What Does it Really Mean to Live Better?
Our sense of wellbeing depends on a host of factors ranging from our state of health to the level of fulfillment we experience in relationships and in intellectual, spiritual, and occupational pursuits. In short, by seeking to live better, we increase our chances of a happier, healthier life.
Achieving the right balance in this multi-faceted, intricate tapestry that we call life requires a clear sense of purpose. We also need a general idea of what we wish to accomplish, and a certain amount of diligence and persistence to ensure the sustainability of choices we make.
The world has such a great diversity of cultures and offers a wealth of wide-open opportunities for human beings to make conscious lifestyle choices that benefit them directly and add quality to the lives of those around them. To what degree our habits, attitude, or basic philosophy affect how we behave is the subject of much study and debate. The overall effect our lifestyle behaviors have on our life is something that we judge subjectively.
Yet this bias is often confirmed by those around us and by conventional wisdom, so we hold it to be true. What we do know is the aspects of our lives discussed below can make a difference for the good. They do so to the extent that we can attribute these choices to our ability to live better and, in many cases, longer than would ordinarily be expected.
This article is divided into sections that correspond with what are generally considered as pillars of wellness. Just how many pillars of wellness there are depends on the perspective of the writer. Our intention here is to present eight pillars of wellness which cover areas of life that together form a holistic approach from a predominantly western perspective.
The eight pillars, in no particular order, cover the following aspects of life:
- Economic or financial
It will immediately become apparent that there is some overlap between each of these pillars. We will attempt to point out connections between them, but it is quite possible that you will make connections of your own.
Health and Physical Well-Being
A healthy, nutritious diet, plenty of sleep, and regular physical activity. Those are the basics requirements for good general health and physical well-being. Yet this sound advice often falls on deaf ears.
Even people who suffer no serious illness, are moderately fit, and not overweight ignore this common-sense approach to taking care of their bodies. And then there are those who do not ignore the message; rather they procrastinate. They never get around to getting enough exercise, enough sleep, and enough of the right kind of food.
Why, when the life-long benefits are so obvious? There are all sorts of excuses and a few reasons too.
The Junk Food and Sleep Problem Connection
You might think that people who hardly ever exercise, have sleep-related problems, and subsist on junk food most of the time, are merely being stubborn. It turns out, though, that studies have shown the problem to be more complex than that. There is a direct correlation between sleeplessness and junk food addiction.
A presentation given at the SLEEP 2018 conference in Baltimore, MD, revealed that of the 3105 adults surveyed, 60% said that they snacked during the night. Of, those, two-thirds said that they craved junk food when they could not sleep in the middle of the night.
The dopamine response (release of the feel-good chemical in the brain) is far greater when we eat junk food than whole foods. Junk food has also been shown to cause sleep disturbances. Not sleeping properly can lead to wanting to eat more junk food.
Aside from the fact that junk food does not give your body the nutrition it needs, this vicious poor-sleep-and-junk-food cycle puts you at greater risk of developing health problems such as diabetes and obesity. And of course, continued poor sleeping patterns will make you feel too exhausted to even think of exercising, let alone doing so regularly.
Transitioning to Eating Better
If you currently identify with this vicious-cycle situation, we at SupplementRelief.com would recommend an initial two-pronged approach to get you started on the road to wellness. The first is for you to make some changes to your diet so that you stop eating processed food and start eating whole foods.
Read this blog post on eating better which contains tips on how to make the transition from convenience foods to fresh, whole foods, and even has a link to a suggested grocery list. Our site also features loads of recipes that prove good food can be tasty, varied, interesting, and fun. Eating as a family and ensuring that at least one meal a day is a shared experience adds to the sense of well-being and has a positive effect on other areas of your life too.
As we're fond of saying, wellness involves educating yourself, making a lifestyle decision, and sticking with it. It might not be obvious to you so we'll say it: if you don't buy any junk food, then you cannot eat any!
The second part of or recommended approach is to consider taking dietary supplements in our multi-vitamin range, especially as you're beginning to get to grips with healthy food preparation at home. We have products that provide support for sleep-related problems too.
If you suffer from a chronic or debilitating disease you can also derive benefits from following a "live healthier" diet. In addition, you - or your carer - can ask your doctor about what exercise or physical therapies are best suited to your condition. The local organization associated with your illness might also have (subsidized) exercise and therapeutic options on offer.
As physical exercise is known to reduce levels of anxiety and depression, it is worth making the effort to make these exercise or therapy sessions happen.
If there is no earthly reason why you should not engage in regular exercise, but you have yet to warm to the idea, isn't it about time you chose an activity that could boost your physical fitness? If you are out of shape, walking is something you can do without incurring any expense, assuming you have a pair of sneakers and some willingness to start and determination to continue. Walking with a family member or friend at the same time every day is very motivating, and you will find yourself looking forward to it.
There are many health benefits to walking. Your heart and lungs stay in good shape. You're less likely to have a stroke or develop heart diseases.
