We often see health limited to the absence of disease. But it is so much more than that. We can identify 5 pillars which are the main areas of our lives, contributing to our overall wellbeing. If they are in balance, we are in a good health.
The pillars of health are based on the book „4 Pillars of Health“ by Ranjan Chatterjee . But I’ convinced that complete health requires a bit more, therefore I added pillar number 5.
Let me introduce you to the model of health. It will help you to recognize the area of your life where you can easily improve your health because one needs probably more attention than others.
Pillar 1: Relaxation
Living a busy lifestyle is very common. Relaxation seems to not be important enough to create extra time for it. But not even the best high-tech machine in the world can run at full-speed all the time without damage. The downside of being busy all the time is a permanently high level of stress hormones. They unfold their negative effects on our system such as high blood pressure, fatigue, stomach issues and many more. Being stressed is even worse than „just“ having a high cortisol level alone since it’s often connected to less activity, bad food choices and poor sleep quality.
Planning our downtime and actually enjoy it, is important. Relaxing activities help to refill our energy levels. Examples are reading, walking in nature, listening to music, meditation, quality time with our families or stretching (yoga). Switching your devices off to avoid distraction is part of this downtime.
Pillar 2: Activity
Our body is made to be active. Our seated lifestyle it against our nature and makes us sick. Activity is not only recommended to burn more calories helping to decrease the risk of overweight. Our body produces hundreds of chemicals to promote our health when we are active. We miss out on them when we live a sedentary lifestyle.
Getting more active in daily life is already a great start. Looking for occasions to move more than we initially did, like taking the stairs or going for a walk. To benefit from all the effects of activity it’s recommended to combine strength training with some cardiovascular as well as mobility exercises. Even a brisk walk is a good start if you used to be inactive.
Pillar 3: Food
Food is often not valued as the nourishment and prevention of disease in practice. Choosing food of poor quality disables our body to function properly and to maintain a good health. Low energy levels, mood swings, cravings, breakouts, thinning hair, diabetes, different forms of cancer, bad immune system and even depression are linked to a poor nutrition. Learning to connect again to our body‘s needs and signals is so important but neglected far too often. Choosing nutritious and less processed (better unprocessed) foods in a wide variety (different natural colors) are the key points for a good nourishment. Try to include veggies, salads, fruits, seeds, and legumes more often while reducing the number of carbohydrates (such as white bread), sugary and deep fried foods. One decision at a time, for each meal every day, is moving you in the right direction.
Pillar 4: Sleep
Sleep is our number one regeneration activity. Reparation, cleaning, disposing of waste, building structures and balancing of hormones and functions is mainly taking place during a good night sleep.
But too often we miss out on our sleep or make it impossible to go through proper sleep phases, which are required to benefit from sleep as much as possible.
Just to make the distinction clear: we might fall asleep without any problems because we are very exhausted. But this doesn’t equal to a great quality sleep. Waking up in the morning and feeling like we were hit by a truck is a sign of a inferior sleep quality.
One main trick to improve sleep quality is to carefully watch what we do before we go to bed. Physical training, caffeinated drinks, watching TV or Netflix, screen work or distraction by social media will decrease our sleep quality. Choosing calmer activities to prepare our mind and metabolism for recovery, is an important part to get the most out of our ‚shut-eye‘. (Here you find more information about Sleep)
Pillar 5: Happiness
Being in good physical health with all the pillars mentioned above is not complete if we forget our happiness. If we are healthy, we feel happier. But the relation works the other way around too: if we are happy, we are healthier as well. This connection persists even despite an often healthier lifestyle of happy people.
Happiness itself consists of our relationships, engagement, contribution, accomplishments and the small pleasures in life (Perma) (Read more: What makes us happy?). Which of these aspects of happiness need some more improvement in your life.
How to improve our Health?
Our overall goal should be to improve what we can. Little steps, done persistently, are great. Making healthier food decisions, being active every day, planning relaxation, adjusting frame conditions for a good sleep as well as nurturing our happiness. It’s not about perfection, but about balance and persistent action.
Let me give you an example: If you are a young mother you will probably have difficulties getting consistent and good night sleep. But if you adjust some other factors in your life, they will contribute to your overall health as well.
Another example: If you can’t squeeze in enough activity time, because you are in a really busy phase to finish a project, try to eat as good as you can to nourish your body and try to get some minutes of relaxation each day using a meditation app for instance.
The model of health makes it – hopefully – easier for us to assess which areas need some more attention in order to achieve a good overall wellbeing.
-  Ranjan Chatterjee (2017): The 4 Pillar Plan: How to Relax, Eat, Move and Sleep Your Way to a Longer, Healthier Life. Penguin Life
-  Does being healthier make you happy? https://healthy-magazines.com/healthy-make-happier/
-  Happy People are Healthier: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/happy-people-are-healthie/
Here you can read more:
- Sleep: The importance of Sleep.
- Happiness: What makes you happy?
- Nutrition: Mindful Eating is about Awareness