I won’t lie, I didn’t know there were 7 components of wellness.
If you had asked me 10 years ago “what are the components of wellness and health?” I would’ve said, “Eating healthy foods and working out”. Sounds good, right? Through most of my 20’s I ate pretty “clean” and worked out regularly and was in decent shape, only to develop 3 autoimmune diseases at 31 years old winding up so sick that I spent 9 months in bed.
I Don’t Want My Story to Be Your Story
Unfortunately, my story is becoming more and more common in North America by the minute.
According to AARDA “Approximately 50 million Americans, 20 percent of the population or one in five people, suffer from autoimmune diseases [a condition where the body begins to attack itself]. Women are more likely than men to be affected; some estimates say that 75 percent of those affected–some 30 million people–are women.” (If you aren’t sure what an autoimmune disease is or if you have one, check out this link for a list of autoimmune diseases) And the numbers are similar in Canada.
Autoimmune diseases, chronic illnesses and cancer are becoming more and more common around us, and it makes me think that “eating right” and “working out” isn’t enough anymore. And let’s be honest, most of us aren’t even eating all that well and only occasionally get a work out in so where are we even starting from?
So what can we do to decrease the odds in developing a chronic illness? And what can we do to heal if we have developed one already?
Start With the 7 Components of Wellness
Our body has so many “systems” that work together as a whole to create total health. Because of that, there’s no “one-size-fits-all” approach. And because our bodies are constantly changing there’s no “do this, and it will work every day for you forever”. We can use the awareness of these 7 components of wellness to learn how to listen to our bodies and understand what they’re trying to tell us. By focusing on these 7 components of wellness I have seen my overall health and happiness improve and I’m excited for you to experience the same on your unique journey.
Today I want to explain to you why each component is important and worthy of our attention. In the future, I will write more detailed posts about each of the components of wellness and healing so if you struggle in a specific area you can focus on that specific component.
Disclaimer: I’m not a doctor, this is just what I’ve learned and put together after lots of research and speaking with doctors, naturopaths, healers, and others who struggle with the same diseases or other chronic illnesses. If you think you are sick, please go see your doctor as soon as possible.
I would say this is one of the cornerstones of health. Sleep is needed to help you clear the day mentally, to help you heal physically and to help you grow when you’re a kid/teen.
If you go without sleep for days at a time, the organs in your body will begin to shut down and you can eventually die. Sleep deprivation is no joke, there’s a reason it’s used as a form of torture in some countries and by most toddlers. 😉
Yet the average North American is constantly trying to get less and less sleep to fit more and more in their day. 7-8 hours is recommended for the average adult. If you have an autoimmune disease, you’ll most likely need 9-10 hours. Yet 40% of North Americans are only averaging 6 hours of sleep a night while the other 60% average 6.8 hours a night.* I know there’s a rumour that you can just “catch up on sleep” on the weekend, but it doesn’t really work like that. There are times where we need more sleep than other times, but if we keep depriving our bodies of 1-4 hours of sleep, it definitely begins to wear on the body. No wonder sickness is running rampant around us! I read an article in Forbes Magazine that said:
This trend [of sleeping less] poses many health risks. A host of studies and reports has linked insufficient sleep to depression, ADHD, obesity, Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer, and Alzheimer’s. Back in 2014, the CDC labeled sleep deprivation a public health epidemic—with over 70 million adults suffering from a sleep disorder. Sleeplessness is also connected to other severe consequences: The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that drowsy driving causes 1,550 deaths and 40,000 injuries annually in the United States.
In our North American culture we tend to prize being busy rather than taking care of ourselves, and from the above-mentioned studies, you can see that sleep isn’t an exception. We are chronically tired and have accepted lies like “everyone is tired”, “I just don’t have time for it.” “I’ll be more successful if I can sleep less” etc…
If we want our bodies to have a fighting chance against autoimmunity, cancer, or even just the common cold, we need to get back into a healthy sleep pattern. There are tips and tricks that I’ll include in my next post to help you get into the “sleep zone” before bed but they are lifestyle changes. Many people will continue having horrible or not long enough sleep, all because they aren’t ready to make those lifestyle changes. Are you ready to do whatever it takes to put your body first and get the sleep you need so that you can stay healthy?
2. Nutrition and Supplementation
Let’s start with this: just because the package says “Gluten-free” does not mean that it is healthy for you, ok?
Food can be your main form of medicine and powerful components of wellness if you know how to use it properly and if you use real foods, not just pre-packaged processed foods.I was reading just today that the food we eat gives our body the information and materials it needs to run all of it’s metabolic (or life) processes properly, so our health and cellular health is highly dependent on eating the right foods.
An interesting note is that your red blood cells are replaced every 4 months, your white blood cells every year, and your colon cells every 4 days. What does that mean? It means that what you put into your body (what you eat) can have a real impact on the health of each of those cells in a pretty short period of time. That’s both good and bad news. Bad news because if you’re eating pre-fabbed, processed foods that don’t give your body the correct information and building material it needs for healthy metabolic functions, then you’ll see a decline in the health of your cells and your overall metabolic health (energy, brain function, digestion, libido etc..). On the other hand, if you put in the food that gives good information and the right materials for your body to function well, your cells will thank you for it and you’ll feel great.
