A No Frills Guide to Good Health

December 27, 2018

Clinical Contributors to this Story

David C. Leopold, M.D. contributes to topics such as Integrative Health and Medicine.

By David C. Leopold M.D.

We’re approaching a New Year and that means it’s a great time to start fresh and make New Year’s resolutions for good health.

People are always looking for a quick and easy way to make lifestyle changes, but there are no shortcuts to good health. Extreme changes may work for some individuals, but for most, the changes will be only temporarily. Eventually most people will veer from a restrictive lifestyle changes, and end up back with unhealthy habits.

Achieving overall good health requires changes to your lifestyle and mindset, and I’m happy to share some key advice that will get you on a pathway to good health in 2019 and beyond. Remember it takes at least 12 weeks for lifestyle changes to become ingrained and habitual. Be patient.

Commit to Being Healthy

Health is not something that just happens, it is not passive, it is active and participatory and it takes energy. You have to commit to making your lunch instead of eating out. You have to commit to making time for things like meditation and exercise. You will never “find” time, you have to be proactive and always keep in mind that after you’re done, you will feel amazing.

Equally as important is making sure you schedule protected sleep time – at least eight hours per night. Consciously make the choice to give yourself something you can actually use – give yourself good health.

A Helpful Mental Exercise

When you’re presented with options throughout the day, imagine how you feel physically and mentally 25 minutes after:

  • Eating a chocolate donut compared to eating an apple or a handful of almonds.
  • Sitting on the couch watching TV compared to taking a 25-minute walk outside (with or without a friend).
  • Staying up until 1 am watching TV then getting up at 6 am to go to work compared to getting into bed at 10 pm and getting up at 6 am to go to work.

You get the idea. It is helpful to pause when you are presented with an option and think about the longer term effects. This exercise helps give people the strength to make the right decision in a moment when you’re fighting temptation.

Five Pillars for Positive Change

I cannot overstate how much people can improve their overall health by focusing on what we at Integrative Health & Medicine at Hackensack Meridian Health refer to as the “Five Pillars of Health.” In all of my years practicing medicine, I don’t think I can recall a single patient that did not improve their life by implementing these positive lifestyle changes. The five pillars include:

  1. Activity: Regular exercise
  2. Nutrition: An enjoyable and healthy, well-balanced diet
  3. Resilience: Increasing resilience coupled with stress management
  4. Sleep: Doing what it takes to get a good night’s sleep
  5. Purpose: Being true to what brings meaning to life

These concepts serve as the foundation for good health, which is why we call them pillars.

A Ripple Effect

Evidence strongly supports implementing the Five Pillars of Health as a path to significantly change your life, and even the lives of those around you in a profoundly positive way. Leading by example and changing how you interact with those around you increases your quality of life, no matter where you are starting. Can you imagine how more compassion with less negativity and more acceptance with less judgement of others would improve your overall sense of well-being, satisfaction and joy in life? And how your positive change would inspire others?

Final Takeaways

We all know that making resolutions is the easy part, but keeping them is where it gets difficult. Staying healthy is an uphill climb as we battle temptation from multiple sources: the food around us, the media we expose ourselves to, the people we hang out with and the home and work environments in which we spend our time. Keep these things in mind as you start to adapt a healthy lifestyle:

  • Focus on what you are adding as opposed to what removing. Start by adding fruits and vegetables and worry about removing “bad foods” later.
  • Modify your environment to increase chances of success. For example, get rid of junk food and prepare a designated space to workout. You have to make sure your piano is tuned before you start.
  • Have patience and focus on what you can do, not what you cannot do.

The bottom line is: Being healthy in 2019 and beyond is hard work and you have to make an effort to stay healthy. I wish you all the best on your journey to improved health. I can virtually guarantee you will be better for the changes you are going to make.

Dr. David C. Leopold is the Medical Director for Hackensack Meridian Integrative Health & Medicine and believes in helping patients achieve a state of optimal health. Learn more about Dr. Leopold and Hackensack Meridian Health Integrative Health & Medicine.

The material provided through Health Hub is intended to be used as general information only and should not replace the advice of your physician. Always consult your physician for individual care.