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The 4 Pillars of Optimal Health

The 4 Pillars of Optimal Health

Here I will outline what I believe are the four pillars of optimal health — in other words, the four lifestyle factors you can manage to improve your health. These are all based on sound science, to the best of my knowledge.

The four pillars are: nutrition, physical fitness, sleep and stress control. I will cover these four pillars here without going into too much detail. It goes without saying that if you smoke, drink excessively, or do drugs, then diet or exercise are the least of your worries.

1. Nutrition

Optimal nutrition is all about eating real food, not processed crap. The problem is that most people have been misinformed about nutrition their entire lives, so they really have no idea what food is actually healthy.

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Disease-promoting foods that should be avoided include:

  • Added sugar in all its forms, including High Fructose Corn Syrup.
  • Refined wheat. This is just as bad as sugar.
  • Trans fats should be avoided at all costs.
  • Seed and vegetable oils should also be avoided.
  • Most highly processed foods: “If it looks like it was made in a factory, don’t eat it.”

Healthy foods that should be eaten:

  • Meat, fish and eggs. Grass fed/wild caught is better.
  • Vegetables should be eaten every day.
  • Tubers like potatoes and sweet potatoes are fine for healthy people.
  • Fruits, in moderation.
  • Some grains like oats and white rice may be okay for healthy people.
  • Nuts can be eaten, in moderation. Unroasted nuts are preferred.
  • High-fat dairy like cheese and cream. Grass-fed/pastured is best.
  • Fats and oils such as butter, coconut oil and olive oil.
  • All sorts of spices, salt is fine in moderation.

People with diabetes should not eat any grains, starches, sugar or fruit (except perhaps berries). Overweight people should eat no more than 100–150 grams of carbs per day, possibly even less if weight loss stalls. A large part of calories should come from saturated and monounsaturated fats. Excess Omega-6 fats should be avoided, and Omega-3 consumption is encouraged.

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Healthy animals should be the primary source of protein. Sedentary people need little while active individuals or athletes need a lot.

2. Physical Fitness

When it comes to physical fitness, there are sports and activities that are more efficient than others, but in my opinion just doing something is critical. If you like walking, walk. If you like swimming, swim. If you like lifting weights, well — you get the idea.

Personally, I think the calories burned during exercise are useless if you are not on a calorie restricted diet and therefore I don’t recommend you think about calories when exercising, try to focus on improving your physical fitness instead. Optimal exercise would involve a combination of strength training, low and high intensity cardio, and stretching, but the key focus should really be on doing something that you enjoy. If you enjoy doing something, it is much more likely that you will stick to it.

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3. Sleep

Sleep is critical for both physical and mental health, and often ignored. It is very important to rule out a sleeping disorder such as sleep apnea. See a doctor as soon as possible if you think you might have one.

I have compiled a few tips to improve sleep:

  • Go to sleep and wake up at a similar time each day.
  • Don’t eat or drink in the last 3 hours before bed.
  • Sleep in a room that is completely dark.
  • Reserve your bedroom for sleeping.
  • Dampen your lights about 1–2 hours before bed.
  • Have bright lights in the morning, from the sun if possible.
  • Don’t ingest any caffeine after 2 p.m.
  • Take a Magnesium supplement.
  • Exercise regularly.

4. Stress Control

Stress control is also important for physical and mental health, and it is often overlooked. When it comes to stress, avoiding unnecessary obligations is important. In other words, simplifying your life as much as possible can work wonders.

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If you feel obligated to do certain things, ask yourself if they are something you really need to be doing, or if you can delegate to someone else. Also, writing down a schedule to organize your day can be great. Certain supplements like Magnesium and Omega-3 may help, as well as eating a healthy diet, getting adequate sleep, and exercising. Meditation is very effective too.

Featured photo credit: treehugger via media.treehugger.com

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Jae Berman

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How to Keep Yourself Awake at Work Without Caffeine

How to Keep Yourself Awake at Work Without Caffeine

Keeping yourself awake at work can be a real challenge when you’re bored, exhausted or sleep-deprived.

But before you reach for that can of Red Bull, bottle of Mountain Dew, or pot of coffee, try these healthy remedies to stimulate your 5 different senses and help you stay awake at work:

Sight – Visual Stimulation

The first thing you do when you wake up is opening your eyes, so your visual stimulation is very important to keeping your energy level high.

1. Maximize your exposure to light.

Your body’s internal rhythm is regulated by the amount of light you receive. The greater your exposure, the more alert you will feel.

Open the shades and let in the sunlight. Step outside or look out the window. Turn on all the artificial lights in your office or around your work space.

