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The 8 Dimensions of Health

Having spent the past twenty years in the food industry and more recently in the natural food space we appreciate the value of food.  More frequently we hear from colleagues the message that food is but one critical element of health.  Exercise is often a close second in many conversations.  There is a growing awareness about six other interconnected dimensions of health that we need to understand, manage and develop in order to optimize our health.

Below are the 8 Dimensions of Health that are intricately interconnected and we are told the state of each is absolutely critical to maintain optimal health and thus avoid illness.  Within each dimension we have gathered a collection of expert advice, facts, theories, thoughts, questions and links that we hope will help put you on a path to better health.

We will update our blog regularly to be part of the conversation about better health.

1. Physical Dimension

Stay Hydrated

We’ve dedicated a shout-out to water because it’s important.  Water is the first, and frankly, best super beverage. We are made up of approximately 60% water, and experts recommend drinking 11-16 cups per day. Note that some beverages are diaretics which cause your body to lose water…they make you pee a lot.  

Now, where should your water come from?  Tap?  Bottled?  Filtered?  Boiled?  Take a look at what the experts are saying. 

Sleep

Sleep is essential for optimal health, performance and happiness.  Yet most of us don’t sleep, and if we do, not well.  A few of the culprits: Stress. Screens. Booze.  If you’re not getting seven good hours a night, you’re not going to operate at your best.  Be mindful of caffeinated beverages and how they can rob you of sleep.

Nutrition

Probably the most key factor to overall health, is what we choose to put in our bodies.

As a rule of thumb…if your food comes in some form of packaging – buyer beware!  Processed food makes up most of any grocery store inventory and most of it is terrible for you.  We need food to be affordable, tasty, convenient AND nutritious, and yet usually we’re opting for the former attributes at the expense of the “nutrition” part.

Experts tell us that our bodies need seven major classes of nutrition for survival and optimal function.  We can help avoid illness with a balanced diet that includes the proper type and amount of nutrients that are naturally sourced and minimally processed.  Where we run in to trouble is when balance is thrown off with either too much or too little of the required nutrients and we opt for things like taste, convenience and affordability at the expense of nutrition.  Worse still is when ingredients/pollutants are added to our food which have not been perfected by thousands of years of evolution to optimize our health…there is plenty of evidence supporting the illnesses caused by these added ingredients/pollutants to food.

We encourage you to spend time researching some promising nutritional research that may yield strategies to help support your body’s natural defenses against illness.  Below are some points we have gathered.

Stay Active

The physical benefits of staying active are well documented and are quickly studied using Google.  A frequent conversation around why we need to stay active is weight control. Weight control involves balancing energy intake (food/drink) with energy expenditure (physical movement).  If you are not active your energy balance is off which can lead to weight gain that introduces a host of health issues.

The psychological benefits of staying active cannot be overstated.  Physical activity has been shown to improve self-esteem, mood, focus, social and academic performance, along with reduced anxiety and depression.  Reflect on this…how depressed can you be during a long bike ride on a beautiful sunny day?

Some beverages will actually keep you from being active or promote conditions that can lead to inactivity.  Understand what your beverage is doing to your energy levels.

Manage Stress

Learn about the ongoing activation of “flight or fight response”. You will quickly discover that humans are under prolonged stress created by our intelligence and complex existence. If you are running your flight or fight response (stress) then you are mobilizing energy from your gut, immune system and from your higher brain centers to put this energy into your muscles so you can “survive” a difficult moment. A few difficult moments in the day, and before long you are living in stress mode. This means less energy and resources are available to repair and heal. Your body ages more quickly and develops degenerative diseases.

It is critical that you develop an understanding of stress and how to manage stress.  The National Institute of Mental Health details five things you should know about stress which we feel is a good primer.  1) Stress affects everyone, 2) Not all stress is bad, 3) Long-term stress can harm your health, 4) There are many ways to manage stress and 5) If you’re overwhelmed by stress it’s ok to ask for help.

Prudence

The opposite of prudence is recklessness.  Within this area of physical and mental health we need to practice discipline and vigilance.  For a lot of us this is challenging given the ample opportunities to overindulge.  Prudence is a catchall for anything that might seem enjoyable at the time but put the body and mind at risk if done to excess.  Prudence suggests the avoidance or reduction of anything harmful which includes but is not limited to junk food, smoking, alcohol, recreational drugs and social media addiction.  A Google search will return a lengthy list of things to avoid or reduce. 

2. Spiritual Dimension

Be curious about the notion that “belief itself shifts biology” and even the theory of “Entanglement”.  You don’t have to be a bible thumper here…but you should consider believing in a power greater than yourself.  If you believe in your mind that there is an energy enabling health and healing, it’s possible that you can trigger your body to manufacture good health.  Think about the classic placebo effect.  

 

Why in clinical studies do control groups taking say a sugar pill (The Placebo) experience the same effects as those taking the drug?  Is it that those taking the sugar pill trigger a natural power by accepting, believing and surrendering to the thought that they are getting the actual substance or treatment?  Thus, do they then begin to program their own autonomic system to make their own pharmacy of chemicals that matches the exact same chemicals they think they are taking?  

In these clinical studies it is very common that the placebo results are nearly or as good as those taking the medication.  Is it the inert substance (i.e., sugar) doing the healing or is it the body’s and mind’s innate capacity to heal?  There is now increasing research around how thoughts, beliefs and emotions impact human health and our ability to stay healthy.  We recommend that you don’t consult a pharmacist or anyone in the pharmaceutical industry about the mind’s involvement in good health…you will have to find alternative sources of information that may help yield powerful results.  In the end, you may conclude that a combination of conventional medicine and “holistic medicine” may be best for overall health and recovery.

