Read the prelude to the Laws of Wellness: The Four Dimensions of Wellness
The Second Law of Wellness—Center Yourself in Your Body—is about leading a healthy life style, which is so vital to a good life. Physical wellness is crucial because your body is your main instrument for living. It is through your body that you think and act and enjoy life. Balance in all four dimensions begins with balance in the body.
Healthy living has two cornerstones: diet and exercise. In our modern world, both of these face many temptations that don’t agree with the physiology that has evolved for us humans. Physiologically, we aren’t meant to be eating supersized portions of high-calorie meals, or sitting all evening before a television or computer. As a result, we may overwork our bodies in some ways—for example, by having to digest and assimilate large amounts of fat. In other ways, we may under work them—for example, by not getting enough cardiovascular exercise.
Diet has been an important issue since the earliest days of humankind. Even Adam and Eve had a few dietary problems—something about eating forbidden fruit—with some very serious repercussions. Today, maintaining a proper diet and exercise regimen are crucial to health and wellness.
There is plenty of information out there about eating right and exercising. But each person is different, and it’s important to talk to your physician about what’s right for you in the way of diet and exercise. I will mention two important dietary health rules that have been proved again and again: eat lots of vegetables, fruits, and berries, and choose whole grains.
There are also other important aspects of healthy living. These include getting enough sleep, refraining from harmful practices such as smoking, and also, of course, calming the turbulence.
Lack of healthy living in any of these areas can have very negative consequences. Let’s consider sleep. Lack of adequate sleep can lead to serious repercussions not only physiologically but in the other three wellness dimensions. I know of a boy whose father had sleep apnea. The father could never get a good night’s sleep. He was always tired. As a result, he was very hard to live with—constantly bad-tempered and cranky. He would fly off at the slightest provocation. The boy hated being around his father. He always tried to be careful around him, so as not to stir his wrath. The two had a terrible relationship. Finally, when the boy came of age, he was able to leave home. Afterward, he loathed returning for a visit because he would have to deal with his father again.
But then the father—who had seldom gone to doctors—was finally diagnosed with sleep apnea. A device to help him breathe easier at night was prescribed so that he wouldn’t be continually waking up. And lo! For the first time in a couple of decades, he got a good night’s sleep. Soon, his whole personality transformed! He stopped being so cantankerous. Because he wasn’t always sleep-deprived, he became much mellower. When the young man went back home, he found that his father had changed radically. Now, he could actually hold a pleasant conversation with the man. Father and son started talking more and more, and soon the two became great friends.
It’s a happy ending, but the tragedy is that for many years, the father-son relationship was sabotaged because of lack of sleep.
And of course, you don’t have to have sleep apnea to be lacking in sleep. An estimated 70 million Americans have sleep problems. Approximately 30 percent of workers fall asleep at their jobs. Let’s hope those folks aren’t airline pilots or taxi drivers and don’t operate nuclear reactors.
While poor sleep and various other unhealthy habits have negative consequences, healthful living has many benefits. It:
Gives you greater energy and improved stamina
Strengthens your immune system to ward off disease
Promotes slower and more graceful aging
Improves cognitive powers, including a reduced susceptibility to Alzheimer’s
Leads to a stronger self-image
Increases your appetite for living and being sociable
You can see from this list that the benefits of healthy living aren’t only physiological. They also affect our psychological, social, and spiritual lives.
Living healthy takes commitment and planning. Seeing its value is the key. People often fool themselves into believing that they can abuse their bodies for decades and somehow it will all work out in the end. But that’s not true. What we do to our bodies today in the form of diet, exercise, sleep, and stress will likely have repercussions decades hence.
You may be leading a very healthy lifestyle right now. If so, that’s great. But if not, I hope you will do two things. First, pick the brains of your doctor. Get his or her advice about what you should be doing to live healthy. Then follow that advice by developing a Personal Health Plan.
Develop strategies that you can stick with for the long term.
Write down your plan.
Find ways to motivate yourself and keep on track.
As you progress, modify your plan as necessary.
It helps to have company, so try to find others to work with. Enlist a walking, jogging, or exercise partner. Make healthy living an ongoing family project. Join a support group. By committing yourself to such a lifestyle change, you will improve not only your health, but your wellness in all four dimensions.