How Can I Achieve Optimal Health?
Optimal health is a state in which you are functioning at top capacity physically, emotionally, and spiritually. For most of us, it is a goal or destination and we find ourselves on a journey towards it. No matter where you are in your journey to this destination, you can take hope and encouragement from the fact that every step along the way brings with it very tangible benefits in terms of energy, joy, and just plain feeling better. The essentials outlined below are time-proven and research-backed methods to move you ever closer to optimal health. In fact, not only can they prevent the top killers in Western society but these principles can also work to reverse these deadly conditions. These top killers are heart disease, diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure and the related disabilities.
The acronym of NEWSTART is an easy way to remember these 8 essential secrets that form the foundation for the best, whole person centered, journey to optimal health and longevity. These essentials not only prevent disease, but used therapeutically can assist in healing from disease. Let’s look at a brief overview of these secrets to health one by one.
N stands for Nutrition. This is a broad area but the fundamental principles of nutrition for optimal health cluster around the areas of quality, quantity, and timing. In terms of quality, the best nutrition will be found in a diet that focuses on whole, natural, plant-based foods that are prepared simply and with minimal amounts of refined and processed foods like oils and sugars. A variety of fruits, grains, nuts, seeds, vegetables, and legumes (beans) provide the nutrients needed for best health. Those with health challenges that prevent them from getting this variety will often find improvement through following all 8 of these essentials. Sometimes a trained lifestyle medicine professional can offer guidance to work around these potential obstacles. In terms of quantity, over eating is greatly decreased with a plant-based diet as it is very rich in fiber providing meals that are high volume but low calorie and nutrient dense. This is an important secret to good nutrition. Timing is also important. The body’s digestive system is designed to process a maximum of 2-3 meals a day with nothing, not even healthy snacks, in between. This allows it to digest a meal, move it along the digestive tract, and prepare for the following meal. (For more detail, check out the article on How To Achieve Optimal Health, Secret #1).
E stands for Exercise. If you don’t move it, you’ll lose it! This is very true in terms of what we do with our bodies. We need a minimum of 2-3 hrs of aerobic exercise a week spread over at least 5 days, with at least two days of weight bearing type exercise for the legs and arms. If you are trying to control blood sugars or lose weight, you will want to look at a minimum of an hour a day, 6 days a week. This can be as simple as walking around the neighborhood.(For more detail, check out the article on How To Achieve Optimal Health, Secret #2).
W stands for Water. We need generous amounts of water both inside and outside of our bodies for optimal health. If you take your weight in pounds, divide that number by 2, it will tell you what your body’s baseline need is. You will need more if you are sweating a lot, you are in a very dry environment or are consuming caffeinated drinks. (For more detail, check out the article on How To Achieve Optimal Health, Secret #3).
S stands for Sunshine. It’s hard to overestimate the importance of sunshine for both physical and mental health. It helps to trigger the production of melatonin which is important for sleep and restoration. It allows cholesterol under the skin to be transformed into Vitamin D. Moderate exposure decreases your risk for cancer, and it can be a huge factor in staving off depression through its role in dopamine production (a chemical in your brain that affects mood). (For more detail, check out the article on How To Achieve Optimal Health, Secret #4).
T stands for Temperance. This is a good English word that has fallen out of fashion and much use but refers to the application of self-control in life. It represents abstinence from all things that are harmful to health, including drugs, alcohol, and tobacco as well as the moderation in the use of all things that are otherwise helpful to health. For example, it is possible to overeat on perfectly healthy food, but that would not be practicing “moderation” in the use of good things.(For more detail, check out the article on How To Achieve Optimal Health, Secret #5).
A stands for Air. Fresh air is the source of not only oxygen, which is obviously vital to good health, but also of negative ions which affect our mood positively. Making sure we get plenty of this secret ingredient and use our bodies in ways which maximize the uptake of oxygen all fall into this category. (For more detail, check out the article on How To Achieve Optimal Health, Secret #6).
R represents Rest. Without adequate, good quality rest, our bodies wear out long before they need to. Sleep, true recreation, and changes of pace all provide different types of rest that are essential to optimal health. Other Secrets listed above, such as exercise, sunshine, and fresh air all contribute to higher quality nightly rest. Good sleep hygiene can help us get the most out of our nightly rest sessions. (For more detail, check out the article on How To Achieve Optimal Health, Secret #7).
Last but not least, the ending “T” in NEWSTART is for Trust in God. This refers a trust in a power above and outside of ourselves that helps us to control stress, bring peace into our chaotic lives, decrease our anxiety, and increase our emotional equilibrium. Applying this principle is essential to getting the most out of the previous 7 secrets we have already discussed. Even if we are “doing” all the right things on our way to optimal health, we can derail our progress through spiritual unrest, unresolved guilt, and dependence solely on our own efforts. (For more detail, check out the article on How To Achieve Optimal Health, Secret #8).
Kudos to you for taking the time to think about how to apply these eight secrets in your personal quest for optimal health. And remember, it’s OK to take it one step at a time.
“The journey of a thousand miles, begins with a single step.”
Health Power, Health by Choice Not Chance by Dr. Hans Diehl/Aileen Ludington
Proof Positive by Dr. Neil Nedley
Ministry of Healing by E.G.White