Delene P. Musielak, MD, FAAP, FACP

Your Healthiest Version In 2021

As we adjust to a new year, many people have “a healthier lifestyle” – or a version of it – written down as a resolution. We are always more motivated and determined to reach our goals at the beginning of the year. 

But a healthy lifestyle is something we should strive for all of the time, not just when we flip our calendars to a new year. You may ask yourself, what does a healthy lifestyle entail? And, that’s a great question. A healthy lifestyle is a wholesome lifestyle that includes attention to one’s physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health. Each component is just as important as the other ones. Here are some tips on how you can improve each aspect of your health.

Physical Health

There are many aspects of physical health, including but not limited to what we eat, our physical activity and illnesses that we may have (e.g., diabetes, asthma, etc.). 

  • Mindful Eating: With regard to what we eat, we all know that there are multiple diets out there. Sometimes it can be confusing, even overwhelming. What is most important is that you’re eating in a way that works for you. Let’s be honest here, none of us have time to make gourmet dinners every night, and pulling through a drive-through may be the most convenient thing we can do. I want to encourage you to practice “mindful eating.” Being more mindful of how, what and when we eat can make a huge difference. 
  • What We Eat: Let me first address what we all know; we need to eat more fruits and vegetables. Another important habit is to eat protein with each meal. Some examples of protein include chicken, fish, tofu, beans and beef. Protein keeps us fuller longer. On the other hand, eating a meal high in carbohydrates will burn out a lot faster, and we will get hungry sooner. Dishes with large portions of potatoes or pasta will metabolize much faster. 
  • Portion Sizes: It’s just as important to watch your portion sizes. Our minds are programmed to make sure our plates are full. A way you can “fool” yourself is by using a smaller-sized plate. See, what a simple solution. You can still fill your plate but automatically have a smaller portion. 
  • Exercise: Of course, we can’t talk about physical health without addressing exercise. We all know that physical activity is very important. It’s been shown to decrease the occurrence of multiple health conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and even some cancers. [1] The current recommendation is to get 150 minutes of exercise weekly, which is approximately 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise 5 times a week. [2] It’s important to realize that a mixture of aerobic exercises (e.g., brisk walking, running, cycling or swimming) and resistance training (e.g., weights or resistance bands) is best. This combination not only helps burn calories and fat, but it also helps you build muscle tone and strengthen your bones. 
  • Sleep: Finally, part of our physical health is our sleep habits. It is recommended that adults get approximately 7-8 hours of sleep per night. Sleep is vital and gives our body and mind time to rest. It’s a period when cells are rejuvenated and our memories are processed. We all know that if we don’t get a good night’s rest, we’re not the best version of ourselves the next day. 

Mental & Emotional Health

Our mindset, thoughts and emotions are strong driving forces of us. They are strong enough to convince us of things that may not even be true, make us do things that we may regret or even push us to persevere and survive tough situations. Therefore, unfortunately, when our mental and emotional health are not in good shape, it affects us as a whole. We may not have the drive to workout, challenge ourselves or improve. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 50% of people will be diagnosed with a mental illness at some point in their life. [3] That’s every other person! Keep yourself from being included in that statistic. Keep your mind, thoughts and emotions sharp. I know it has been a difficult time with the pandemic, with all of the unknowns and the isolation many people feel. However, learn to focus on the positive things during these times. I promise you, there are always positive things. 

Don’t forget, our mental and emotional health can also drive our physical health that we just finished talking about. If you feel sad, are you motivated to work out or cook a healthy meal? Probably not! If we aren’t healthy mentally and emotionally, it’s likely that we really won’t care that much about taking care of ourselves as a whole. A study that was done at Oxford University showed that some mental illnesses can decrease life expectancy by up to 20 years. This is equivalent to smoking cigarettes. [4]

Mental and emotional illnesses can stem from various causes, whether genetics, a chronic physical disorder (e.g., cancer), a childhood experience or other situational cause. No matter what the root cause is, it is imperative to get the support that you need from family, friends and your medical providers.

Spiritual Health

The majority of people have a spiritual belief, but some may not realize how important our spirituality is. It helps contribute to our life’s purpose and our desire to dig deep within to fulfill that purpose. Spirituality also helps us find peace, hope and comfort in the good and bad times. 

The American Academy of Family Physicians recommends that if you are suffering from any chronic diseases, you should feel free to discuss your spirituality with your physician and even talk about ways you can incorporate your spirituality into your healing process. [5] This healing process can include time for prayer, reading a devotional or the Bible, quiet walks to self-reflect or even listening to religious music. 

Having wholesome health helps bring balance to our lives, both internally and externally. As you have read this article, I hope you have realized that all the components of our health – physical, mental, emotional and spiritual – each play a vital role in our wellbeing. Therefore, don’t take any of them for granted because they are dependent on each other. 

I encourage you to take this opportunity for a clean slate and a new start in 2021 by working on achieving the healthiest version of yourself through wholesome wellness. 

Dr. Musielak is a dual-boarded Internist and Pediatrician with St. Luke’s Medical Group. She enjoys teaching about preventative medicine and helping individuals live their happiest and healthiest lives. Dr. Musielak is the creator and host of The Dr. Mom Show Podcast. You can find more information at www.drdelenemusielak.com. Dr. Musielak is accepting new patients of all ages. 

St. Luke’s Hospital makes good health and wellness easier through its Spirit of Women initiative. The free membership program provides resources that help you make better, more informed decisions for you and your family to live healthier and happier. Learn more at stlukes-stl.com/spirit-of-women.

References

  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/about-physical-activity/index.html
  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/basics/adults/index.htm
  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/mentalhealth/learn/index.htm
  1. Tanner Clinic. https://tannerclinic.com/news/how-your-mental-health-affects-your-physical-well-being/
  1. The American Academy of Family Physicians. https://familydoctor.org/spirituality-and-health/