Focusing on the 4 Pillars of Health every day can improve many aspects of your physical and mental well-being.
These pillars provide the foundation for healthy living, determining energy levels, physical strength, and mental resilience. And making improvements in these four areas also can influence your emotional, social, intellectual, spiritual and financial health.
So what are these pillars that we should make a priority? And how can we incorporate them into our lives?
The 4 Pillars of Health
The first pillar is sleep, because it can affect every other area. More and more studies highlight the benefits of sleep.
Sleep deprivation causes changes to hormones that regulate hunger and appetite. And it creates greater risks for chronic conditions.
However, a good night’s sleep lowers stress and improves concentration. And sleep even cleanses our brains and helps lower risks of dementia.
Adults need an estimated 7-9 hours of sleep per night, according to the National Sleep Foundation. Children need up to 13, depending on their ages.
Strategies for getting better sleep include turning off electronic devices at least an hour before bedtime, avoiding caffeine (a stimulant) and alcohol (a depressant), and sleep in a dark, cool, quiet bedroom.
A healthy diet affects not only your physical health, but also mental health. Scientists are finding more correlations between what you eat, how you feel, and how you behave. And they’re discovering more about how your gut influences your brain.
To reset in this area, pay attention to how you feel when you eat certain foods. Try an elimination diet for a few weeks, cutting out processed foods and sugars. After a couple of weeks, slowly add back a food at a time, and see how you feel when you do. What foods work for you, and which ones don’t?
Once you know, you can begin to love the foods that love you back!
Exercise is effective at easing anxiety, tension, and stress. And it boosts mental and physical energy, including self-esteem and cognitive function.
So how much exercise, or movement, is the right amount? Thirty minutes of exercise of moderate intensity, such as brisk walking for 3 days a week, helps ease anxiety and depression. And these 30 minutes per day don’t need to be continuous; three 10-minute walks help the same as a 30-minute walk.
Walking actually may be one the best magic pills for adding more movement to your life and stabilizing this pillar of health.
Relaxation techniques such as yoga, massage, and meditation can help you manage stress.
Stress and inflammation contribute to chronic disease, and stress can show up in many forms. A dangerous situation or work deadlines can create a stress response. And so can positive stress, such as the birth of a child. In many cases, the physical effects of stress typically don’t last long.
But chronic stress is a near-constant state of heightened alertness. It puts pressure on the body for a longer time, creating a higher risk for illness.
Relaxation techniques, though, can slow your heart rate, reduce stress hormones, improve sleep quality, and benefit your physical and mental health.
When to Focus on the 4 Pillars
Focusing on each of these pillars is important at any age, because they work together to keep your mind and body healthy.
And techniques from each area can be practiced a little bit every day and lead up to great results. If each of your pillars is strong, your health and well-being will have a firm foundation as you age.
So which of your four pillars is strongest? What’s one step you can take in a less-strong area to make it stronger? When can you get started building a firmer foundation of health and well-being?
Amy Hoogervorst is a national board-certified health and wellness coach. She helps people create and sustain new habits in pursuit of improved health and well-being. You can schedule a free discovery call with Amy here and subscribe here for her free e-newsletter, the Well Check.