In my journey of health, I knew I needed help from someone who had studied food and seen real results with people who were in a similar situation to mine. I worked with the EastWest Healing crew who specialized in helping people overcome chronic illnesses by using food as their medicine.
They were amazing! I had been living in “fight or flight” mode (or stressed out/anxious mode) for so long which meant my liver had forgotten how to use and store energy from food. (See my post on anxiety that explains this further). I retrained my liver by learning how to balance my meals, to eat more frequently and to eat specific foods that were easy for the liver to process.
When my liver was back up and running, I began to focus on eating foods that lowered inflammation and cut out foods that caused inflammation. This diet is called the AutoImmune Protocol (or AIP). I’m working on this right now and it’s been in addition to what I had learned from the EastWest Healing crew so it’s working together beautifully.
Food is powerful. You can use it to help your body heal and to re-train your body to do the things it was originally programmed to do.
Food was put on this earth to give us all the nutrients we need. However, most of our food has changed so much and is no longer as nutrient dense as it was 20 years ago. In order to supplement that I take a product called “Life Long Vitality” or “LLV” by doTERRA. They established through scientific studies what nutrients are needed in our body, then they subtracted what the average North American diet is and how many nutrients we get from that. They then made a supplement from whole foods to fill the gap in our everyday needs. It has your minerals, your omega vitamins and an incredible antioxidant that supports your body’s systems in regular every-day detoxing so your cells can focus on making energy instead of fighting free radicals. Both my husband and I have really appreciated this supplement and how it’s helped us to feel so much better and have way more energy. You can get started on LLV by clicking here
Here’s a link to a video on what’s in the LLV complex. It’s a bit cheesy but has an excellent explanation of how LLV works.
3. Stress Management
This is an important one! I noticed that even when I was getting enough sleep and eating well if I wasn’t managing my stress load my body remained in fight or flight mode. Which meant most of the work I was doing wasn’t helping in the end because I couldn’t absorb the nutrients that I was putting into my body and I couldn’t store or make energy. (check out my post on How To Deal With Anxiety)
This phenomenon happens because if you were running from a lion in real life, your body doesn’t consider digestion or libido as important at that moment. (Obviously. You don’t have time to make babies when you’re running from a lion!) So your body redirects energy to your muscles to run, your eyes to see better, your heart to beat faster and your lungs to take many shallow breaths.
Unfortunately, your body can’t distinguish between “running from a lion” type stress and “giving a report in front of clients” or “wondering if these people actually like me” type stress etc…
We are constantly bombarded with tons of information, high-stress situations and pressure to make fast decisions and to worry about the future etc…so we often end up living in a high-stress state, which is not so good for the ol’ digestive tract or nervous system! (Or for making babies!)
I’ve been learning to manage this stress-load in different ways:
1. Removing toxic people from my life
2. Walking away from my incredibly stressful job (which was super tough to do since I had spent 7 years working up to my short 5 year career)
3. Setting Boundaries for work and myself (Like if I say I’m going to bed at 9pm, even if a great movie is on, I still go to bed)
4. Establishing my values and making sure my life reflected them
5. Meditating and Praying
6. Deep Breathing
7. Practicing Yoga
8. Essential oils – Balance and Serenity especially which come in the Natural Solutions Kit from doTERRA.
4. Environmental Elements
Lowering Toxic Load
I read an article the other day that said a survey conducted by the EWG and coalition found that “12.2 million adults – one of every 13 women and one of every 23 men – are exposed to ingredients that are known or are probable human carcinogens every day through their use of personal care products.”
They also found that the average person uses 9 personal care products a day that includes these carcinogens. An example of the average personal care product would be shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste, deodorant, lotions, bath products, colognes/perfumes, and cosmetics. That means you are being exposed daily to around 129 unique chemicals that are harmful to you before you have even left the house! No wonder this topic made the components of wellness list!
Becuase the average woman tends to use more products (around 13 a day) she is exposed to 168 chemicals, daily! Isn’t that nuts?! And that’s just from the chemicals in the products we use before even leaving our bathrooms. It doesn’t take into account dish soap, hand soap, pollution/smog, or chemicals like pesticides in your food etc…
Scientists are talking more and more about toxic load because our bodies can only handle so much. They’re beginning to see a correlation between this toxic overload and impaired infertility, impeded metabolism and lowered immune system.
We can lower our toxic load in our home by filtering our water and replacing any of our cleaning products and self-care products with natural ones that do not contain harmful chemicals. I got pretty overwhelmed when first doing the research for this one, noting that it would cost me around $1700 to replace everything in my house if I were to do it at once. I ended up going to Doterra because it’s a one stop shop for replacing all shower, hair, and cleaning products in one go. And you are guaranteed that there are no harmful chemicals in their products (I’ve looked up each chemical in the ingredients personally). You can overhaul almost everything in your house for $600 with their Natural Solutions Kit which is what I did. The biggest difference I noticed right away when I switched over my products was that my daily headaches went away, my joints weren’t so achy, and I had less brain fog and more energy all around #worthit!
