Any problem large or small, can be solved with a simple methodology: Reduce the problem to its component parts, until the fundamental elements are plainly visible and the answer to your puzzle becomes clear. The complex quickly becomes simple with this type of analysis.

When we talk about “Optimal Health” or “moving towards optimal health”, if there are problems, one method of dealing with those problems is to look at the rudimentary elements of health. Of course it goes without saying, this isolating of components is within the context of observing the whole. We are not going to forget about the holistic beings we are.

There are four pillars of optimal health.

Someone once said, “Perception is everything.”  Probably a marketer or advertising guru. But it’s true. How we perceive plays a large part in who are and what we do. In discussing most issues, we need to start with the mind, mind state, mind-body connection. After all, if the mind is not present, what is life? Our mind state and our attitudes define us.

Pillar of Health #1: Mind state is where it all begins.

Of course “mind state” is not easy to define, but let’s try.

Mind state is not the brain. The brain is a physical organ composed of “gray matter” and electrical currents that rush about coding and decoding messages, controlling many autonomic subconscious functions, such as blood pressure, heart beat, breathing, etc.

Mind state is the result of how we manage our brains, or more simply our thoughts. Some people drive their thoughts and developed their philosophy of life more consciously than others. There is a methodology to this as well. This also can be broken down into component parts. A book I read this summer and constantly go back and refer to is “The Five Elements of Effective Thinking.” If you want to know more about getting the most out of life, your health included, pick up a copy at your local library, bookstore or click here to purchase a copy from Amazon. The 5 Elements of Effective Thinking

This book should be read by parents, teenagers, teachers, mentors, coaches, and politicians. I could be wrong, but I think we wouldn’t have wars if even a few politicians could learn the fundamentals of effective thinking. In fact, the basis of this article on health is a result of using the methods in this book.

Mind state affects your physical and emotional health. If you smile and are happy, you are healthier than you would be if you are nasty and cranky. In fact, it works the other way as well. If you are cranky and grouchy, it could be you are not getting proper nutrition for your body. You may be suffering from underlying allergies. Something in your immune system or digestive system may be off. This is where you can play the part of scientist and experiment with various food types and find out if this could be a part of the overall problems you are experiencing with health.

Tools for the Mind: Affirmations are tools that are powerful and effective in helping to guide the mind. Here are few:

1. Every day in every way, my life is getting better and better.

2. I control my own happiness.

3. I treat everyone I meet with love and kindness.

Is it easy to say these things out loud? Do you have to mean it when  you say it? No, not easy. No, you can fake it until you make it. 

The Garbage Truck Story – sent to me by email from a friend.

“One day I hopped in a taxi and we took off for the airport. We were driving in the right lane when suddenly a black car jumped out of a parking space right in front of us. My taxi driver slammed on his brakes, skidded, and missed the other car by just inches! The driver of the other car whipped his head around and started yelling at us! My taxi driver just smiled and waved at the guy. And I mean, really friendly. So I asked, “Why did you just do that? This guy almost ruined your car and sent us to the hospital!” This is when my taxi driver taught me what I now call, “The Law of the Garbage Truck.” He explained that many people are like garbage trucks. They run around full of garbage(frustration, anger, and disappointment, etc.). As their garbage piles up, they need a place to dump it and sometimes they’ll dump it on you. Don’t take it personally. Just smile, wave, wish them well, and move on. Don’t take their garbage and spread it to other people at work, at home, or on the streets. The bottom line is that successful people do not let garbage trucks take over their day. Life’s too short to wake up in the morning with regrets, so… love the people who treat you right & pray for the ones who don’t. Life is ten percent what you make it and ninety percent how you take it! Have a blessed, garbage-free day.”

Bottom line: Life is what you make it. That’s the key to mind state.

I know there are naysayers and skeptics who will take this view on mind state want to toss it onto the nearest garbage truck. They will say, “What about the horrors of the world, dictatorships, Kim Jung Un, concentration camps, infanticide, child soldiers, etc. Sometimes life is more than hard. Often life is unjust. But the rule of thumb here is not to let others’ toxins poison you. You don’t have to drink the Kool-Aid. In the midst of adversity, our noblest virtues shine brighter. Easy? No. True? Yes. 

Remember Victor Frankl and the fish head in the bowl of thin soup. (Man’s Search for Meaning)  The beauty of the entire universe can be contained in the smallest act of kindness even in the worst circumstances imaginable. If the world is dark and life seems just too tough, its actually easier to see small acts of love and kindness. They shine brighter. Does this solve all problems? I want to say yes, it does when you break it down to fundamentals, but there are sure to be many tears and heartbreak along the way. That which does not kill us, makes us stronger. But death may not be the end either. (Sorry, I can get carried away at times.) 

