There are so many ways to define health 4 billion in fact, so for my take on what it means to be healthy and what Health is, see this post on 8 Health Metrics to Track for Overall Health. And while getting healthy is super important to growing wealth for a variety of reasons (saves you lots of time and money by steering clear of a doctor’s office and pharmacy), that post doesn’t look at the main factors that impact long-term health.
When you have a limited amount of time, energy and money, prioritizing the factors that can support you the most long-term gives you the biggest impact for your effort.
So thinking about health over a lifetime and after ample amounts of research (this study is particularly good), THREE main takeaways emerged that seem to have the most profound impact on long-term health. They are: Sleep, Movement and Mindset.
The absolute number one thing you can do for your health is to make sure that you are sleeping well. I’m not going to give out numbers because the amount of sleep is pretty individual but what you should be looking for is:
- Falling asleep quickly
- Staying asleep (or getting back to sleep quickly if waking)
- Often waking up on your own (prior to an alarm clock)
- Waking up feeling refreshed/ waking up in the morning and not feeling like you want to go back to sleep
- Recalling dreams some to most of the nights
Sleep is where your body and brain recover, hormones are produced, the digestive system rests, and so much more. Undisrupted sleep gives your body the time it needs to prepare for the day ahead and reduces your risks of long-term health issues and potential injuries.
Learn more about healthy sleep.
If you want to be healthy and sustain your health long-term, start with your sleep. Sleeping well is seriously foundational. You cannot build Sustainable Wealth without health and overall health is seriously impacted by sleep quality.
If you have concerns about your sleep health, it’s always wise to have a conversation with your healthcare provider but in general, sleep hygiene plays a huge part in setting you up for a restful night. Read more about sleep hygiene here.
If you need to have a conversation with a healthcare provider, see this post on How to Get the Most Out of Your Primary Care Doctor’s Visit.
The next most important thing to do to get and stay healthy is to get your body moving! It doesn’t have to be a lot but sitting can really kill you! Activities such as walking are a wonderful way to get the blood pumping, joints lubricated, stress and tension released and mood elevated.
Add some music (internet radio can be a huge motivator as it has a ton of variety), listen to podcasts (also available offline if internet is an issue), or invest in virtual group classes such as Peloton, iFit and many others. Check with your health insurance company because they may have some free or discounted options as well. YouTube also has a ton of options for free classes.
For more information on the power of music in workout motivation and performance check this post from Scientific American. Music can have a profound impact on motivation so if you’re not feeling up to exercising, try turning on some tunes and seeing if they can put you in the mood to move!
Below is a summary of movement guidelines and recommendations from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):
For substantial health benefits, adults should do:
- At least 150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) to 300 minutes (5 hours) a week of moderate-intensity
- Or 75 minutes (1 hour and 15 minutes) to 150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) a week of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity
- Or an equivalent combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity aerobic activity.
Moderate intensity is a heart rate in Zones 2 and 3 or 64-75% of your max heart rate. Vigorous intensity workouts would be in heart rates Zones 4 and 5 or 77-93% of your max heart rate. CDC heart rate info is here and a super simplified way of finding your max heart rate is to take 220 and subtract your age. For an overview of heart rate zones and perceived rate of exertion select the links.
Preferably, aerobic activity should be spread throughout the week.
Every adult should perform activities that maintain or increase muscular strength and endurance for a minimum of two days per week. Bodyweight movements count such as squats and pushups but adding weights can really improve strength and help increase heart rate too.
Yes, it’s a lot of time but really any little bit of movement counts towards sustaining health. It really is just about moving your body more tomorrow than you are today and working toward the goals above. This is also where a Certified Personal Trainer or Fitness Coach can really help support you in reaching your movement goals.
What you think can actually effect your physical body and thoughts and feelings in general can have long-term impacts on your overall health and well-being. Now, this isn’t about putting on a happy face and being positive all the time. Instead, it’s about adopting a growth mindset and becoming comfortable experiencing and digesting your emotions; even the uncomfortable ones.
