The “basics” of cultivating health are very foundational and as such are often times pretty routine and not very sexy. Yet, until the “basics” have been addressed its much more challenging to identify the underlying causes of symptoms. Chances are that many of the basics are recommendations that you might have grown up with and maybe even achieved until life got a little too hectic or complex and what started as a temporary detour turned into a major roadtrip to an unhealthy destination. There’s good news though. There is a way back…
When initially interviewing a client I frequently will start a session by inquiring about these “basics”:
What do you eat? When do you eat? Do you enjoy cooking?
How’s your sleep? How many hours of sleep per night? Do you wake feeling refreshed?
How many hours per day do you sit? Do you exercise regularly? Do you have conditions that limit how much you move?
How would you gauge your stress levels? Do you know any relaxation techniques? Do you use them regularly?
What’s the quality of your most key relationships? Do you feel supported in your life?
How much fun do you have? Do you enjoy your life? Do you feel in charge? You get the idea…
The reason it’s valuable to investigate these issues is the fact that all of these factors can have a profound effect on your health. As a group, they are referred to as modifiable lifestyle factors – the things we do on a daily basis that we can control or modify in some way to work for us...or not.
Many of the chronic degenerative diseases that limit one’s vitality and activity are also known as preventable lifestyle illnesses. Emphasis on preventable and lifestyle. Heart disease, hypertension, Type 2 diabetes, cancer, obesity, osteoarthritis, etc are not random acts of bad luck or exclusively poor genetics. They are more frequently the end-result of our daily lifestyle choices, ie our modifiable lifestyle factors. As such, a different choice can yield a different outcome. That’s the good news.
I’m not saying it’s always easy to make the healthier lifestyle choice but it does come down to one’s priorities and values. For many of us, we may not have necessarily learned healthy choices as kids or we’ve developed unhealthy habits that served us in the short run but over time, set us on a trajectory of poor health and rapid aging.
So, what exactly are the modifiable lifestyle factors?
The list varies a little according to different frames of reference but I would list them as food, movement, sleep/rest, stress response and relationships/community. The choices one makes in these areas can have a profound effect on how we feel and function. In fact, imbalances in these areas can be at the heart of what ails us. Yet, because they lack novelty by virtue of being repetitive daily habits, we tend to dismiss their power and influence.
I will frequently emphasize their importance by comparing them to the hardscape of a garden. Think of any garden that has been particularly appealing to you. Chances are that it will look amazing in any season because of the “bones” of the garden provided by the more permanent structures and plantings that are in place year-round. They provide the foundation of the garden. Similarly, attention to the basics of your food, movement, sleep/rest, stress response and relationships provide the strong foundation to your wellness and health.
When I’m developing a treatment strategy with clients, I frequently will incorporate suggestions and recommendations that focus on providing more balance in these areas as needed. And I remind clients that its not always necessary to do “more” but oftentimes helpful to do “different”.
These seemingly innocuous daily habits of ours are so key to our goal of better health and symptom resolution that they will be the focus of many of the upcoming Harbor Healthy Lifestyle Blog posts. Learn more from reliable sources about how the basics can influence your health and wellbeing. You’ll also find practical ideas and tips to help build a more solid foundation one small step at a time. (Not receiving our posts? Sign up in the footer below.)
How about you? Do you have the basics covered? What works for you?