Pillar of Health #2: Exercise

Yes, there, I said it. Life itself is defined by movement. Your physiology is major. How you move, how you hold yourself, how you engage your body, it’s all part of the design.  If you don’t move, you no longer exist. Try it. Go to bed and never get up again. See how long you’ll last. Life is defined by movement, action. You can think of exercise, running, lifting weights, going to the gym. You can also think of inspirational movement, dance, ballet, grooving to your favorite tunes. Move!

Think of all the parts in your body that are moving constantly. Blood flow, electrical currents in the nervous system. Then think of all the fun things you can do with your body. Go for a walk in the park. Climb Mount Kilimanjaro. Ride a bicycle. Go for a swim.  Bounce on a trampoline. Take a Zumba class. Join a ballroom dancing group. There are thousands of fun things you can do and it will count towards your need for exercise!

Interestingly, the more you exercise, the more you enhance your mind and brain power. Exercise even contributes to endorphins, chemicals your brain produces to make you feel happy. Exercise and be happy. Lethargy never got anyone anywhere.

Let’s review the first two pillars. First two pillars of health: mind state or the mind’s connection to health. It’s really how we choose to think. The second pillar: exercise, the body’s need to move. Exercise is how we choose to move our body’s, how much we respect the amazing machine that carries our being. Please don’t think of exercise as something you HAVE to do, but rather as something you GET to do. Ask any of the men and women who have lost limbs and have to figure out a way to learn how to exercise all over again. It’s truly something you get to do. 

Ideas for exercise:

  • Ballroom dancing
  • Parkour
  • Ninja Warrior
  • Swimming
  • Walking
  • Bouncing on a trampoline
  • Kayaking
  • Sail boating
  • Hiking
  • Mountain climbing

Those are just off the top of my head. You’ll think of something. 

The 3rd pillar of optimal health is diet.

The word diet has a skewered connotation.  “I’ll take a double quarter pounder with cheese, super sized fries and a Diet Coke.; after all, you know I am on a diet.” Diet has been degraded to mean sacrifices a person makes for a short amount of time to lose 5 lbs or 10 lbs. then revert back to the same old eating habits that got you into trouble in the first place. That’s a futile effort at best.

Diet for our purposes is a living plan for maximizing nutrition. It’s a part of our lifestyle. It’s really when we choose to eat, what we choose to eat, and how much we choose to eat.

Let’s go back to the basics of what good food really is, back to the basics.

First of all food is fuel. Nutrition is to your body what gasoline is to your car. It’s the condensed sunshine made into material that you power your body with that produces electricity and power. It what hay is to horses.

You have to take in, in order to give out. Fuel is the energy needed to make things happen.

There are just a very simple, basic way to understand good nutrition and poor nutrition.

We are going to categorize food into two main divisions: Macro-nutrients and Micro-nutrients.

 Macro-nutrients:

 There are three food groups under the heading of macro-nutrients.

The largest by far: carbohydrates. When you think carbohydrates you should consider these are quick fuel. Carbohydrates are mostly comprised of sugars, that is, quick energy, like jet fuel. It burns fast and provides maximum energy to do hard work. Splitting fire wood, running five miles, cross country skiing, building a deck, body building. Hard work.

The major problem with carbohydrates is that we eat way too much,  and we eat the worst kinds. Yes, there are good carbs and bad carbs. Bad carbs are anything that is mostly wheat and sugar, baked goods, processed foods are mostly sugary carbs. Rice, potatoes are carbs. Breads, cakes and donuts are carbs.

But so are beans, lentils and legumes. Those are the slow burning carbs. Slow burning carbs give you more nutrition than fast burning carbs. Slow burning carbs don’t overload your system with too much sugar all at once.

If you are an athlete, you will eat a lot of carbs in preparation for a race. (After your weigh in of course)  Marathoners eat lots of carbs. Sprinters and swimmers rely on carbs for bursts of tremendous energy. Do you remember at the Beijing Olympics, much was made of Michael Phelps and his 10,000 calorie breakfasts? Stacks of pancakes drenched in syrup? That Baltimore man Michael Phelps burns through calories. 

If you are an office worker or sit most of the day for the work you do, how many carbs do you think you need? Not very many at all. Our overweight and obesity issues as a society stem from sugar/ carb overload. In the 1980’s doctors were advising a low fat diet to fight obesity. That advice failed to stem the upward rise of the nation’s weight problems. Why? Because people avoided fats, everything was low fat, high carb. If you need to lose weight you need to lose the carbs, that is to say the high glycemic carbs, the sugary carbs. When you process the fat out, things taste bad. So food scientists added salt and sugar and artificial flavors to make low fat foods taste good. “Betcha can’t eat just one.”

The second group of foods comprising macro-nutrients is fats. Sometimes referred to as fatty acids. Fats are acidic by nature and provide the body with needed base material for cellular repair and growth of cells and organs in the body. The brain is made up of 40% fat. Fat is used to protect organs from damage. Fat provides the material for making hormones and vitamins. Fats are really, really important.