What is a growth mindset? This idea was coined in 2007 in Carol Dweck’s book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success and the short of her theory is the fundamental belief that our minds are capable of change and growth and that nothing is fixed including our intelligence.
This is powerful for many reasons but in my opinion it’s most powerful because it creates new opportunities which create HOPE and connection. A Harvard study titled the “Human Flourishing Program” found that those who had more HOPE in their lives not only lived longer but did so with fewer health issues. HOPE is a powerful balm against life’s challenges by building resiliency through the belief that change is possible.
So if HOPE is so important, how do other emotions play a role in health? First, I think of emotions somewhat differently – I think of emotions as “energy in motion” or E-MOTION. Almost like a type of electricity that interacts with my nervous system and then ideally flows out into the environment (grounded into the Earth is the best outcome).
“Feelings” in this framework then are really just physical sensations that we’ve given names to identify the flavor and resonance of the energy patterns we’re experiencing. You physically feel your feelings while the energy of emotions move through and out of your body.
For instance, sadness for me can feel heavy in the heart or behind the eyes, it can feel wet or move like waves throughout the body. Once I feel it and identify it as “sadness” I can let it flow and eventually it will subside or another emotion will arise.
Energy is meant to move – can be in the form of crying, laughing, working out, dancing, creating, etc. When you don’t take time to experience this energy in motion (emotion), it can clog up and get stuck in your body as a form of tension. This tension creates discomfort and the discomfort has implications for health outcomes and injuries. More on this here.
By dedicating time to providing space and experiencing your emotions, you give your body an opportunity to cleanse this tension, leaving behind peace and relaxation. You also get an opportunity to learn more about your inner states and your bodily awareness. This practice is really one of the key parts of building Sustainable Wealth as it is so important for not only long-term health but also for gaining insight into who you are and how you interact with the world. For more information, see Better Understand Your Emotions in 5 Steps.
To recap, thoughts and emotions form the foundation of your mindset. Getting to know how your body feels (sensations) can help give rise to a greater understanding of your emotions. When you know what you’re feeling, you’re better able to associate those feelings with particular thoughts and change them.
Let’s review a quick example of how this mindset shift works:
Say you’ve been given a task and you notice that it’s taking way longer than you expected it would take. You start to notice that your back is tightening up and you’re shifting your weight frequently in your seat. Finally, after it just won’t work for the umpteenth time, you shout “Oh, I can’t do this!”.
Then you catch yourself and you realize – wait, this tension in my legs is frustration. I’m growing annoyed, irritated, and impatient. My thoughts are that I’m: incapable, inept, maybe even stupid. This makes me even angrier at myself.
What would happen if I shifted out of a fixed mindset and moved into a growth mindset and said instead:
“Oh, I can’t do this…. YET.”
Then I sense a relaxation in my body. I’m able to move more freely. I feel curious and I begin to ask myself questions – what am I missing?
With this openness and curiosity I realize that I made a silly mistake. Correct it, and now it works.
By adding one simple word (yet), I was able to:
- Solve the problem I was stuck on
- Experience and process my frustration and glean its meaning in this situation
- Shift my mood from one of frustration and irritability to curiosity and exploration
- Most importantly, release the tension in my body
For more reading on Mindset and its impact, check out this summary piece What Is a Mindset and Why It Matters.
So WHY care about all of this and in general your health? Why focus on sleeping, moving, and your mindset? Not only is it nice to be free from illness and injury but being healthy also reduces your healthcare costs and the amount of time spent seeing medical providers. Most importantly, being healthy reduces the risk of medical surprises and costly chronic diseases and it helps you be more productive at work.
Chronic diseases such as Diabetes costs an individual on average $9,601 PER YEAR (2018 dollars).
Heart disease costs on average $18,953 PER YEAR (2005 dollars).
Being healthy really is the number one way to grow your wealth sustainably for the long-term!
Want to learn about other health metrics you can track for overall health? See my post 8 Health Metrics to Track for Overall Health.