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The Tree

a large tree depicting fall, winter, and spring environmental changes all at once

  • Main Ideas

    Learning Objective

    Your health can be viewed like a tree that has roots that feed the branches and leaves.


    Behavioral Objective

    Begin thinking about the "root" causes of what is influencing your health for better or worse.


    Key Thought

    Our environment is the major influence on our physiologic function which determines our health.

  • Main Ideas

    Learning Objective

    Your health can be viewed like a tree that has roots that feed the branches and leaves.


    Behavioral Objective

    Begin thinking about the "root" causes of what is influencing your health for better or worse.


    Key Thought

    Our environment is the major influence on our physiologic function which determines our health.

  • Read*

    Introduction

    What we see on the outside doesn't necessarily reflect what is happening on the inside... so also for our health. Jamie Wright, D.O. shares an interesting perspective on how we might begin viewing our health to enable us to address better the influences in our environment that may be detracting us from enjoying a healthier and more fulfilling life.

    "The Tree" of Effects and Causes

    Here's an interesting way to think about health: if you think about a tree, the leaves, branches, and such that we see visibly are like the result. It's the effect of something. If you have a brown spot in your yard, it's the effect or the result of something that is the effector. In the human health world, we might call this a peculiar behavior, signs or symptoms, or some laboratory data, so that's the stuff that we can objectively see.

    In many ways, we have people who look well, but they tell us they're not. It's harder to see that. We often can't see it clearly in their behavior, body looks, or general vital signs. We often can't even see it in the data because the types of testing we conventionally perform don't always reveal it, or the advancement of our testing can't reveal it now. We're relying on their symptoms, but when the symptoms don't match this lovely-looking person in front of you that tells you they're miserable and they're hurt all the time, they have brain fog, it's a little bit inconsistent until you maybe dive a little deeper under the covers.

    If the tree and the leaves are the effects, signs, and symptoms, the tree roots may be the cause. The roots here represent the physiologic functioning or dysfunction in the case of disease. The physiologic system is malfunctioning, but some level of function occurs if the organism is alive. Again, that function is the best that the organism can do, given the environment that it is in, outside and inside: outside the body, inside the body, inside the cell, and the epigenetics or genome. We've got these signs and symptoms here, the root, physiologic drivers as a cause, but what's supporting the physiology here?

    What is Environment?

    Anything and everything that can influence our physiologic function.

    • Food
    • Physical Activity
    • Air
    • Mindset
    • Sleep

    You can classify environment as anything and everything that can influence or does influence our physiologic functioning: food, physical activity, the air we breathe, our mindset, and how we sleep. This is because our physiology must respond to everything that's coming at it.

    Everything is the environment.

    You get this cycle where all these things of life, the food, the fitness, and by fitness, I mean that broadly. Sedentary would be a form of fitness. Sleep or lack of sleep, the physical spaces we live and how we think, all of these things are interacting, and the arrows probably go back and forth and all over, interconnecting, but this creates our wheel of health, our wheel of wellness, our vicious cycle of disease, or our vicious cycle of well-being.

    When I share this view with others, it resonates with them, even those you would not necessarily consider to be on a high intellectual plane. People intuitively understand that everything in their lives is connected because they feel it and have been feeling it their whole lives. Just by pointing it out in this simple way, I believe that we can help others connect the dots between their environments, how they're living, the decisions they're making, and how they're feeling and then begin to make changes that will promote a vicious cycle of health.

    Lifestyle Guidance Must Be:

    1. Simple: the TRUTH
    2. Persuasive: "That's right..."
    3. Within Reach: "I could do that..."
    4. Measurable: "I know where I've been..."
    5. Goal Directed: "I know where I'm going..."
    6. Meaningful: "My life will be better..."

    That's where we get into how to assist our patients or augment the treatment plans that we have for them. How do we equip them to live a not health-autonomous life, if you will? I call this lifestyle guidance. I've been studying human behavior, behavioral economics, linguistics, and different things in the field of the brain and how the brain thinks and how we respond to things for a long time. Right now, that needs to be in place when we're helping a patient establish a goal or believe something so that they can go on to take some actions that will have an impact.

    It's got to be simple. To me, the simplest stuff is the truth, and that little wheel of wellness seems to resonate with people as being true. Another truth that resonates with people is coaching around food and nutrition, the idea that, "Hey, you're a living being, so doesn't it make sense to put living food into a living being instead of a synthetic or highly processed food?" People go, "Yeah. That makes sense." By their nature, truths are persuasive, and you know that you have resonated with someone when they say to you, "That's right."

    The goal or the idea has to be within reach where they feel like, "I could do that." Probably, it should be measurable so everyone can know where they've been, goal-directed, meaning, "I know where I'm going," and meaningful, "This thing I'm trying to do will make my life better in some way that matters to me."


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