You’ve heard of the movie, The Fifth Element, right? You know, where Bruce Willis runs around with a crazy redhead trying to save the universe? He finally finds all the five elements, lines them up in their proper places, and saves the day in the nick of time. Well, whether you saw the movie or not, you’re probably familiar with the concept of the five elements; together they form the world around us and create balance. There’s five elements to wellness too, though, thankfully, no space travel or crazy outfits required.
We talk a lot about being holistic in healthcare; the importance of addressing all areas of an individual’s life in order to help them achieve wellness and avoid disease. One great thing about the National Institute of Whole Health is that they really train you to look at every disease from the aspect of the five elements, and to see how each arena contributes to a person’s overall state of health.
Did you know that hopelessness is the number one emotional state predictive of heart disease? Or that fear and anxiety lead to increased cortisol production, therefore contributing to adrenal fatigue, decreased immune system function, hypertension, sleep disturbances, and a whole host of other problems? Your mind and your body are not separate systems, they are one and the same. The neurotransmitters your cells produce that dictate your mood also influence other cells in your body, and you can’t reach a state of bodily wellness unless you have emotional wellness.
Thankfully, this part of health is getting a lot more attention these days. Your environment includes the quality of the air you breathe, the water you drink, the purity of the products you use and the food you eat, the level of stress in your work, home, and relationships, and pretty much anything around you that can influence you. These outside influences have more of an impact on your health than you may imagine, so its important to take a step back and look at the bigger picture of the world around you.
This one’s pretty obvious, but also one of the most confusing for people. We’ve heard the adage “You are what you eat”, and we know that we need to eat well….but what does that mean? Low carb? Low fat? Vegetarian? Vegan? Kosher? The answer is: it depends. There’s over 6 billion people on the planet with a dizzying array of available food sources depending on their location around the globe. This is highly individual and depends on your season of life, your current state of health, your metabolism, and your genetics. It’s worth the effort to figure out what works best for you, and to adapt as you go through life, always paying close attention to your body and what its telling you, not what someone else says you should eat.
You were born with your genetics, your bone structure, your blood type, your own individual tendencies and weaknesses. Even whether or not you’re a long distance runner or a sprinter is partly out of your control. You can influence and change some of these things, but others, you’re stuck with. If you’re a slender white woman, you probably already know that your risk of osteoporosis is high. If you’re of African descent, your risk for hypertension and kidney disease is higher than others. If you’re Asian, you’re likely lactose intolerant. Educate yourself about your body and what risk factors you have. Has your digestion always been weak? Does breast cancer run in your family? Get to know yourself, inside and out, and find out what you can do to prevent or reverse those things you’re susceptible to.
Your outlook on life has a HUGE impact on your health, for better or worse. What are your values? Do you believe in a higher purpose for your life, and if so, are you living in accordance with that purpose? Value based living means aligning your life with the things that you believe are important, and striving to accomplish your goals. Do you trust in God or some higher power? Or do you think you’re here on your own, meant to struggle and keep glancing over your shoulder all your life? Whatever you believe, it influences your health. If you have a trusting, peaceful outlook, your health will reflect that. If you feel alone in the world and constantly threatened, your health will suffer because of the constant stress.
The role of the health coach is to stand with you as you step back and take a look at your life, appreciating and understanding where you are, how you got there, and where you want to go. It isn’t to advise you, to give you a list of do’s and don’ts, or to determine what steps you should take. A good coach will act as a facilitator for your own process, asking you questions to help you think, providing you with information so that you can make informed decisions, and supporting you as you take the steps to reach your destination. Where you go is up to you.