Many books and experts on nutrition offer conflicting advice. Some say avoid carbohydrates and stick with protein. Others say carbohydrates are good for you, but dairy should be avoided. Yet others say a balance of different kinds of foods is best. What works best for you will be unique. Having said that, I do think there is a simple nutritional rule of thumb that most people could follow to move them in the right direction: Eat more fresh fruits and vegetables and fewer processed foods.
Importantly, nutrition is also much more than what you eat. It's the thoughts you entertain, the books you read, the shows you watch, and the conversations you participate in. Think of the body as swimming in a sea of stimuli. Choose the stimuli that nourish you.
Stretch, stand up, move your joints through their range of motion, take a few deep breaths. If you can exercise three or four times a week, great. If not, simply move the body and its joints through their range of motion. Start simple. All movement counts.
Movement also applies to the mind. Creatively expressing your ideas is moving your ideas. Allowing yourself to feel the emotions that pass through you and find avenues for their expression is also movement. As the deeper layers of the mind begin to move once again, stagnant beliefs and unexpressed emotions can be released. This can be a challenging time so it's important to have other outlets for expression, such as talking with friends, journaling, exercising, or anything else that can help bring stability and clarity. As the mind continues to move, the physical body can also respond. Areas of tightness in the body can relax, and pain can be alleviated.
Rest includes sleep and R&R–for example, curling up with a good book. Both are examples of turning off the stress response (depending on the book!) and promoting restoration. In today’s to-do-list society, rest can sound like a bad word that's often equated with doing nothing, which couldn't be further from the truth. Rest isn't indolence. Knowing what rest feels like is key to bringing the restful state into our lives even as go through our day.
When you give your body a break, it dedicates itself to eliminating toxins, fighting infections, repairing injured tissue, and releasing hormones that promote development. During the day, we can unknowingly leave the restful state and enter the stressful state. In fact, just waking up in the morning and remembering an irritating experience from the previous day can trigger a stressful state.
An irritating memory can activate your stress response as a protective mechanism. Although your life is not in danger, your brain prepares itself for the worst, signaling your adrenal glands to secrete adrenaline. Your pupils dilate, your blood vessels constrict, your blood pressure increases, and your heart starts pumping faster, a system-wide reaction.
Over time, frequent episodes of the stress response can change our baseline state from a restful one to a stressful one. Therefore, valuing and choosing rest as an important physiological state is key to reset and re-center the system.
Connecting means getting in touch with all aspects of your-self in the fullest sense at 3 levels:
Connecting with the planet. This includes being in nature, breathing fresh air, being in contact with soil and water.
Connecting with others. This is getting a feel for the dance between me-ness and other-ness. The exchange and sharing of experiences that we call relationship.
Connecting with self. This is recognizing the layers of experience beyond the body, the thinking mind, and sensation. This is connecting as simply being, which is the openness beyond the activity of mind and body. It goes to the heart of well-being, anchoring the experience of well-being as it develops.
There are many ranges and depths of connecting. The above 3 are simply the broadest categories that are essential to wellbeing. We have the ability to connect anywhere and anytime, in just a few moments.
When we attend to The Four Pillars, other aspects of well-being will come into our line of sight. When you connect with yourself, you will become clear on what you want to spend your time on, which will inform occupational and social well-being. When you “move with yourself” and express yourself sincerely and effectively, other areas of yourself will again be affected. The same goes for when you nourish yourself and rest. This doesn't mean change will be easy. In fact, it confirms that change isn't just a matter of talking about wellness or meditating, but rather integrating and acting in all aspects of our lives, one step at a time.
While all four pillars have been covered here, they don't all need to be addressed now. Otherwise they become another problem—another reason to stress. Instead, choose one step now and step into it. The rest will follow.
Adapted from Michelangelo's Medicine.