Walking regularly is a natural way to manage or prevent high blood pressure and high cholesterol, and diabetes. It eases pain and stiffness in your joints and muscles, increases muscle strength and stamina, gives you stronger bones, reduces body fat, and improves your balance. What's not to like about the simple act of a regular daily walk?
Of course, there are alternatives to walking that you might prefer. There are fitness classes for all ages and levels of initial fitness at community centers and gyms, and online fitness classes you can follow in the comfort of your own home. Some recreation centers have tennis, basketball and swimming facilities, among other things.
Different types of exercises include calisthenics, Pilates, and yoga, Zumba, and dancing. If you have a bicycle, you could cycle in addition to, or instead of, walking.
While the purpose of exercise is to maintain or improve your physical health, its mood-enhancing effects introduce emotional balance into the mix. These activities have a social dimension to them too; even a solitary walker is likely to wave or nod a greeting to at least one person during their walk. Dogs like walking, and playing with humans, and this can be either energetic or leisurely - the choice is yours.
Exercise releases endorphins that help your body relax. You should not be aiming to exhaust yourself, even if the goal is to increase your endurance. As exercise becomes part of your routine, you will derive more pleasure from it. You will also find that you'll sleep better, and the need for midnight snacking on junk food will disappear.
All this is true, especially if you drink lots of water.
In short, you'll start to feel good more often.
Imagine, for a moment, that you have been walking, say, two miles every day at a pace that you're comfortable with. This will probably only take an hour, to give you an idea. Imagine, too, that you have now established a regular pattern of convivial mealtimes when you eat a variety of whole foods.
Visualize, if you will, that you have substituted all those sugary drinks for water (and lots of it), or fruit juices, or smoothies. Your coffee and alcohol consumption, if any, has been reduced to hardly ever, and sipping herb tea is now your thing. Think back on all the nights you have had of an uninterrupted seven or eight hours' sleep.
Now, take a look at yourself in the mirror. Who is that smiling back at you? It's you of course - the healthier version, on your way to becoming less stressed, and more emotionally balanced.
If you're not smiling, then at the very least you will notice differences in your appearance. You will look less tired, and might even look energetic, or younger, despite possible weight loss. Your complexion will have lost the dullness it had before and likely will have a healthy glow.
It is also likely that you are feeling more optimistic about life in general, and more motivated to complete your daily chores around the home and face the tasks at work with greater enthusiasm and less anxiety.
We realize that talking about emotions is a huge topic. Many of us have endured difficult or even traumatic childhoods. Even in adulthood, we have learned all too often that life is not easy.
Hurdles so far in your life could have involved the stress of a relationship split, the loss of loved ones, the horror of war or civil unrest or natural disaster, physical trauma as the result of an accident, or dealing with an unshakeable sense of alienation or depression.
There are thousands of things that could have left you emotionally scarred or stunted. None of these things are within the scope of this blog post, nor can you heal from them simply by following a healthy dietary and exercise regime. No amount of water will wash away the pain; sooner or later, you will have to deal with the emotional impact of the tougher things you've lived through.
Live Better: Heal Yourself
People who have survived and flourished after experiencing the worst that life placed in their path, leaving them emotionally crushed, will often say that they began to heal after they made a fundamental choice to do so. Jesus famously said, "Physician, heal thyself".
Healing is not only a bodily function: it applies to body, mind, soul, and heart (which some people call the "four pillars of wellness". In other words, it has a holistic application.
"Physician, heal thyself" is a command. Although this was an instruction to one man, it is reasonable to interpret it as a message to everyone. Awareness of your body, mind, soul, and heart is a functional prerequisite for living well.
Differently expressed, the wellness begins within as a conscious choice, the initial affirmation, "I can do this". As you develop on the path of healing and wellness, authentic steps towards living a joyful life in which you can reach your true potential as a human being will begin to spread to those around you and your sphere of influence and positive energy will grow. Isn't that a wonderful thought?
The theological virtues of faith, hope and love (I believe, I hope and I love) that are the tenets of Christianity but have parallels in other major belief systems of the world having the effect of inculcating in us gratitude at simply being alive, and inspiring us to be the best beings that we can be.
You Are Not Alone - Social Well-Being Is a Thing
From the starting point of pure reason, Aristotle, famously said that "Man is a social animal", and therefore any question as to why we are here and our purpose in life necessarily has to take place in dialogue. At the other end of the philosophical spectrum, we have the twin proverbs of "A friend in need is a friend indeed", and "A problem shared is a problem halved."
The emotional damage that some of us have suffered needs long-term professional help. We might be social animals, but we are fragile social animals. A good starting point on the road to social integration is to talk to somebody.
It should, of course, be someone you trust. Someone you trust to help you get the help you need. At the very least, it should be someone who will listen, preferably someone who knows you.
The act of opening up and communicating is an important starting point. It is the beginning of living a better life. The chain of helpers in society is surprisingly diverse and astonishingly long:
- Family, including relatives
- Social workers
- Volunteer counselors on helplines and in person
- Religious leaders
- Self-help groups
- Trusted colleagues at the workplace
- People you meet while out walking or playing a sport, etc.