Of course, there good fats and bad fats. The fats to avoid are hydrogenated fats, partially hydrogenated fats and trans fats. What’s wrong with these fats? They are processed by man, chemically altered for long shelf life. Not a bad idea for food preservation, but the law of unintended consequences kicks in and there are nasty side effects from these fats. The problem is that they stay in your body for a long time too!  Like an unwelcome guest for the holidays that just won’t go away!

Good fats are coconut oil, olive oil and fish oil. Fish oil, fresh and premium grade are responsible for repairing the cardio vascular system, for thinning the blood, for preventing stroke and heart attack.

Most Americans have an Omega-3 fatty acid deficiency. This can be correct with a daily dose of pure Omega-3 fish oil.

The third group of macro-nutrients are comprised of the family of proteins. Our proteins mainly come from meat, muscle meat. Chicken, beef, soy, whey, dairy products. Proteins are the only material with which we can build muscle. Again athletes and body builders will need to have a good portion of protein with every meal. Proteins are used to build muscle and excess protein will be expelled, proteins will not cause weight gain. Yes, in case you are wondering, can you be a vegetarian or even a vegan and be a body builder, an athlete? The answer is yes. 

Most of us who are not professional athletes should eat a little of these 3 macro nutrients groups but the majority of our food should come from an entirely different group of foods:

The unsung heroes of the nutritional world: Micro-nutrients.

What is most neglected in the food and diet world are …Micro Nutrients.

What is the one class of food we haven’t talked about.  Vegetables. Vegetables are full of micro-nutrients that bring health to our bodies, filled with phyto nutrients. When you neglect vegetables you neglect health.

Most people when asked, say they eat lots of vegetables, but if they keep a food journal which I asked all my coaching clients to do for at least a month, it becomes clear that most people greatly exaggerate what they think they eat in the way of vegetables. Usually, it’s about 5% but it should be 50%. It’s difficult to shop for vegetables in many localities but the choices of fast foods are abundant just about everywhere. That creates a problem.

What’s missing in most fast food restaurants? Vegetables. Overtime, health suffers. There goes your health.

That’s the third pillar of health summed up in three words: Eat more vegetables.

Oh, don’t rely on canned vegetables entirely. Many times they are packed with excessive amounts of salt. Look at the label and check it out. Fresh are best, frozen are okay too.

The 4th Pillar of Optimal Health: Sleep.

Yes, take a nap. It’s good for you. Health is anchored by the ability to disengage from the world and its stresses through sleep. It kind of circles back to our first element, the Mind.

Stress is part of life and a stress free life really doesn’t exist. Some stress is good for us to keep us interested in what’s going on around us, but too much stress causes the release of hormones that overtax the organs in your body.

Learning to de-stress, learning to wind down in the evenings is extremely important.

In order to get really good, sound, satisfying sleep, there are a couple of things you can do, should do.

The last waking hour should not be consumed with light emitting screens such as the television, computer screens or your snazzy smart phone.

The light entering your eyes late at night breaks the circadian rhythm. It tells the subconscious brain that it’s daytime and you’ve got keep going. It keeps you “wired.”

Better to read a book, not on a device but on paper, with the light coming from over your shoulder. Darken the room with curtains and don’t have any blinking electronics on in the room. Clocks with light, phones charging, even lit on/off buttons can disturb your sleep. Make your bedroom a dark cave, and settle into a sound sleep.

The last thing you think about can have an effect on your sleep.  You can use this to your advantage. If you have a problem that needs solving, rather than worrying about the problem and creating toxic juices in your body, it’s much healthier to use a tried and proven technique. You can frame a question in your mind, or even write it in your bedside notebook. “I need an answer to this: XYZ.” Having posed the question, you can release if from your conscious mind and turn it over to the subconscious or if you are a spiritual person you can turn it over to the Universe or God.

Many times, a good night’s sleep will bring clear answers in the morning. Pay attention to the early morning thoughts. You’ve heard the expression, “Okay, let me sleep on it and I will let you know what I think in the morning.”

This works equally as well to take whatever worries you have and commit them to paper. It’s a form of release and the burden of the worry need not be carried while you sleep, it’s safely in storage on your bedside notepad.

Meditation is a form of rest and sleep. Yogis can get the equivalent of 8 hours of sleep in 20 minutes by using a form of meditative semi-conscious state called the yoga nidra.  

Affirmations of goodness and light.

Joy, Strength, Wisdom, Peace. These are my four words I recite before sleeping. I touch my thumb and index finger on both hands and affirm Joy. I touch my thumb and middle finger and assert Strength. I touch my thumb and ring finger and affirm Wisdom. I touch my thumb and pinky and assert Peace.

That’s a much better mind practice than recounting all the bad and negative things that happened during the day.

That concludes this lesson for now. Remember your MEDS.

  1. Mind State or Mind Connection to Health
  2. Exercise or Exert Your Muscles for Health
  3. Diet or Dine on More Veggies
  4. Sleep or Simply get more restful sleep.

If you like these articles let me know. If you need some advise on nutrition or dietary supplements, , get in touch. I would like to hear from you.

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