Once upon a time, health was commonly defined as merely the absence of disease. In fact, in many parts of the world today, many health professionals still practice through this outdated and antiquated paradigm. The dominant healthcare culture tends to view the body as a machine, capable of black and white states of health and illness.
This approach can be helpful if you have a condition that is quantifiable and measurable. (Think, for example, of infections, trauma and critical disease.) However, the issue is that this view of health doesn’t account for other factors that also affect our health in an indirect, unquantifiable way, such as sleep quality, stress, diet and emotional well-being.
Besides, ‘the absence of disease’ seems like a rather depressing definition of health, doesn’t it? Alternatively, I believe that true health involves a much more holistic picture; certainly an absence of disease, yes. But what about vitality? Energy? Happiness and contentment? A body that serves you for many long years at optimal capacity?
I’ve highlighted ten areas below that I personally believe helps us reach true health, in a broader definition of the word. I.e. total wellness for your body, mind and soul!
1. Cleanse and Detox
Even if your diet is clean and nutritious, our bodies need some extra TLC to keep them running in optimal condition. Stress, sleep deprivation and environmental toxins also place an unnatural strain on our bodies that requires extra healing and support.
A yearly (or more) detox and cleanse is the spring clean that your body needs to clear built up toxins and return to its natural state of wellness. We believe it’s hard to feel deeply, vibrantly and truly healthy without making detoxes a priority in your wellness plan.
2. Use Nature’s Superfoods
In the perfect world, we would eat fresh, organic produce at the peak of its nutritional quality straight from the garden. Our food would be zinging with goodness and healthy eating would be effortless.
Sadly, the state of our modern foods is a far cry from this idyllic picture. Soil depletion, food transportation and other factors have combined to make our foods a lot less nutritious than they used to be.
That’s where superfoods come in! As a naturally potent source of essential vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, eating superfoods can help to seal the nutritional gaps in our modern diet.
3. Heal and Nurture Your Gut
Good gut health is truly at the foundation of vitality and wellness. Your body irrevocably relies on the gut to transport nutrients from your food and into the body. This is ultimately how we get the fuel and nutrients we need to thrive – our body only has a finite supply in storage before it needs to top up!
Your gut can also lie at the heart of many health issues. IBS, bloating and disordered bowel habits are the uncomfortable symptoms of a sluggish gut. Worse yet, increasing research suggests that leaky gut may even suppress your immune system and lead to more serious autoimmune disorders.
You may have the healthiest diet in the world, but the quality of your food – and your health – is really only as good as your gut!
4. Reduce Stress and Addressing Suppressed Emotions
Think back to the last time you had a really scary nightmare. Did you wake up in a cold sweat, heart racing and limbs shaking? Chances are your blood pressure and cortisol (the ‘stress’ hormone) would have skyrocketed, as your body initiated the ‘fight or flight’ response.
A simple nightmare demonstrates the profound power that stress has on our physical bodies. What happens in our minds might not be real, yet it exerts a very real effect on our health.
Over prolonged time, stress can lead to chronic inflammation, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and weight issues. It suppresses the immune systems, clouds our thought, reduces our productivity and casts a big black shadow over our lives.
Thankfully, yoga, meditation, visualization, regular rest, work/life balance and stress reducing techniques counteract stress and create deeper health.
5. Find Your Life Purpose
Imagine this…. You have a physically well body but you absolutely hate your job. You detest going to the office each day. Every night before work, you feel a sense of dread as you envision trying to slog through another 9 to 5.
It’s hard to imagine vitality in this scenario, isn’t it? No matter how well your body is, your mind has to come along for the party if you want a genuine sparkle in your step. According to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, all humans have an innate yearning for self-actualization once their physical needs are fulfilled.
So go for it! Finding a purpose – professional or otherwise – in life will fill you with a deep pride and contentment. It will energize you before you even reach for your green smoothie.
6. Nurture Your Mind
If happiness and fulfillment is an important piece in the puzzle of true health, depression and anxiety are the ultimate antithesis.
Few things suck your body’s energy like stress and sadness do. Your mental faculties are overloaded (no room for happy, self-actualizing thoughts there) and your sleep, work, and personal relationships suffer.
Whilst our bodies were engineered to equip with short, intense periods of stress (such as running from danger), our systems cannot cope with this constant state. Stress suppresses immunity, interferes with digestion, decreases sex drive, causes chronic inflammation and sucks vitality from you quick-smart.
Spend more time in nature, get plenty of rest and quality sleep, exercise regularly, try relaxation techniques such as meditation and yoga, use essential oils to calm the mind, seek professional help, and incorporate more of these foods to help boost your mood. All of these tips can offer profound mental health benefits!
For more ways to overcome depression naturally, click here.
7. Prevent Your Risk Of Cancer
One third of the most common cancers can be prevented via diet and lifestyle changes. That’s a lot of unnecessary heartache and suffering! Doing all we can to look after our bodies doesn’t just help us to thrive each day, but it provides the foundation for a long, healthy and happy life.
Simple things such as increasing your intake of fruit and vegetables, and reducing processed foods is a great starting point! Limiting smoked, processed meats and highly refined carbohydrates helps too. Keeping active and quitting smoking are also crucial!
8. Stick To Simple, Clean, Healthy Eating
Whilst we know that good food is important to our health, so many people are overwhelmed and totally confused about what they should actually eat. Worse still, the word ‘diet’ is synonymous for many people with miserable deprivation, starvation and dangerous yo-yo weight cycling.
For us, a good ‘diet’ is really super simple. In essence, if you eat food in its whole, natural form, listen to your body, eat mindfully and include LOTS of fresh fruit and veggies, you’ll be winding up your wellness dial!
9. Manage Your Cravings For The Sweet Stuff
Sugar has been exposed as somewhat the ‘white heroin’ of food. It’s addictive, has been used unethically and causes a wide range of health issues.
Whilst no one’s really disputing the health consequences of sugar, many people are at a loss for what to do about it. Once sugar has its addictive hooks in your system, it can be pretty hard to break that stranglehold.
You can try going cold turkey, or reducing your intake to just natural sugars found in fruits, or nutritive natural sweeteners such as coconut sugar, maple syrup, and honey to help curb your sweet tooth. They’re still sugars though, so aim for no more than 2-3 treats ie. a raw dessert! But you can enjoy some fresh fruit daily.
10. Self-Care With Nature’s Finest
Move over chemical laden skincare and beauty products!
Plants contain a rich tapestry of natural chemicals and phytonutrients that can be used to relax or energize your mind, support your body’s natural healing processes, help you sleep, soothe your skin, and so much more!
Aromatherapy, essential oils and herbs are incredibly powerful tools to assist you in achieving total body wellness.
Holistic health is truly a deeply complex conversation, which is worthy of more time and energy than this article allows. In fact, it’s more accurately a lifelong journey.
This article is adapted from Food Matters: What is the definition of Wellness?