The Five Pillars of Health

Are you struggling with everyday life and overwhelming levels of stress? Do you struggle with sleep and feel tired all day? Do you want to take control of own health and increase your wellbeing?

If you’ve answered yes to any or all of these, then now’s the time to examine and implement the five pillars of health.

I’ve recently done an Insta Live with Dr Ron Ehrlich, who has more than 40 years of clinical practice. Dr Ron has developed his health model of how stress affects our health; breaking stress down to emotional, environmental, nutritional, structural and dental stressors. 

In our current world where lockdowns are continuous and life is full of uncertainty, stress is at an all-time high. Although we cannot control the outside world, we do have the power to take control of our health.  When we implement and focus on the 5 pillars of health, we can dramatically improve our stress levels and wellness.   

  1. Sleep

It’s no secret that stress and sleep are closely related. When we’re stressed, we may not sleep as well and conversely, loss of sleep can increase our stress levels. According to Dr Ron, sleep is the most essential part of the day. A good night’s sleep is what is needed to set us up for a productive day. When we have a poor sleep – in either quantity or quality (or both) – it can have a myriad of negative effects on how we feel and behave throughout the day. One study found that short-term consequences of sleep disruption were increased stress responsivity, diminished quality of life, emotional distress and mood disorders, and memory problems, while long-term effects included hypertension, cardiovascular disease, weight-related issues, metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes mellitus, and colorectal cancer.

2. Breathing

Breathing is second nature to us, so it’s no surprise that we give it little or no thought at all. However, how we breathe throughout the day and night can impact sleep quality, body chemistry and our posture. Dr Ron says that breathing at 8-12 breaths per minute helps regulate body chemistry and using the diaphragm utilises greater lung capacity and reduces strain on neck and shoulder muscles. Research shows that breathing in for a count of four and out for a count of eight for just a few minutes can start to calm our nervous system.

3. Nourish

Eating a balanced, diverse diet with plenty of fruit, vegetables, high-quality protein and wholegrains can improve our digestion, mood and brain function. It’s important to decrease packaged and processed foods and instead opt for natural foods. I like to say to clients to ‘eat the rainbow’. That is, foods of all colours. Minimising refined carbohydrates and our sugar intake can help keep insulin levels low so we don’t have peaks of energy and then fall flat.

4. Movement

Moving our body just 30 minutes every day can make a positive difference to how we feel and help us maintain a healthy weight. Regular physical activity has shown to improve our muscle strength and boost our endurance. Being active and exercising can also improve our mood and reduce feelings of depression, anxiety, and stress, according to research.

5. Thought

It might seem difficult to remain positive during challenging times, but expressing gratitude, having an optimistic attitude and being kind to ourselves in thought can make a difference to our overall health. Several studies have found that positive thinking is good for the immune and cardiovascular system, reduces anxiety, and increases happiness. It can also extend our lifespan. Now more than ever, it’s important to be a glass half-full person.

Watch my Insta Live with Dr Ron Ehrlich here.