The seeds of wellness you need to plant and nurture to achieve vibrant health
If you ask people what it is to be healthy, it’s quite likely that they will reply with something along the lines of someone who ‘looks healthy’. They look slim and fit and also don’t have any obvious diseases. Does this resonate with you?
Many people who would appear on the outside to be healthy – for example, athletes – may not be at all. How many times have we seen seemingly fit and healthy people end up developing cancer or neurological disease? Unfortunately, few of us are really fit and vibrantly healthy, and rates of chronic diseases and preventable lifestyle-related deaths continue to rise every year.
Most people nowadays are at least aware that their food and exercise choices are very important for good health. Some know about the need for stress-relieving activities such as meditation, and for an adequate amount of quality sleep. Fewer proactively do all of these things in reality. And for some it can go too far and become a bit of an obsession, with them always focusing on the latest fad diet or herbal remedy.
A fact that has been known since ancient times, but has largely forgotten or ignored in the modern era, is that true well-being can only be achieved via a holistic approach to health and wellness. One that incorporates not only the needs of the physical body but also of the emotional body, the mind and the spirit.
People who are looking to improve their health and achieve a state of true well-being need to look at multiple aspects of their life – ‘seeds’ of wellness that all need to be planted and nurtured together for optimal results. Let’s go through them quickly.
Diet and Nutrition
Most people are aware of the basics of what constitutes a healthy diet, i.e. a good balance of the major macronutrients (e.g. protein, carbs, fats, fruits, vegetables), with sufficient amounts of micronutrients (e.g. vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids, etc). That said, knowing how to eat well and do it in a sustainable way given today’s hectic lifestyles can easily be a big challenge.
What’s needed is less of a strict diet and more of a flexible dietary framework that can be easily followed and adapted based on what’s going on at any particular moment. And which also prioritises incremental progress over ‘perfection’ (which is unattainable), giving the best chance of achieving sustainable, long-term positive change.
Beyond specifically what we eat, since most of the soil used to grow our food is now nutrient-depleted, it’s reaching the point where it is necessary to take nutritional supplements in order to ensure we get all of the micronutrients that we need. A lot of the time, we can make educated guesses as to what we need. For all of the other times, functional medicine testing – for example, a hair tissue mineral analysis or an organic acids test – can tell us exactly what we are missing, so we can build a ‘bio-individualised’ nutrition plan, personalised specifically to your needs.
Particularly after prolonged periods of stress, the body may no longer have available sufficient quantities of certain nutrients that it requires to be able to eliminate toxins or metabolic by-products, or to maintain optimal function, reducing its ability to remain healthy. Therefore, specific supplementation with certain vitamins, minerals and other compounds, e.g. antioxidants like glutathione, might be crucial to help the body to thrive once again.
Another important aspect of this topic is that of allergies, sensitivities and intolerances – all of which can have a serious negative impact on the body.
- Allergies are very rapid immune reactions to specific molecules, mediated by what are called IgE antibodies; these reactions manifest themselves as tingling, swelling, hives, skin rashes, shortness of breath, etc.
- Sensitivities are much slower reactions to problematic items in our food, mediated by IgG antibodies, and which manifest as things like brain fog, eczema and psoriasis, joint pain, migraines, etc.
- Finally, intolerances occur when a foodstuff cannot be digested properly, perhaps because of a missing enzyme needed to break it down, or yeast or bacterial overgrowth or a parasite infection in the intestines; these show up as stomach ache, bloating & gas, or as loose stool.
The key to all three of these issues is to identify what is causing the issue (for example, via a food sensitivity test or a simple food diary) and to either eliminate the problem food from the diet and/or address the underlying condition that may be driving it.
Exercise and Movement
Regular exercise is vitally important for health, as it can improve cardiovascular capacity, muscle strength, joint flexibility, bone density and lymphatic system drainage, among other things.
Not only is it important to get the right amount of exercise, i.e. not too much or too little, but also the right mix of types of exercise. In addition, for women, it’s important to constantly adapt their regime based on where they are currently in their menstrual cycle. Unless you have a specific training goal in mind, a good balance of walking, cardio, high-intensity interval training (HIIT), resistance training, and stretching is worth striving for.
Beyond exercise, our bodies are designed to be active and our largely sedentary lifestyles these days are highly unhealthy. Finding every opportunity to move our body, for example by walking, dancing, doing yoga, is hugely important for overall wellbeing.
Rest and Sleep
One thing that we are collectively very bad at these days is being able to listen to our body and rest when it tells us that we need to take it easy. From making sure to take adequate time off from work to unwind to taking short breaks during the working day to recharge, breaking up the ‘always-on, high-stress lifestyle many of us have is vitally important.
Part of this is getting enough sleep, ideally around eight hours every night. The importance of going to bed at roughly the same time every day, preferably no later than around 10 pm, has been demonstrated beyond any doubt. This is primarily because this allows us to maintain an optimal circadian rhythm, reflected in our ever-cycling levels of cortisol and melatonin.
It is a sad fact that as part of everyday modern life, we are continually exposed to a huge number of toxins: e.g. pesticides and hormones in our food; chemicals in our water; particulates in the air we breathe; heavy metals and toxic compounds in everyday cosmetics and household products; and so on.