Creating a space you love
Your home is your sanctuary. Especially your bedroom. Take the time to find out what makes you feel calm and relaxed and over time you can transform your home into a space you can’t wait to come back to at the end of the day. This is a really important step in lowering stress and keeping a clean home. Declutter, declutter, declutter. Then only bring things into your home that you love. (check out my series on decluttering your home)
I used Pinterest to create an inspiration board (you can follow it here:) It was a lot of fun and I began to see a theme of what I liked, then I was able to implement it. I like white walls and neutral colours and warm textures. I then made a budget for what I could spend on re-doing my room and made a little dream list of what I wanted. Over the next few months, I created my dream bedroom. I love it so much and every time I’m in there I feel relaxed and inspired. And most importantly I’m able to sleep well in my bedroom at night! When I have more house-budget I’ll work on my living room next. Honestly just spending time decluttering made it so much nicer already!
5. Exercise and Movement
A favourite on the components of wellness list! Our bodies need exercise. The right kind of exercise helps us to feel less anxious, helps our lymphatic system to drain, and our muscles to stay strong. Which in turn keeps our bones in place, and promotes overall happy feelings so it’s a win-win.
It’s one of those things that I kind of dread doing but then once I do it I’m like “why don’t I do this all the time? I feel so good!”
The key is to simply get moving and to find the right kind of work out for you. Right now the most I can do is a 20 min walk or a 20 min yoga class. And that’s ok! It’s about getting out there! My goal is to be able to walk for an hour each day and to be able to eventually do a full yoga class.
For me, in my current health, I can do a 20 min yoga class. Any longer than that and I can tell my body goes into depletion mode and the workout is no longer adding to my health, it’s taking away. It’s so important to listen to your body and to do the right movements for you. If you have an autoimmune disease, I’ve found that intense cardio isn’t so great. We can usually (not always) handle slower movements like gentle walks or yoga. Sometimes we can handle using weights and plyometric training rather than cardio training. So maybe try a few different things and find the one that fits right for you. Nine months ago, I couldn’t even do a 10 minute walk. So just keep listening to your body and keep moving every day even if it is just a little bit. If you’re in a workout class and you can feel that your body is unable to keep going, just stop. Don’t apologize. Rest. When you can catch up, do so. But don’t feel bad for listening to your body. Your body is your ticket to life. Be gentle with it.
We are social beings, there’s no question about that. Even if you are someone who is more introverted and needs more time alone than an extrovert, it doesn’t mean that isolation would be good for you. A community is included on the components of wellness list and here is why:
Studies, including one published in March by Brigham Young University researchers, suggest that loneliness, isolation and living alone can be as threatening to health as cigarettes, excess alcohol and obesity. The danger of loneliness is especially acute in later life when social resources decline and illness accumulates, which can have an impact on independence. The simple reality from birth to old age is that we need one another to regulate not only our emotions but our bodies as well. Not all people who live alone will describe themselves as lonely. But when living alone [or being so sick that you’re stuck at home alone all day] leads to social isolation there are health consequences. –Gary J Kennedy – MD
Isn’t that amazing? It can actually affect your physical body to be isolated and alone. I believe that a work environment contributes to that same feeling of community and can help promote mental health. However, studies have shown that working in an environment where you aren’t sure if you belong can result in being sick more often and having a lesser quality of life. A community where you belong and feel understood and valued is so important.
I feel that I experienced the negatives of this intensely during the first 9 months of being sick. Seeing my husband every day kept me from going batty, but I only had 3 visitors in those 9 months and I got pretty lonely. I battled a pretty deep depression for a while there and found that restoring my health was very difficult. I’m so grateful for finding a community again. I now believe in fewer, deeper relationships, whereas before I had many many relationships but only a few of them ran deep (as you can tell by my 3 visitors in 9 months). I’m grateful for the community I have and feel that my mental health has significantly improved because of it.
Not everyone will agree with spirituality being included in the components of wellness list, but many studies have been done on adults who have religious beliefs and the results have been very interesting!
- In a 7-year study of senior citizens, religious involvement was associated with less physical disability and less depression.
- Elderly people who regularly attended religious services had healthier immune systems than those who didn’t. They were also more likely to have consistently lower blood pressure.
- Patients undergoing open-heart surgery who received strength and comfort from their religion were three times more likely to survive than those who had no religious ties. (read more here)
Prayer is also a very effective coping mechanism for many. It provides a sense of peace knowing that there is a “reason for everything” and that someone greater is at work in or around you. Religious groups often offer community support, too, which as we discussed in number 6 is very beneficial for our health. Lastly, I’ve found that spirituality (not necessarily religiousness) can help us to connect with our bodies in a deeper way. It helps us to tune in and be present in the moment, which in turn provides the opportunity to lower stress levels.
Did Any of These Components of Wellness Surprise You?
Which ones do you need to work on?
Let me know in the comments below which ones stood out to you most. If you’d like more information on any of the 7 components of wellness, make sure to subscribe so you don’t miss out!
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