Trying to describe and define health and wellness is difficult. I like to think of optimal wellness as metaphor.
Consider what a well constructed Greek temple looks like. The roof is your wellness since it protects everything below it. The pillars are the parts of health that support the roof. Finally, a strong foundation supports both the pillars and the roof.
All the parts of the temple need to work together and the roof helps to protect the pillars and foundation.
The construction of your roof depends upon where you live. If you live in the tropics your roof will need to withstand strong winds, torrential rain, and hurricane conditions.
Yet if you live in a country like Canada you’ll need a roof that can handle both heat and cold. Everything from freezing cold, to melting ice, heat and humidity.
Without a well constructed roof you and the contents of your home will not be protected and your life will suffer.
What are the 4 Pillars of Wellness?
The four pillars rests upon a strong foundation that’s constructed from knowledge and right actions. Each pillar gains strength from the foundation. The pillars are:
- Frequent Movement;
- Healthy Eating;
- Rest and Recovery; and,
- Emotional Well Being.
The 4 Pillars depend upon each other
Each pillar depends upon each other to take their share in supporting wellness. If one pillar fails, the others can’t pick up the slack. Each pillar only knows one job.
Healthy eating supports wellness by
- what and how often you eat;
- the quality of your food choices;
- the nutrient quality of each ingredient, and so on.
By contrast, the Pillar of Movement knows how to,
- bench press;
- run a marathon, or;
- go for long walks with your dog.
Running a marathon or working out are easier to do if you eat healthy, thus supporting a strong body.
When Health Pillars Break Down
When one of your pillars breaks down the roof becomes weak. The roof might not fall in, but it starts to sag. You might not even be aware that one of the pillars has weakened. Perhaps you’re too busy focusing on other things like your work and career. Things got so busy that you no longer cook at home. Instead you eat out, bring home takeout and often over eat late at night.
Then one day the damage that has been progressing makes a dramatic appearance.
A strong thunderstorm hits where you live and causes widespread damage. You notice a massive leak down one corner of your house with water damage behind a load bearing wall.
After you get contractors in to assess the damage you find out that the repairs are costly. You’ll also be without that room while repairs take place. The repairs start right away because yours is not the only damaged property. There are only so many contractors available to do this type of work.
Have you ever needed to see a specialist for a health condition? Often you have to wait weeks, if not months to get an apportionment.
In life you look in the mirror one morning, naked, and think, “DAMN IT! When did I get this fat and gross?” Or, “When did I become so tired, run down and emotional worn out?”
Sometimes we’re motivated by disgust with ourselves, but we don’t have to dwell on the negative. We can use strong emotions to decide what steps we’re going to take to reinforce optimal wellness.
It takes time to lose weight, just as it takes time to repair water damage to a roof and supporting wall. To do the repairs you investigate what you need to do, establish a plan, and then get started.
What if the repairs to your health involve more than one pillar?
You come up with a few strategies and maybe you only focus on one pillar and one new healthy supporting habit at a time.
For example, perhaps you book time in your weekly schedule to cook meals in bulk. In this way you’ll have food prepared and ready to eat for the next week. This counts as improving your “Healthy Eating Pillar.”
Perhaps you realize that you’ve been sleeping in longer than usual. You review your schedule and decide to get up one hour earlier. You set your alarm for 5:30am during the week and head out to the neighbourhood gym for a 45 minute workout. Frequent Movement Pillar: Check!
Routines strengthen you health pillars
Over the next couple of weeks you miss a day or two at the gym, but after a few weeks you realize you’ve developed a new routine. You feel more awake, stronger, healthier, and happier with yourself. Why? You’re feeling and looking better because you decided to take care of you first. This allows you to more easily work on other areas of you life having that inner satisfaction.
After a few months of work, you look at the renovations. The new wall and the roof are stronger than before, ready to withstand whatever bad weather comes.
One weekday morning, a month or two into your new routine, you catch sight of yourself in the mirror. Again you’re naked, but this time you say, “DAMN! You look good! If you were someone else I’d do you!”
