Isn’t this the million dollar question?! The health and wellness industry is booming, many people are trying to make healthier choices for themselves and their families. However, the sheer volume of information and contradictions out there on the internet and other sources make things very confusing for the average consumer.
One of the reasons why there is so much information and contradicting information about health is because we are all individuals - we are unique human beings with different biological constitutions, diets, lifestyles, living environments, cultures, social networks, support networks, upbringing, childhood experiences, life experiences, personalities, beliefs, and other conditionings. All of these factors and more come together to shape us into the person we are today, and contribute to our health or disease. Because of our uniqueness, there really isn’t a one-way-fits all approach to health. Hence, you may hear about a health recommendation one person swears by just to have another person disagree with it because it didn't work for them.
The way I understand health is that there is no ONE factor that is solely responsible for your health or disease. What matters is the combination of factors coming together to create an outcome. This is why, there are scenarios where one person may seemingly do everything ‘right’ (eat healthy, exercise, do Yoga, etc) and end up with a serious illness whereas, another person who have 'unhealthy' habits (smoke, eat poorly, etc) can live to be 100! This is because so many factors come into play when it comes to our health and our lives. The few factors that we observe (from afar) do not give us the full picture of a person's state of health. Even though we are aware of many factors that can influence health, their interactions with each other and how they influence each other in creating a health outcome are still far from our comprehension. And we can be pretty certain that there are likely many more factors at play which we are unaware of and therefore not accounting for.
Understanding that we don’t have all the pieces of the puzzle doesn’t mean that we give up trying to improve our health and way of life. Even though there is no guarantee in our health outcome, there are many things that we can do which could make significant differences in our health and quality of life and can greatly reduce our risks for chronic diseases.
I see the interconnectedness in all things in our lives - health, internal and external environment, the people around us, the world, and the universe. Therefore, to be truly healthy, one must take care of oneself holistically in body, mind, and soul. In fact, this is not just a theory, there is a large body of research that is starting to explain this mind-body connection and how spirituality plays a role in our health.
One of the biggest health challenges in our modern life is stress! Stress is a normal response in our body that helps to protect us and allows us to adapt to our changing environment. This was essential to our survival as early humans. However, the stresses we encounter today are very different from the stresses our body had evolved to encounter. Stress is a huge topic and I will follow this up in more detail in future posts. For now, let's keep things simple - our bodies are not made to deal with long-term, persistent stress. When our bodies are under chronic stress, with little outlet for the stress, the stress accumulates in our bodies and can contribute to disease. In fact, chronic stress is strongly linked to chronic inflammation, leading to chronic illness.
There are many different types of stresses in our lives - physical, mental, and emotional. The more we are able to lessen the burden of stress on our bodies, the better the chance we have to stay healthy for longer. This is why our diet, living environment and lifestyle are often the first things we try to change when we wish to become healthier. The right food we put into our bodies can provide us with nourishment whereas junk foods cause stress in our bodies. The cleaner our living environment, the less toxins our bodies will have to deal with - less stress. Practicing a healthy lifestyle (good sleep, exercise, etc) allows our bodies to deal better with stress. Therefore, the secret to a healthier life is to reduce chronic stress as much as possible.
Diet and lifestyle are obvious, well-recognized, and important factors of health. However, our mental and emotional states are just as important, and I would even argue that it is more important, in our modern day society. Our worldview, personalities, attitudes, fears, insecurities, beliefs and more determine the decisions we make in our lives and ultimately shapes our reality. Psychological stressors trigger physiological changes in our bodies, such that when we are stressed mentally or emotionally, we are also stressing our bodies physically. Since our psychological state shapes the decisions we make in life, big or small, the way we think and feel can either help us move forward in a positive way or keep us stuck in circumstances that continue to create stress to us psychologically and physically.
Being able to find an outlet or release for our stress is immensely important. The way we learn to cope with stress happens early on in our childhood and we carry this with us into adulthood. If we learned a healthy way to express and process our emotions/feelings when we were young, we will deal better and have a better health outcome in adulthood. Luckily, this isn’t set in stone. Even if we did not learn a healthy coping style as children, the good news is that we can learn to do it now.
You can visit my YouTube Channel here to find videos of stress relief practices. I will be updating my videos regularly, so make sure you subscribe to my channel if you want to stay up to date to educational videos, health and wellness tips, and mind-body practices to help you understand and manage stress and anxiety.
What is the number one challenge you are facing on your health journey? Feel free to reach out to me or leave a comment below. I would love to connect with you!