7 secrets for sustaining wellness

A half-century ago, Japanese filmmaker Akira Kurosawa directed a film called Seven Samurai in which a farming village hired seven rogues to defend them against bandits who steal their harvest every season.

Yule Brenner hired seven gunmen to do the same in the American Southwest, in a remake called The Magnificent Seven. Conceptually, we can see the invading bandits who steal crops as pain, illness, disease, virus, bacteria and so on invading the body and robbing it of its health and the person of its quality of life.

With the release the Magnificent Seven reboot film, I wondered if there were seven things we all need to pull together as a working unit in order to protect us and help us maintain health, wellness and improve or maintain our quality of life.

1. Positive mindset

This is where it all begins. Our mindset, outlook or attitude toward life is so vital to health and wellness. How we view the world and our place in it affects our stress, emotions, mental health and ultimately our immune system.

Happiness breads wellness because it effects the way we see the world, appreciate what we have, and how we interact with others, which can reduce stress and elevate serotonin levels. You can read an article on happiness and the key to being healthy, where a journal article concluded: “high positive affect was associated with a significantly reduced risk of all-cause mortality.”

Having an “attitude of gratitude” is another great way to elevate your feelings and wellness. MRI studies showed that feelings of gratitude create neural correlates in the brain that improve mental health and interpersonal relationships. You can read more about thanksgiving—a powerful healing vehicle, here.

Eckhart Tolle has built a career of telling people simply to “live in the moment.” How true the recommendation which, itself, has been the practice of monks and spiritualists for centuries. I love Tolle’s messages, especially that there is no past or future, only now; and so we must do our best now and make the best of now, regardless of circumstance. Stress, anxiety, and a host of other wellness issues arise out of replaying the past in our minds and conversations and in worrying about potential future events which may never happen.

How we see ourselves and the world and our place in it and among our peers really has strong effects on our health, wellness and quality of life. To see how you can put some thought into planning a life that will bring you happiness, love, gratitude, and abundance, read here for tips on how to get the life you want.

2. Healthy diet

Food and water are vital to life: without them we die. Yet, by consuming poor quality food and not enough fresh water, we also die… just a slower, more painful and disease-based death. High blood pressure, diabetes, cholesterol and obesity are all related to the foods and beverages we consume. On the same coin, vibrancy, fitness, and health are also related to what we consume.

The basics of a sound and healthy diet are simply this: consume fresh, whole foods; drink 8-10 glasses of filtered water daily; eat organic fruit and vegetables and lean meats raised free of hormones and antibiotics; and avoid as much as possible: sugar, alcohol, hydrogenated oils, saturated fats, processed white rice and grains and reduce dairy intake.

A great way to start your day with nutrient density is by making a green smoothie; here’s how to do it. And if you have blood pressure and cholesterol issues, try some of this tea.

3. Regular exercise

To be healthy you really do need to move your body. It is essential for moving the blood, sweating out toxins, keeping muscles supple and joints mobile, and of course managing blood pressure, reducing stress, boosting metabolic function, burning calories, and elevating mood.

I wrote about how a sedentary lifestyle is associated with increased risk of disease, death and hospitalization. The good news is that exercises does not have to be planned or in groups. Sure, there are group classes in Pilates and aerobics but taking long active walks, doing laundry and house cleaning also work as part of a program.

No time, no problem. The program known as HIT (High Intensity Training) only requires three-minute bursts of aerobic activity and works wonders on insulin resistance and cardio health. And if you have chronic pain or no space to get up and get moving, you can check out any of these nine isometric exercises on how to get fit while barely moving. Other great ways to get moving include yoga, tai chi, and aerobic exercises like burpees.

4. Sufficient sleep

Many people take sleep for granted, skimping on it and prolonging their active hours to squeeze more time into a day. Yet, research shows that sleep deprivation produces more errors and injury on the job. The fact is, 60% of Americans don’t get the recommended 7-8 hours of deep, restful sleep per night needed to repair and recharge the body.

Sleep deprivation, whether from jamming more work into a day, staying out late partying, or suffering insomnia, wreak havoc on our health. Negative side effects of not sleeping enough include adverse effects on gene activity, weakened immune response, and reduction in our ability to control stress, depressed inflammatory response, increase in anxiety and depression, unhealthy food cravings, and elevated risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke and some cancers.

Here are some tips for getting a good night’s sleep and why you should never sleep on negative emotions.

5. Embracing spirituality

Being spiritual, for sake of this category, refers to a belief in something larger than themselves. There are many ways to “be in spirit” or in touch with the “divine”, including meditation, prayer, and even appreciating nature or playing an instrument or listening to music that “inspires.” Many people who are spiritual or religious, often express that their beliefs make them “feel whole” (the root meaning of “health”).

You can read here that faith matters: a review I wrote of The American Cancer Society’s meta-analysis examining the importance of religion and spiritualty on positive outcomes for cancer patients. “When we took a closer look, we found that patients with stronger spiritual well-being, more benign images of God, or stronger beliefs reported better social health. In contrast, those who struggled with their faith fared more poorly.”

To help you get into a spiritual or healing place you can use mantras and meditation.

6. Know your vital signs

Even when embracing a positive mental attitude, good diet, regular exercise routine, getting ample sleep and developing positive interpersonal relationship, we need to monitor our health. This means getting regular readings, and considering the metrics, of our blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol, pH levels, Vitamin B and D, and BMI (body mass index).

High blood pressure puts you at risk for heart disease and stroke. High cholesterol leads to arterial plaque which can also lead to heart disease and stroke. High blood glucose (sugar) levels can cause metabolic disorder and damage your heart, kidneys, nerves and eyes. Excessive weights leads to diabetes and obesity, heart disease and inactivity.

Getting an annual physical will allow you the chance to get an internal reading of many of these, and a good scale will tell you your weight.

Here are some articles with more information on balancing body acids, foods for heart health and maintaining mineral levels in the body.

7. Interpersonal relationships

To conclude we need to consider the power of positive interpersonal relationships on your health and well-being. This includes having loving and honest relationships with your significant others; moral and responsible relationships with your employers; loyal and sincere relationships with your friends.

The quality of our relationships tells us a lot about ourselves, how we see ourselves and others. Good relationships help us feel good about ourselves and thus elevating our mindset. Friends helps us cope with difficult things and this helps reduce anxiety and depression and eating disorders. Feel good about yourself and others can go a long way to boosting serotonin, quality of life, feelings of acceptance, reduction in stress and feelings of loneliness that can lead to depression.

Bring good people close to you and allow that to be a catalyst for building your health and improving your quality of life, embracing interpersonal relationships as part of a the “Magnificent Seven” of sustained wellness.

Dr. Mark Wiley

By Dr. Mark Wiley

Dr. Mark Wiley is an internationally renowned mind-body health practitioner, author, motivational speaker and teacher. He holds doctorates in both Oriental and alternative medicine, has done research in eight countries and has developed a model of health and wellness grounded in a self-directed, self-cure approach. Dr. Wiley has written 14 books and more than 500 articles. He serves on the Health Advisory Boards of several wellness centers and associations while focusing his attention on helping people achieve healthy and balanced lives through his work with Easy Health Options® and his company, Tambuli Media.