There is no single action to improve wellness
The moral of the story is that there is no single action that improves you wellness. Improving your health is a complex equation.
There is no single diet that will change your life. There is no best ever fat burning workout that will help you lose 20 pounds by Friday.
Beware the charlatans online peddling diet-potions, proprietary magic pills, and unhealthy workouts,
Is health different from wellness?
The words “health” and “wellness” are often used interchangeably. While similar they don’t mean the same thing.
Health is generally understood as the absence of illness, injury or disease.
Health is something that you can quantitatively and qualitatively measured.
Wellness is a personal and conscious choice
Wellness is the process of choosing health promoting behaviours to enhance the quality of your life.
Note that you could seem to have excellent health but in reality you might have a low quality of wellness.
Wellness is a state of mind
Wellness impacts your emotional, intellectual, social, sexual, physical and work dimensions. Having a healthy mindset and a positive psychological outlook is a huge determinant in your wellness.
Wellness is a focus on deliberate prevention to promote optimal health
This applies to both physical and mental health to live well and reduce the risk of disease and injury.
For example, let’s say you had a terrible sleep. Then you got into an argument with your partner before work. Now everything is going wrong at the office. You’re stressed out to the max and thus not in an ideal state of wellness.
Stress releases the hormone, cortisol, which is the fight or flight response. This creates tension in the body and temporarily reduces your immune response. In times of high stress we might over or under eat, drink too much caffeine, or try to come down by having a few alcoholic drinks at the end of the day. Have you even been so stressed out that you injured yourself? These actions and choices are damaging to your physical health if they’re not kept in check.
As you can see wellness is a result of many factors and each one needs adequate attention. This attention doesn’t have to be equal and varies over time.
What parts of wellness come easy to you?
That’s me squatting
For example, fitness and exercise comes natural to me. I make my living as a Wellness Coach, specializing in nutrition and exercise. Working out is something I enjoy. When I don’t exercise I become anxious, cranky, and unhappy. But it’s not a challenge for me to get back into my routine. I don’t need to think about it or take weeks to decide how to start. I recognize that I’ve fallen off my routine and I pick up where I left off.
The same is true for healthy eating. In the late 80’s I got my chef’s training certification and I’ve been cooking for myself ever since. I don’t think about it, I just do it. But in the summer we like eat out more. We enjoy sitting on a patio having a beer or two (Margaritas are my weakness should we ever meet). Desserts are another weakness. If I eat too many sweets craving for sugar increases, I feel bloated, I have more gas, and I can see the extra fat forming around my waist.
For both of these pillars I can choose to “re-support” them and within no time they are strong and my wellness is again optimized.
Flex Your Mind and Nourish Your Thoughts to Improve your Health
I’ve created a free, 6-part video program called, The 4 Pillars of Wellness to help you make health a part of your daily life and a part of your identity.
My goal is to show you the essentials of health and fitness so that you can make your own best decisions about how to optimize your wellness.
Over the next five videos in this free program I’m going to take you through each individual pillar. You may realize that you’re deficient in one, but solid in another. That’s fine! It’s easier to make small course corrections than having to rebuild an entire pillar. If one of your pillars is completely cut down I’m here to help.
For each video you can download a worksheet. In if you’ll find questions to help you think about your unique situation, as well as strategies and habits to improve your health.
A Solid Foundation Supports the Four Pillars
At the end of this free video program you’ll also have an understanding of how to create a solid foundation to support the four pillars of wellness.
As mentioned earlier, the foundation consists of “Knowledge and Supporting Habits.” It’s not about how much you know, but how you can use knowledge to make informed choices for your unique needs. This will help you to choose the most appropriate habits to improve your health and wellness.
I know that this 6-part video series will be both powerful and transformational. Give your full attention to each video. Do the worksheets and practice the habits or routines. The results will speak for themselves.
So sign up to the program (click that button, above!)to get access to the worksheets, resources, and bonuses along the way. Stay tuned for the next instalment in the series, Frequent Movement: The 1st Pillar of Wellness.
Originally published at eatmovebe.com on July 7, 2016.