2. Exercise your eyes (or give them a break).

Roll your eyes up and down, side to side and diagonally. Rotate them clockwise and then counterclockwise. Squeeze them shut and then open them wide. Do this several times.

Reading and sitting in front of a computer screen for long periods can lead to eye fatigue.

Take regular breaks with deliberate blinking and looking out into the distance.

3. Take note of your environment.

Learn to enjoy people-watching. Observe their activities, speech, body language and interactions with others. Notice the details of building, trees and other objects around you, including their color, shape and size.

By doing this, you’re not only relaxing your eye muscles but also calming your mind.

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Hearing – Auditory Stimulation

What you hear or listen to have direct effect on your brain. This is why we feel so annoyed and sometimes angry when we hear construction noise when we’re working.

4. Engage in conversation.

Talk to a friend or colleague. Trade funny stories. Discuss your business venture, a creative idea, the latest political scandal, or any other topic that interests you.

Practice mindful listening to what you and the other person are saying. Tune into the tone, volume and content of the conversation.

Learn how to practice better listening from this guide:

Why Listen to Reply Instead of Understand Is the Key to Failure

5. Listen to upbeat music.

Try hip hop, rock or jazz to keep you alert. Instrumental, non-distracting music works best.

Sing, whistle, and hum along if you can. Plug in the earphones if you must.

Smell – Olfactory Stimulation

If you’re feeling sleepy and suddenly smell the coffee, you’ll probably feel more energetic. This is why smell is an influential stimulation.

6. Work your nose.

Aroma therapists recommend essential oils of peppermint (to boost energy), rosemary (to build awareness), eucalyptus (to increase oxygen), cedarwood  (to activate your mind), and cinnamon (to improve your reaction time).

If you don’t have essential oils on hand, you can use lotions or burning candles that provide the same scents.

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Citrus like lemons, limes, grapefruits and oranges are also natural olfactory stimulants. Get a whiff of these citrus scents to stay awake.

Taste – Gustatory Stimulation

If you want an energetic day at work, you can’t let your tongue feeling plain and flavorless.

7. Have a good breakfast.

Start off with the most important meal of the day.

Think fresh, light and healthy: bran cereals, wholegrain breads, fruits, and yogurt.

Nix the heavy stuff like sausages, greasy eggs or pancakes.

Need some breakfasts inspirations? Check out these ideas:

20 Healthy Breakfast Choices That Will Save You Time

8. Drink lots of water.

Keep a glass or bottle of H2O near you and sip from it throughout the day. Dehydration can leave you feeling tired, sluggish and sleepy.

So make sure you drink enough water throughout the day. Not sure how much to drink? This can help you:

How Much Water Should You Drink Each Day (and How Much Is Too Much for You)

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Think that you’ve been drinking too little water? Try these friendly reminders:

3 Best Apps To Help You Drink Much More Water

9. Eat energy-boosting snacks.

Nuts and fruits (like bananas, apples and strawberries) are sure bets. Pairings with staying power include baby carrots with a low-fat cream cheese dip; celery sticks with peanut butter; red peppers with hummus; and plain yogurt with granola.

Avoid carb-filled, sugary snacks that make you crash and leave you feeling tired.

Here you can find some healthy snack ideas:

25 Healthy Snack Recipes To Make Your Workday More Productive

Touch – Tactile Stimulation

Last but not least, your sense of touch will make you physically feel more energetic and less stressful.

10. Splash cold water on your face.

Do this in the morning, during bathroom breaks and in the afternoon. Being exposed to cold water pushes your body to adjust and regulate its internal temperature, which in turn keeps you alert.

This works the same as you take a cold shower to increase mood and alertness. Take a look at this article to learn more about it:

5 Surprising Benefits of Cold Showers

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11. Use acupressure.

Apply pressure to, massage, or tap on the stimulation points of your body. These include the top of your head, the back of your neck, the back of your hand (between the thumb and index finger), just below the knee and your earlobes.

Watch this video to learn about the acupressure points you can try:

12. Get moving.

Move away from your chair and stand, walk, run or climb the stairs. Feel the earth under your feet. Stretch and twist. Do jumping jacks, lunges, push-ups and back bends.

And if you need to move more discreetly, wiggle your feet, bounce your knee up and down, scrunch your toes, or cross your legs.

You can also try some simple stretches and exercises at your desk:

Unlike addictive caffeine fixes, these remedies activate your senses, engage your attention, amp up your energy and prevent morning grogginess and afternoon slumps without the side effects or health risks.

Pick a few ways from this list of suggestions and practice them consistently. And when you do this consistently, you’ll soon see the positive results — a more energetic and productive you at work.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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