There are a few articles out there that have mentioned the “pillars of health”, but they all vary in what those pillars actually are.
Each of these pillars represents an entire area of health that can be examined down to the most minute details. However, I’m going to focus on things from a high level to give you a good idea of where to start – if you’re interested in improving these areas in your own life.
My 5 Pillars of Health
My Five Pillars of Health are: Diet & Nutrition, Physical Fitness, Sleep & Recovery, Mental Health, and Community.
1. Diet & Nutrition
If you’re expending energy in your life (which if you’re alive, you are), you also need to consume energy in the form of food. The quality of fuel you put into your body is directly related to the output level you’re able to achieve.
Read More: How To Overhaul Your Lifestyle for Health
Looking at the sheer volume of food that we consume over our lifetimes helped put this in perspective for me. If you expose your body to toxic, processed shit constantly for 30 years – you’re bound to have worse health outcomes than if you consume REAL FOOD!
Tips for Improving Your Diet and Nutrition
- Eat Real Food.
- I think we all know what food should look like. In my mind I picture a plate with a piece of meat, some starch like potatoes or rice, and a serving of vegetables. However, due to convenience or habits a lot of people fall into a trap of eating highly-processed, calorie dense foods. The fact is, eating a plate with a healthy protein-rich portion of meat, combined with a high-volume, low calorie starch, and a large serving of vegetables will be much more filling than something that just spikes your blood sugar for 20 minutes (like fast food).
- Make Small Improvements Over Time.
- The best way to move towards a healthy diet that can last a lifetime is to make small adjustments along the way. Perhaps you cut out sugary drinks first, then fried food, and then fast food altogether. By making small changes, you give yourself a better chance of sustaining your changes than by cutting out all food you deem “unhealthy” at once.
- Track What You Eat.
- Tracking your food intake is valuable for a couple reasons: it lets you know how much you’re eating and it empowers you to make better choices based on your dietary needs. If weight loss is your goal, track your calories and figure out how many calories you can eat on a daily basis and still lose weight (Use this: Basal Metabolic Rate Calculator). If your goal is to gain muscle, eat about 1g of protein per pound of body weight per day, and eat in a SLIGHT caloric surplus.
2. Physical Fitness
Fitness is not being an elite athlete. Fitness is being able to complete your daily tasks without straining or getting out of breath. When you’re in shape, you’re empowered to do more with less stress.
Tips for Improving Your Physical Fitness
- Walk More.
- The best way to kick off a healthier lifestyle is to move more. If you increase your daily steps from 2,000 to 10,000 – you’ll burn more calories throughout the day. As long as your don’t increase your caloric intake, you’ll lose weight and improve your general health.
- Lift Weights and Build Muscle for Longevity.
- As we age, we tend to lose muscle mass and strength. Research from UCLA health suggests that the more muscle mass older Americans have, the less likely they are to die prematurely. Muscle mass is often viewed as negative because having more muscle mass can lead to a higher body-mass index. However, additional muscle in old age protects us from injury like falls, and can even maintain higher metabolic rates despite aging.
- Be Willing To Struggle Physically & Embrace Progressive Overload.
- Fitness is achieved by stressing your body. So to get better at running, you’ll need to run. To get stronger, you’ll need to pick up heavy things. If you’re out of shape, working out will be difficult at first, but over time your body will adapt to the physical stress and you’ll be able to handle more and more.
3. Sleep & Recovery
If you’re living your life and moving around, you’re accumulating fatigue. Sleep plays an essential role in recovering from physical strain and for re-energizing your mind and body.
Tips for Improving Your Sleep and Recovery
- Make Your Bedroom Dark, Cool and Comfortable.