3. Emotional Dimension

Closely related to the Spiritual Dimension is the Emotional Dimension of good health.  Here too we find increasing research and awareness around how thoughts, beliefs and emotions impact human health and our ability to avoid illness and recover.  The basic idea revolves around releasing suppressed emotions and increase the practice of positive thinking.  

It is increasingly common knowledge that there really is a way to activate your immune system and recovery with some mental and emotional work.  The theory goes that everything starts in the mind – including all illnesses and thus your mind is the key to either the source of good health or illness.    

Joe Dipenza suggests that the power that made the body can also heal the body.  We just need to use the interconnected supercomputer in our head to harness this power.  With all our impressive technological developments we have somehow discounted the most powerful supercomputers in existence that are vastly superior to anything we have or will develop in the next few generations.

Our brains are supercomputers.  Here in our brains there is an intelligence that keeps our heart beating, regulates our body temperature and immune system and digests our food.  If we can make contact with this intelligence and give it a plan, we can then surrender this plan to the intelligence that can release powerful internal resources to promote health and recovery.  

Further, it is suggested that our intelligence is the greatest healer and it operates through the autonomic system and all we have to do is get out of its way.  This is where things like meditation become important yet underdeveloped tools.  Time will be your opponent here as you start to research and learn about how to use your mind as a powerful tool to promote health and recovery.  There is a lot to learn at it is powerful.  If you’re like us you have a job, family and responsibilities so we don’t have a lot of time. 

However, we would suggest taking 15 minutes a day to advance your knowledge here as it may pay massive dividends later on.  Start off by searching Bruce Lipton, Joe Dispenza, Gila Golub, Deepak Copra, Kelly Turner and Mariam Williams.  This will be time well spent.

4. Social Dimension

Research has shown that social connections not only impact your mental health, but your physical health as well. Research shows that social isolation can lead to stress, and stress can do things like increase body inflammation, the risk of heart disease and poor insulin regulation. It has been suggested that stress can also increase the risk of early death – similar to smoking 15 cigarettes a day – having hypertension and it can double the risk of becoming obese. 

Do your research here and come up with your own conclusions which directionally will be the same…social isolation is not healthy. Mentally and emotionally, people who feel more connected to others have lower rates of anxiety and depression. Moreover, studies show they also have higher self-esteem, are more empathic to others, more trusting and cooperative and, as a consequence, others are more open to trusting and cooperating with them.

There is a profound power in social connectivity that has yet to be properly studied for better health. Consider alcoholics.  How is it that science and medicine are unable to stop the alcoholic from drinking, while the fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous has successfully brought millions of alcoholics back from the brink of alcoholic demise and reintroduced them to health and success?  Alcoholics Anonymous has a power rooted in the social connectivity of likeminded individuals who collectively believe in a power greater than themselves and work together to stay sober.  Can we harness this social connectivity to achieve health in other areas of our lives?  Maybe so.

5. Intellectual Dimension

Be curious. Intellectual wellness refers to active participation in scholastic, cultural, community activities and hobbies. It is important to gain and maintain intellectual wellness because it expands knowledge and skills in order to live a stimulating, successful and healthy life.  

According to the University of California Davis campus, intellectual wellness encourages us to engage in creative and mentally stimulating activities. These activities should expand your knowledge and skills while allowing you to share your knowledge and skills with others.  As intellectual wellness develops, you are able to develop personal resources that work together with the other realms of wellness in order to achieve a more balanced life.  Intellectual wellness encourages learning.  It is important to explore new ideas and understandings in order to become more mindful and better-rounded.  Having an optimal level of intellectual wellness inspires exploration.  Intellectual wellness also stimulates curiosity.  

Curiosity is important because it motivates you to try new things and develop an understanding of how you see the relationship between yourself, others and the environment.

Here are a few primers: read for fun, debate, make studying and learning a lifelong practice, master another language, play, study music, keep a journal and incorporate art into your life.

6. Environmental Dimension

This is a two-pronged dimension: the physical environment and your interpretation of the physical environment.

The obvious environmental dimension that impacts our health are toxins in our environment. In particular, we are concerned about the toxins created by humans which enter our environment and negatively impact our health.

Less obvious is our perception of our environment and the impact it has on our health. Consider this, when you watch a horror movie the fear you feel is real…but the source of your fear which is the TV is not real. The TV is creating a false reality that your eyes see which then send a signal to your body to trigger flight or fight. So, if in life you can adjust your perception of your environment you can control how your body reacts and in turn positively impact your health.

Your mind interprets the environment. If you are able to change your perception, your mind, your beliefs about life, then you change the signals going into your mind and ultimately change the function of your cells and your health. Change the mindset from “I’m a victim of my environment” to “I am a master of my environment”. We have a tendency to practice all sorts of cognitive distortions which will negatively and needlessly impact our health.

Your mind just might be the most powerful antioxidant you can leverage to help promote health and recovery. Do some research around the mind as a gatekeeper between your environment and your cells (body). This will eventually involve studying the interaction between the conscious mind and the subconscious mind.

7. Vocational Dimension

Vocational wellness is connected to other dimensions of wellness and to the overall level of wellness someone experiences. Like it or not, having a satisfying work life positively impacts physical, mental and emotional wellness. Engaging in professional development enhances intellectual wellness. Be brave and make change if your work is unsatisfying…it might make you much healthier and possibly save your life one day.  

8. Financial Dimension

This involves managing your resources to live within your means, making informed financial decisions and investments, setting realistic goals and preparing for short-term and long-term needs or emergencies. Studies have shown a positive correlation between good health and higher income. However, health in our opinion isn’t a luxury of the wealthy but instead is a gift you give yourself that comes from the mind. Think about it.