receiving the right nutrients to function. Get your food right first. It’s fundamental.
While you sleep, your cells renew and regenerate. Toxins are offloaded, unhealthy cells are destroyed, your brain makes sense of your experiences and emotions. Neurotransmitters and hormones are broken down, re-built and regulated. So is your metabolism. Think how much goes haywire when you’re not sleeping well. Now you know why.
Exercise is essential for muscle integrity, supporting bone structure and improving bone density. Exercise improves metabolic health, cardio fitness and weight management. It plays a huge role in central nervous system health, supports better sleep, improves nutrient absorption, blood circulation and detoxification. You can live without it, but how well?
All the diet and exercise in the world won’t save you if you’re stressed all the time. Stress causes poor sleep and insomnia. It's linked to high blood pressure and corresponding risk of heart disease and stroke. Long term chronic stress increases blood sugar levels, anxiety and depression. Managing stress is VITAL for whole health.
Sense of Purpose
Having a purpose gives you self worth and self esteem. A strong sense of purpose slows mental aging and cognitive decline. It has a positive impact on the brain and is associated with lower stress, lower cardio health risk, better hormone balance and reduced symptoms of depression.
Humans are pack animals. To thrive, we need support, security, belonging and acceptance. Without these we flounder. A lack of social support or unhealthy support systems (abusive relationships, isolation, abandonment) often leads to unhealthy behaviours; introversion, depression, alcohol and drug use, self harm. Healthy connections are essential to whole health.
Joy, Love, Passion and Compassion
We all need something that floats our boat. Something that makes us feel good, draws out the endorphins, gives us strength, a sense of power, fun and hope. This can come from many things listed above (sleep, exercise, friendship, purpose), and from actively choosing to do things - small actions daily, larger ones now and then - that feed your soul. Without it, we’re wilting flowers!
That's a glimpse of my fundamentals of whole health.
If your health is a little out of whack, ask yourself in which area are you lacking most? Make that your start point for improvement. It’s an easy first step to bring yourself back into a whole healthier balance.
If you need a hand with this, reach out!