by Kristi Vecellio, OTR/L, Clinical Director

I completed the Kresser Institute’s ADAPT, level 1, 12 month practitioner training course in functional medicine last year and presented GHC’s November Community Education Seminar on the topic of: Balanced Not Busy – The 4 Pillars of Health, inspired by, and adapted from, this course work.

I discussed the idea that optimal health involves a balance of:

Movement

Mindfulness

Circadian Rhythm (Sleep)

Connection

Here are some practical questions you can ask yourself as you work towards cultivating your own healthy balance:

Movement:

  • What do I enjoy?
  • What do I need?

Consider both baseline activity (such as walking, standing, light to moderate labor such as yard work, and stretches) as well as vigorous activity (aerobic exercise). A healthy life consists of a balance of the two. In times of high stress or poor health you may not need the added stressor of vigorous activity, but baseline movement should always be a focus.

Mindfulness:

  • Do I take time to BREATHE? Pausing for breath not only lowers our stress response but creates a moment of space between stimulus and response to choose our reaction.

Circadian Rhythm (Sleep):

  • What do I allow to disrupt my sleep? Disruptors can include: lights in the evening (yes, screens too!), exercise (too much, too late), food (too much too late, too few carbohydrates), stress, or a bedroom that is too warm or too bright.
  • What do I do to enhance my sleep? Enhancers can include: sunlight exposure early in the day, limiting light exposure at night (turn off your screens, dim lights, amber bulbs, blue light blocking), a calming and consistent bedtime routine, exercise (not too much, not too late), food (sufficient calories and carbohydrates), breathing techniques, complete darkness (blackout curtains), cool temperatures, and white noise.

Connection:

  • What am I doing to strengthen the quality of my important relationships? Research indicates that connected social relationships are just as important for a longer life as reducing smoking and alcohol consumption, and that strong social ties are even more important than body weight or physical activity.

Self-reflection is an important part of working toward and maintaining balance.

  • What does a life in BALANCE look and feel like to you?
  • Set a few long-term goals that will help bring you closer to this vision.
  • What Pillars are currently supporting your vision well? These are your wins! When life gets hard these are the supports you should rely on as they are already a part of your life and don’t require extra work.
  • What Pillars are a bit shaky? What small steps can you take to reinforce these pillars? These are your short term goals that lead you closer to your long-term goals and making your vision a reality.

Additional References and Resources:

  • Recommendations for better sleep:
    https://chrismasterjohnphd.com/2017/07/29/my-recommendations-for-better-sleep/
  • Infographic about how to optimize your health:
    https://www.slideshare.net/DansPlan/optimize-your-health-a-dans-plan-infographic
  • Breathing exercises:
    https://www.drweil.com/health-wellness/body-mind-spirit/stress-anxiety/breathing-three-exercises/
  • The best exercise is the one you love: https://www.marksdailyapple.com/the-best-exercise-there-is-hands-down/

Make sure you check out our next post by Wendy Brant, OTR/L. It expands on the idea of mindfulness by showing how it can be included in the classroom setting.

Happy Thanksgiving and have a healthy holiday season everyone!

Kristi Vecellio, OTR/L, Clinical Director