If there’s anything I’ve learned in my decades of studying Functional Medicine, it’s that health is multidimensional.
We need to approach health through many different channels for a meaningful impact. One recent study backs this up, showing that exercise can’t make up for the risks of a bad diet and that eating well without exercising doesn’t reduce all-cause mortality. It did find that together, exercising and eating a healthy diet significantly reduces the risk of certain cancers, cardiovascular disease, and death.
And while eating a nutrient-dense diet and getting lots of movement are vital to optimal health, I’ve seen some other key factors in what it takes to go from feeling just okay to feeling great.
Here are the eight essential areas I use myself to feel my best:
Community: A sense of community is correlated to longer, healthier, and happier lives. Volunteering, joining a class, and prioritizing time with loved ones are all ways to strengthen your social bonds and support your health in the process. Get involved in things you care about and your community connections will naturally fall into place.
Spirit: A sense of spirit is like a very strong self-awareness, encompassing our inner passions, values, and beliefs, everything that makes us, us. Our values and personal truths keep us grounded in integrity and deepening this connection to ourselves gives us strength and resilience. Try daily “gut-checks” to listen to your intuition and taking quiet downtime to reflect, journal, meditate, or pray—whatever helps you feel more connected to yourself.
Emotional Health: Our emotional health impacts our physical health; there is no way around it. Traumas and toxic beliefs are scary to unpack but when you do, you give yourself freedom and the opportunity for dynamic growth. Work with a coach, speak up for yourself, and let your feelings out. Deciding to focus on your emotional health as much as your physical health will have big payoffs for your wellness and happiness throughout life.
Relationships: Do the people in your life lift you up, inspire you, give you joy? Or do they pull you down, cause stress, and create conflict? The relationships we experience have a cumulative effect, impacting both short- and long-term health. Recognizing and releasing a toxic relationship can be just as powerful for our health as eliminating an environmental toxin. Spend time and energy supporting the relationships you already have and don’t be afraid to cultivate a new friendship with someone you’re interested in getting to know better, chances are they could use a new friend too.
Purpose: Research shows having a sense of purpose actually relates to living a longer, happier life. When we feel we are sharing our unique gifts with others we feel useful, appreciated, validated, and meaningful. Think about what you feel you are best at, what you enjoy the most, and how you can put those things together to participate in a cause that matters to you.
Mindset: Your mindset is your collection of attitudes—how you respond to challenges, how you express gratitude, how you manage your time, and how you take care of yourself are just some of the parts of your life that you can assess to get a better understanding of your mindset. One study found that those with a “stress-is-enhancing” mindset, as opposed to a “stress-is-debilitating” mindset, had fewer psychological stress responses like anxiety, depression, and anger.
Nutrition: What we fuel our bodies with affects everything—energy levels, weight, immune system, hormones, mood, all of it. And though the nutritional landscape can get confusing with all of the conflicting dietary advice, there is one major thing that all experts agree on: eat plenty of colorful vegetables. Think about eating the rainbow each and every day and you’ll be on the right path. Then, incorporate clean high-quality protein sources like grass-fed beef or organic gluten-free tempeh, along with plenty of healthy fats like avocados, walnuts, and olive oil. Don’t forget probiotic-rich foods, too, like sauerkraut and kimchi.
Movement: Exercise is called a polypill because it does so much to benefit the entire body. Cardiovascular health, mood, metabolism, bone strength, the list goes on and on. But you don’t have to go to the gym to move your body. Find an activity you like, something that is fun, and make it part of your wellness routine. Even a short walk outside can work wonders.
Health is not a one-and-done endeavor. I’ve personally experienced the powerful shifts that are possible using a functional approach that supports the body, mind, and spirit as a whole. I know using these principles you will, too.
Wishing you health and happiness,
Mark Hyman, MD
Heal your body, mind, and spirit!
Join our many clients who get started with the “10-day reset diet” by Dr Hyman