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The 4 Keys to Health and Wellness

The 4 Keys to Health and Wellness

Eat the Mediterranean Way: Eating a Mediterranean diet is shown to reduce the risk of many major health issues. Fresh vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts and seeds, legumes, plain yogurt, olive oil, and fish offers the best nutrients for overall health and weight loss.

Move More and Be Still Less: It’s more than just sitting. Sedentary behavior includes standing in mostly one position. Aim to get up and/or move around for 10 minutes, once every hour of every day.

Prioritize Sleep: Set bed and wake-times aren’t just for kids. You’ll improve your health by following a scheduled bedtime and morning wake-up time allows for seven to nine hours of sleep each night. Important bodily and brain functions occur during your nightly slumber. If you shortchange your sleep, you shortchange your health. Have good sleep hygiene. Keep your sleeping area dark, cool, and quiet.

Strive for emotional stability: Meditating, yoga, talking (not texting) to friends (at least one per day), eating in social gatherings, making a gratitude list—all these have been shown to keep stress manageable and emotions stable. Often overlooked, emotional balance is a key pillar to health.

Nutrition, exercise, sleep, and emotional balance constitute the four pillars of health and wellbeing. Not only are each of these important foundations individually, they also have positive ripple effects on each other (i.e., exercise helps motivate healthy eating, a good night’s sleep gives you the energy to stick to your workout, emotional balance spurs optimism and empowerment—and this action gives you the motivation to eat healthy—and so on). Here are the essential details you need to know about each pillar:

1. Eat Like the Greeks: 

It can be daunting to determine what constitutes the healthiest eating habits thanks to the constant stream of nutrition advice that comes at us from television, magazines, websites, and books. The good news is that credible research that compares various eating plans all seem to point in the same direction—to the Mediterranean diet. It’s simple, healthy, tasty, and relatively easy to prepare. Plus, a Mediterranean diet has been shown to reduce the risk of chronic diseases up to 80 percent. So, you can adopt these eating habits equally at work and at home—and you’ll enjoy your food!

Keep it Simple: This style of eating focuses on a foundation of plant-based foods such as fresh and whole vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, and nuts. You’ll avoid saturated fats such as butter and consume healthy fats from using olive oil and avocados.

Spice it Right: Additional steps include maximizing fresh herbs and spices, and a squeeze of lemon or lime juice and minimizing salt for flavor.

Choose Smart Proteins: This diet strategy suggests that you limit red meats to three times a week and keep portions to the size of a deck of cards. Finally, you’ll want to eat fish and poultry at least twice a week. If you are vegetarian, aim to get enough protein from whole grains and legumes, nuts and seeds, and/or eggs and plain Greek yogurt.

2. Move Your Whole Body All Day: 

Even if you think you get plenty of exercise, you might be wrong. It might be true that you already meet, or even exceed, the general recommendation of 60 minutes of moderate activity most days—but there is another issue to consider. Recent research suggests that you still might not be moving enough. Here’s the concern:

Why Stationary is the New Smoking: This sedentary or stationary time is emerging as a threat to your health. Many studies have provided evidence that shows that too much sitting is linked to heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and high blood pressure. Keep doing your structured exercise but pay attention to how often and how long you remain mostly stationary during the other hours of the day. Consider how you spend your time each day:

At Work: For most people, there are periods of time each day, sometimes for several hours continuously, when you do not move your body (this includes standing in mostly one position).

At Home: Even if you think that your job provides plenty of physical activity, you may still be too sedentary. How do you spend your time off? The average American is stationary (standing mostly still, sitting, and/or lying down) for the majority of each 24 hour day. While the Occupational Requirements Survey shows that Americans stand or walk on average 60 percent of each day, it’s only a small category of people who actually break a sweat at work.

Traveling: Time spent in a car, on a train, or in a plane. It all counts. If you spend a lot of time commuting or traveling, make sure to take plenty of breaks to get up and move about.

The Solution: Move for at least 10 minutes each hour of the day. It doesn’t have to be complicated. It can be as simple as getting up and walking around your home or work area. Alternatively, you can simply sit down on the floor, and then stand up (try not to use your hands), repeat as many times as you can within 10-minutes. At home, you can fold laundry, mow the lawn, rake leaves, do yard work, wash your car, and so on. Also, if your days off don’t include workouts of some sort, they should. Remember, anything that increases your heart and breathing rate for 10-minutes or more counts. Just move!

3. Check Your Sleep Hygiene: 

  • Risks of Sleep Disturbances: When you sleep, your body works to support and replenish healthy brain function. Studies show that lack of sleep can interfere with decision making, problem-solving, and emotional stability. When it comes to your physical health, sleep plays an essential role. Lack of sleep causes an increase in heart disease, obesity, stroke, diabetes, and metabolic disease. Your body might look like it is at rest during sleep, but many essential functions take place only when you sleep:
    • heart and blood vessels heal and repair
    • hormones are regulated and balanced
    • muscles tissues are restored and reinforced
    • immune system is fortified
    • The lining of your gut is repaired
    • Memories are consolidated
  • Get Quality Rest: It’s essential for good health and wellbeing. The bottom line for healthy sleep is to aim to get a minimum of seven hours of quality sleep each night, and if you find yourself short on your sleep quota get some extra slumber on your days off. For the best quality of sleep follow these guidelines:
    • Whenever you can stick to a set bedtime and wake-up time. For example, if you routinely go to bed at 10 PM, make sure you sleep until at least 5 or 6 AM.
    • Use the hour before bed as quiet time. Avoid bright lights, computer screens, and television.
    • Keep your bedroom quiet, dark, and cool.
    • If you have trouble falling asleep, take a hot bath or shower.

4. Strive for Emotional Balance:

The fourth and often overlooked pillar to health and wellness has to do with your emotional and mental wellbeing.

Stress, Anxiety, and Depression Risk: In the U.S., anxiety, stress, and depression affect 40 million adults annually. While some levels of stress can be a positive force, motivating you to react quickly under pressure, too much stress, especially the chronic daily variety is bad for your physical and mental health. Chronic stress and depression have been shown to increase the risk of heart disease, obesity, diabetes, strokes, blood pressure, and depression.

Go Greek: Here, we return to the Mediterranean lifestyle.

Be Social: These cultures prioritize and include a great deal of social interaction—most meals are shared with family and friends, people spend more time outdoors getting fresh air and sunshine, and they are more likely to leisurely walk or bike to the market or to attend to other errands. Studies of the people who live a Mediterranean lifestyle show that these socially shared leisure activities reduce stress, anxiety, and depression. You can reduce stress by sharing your worries or concerns with family and friends, by learning to meditate, practicing relaxation techniques, and including mind/body practices.

Be Mindful: Also, in some cultures, meditation and/or mind-body exercises such as yoga or tai chi are a regular daily activity. These activities have been shown to lower stress and improve mood. Just by practicing living in the moment, you can improve your health. We can learn a great deal from these social habits, especially because our culture is entirely different.

Be in Nature: The average American spends 101 minutes driving per day, and the average American passes more than 80% of their time indoors. Studies show that spending time outdoors and in nature reduces stress, anxiety, and depression.