As described really well in the book by Dr Stephen Cabral, The Rain Barrel Effect, our body is able to detoxify and eliminate all kinds of toxins in the body on an ongoing basis – but only up to a certain point. Once that limit is reached the rain barrel ‘overflows’, which manifests as the onset of disease, e.g. inflammatory or autoimmune issues, metabolic syndrome, neurologic diseases or cancer.
The silver lining to this particularly grey cloud is that there are many things we can all do on an ongoing basis to both reduce the level of toxins that we are exposed to and support our body in its detoxification processes. For example, buying bio/organic food and a water filter, replacing problematic household products for much healthier alternatives, doing regular fasts and liver cleanses, healing old emotional traumas, and so on.
The Earth provides us with so much that we could use to support our health, for free, but with how we live these days we often miss out on all of the benefits that are available to us.
Simply being out in nature is one of the easiest and best ways both to manage acute stress and to reconnect with your body. If you have access to mountains or the ocean, or a lake, or to a forest, then take the time to be out there and fully in the present moment whenever you can.
Contrary to the key message that has been sent out in recent years on this topic by the medical establishment, sunlight is not the enemy. Humans evolved in the equatorial regions of the Earth, and thus are completely able to be out in the sun; indeed, the benefits this brings in terms of vitamin D production, mood elevation and in other ways are beyond question. Aim to get at least 15-20 minutes of exposure to the sun, over as much of your body as possible, every day. Avoid chemical-based sunscreen products, and simply ensure that you are never out long enough to burn – aim over time to slowly build up your protective tan.
Our response to stress is not in itself a bad thing – indeed, the ‘fight or flight response’ is there to ensure our ongoing survival, helping us to be able to deal with immediate threats in our external environment. Short elevations in cortisol and (nor)adrenaline are nothing to worry about and, in fact, may even make people feel really good.
The problem is that many people nowadays are in a state of chronic stress, with prolonged periods where they are pushing themselves beyond a sustainable level, unable to ‘switch off’ and recuperate, and thus slowly eroding the body’s energy reserves. Over time, this has serious effects on the so-called hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis that controls the stress response, as well as other vital hormonal systems in the body that control metabolism, the sex hormones, etc.
If things are taken too far, the HPA axis breaks down completely, and the person experiences what is often referred to as ‘burnout’ or ‘adrenal fatigue’.
Given all of the above, it is extremely important for people to find stress management practices that work for them, and to perform them on a regular basis. This can include breathing exercises, meditations, personal routines or rituals, taking scheduled ‘time outs’ – anything which gets you out of your head for a while and lets you recharge.
In addition to getting better at looking after our physical health, it is no less important to address any toxic emotions we may be carrying around and to release any negative energy we may have been storing in our body. These are both just as toxic for someone as the chemicals and physical toxins we are exposed to in our environment.
Negative energies and emotions, if not processed and released when they arise, are ultimately stored in the body and ultimately manifest themselves as what we call ‘dis-ease’. In a book by Louise Hayes, Heal Your Body, a list of where specific negative emotions can manifest themselves is provided – check the list out and see if anything there resonates with you.
There are a number of different practices that can help rebalance emotional well-being. Guided meditations can help, as can positive affirmations. Nurturing feelings of gratitude will automatically raise your vibration, as would any practice that would instil a more positive mindset. Working with some form of life coach or therapist to explore old emotional traumas and false beliefs can be very challenging, but also very rewarding.
Beyond our own body and emotions, there are many things people can do to enhance the environment that they live in, to support optimal wellbeing.
Perhaps the most obvious is to make a healthier home. Most everyday household and cosmetic products contain many dangerous chemicals, such as parabens and phthalates, many of which are known to potentially cause cancer. Replacing these brands with other, more health-conscious options is highly recommended.
A bigger topic, and thus perhaps more challenging to deal with, is that of a person’s home life, i.e. their relationship with their family and friends. Problems with any of the major relationships someone has in their life are incredibly stressful, and ideally should be addressed early before they have a chance to fester and ultimately lead to a crisis moment.
Beyond that, if someone has a bad boss, or is simply in the wrong job (i.e. doing something not aligned with their core values or beliefs) then this can be a major driver of burnout.
On a different note, often times we create a bad ‘information environment’ for ourselves, for example by watching or reading the news, or actively following negative or otherwise stressful social media accounts. All of these play on fear in order to attract and retain attention, which is ultimately not in your best interest. Detox yourself from such sources of information!
Spirituality is a very big word, that can easily put people off. Here at Seeds of Wellness, we define it as any practice that helps someone to align more closely with their true self and thereby get more insight into who they really are at their core and their purpose in life.
There are so many different types of practices here that it would be best not to list any out here in this article. Suffice to say that what will work for one person is completely unique to them; never feel that you should do anything in particular. Indeed, spirituality is an ongoing journey, where what works will change over time, linked to your changing needs, knowledge and insights.
Spirituality is starting to explore different practices and being open to different experiences. Along the way, there will be moments where a practice or a specific ritual will just click and you feel like you are ‘coming back home’. Spirituality is coming back home – to your true self and the vibration of love.
In summary, by planting and nurturing all of these seeds, through programmes customised to your unique situation and needs, you have much greater chances of achieving your health goals than just by focusing on diet and exercise.