All the components of living and existing — breathing, hydrating, sleeping, nourishing/digesting, rest/recreation and love — are the determinants of one’s health. They are the major pieces of the puzzle when deciding how to improve quality of living. There is no order of importance; however, I am going to focus on what I see clinically as the most challenging.
The health determinant that challenges most people is proper rest and recreation. I know we are well-trained as a society to be productive, active, fit, successful, beautiful, funny, the list can go on. These are all great traits, but what is the balance?
For every moment of activity there should be an equal period of restoration. We know solid sleep at night is the first step, and absolutely this is a major determinant of health. However, even eight hours of deep sleep nightly does not combat the stresses of working full time, parenting, caregiving, grieving, anxiety, trauma or addiction. We must learn to balance these stresses with daily habits.
One of my favorite treatment recommendations is a 20-minute horizontal rest during the day. This gives the adrenal glands a much-needed break. It is no coincidence that in traditional Chinese medicine, the kidneys are recognized as being damaged by too much standing, and the adrenal glands sit atop each kidney. Changing the physical position of the adrenal glands helps restore them. There is no need to fall asleep, in fact it is better to work on clearing the mind and really practice slowing down all the chatter.
The other aspect of this health determinant is recreation. These should be activities done out of pure enjoyment, and this should happen every day! To be successful in having fun, we need to know enough about ourselves to know what we like. Challenge yourself to make a list of five to ten activities you really enjoy. Begin to see how they can fit in your daily living, as a daily occurrence or a special occasion.
For me, being physically active with yoga, hiking, running and strength training are extremely fun but also can lead to physical and routine stress that I do not want to put myself through. Been there and done that!
I do not plan for these activities so much as knowing a general plan for the upcoming week and where any of that will fit in. It’s not every day, which allows me to rest and actually assimilate that effort into my being. Not planning for physical activity keeps it fun and carefree, which is good balance to other parts of my day.
I know it’s easy to pigeonhole “health” into diet, exercise and stress, but there is so much more to it. Never feel guilty, bad, or lazy for doing fun things or sometimes nothing altogether. Switching gears into relaxed, fun or bored mode is better for our physical bodies, disposition, longevity and even spirit.