Lifestyle Medicine: a NEW year of strategy and self

Metal dumbell with green apple, bottle of water and towel

Happy NEW year! With the re-emergence of our habitual routines, demanding schedules, and social calendars, it is hard to believe that we have already completed the first month of 2017. With a blink of an eye, time can pass before us and the pointed focus we initially had on our big, hairy audacious 2017 goals can suddenly become a blurry, distant memory- if we let it. Fortunately, January has a funny way of reminding us to maximize our potential towards progress and optimal performance while minimizing such stagnation that leaves us disappointed towards year end. From marketing campaigns to gym advertisements, we are encouraged by the “New Year, New You” motto, one providing an optimistic symbolism for positive change and well-defined objectives. I would, however, argue that this “New Year, New You” motto has less to do with radical self-transformation and is more representative of new, practical strategies, ones we may forego for the sake of time and convenience.

Although New Year’s resolutions can be vast and reflect an effort of attaining harmonious balance between diversified objectives, there is one common denominator that levels up your efforts. This common denominator brings with it enough potency and staying power to positively alter the trajectory of your resolutions. The common denominator in reference here is self-care, a practical and sustainable strategy towards optimal well-being. The frequent application of self-care practices has little to do with a “New You” but rather a “New Strategy” waiting to be unveiled and released. The beauty and benefit which encompasses self-care strategies is our ability to live beyond ourselves while energetically and powerfully supporting others in their quest for superior well-being. Unfortunately, if we continue to deprive ourselves of the health-promoting, longevity-optimizing, and soul-nourishing value that self-care brings into our lives, we, too, are short changing those we serve on a regular basis. If we are not at our best (i.e. sleep deprived, malnourished, physically inactive, stressed, etc.) how can we possibly provide our best to others?

With diabetes and heart disease representing two of the top leading causes of PREMATURE, PREVENTABLE death here in the US, it is hard to believe that we, as a nation, continue to expend resources on suboptimal healthcare band aids in the long-term for short-term happiness. Such expenditures are limiting both individual and community investments in health-promoting lifestyle interventions. Such levels of deprivation void of practical and purposeful movement, satiating nourishment, adequate sleep, and stress reduction create a normalization of behaviors and strategies harmonized with quick fixes while diminishing long-term, optimal and sustainable health and well-being practices. Environments built on deprivation, in one extreme or another, have skewed and altered the constructed human experience involved (for worse, not better) in attaining and sustaining health and well-being practices and solutions. The power of prevention and self-care plays a potent role in forming a baseline of lifestyle interventions and practices that do not nauseate, deprive, and overwhelm. On the contrary, prevention and self-care provide lifestyle medicine solutions that please the palate, provide purpose for our movement, create open space for our thoughts and conversations, and enjoyment in our days. The purpose of such lifestyle medicine practices is to help, not hinder, our progress towards adding years to our life and life to our years, an optimization closely associated with healthier longevity, happiness, and purpose. These unrestricted solutions have no intent of a love-hate relationship but rather a blissful diversion from the norm to which has been superseded.

Welcome your NEW STRATEGY of 2017! Creating a blueprint of self-care practices- applied frequently- will equip you with the strength, energy, and stamina needed to take greater action towards your big, hairy and audacious goals for 2017. Such a blueprint can be constructed through a plethora of pathways in the quest for achieving harmonious bliss, happiness, health, and optimal longevity. Such pathways include sensory, pleasure, mental, spiritual, emotional, physical, and social. From massage therapy, gardening, and self-compassion to dancing, napping and joining social groups, there are a diverse range of options to practice self-care through all 7 of the aforementioned pathways. Although this Psychology Today article outlines various self-care practices you may implement into your own life, I turn to specific pockets of the globe that exemplify the true meaning of self-care. These pockets of the globe- known as Blue Zones- take us to Nicoya, Costa Rica, Okinawa, Japan, Loma Linda, California, Sardinia, Italy, and Icaria, Greece. These regions, connected not only by extraordinary health but also the highest population of centenarians, provide us a blueprint for practicing self-care and extending our longevity with such commonalities as natural movement, purposeful living, wholesome nourishment, and social networks.

This blueprint, known as the Power 9 in Dan Buettner’s book Blue Zones, is as follows:

  • Move naturally: utilizing the environment around you for natural, purposeful movement (no gym included)
  • Purpose: understanding what you are meant to do on this earth
  • Down shift: implementing routines that minimize stress and optimize health
  • 80% rule: mindful of the quantity of food being consumed while halting consumption when feeling 80% full
  • Plant Slant: mindful of the quality of food being consumed while filling your plate with primarily plant-based options such as legumes and whole grains
  • Wine at 5: centenarians in these pockets of the globe consume moderate amounts of wine per day to improve longevity and heart health
  • Belong: participation and involvement in a faith-based group and services 4x/month showed increases in longevity
  • Loved Ones First: maintaining a strong focus on family first, with an emphasis on caring for elders and supporting children
  • Right Tribe: surrounding oneself with a strong social network that support and live out healthy behaviors

The beauty in these Power 9 lie in the soulful data-stories- that personify and showcase the potency of lifestyle medicine practices while inspiring, motivating, and encouraging health-promoting and longevity-enhancing behaviors. Lifestyle medicine, as such, provides us the self-care and preventative gateway for purposeful movement, wholesome, nutritious consumption, a clear and stress-free mind, and sleep-nourished bodies. This gateway creates a platform of using what we already know- data, trends, best practices, resources- to transform our lives for the better while adding years to life and life to years. We no longer need to overreach for quick fixes or wait around for gimmicks that promise everything short of a return or value on investment. My wish for you-for 2017 and beyond- is that you may make the most of this precious gift called self-care. With this, may you relish in the ease of movement, nourishment from wholesome foods, clarity of a stress-free mind, energy from restful nights, and love from a strong support system. My wish is that with the embrace of this strategy comes a prioritization of YOU and your HEALTH. For health is the greatest wealth, a wealth that can quickly diminish through an hourglass if action is not taken. The decisions we make in life-not our current conditions-determine the outcomes we are dealt. It is my wish that the outcomes presented to you are nothing short of optimal health, well-being and happiness. Wishing you a healthful, self-care driven 2017!

 

Best in health and happiness,

Colleen M. Faltus, MS, CWWS, CPT

 

References

  1. Buettner, D. (2008 ). Lessons From The World’s Longest Lived People. Retrieved from Blue Zones: https://www.bluezones.com/live-longer/2)
  2. Markway, B. (2014, March). Seven Types of Self-Care Activities for Coping with Stress. Retrieved from Psychology Today : https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/shyness-is-nice/201403/seven-types-self-care-activities-coping-stress

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Colleen M. Faltus

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I earned my BS degree in Applied Exercise Science from Springfield College (2008) and MS degree in Nutrition and Health Promotion at Simmons College (2015). I currently hold certifications through the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) and National Wellness Institute (NWI) as a certified personal trainer and worksite wellness specialist. Additionally, I am a member of the Worksite Wellness Council of MA as well as an active committee member for their annual conference.

Colleen has experience writing and speaking about lifestyle medicine at both the individual and population health level. My expertise also lies in the design and implementation of people-centric health and well-being programs, with previous experience in both the commercial sector at Sports Club LA and Equinox as well as corporate sector at Google and State Street Corporation. My knowledge and expertise in the development and implementation of individual and population-based health and well-being programs embodies the significance of lifestyle medicine solutions for sustainable, positive health outcomes.

Specialties: organizational health and well-being program planning and implementation, lifestyle medicine practices and solutions, disease and stress-management, individual and population-based exercise prescriptions