A study reported in The Atlantic claims less than three percent of Americans are achieving optimal health.
In this study, researchers defined optimal health as exercising for at least 2.5 hours each week, a good diet that rates in the top half of the Healthy Eating Index, non-smoker, and percentage of body fat below 30 % for women and 20% for men.
Optimal health goes much deeper than this, however. There are five areas of health that need to be balanced for someone to achieve the highest level of good health.
The Five Dimensions of Optimal Health
The five dimensions of health include physical, emotional, spiritual, social and intellectual:
- Physical health refers to the food you eat, how active you are, and how well you avoid negative activities like drinking, drug use and smoking.
- Emotional health refers to your thoughts and feelings. Evaluate how well you handle and cope with your emotions. How well do you handle stress? Are you easily frustrated? What happens when you get excited?
- Spiritual health can be defined as believing in a higher power, or something or someone greater than you, guiding you through life. Spirituality gives you a sense of value and purpose.
- Social Health describes how well you fit in and get along with friends, family members, co-workers, and even yourself. Good social health means you can put in the work to help these relationships grow and improve.
- Intellectual health is the area in which your career, education, and financial state is evaluated. It shows you can set and achieve both long-term and short-term goals that can enhance your lifestyle.
When one of these areas are out of balance, it affects the rest and prevents you from achieving optimal health. It’s important you start working now to achieve harmony and strive to live the healthiest lifestyle you can.
Doing so allows you to receive the many gifts of optimal health, the ones that once achieved, they can on giving for years. Specific gifts of optimal health are discussed below.
Here’s a challenge: start a gratitude journal. Write in it every day for a month, listing everything for which you are thankful. Before the month is over you will notice a change in your thought process.
When you want to complain, you will remember all the things you have listed in your journal. You will switch your thoughts from negative to positive.
Being thankful is a habit that, if you remain in optimal health, can continue forever. The more grateful you feel, the less negative emotions you will experience, improving your overall health.
Being overweight or underweight can affect your physical well-being. Physical health is directly connected to all other areas of health. Weight related issues can lead to changes in blood pressure, body temperature, and hormonal problems. Any of these symptoms can make you feel bad.
When you feel bad physically, you can experience depression, a distancing from your spirituality, and a lack of interest in both social and intellectual goals. Working with a doctor who specializes in lifestyle medicine can provide services like detox diets, hormone balancing and weight management.
They can work with you to determine your needs, if any, to improve your weight. Reaching your best weight has life-long rewards, including more energy, happier mood, less pressure on your heart and ultimately, a longer life.
Sleep could be one of the most important things that can help you reach optimal health. During sleep your brain acts like a restoration specialist. It goes to work, repairing your ailments and healing injuries so you can function at your best.
Your sleep hygiene determines how well you sleep. Sleep hygiene refers to your routine or habits surrounding your sleep. Poor sleep habits include eating right before bed, sleeping with the tv on, texting or being on social medial right up to the moment you want to go to sleep, and drinking caffeine right before bed.
If any of these sound like your habits, let your doctor know. They can provide a specific sleep hygiene plan individualized for you. Getting good sleep can change your physical, mental, spiritual, social and intellectual goals forever.
There are good types of stress and bad types. Bad stress can lead to weight changes, hormone imbalance, lack of concentration, and much more. Stress interferes with your career, educational, and spiritual goals.
You can only do so much while under stress before your body can take no more. In fact, every part of your body can be affected by stress, even your skin that can experience rashes, acne and excessive drying.
Getting a massage once a month is not enough to lower your stress. You need to wear full-body armor to combat stress and learn how to properly manage stress.
Your doctor can give you this armor, from vitamin therapy, skin rejuvenation, and mindfulness activities like meditation and yoga. Even learning how to breathe the right way can mean positive changes in all areas of your health for the rest of your life.
Have More Fun
Let’s be real. When you feel good, you can have more fun. When you are physically fit, you have more energy and are more likely to participate in fun activities.
When you become physically and emotionally fit, you will see the world through happier eyes. Then your social, spiritual and intellectual health will automatically start to improve. They are all connected.
Finally, you don’t have to wait to achieve optimal health in all areas before you start noticing improvements like the ones listed above. Other long-term benefits you can look forward to includes enhanced connections, understanding your purpose, boosted immune system or less bouts of illness, and an overall feeling of appreciation for your life.
You can start today. Put reaching optimal health at the top of your priority list. Pick one area of your health, reach out for help from a lifestyle medicine professional, and get ready for the changes you deserve.