5 Tips To Level-Up Your Health (That Have Little To Do with Diet + Exercise)
When people think about health, it’s easy to get caught up in diet and exercise. But wellness is so much more than that. In fact, everything that plays a role in your physical, mental, and emotional health can be considered wellness.
In my telehealth functional medicine clinic, I consult people on a daily basis on the emotional side of wellness as much, if not more, than food and supplements and how this mind-body connection plays a role in your overall well-being. So what does this actually look like in your life? Read on to learn more about the art of being well.
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1. Replace complaining with gratitude
While you might recognize the importance of gratitude, fear, stress, anger, anxiety, and bitterness can easily creep in. Instead of thinking of gratitude as yet another thing to cross off your daily to-do list, reshape how you practice it.
The next time you want to complain, take note of what triggers you in order to set up healthy boundaries for whatever isn’t serving your mental and physical health. Not only will you feel better by cutting out the negative, you’ll also be making room for the things that do make the cut on your gratitude list.
2. Do a good deed
There is a lot of talk in the wellness world about setting up boundaries and removing yourself from toxic people and situations. Although I believe this is vital to our mental health, if we aren’t careful, it can also lead to a self-serving mentality that doesn’t leave room for compassion, empathy, and sacrifice for others. Studies have even shown that helping others (1) can give you a sense of purpose, improve your mental health, and bring about a sense of connection.
Just remember, you don’t have to give at the expense of your values or push yourself to your physical or emotional limit. Choose a cause and volunteer your time or resources in accordance with what you have to give.
3. Change your diet
I don’t believe in “good” or “bad” foods. But as a functional medicine expert, I understand that there are bad foods for you. Since everyone’s biochemistry is different, you might respond negatively to a certain food that someone else might thrive off of. Swapping out inflammatory foods and drinks that don’t love you back with nutrient-dense foods that do is the opposite of “toxic diet culture.” Just like you have healthy boundaries with people, it’s ok to have healthy boundaries with foods that don’t agree with you. Fueling your body with the fuel it needs and loves is another way to show your body self-respect.
4. Allow yourself to feel
We all feel anger, excitement, anxiety, fear, stress, and sadness at some point in our daily lives but society doesn’t always give us the space to feel these emotions - whether that’s due to a “lack” of time or preconceived notions of how we should present ourselves.
However, this leads people to go through the motions of life with unresolved trauma that has been buried deep inside. Instead of subscribing to society’s rules of how we should act, let yourself feel every emotion that comes your way so that you can move on to the next stage of the healing journey: resolution. Give yourself space to journal, cry, or talk through your feelings with someone you trust. Once you have identified your feelings, you’ll be able to walk through trials in your life a lot easier.
5. Take responsibility and don’t shy away from conflict
Creating distance and blaming others is a lot easier than admitting when you are wrong. Personally, conflict has only gotten worse in my life - not better - whenever I’ve tried to sweep problems under the rug. While it might be tough at first, I’ve experienced a lot more freedom and reconciliation once I’ve apologized, owned up to my mistakes and been willing to listen to the other person. As for when the conversations haven’t gone so great? Well, that only revealed the healthy boundaries that needed to be put in place.
There is no “one-size-fits-all” formula for any aspect of wellness. You might be great at facing conflict but not so great at setting up healthy boundaries. Health is an ever-evolving journey, so take what is going to benefit you the most and put the rest aside for a time when you might need to come back to them.
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Yeung JWK, Zhang Z, Kim TY. Volunteering and health benefits in general adults: cumulative effects and forms. BMC Public Health. 2017 Jul 11;18(1):8. doi: 10.1186/s12889-017-4561-8. Erratum in: BMC Public Health. 2017 Sep 22;17 (1):736. PMID: 28693551; PMCID: PMC5504679.
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BY DR. WILL COLE
Dr. Will Cole, DNM, IFMCP, DC is a leading functional medicine expert who consults people around the globe, starting one of the first functional medicine telehealth centers in the world. Named one of the top 50 functional and integrative doctors in the nation, Dr. Will Cole provides a functional medicine approach for thyroid issues, autoimmune conditions, hormonal imbalances, digestive disorders, and brain problems. He is the host of the popular The Art Of Being Well podcast and the New York Times bestselling author of Intuitive Fasting, Ketotarian, The Inflammation Spectrum and the brand new book Gut Feelings: Healing the Shame-Fueled Relationship Between What You Eat and How You Feel.
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