- It blows my mind when I hear about how some people sleep. I know a guy who falls asleep on the couch while watching TV, every night. And then gets up in the middle of the night and stumbles into his bedroom. It seems obvious that there is a more ideal sleep arrangement. When you make your room dark your body starts naturally producing melatonin, which helps make you sleepy. When it’s cool, your body also is primed for sleep. And if your bed is comfortable, you allow yourself to relax even more. All of these things work together to create a perfect environment for sleeping. If you can’t make these happen, start with buying a sleeping mask (I like this one).
- Set Aside Time Before Bed To Wind Down and Turn Off Devices.
- If you’re arguing on Twitter while staring at your glowing phone before bed, you’re going to be more stressed out which can make it harder to fall asleep. Dim the lights, relax your body, and turn off electronic distractions to give yourself a chance to wind down before going to bed.
- Cut Out Caffeine Later In The Day.
- Caffeine is a stimulant, and just because you feel like it has worn off…that may not be the case. The half life of caffeine is around 8 hours. This means if you drink a cup of coffee at 2pm, half of the caffeine in that coffee is still in your system at 10pm. If you’re having trouble falling asleep, you may want to keep a closer eye on your caffeine consumption.
4. Mental Health
This category of health is incredibly broad, but all of the other pillars in this list play a role in creating a healthy mindset and mental frameworks for living.
Tip for Improving Your Mental Health
- I’m a newbie at meditating, but now that I’ve started I absolutely love it. Meditation does not have to be complicated. I just set a timer on my phone, lie down, close my eyes, and focus on my breath until the timer goes off. It helps be disconnect from my devices and bring myself into the present moment. Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now has had a big impact on me as far as understanding the importance of being as present as possible and living in THIS MOMENT.
- Minimize Stress.
- Stress is a part of everyone’s lives at some point. When you take a step back and look at what is stressing you out, you may realize that some of these things are either unnecessary or avoidable. Too much stress can make it impossible to be productive and present. If possible try outsourcing, or seeking alternatives to, things that cause stress in your life. A final tip is to move to a new environment that is free of the things that stress you out.
- Declutter Your Life.
- It is so easy to be absolutely bombarded with information from social media, news sites, and online media. With a smartphone in your hand this barrage can feel unavoidable. Simplifying your life, eliminating distractions, notifications, and excess information, can help keep you on the path of pursuing your goals and achieving big things. We all carry baggage with us, whether it’s physical stuff or negative thoughts and emotions. These can all stand in the way of achieving the life we want. LET THEM GO!
- If you’re struggling with mental health, educating yourself and reading about others in your situation can be a great help in working through your issues. (I understand that some mental health issues may require medical treatment and other interventions.) When you know how others have handled their issues when in similar situations to you, it can make you feel less alone and more empowered to work through your issues to improve your mental health. Start Here: The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson
Having connection within a community is crucial for living a fulfilled, happy life. My family has been an absolute rock for me since I was a child, and they haven’t strayed for my entire life.
You are the sum of the people you spend the most time with. This isn’t necessarily true, but who you spend time with definitely influences your lifestyle and health decisions.
Tips for Finding and Improving Your Community
- Find Group Activities Around Things You Love.
- One of the best ways to find people that you’ll connect with is to start with an activity. For example, I really love working out, and about two years ago I started going to a CrossFit gym. I was so pleasantly surprised to find a group of people who were passionate about the same things as me, and we could struggle together through the workouts every day.
- Initiate Gatherings Of Friends and Family.
- It can feel like your friends and family are all too busy to spend time with you. However, if you take initiative to invite your loved ones to events, dinners, and other gathering – you’ll find that they will make time to spend time with you. And when you organize the get together, you get to decide who comes, what you do, and where you go.
- Be a Connector!
- I’ve struggled with this when I was younger because it felt like I had my friends and I didn’t necessarily want to share them, or I felt like they wouldn’t get along. However, I’ve enriched my life by introducing my friends to others in my network. The guy who you think of as just your friend may be someone that another connection needs to meet to reach his or her individual goals or pursuits. When you introduce your friends to each other you actually strengthen your existing bonds and relationships.