Some of these people will provide comfort, others will offer guidance and wisdom. Some might even inspire you. Living well means realizing that you have a support network.
Support and Eating as a Family
Living well also means being part of someone else's support network, someone that others can rely on when they need a helping hand. As life progresses, the composition of our support networks change, and this is natural. Parents, grandparents, and your favorite aunt get old and die; you move to a different town or country; the type of support you need shifts and changes with your circumstances.
Earlier, we mentioned that switching to a healthier diet devoid of junk food is easier when you share meals as a family. The family is the most basic social unit. The definition of what constitutes a family is fluid.
For our purposes, it means more than one person living in the same space. Research has shown that teenagers are more likely to eat healthy fruit and vegetables if regular meals at a table are shared by the family. This is true, apparently, even if the family in question is dysfunctional.
Everyone who participates in the family means is also likely to be more communicative if encouraged to talk about their day. Introducing device-free mealtimes leads to conviviality, laughter and a celebration of food shared.
Mealtimes together are much more than a time to mindlessly wolf down food to satisfy an indeterminate craving; they create an opportunity to give each other emotional, intellectual, spiritual, and social support. The dinner table can be a place of debate, and gratitude, and plain old fun. In other words, it can be a source of wellness in action.
Zoom in Now and Then
If you live alone, consider sharing a meal occasionally over Zoom or Skype or other audiovisual platform with a friend you know is in a similar position. Each person prepares their own meal, and when you're both ready, start your conversation and your meal. It can be an uplifting alternative to that sense of empty loneliness you might experience when eating alone.
The bottom line is that humans are fundamentally social beings. This is the thread that runs throughout our lives and permeates everything that we do and think. Ask the nearest senior citizen to you if they think this is true; prepare yourself for the onslaught of wisdom.
Wisdom and Intellectual Well-Being
As graduates of the "University of Life" will tell you, not everything is book-learned. You can achieve intellectual well-being by constantly being curious about the world around you, asking questions and listening to the answers. Even if you don't consider yourself ultra-smart, you still need to feed your mind; it's part of your body and needs nourishment.
"Books" for our purposes covers any medium that conveys information, or provides food for your actively engaged mind:
- religious texts
- self-help books (there are plenty of those)
- podcasts, videos
- classic and modern literature
- newspaper articles and opinion pieces
- online training courses and webinars
- videos, documentaries, and blogs online
- in-person or online book clubs (there's social well-being in action again)
- journal articles and a wealth of free reading material, such as the Gutenberg Project, on the internet
We mention free stuff on the internet because, newsflash, most people don't have a lot of spare cash to flash about. Did you know most libraries in physical buildings let visitors access the internet via computers available to the public for the purpose?
If you're more of a visual kind of person, it's worth checking out museums and art exhibitions in your area. A lot of them are open to the public and entrance is free, or only a couple of dollars, especially to see their permanent exhibitions. One of the best-kept secrets is that Churches are often the venue for some excellent choral and musical concerts, and not all of them are that religious.
Look out for volunteer theatre groups performing in parks and public spaces too. Heck, you might even end up joining the theatre group...
Discovery and Joy
Once you start looking around for things that interest you, you'll be amazed at how much there is to discover. You also might be mildly surprised at how happy these discoveries make you.
There's a line from an old Jesuit prayer that springs to mind, "Lord, grant me the true love of knowledge that makes all study a discovery and a joy." You can be cynical if you like and say that the Jesuits priest just thought that one up to make children study but if you contemplate it for a minute, you will see that the idea itself has depth.
The point about cultivating your mind is that apart from being social beings, we are also by nature meditative. Our physical bodies need food, exercise, and rest. Similarly, our minds need stimulation by way of fresh information and time for contemplation, to let it all sink in.
Some people use the time they set aside for contemplation each day to pray, read or write. What do they write? Some write diaries, or blogs, or gratitude journals, or award-winning novels - or a poem that captures their feelings in the moment.
Some find the strength to come up with a plan to deal with their financial challenges.
Economic and Financial Well-Being
Economic and financial well-being starts with living within your means. That entails not spending more than you earn. By budgeting carefully, you might even be able to put a little away in savings each time you get paid.
It is a myth that eating healthy food is more expensive. We challenge you to add up all the money you spend on junk food, coffee, and unnecessary candy and chocolates, for example. You will be shocked to see how high that figure is.
Compare the price of a portion of fries at your local take-away to the price of a sack of potatoes. Unless you live in a different universe to ours, you will see that you get a lot more fresh, raw potatoes for the price of those fries that still leave you hungry.
The versatility of the humble potato, say, is amazing: you can boil it, mash it, roast it, add it to soups, make a salad, and even make your own fries once in a while. That same versatility applies to all staple foods, such as rice, and corn, and other cereals, such as barley and wheat. The vast variety of legumes, including lentils and beans, also provide nutritional and filling alternatives to that greasy take-away at a cheaper cost.
Making the choice to live better by adopting healthy eating patterns might be difficult if you have young children. Introduce the new, (cheaper) foods in a positive way, and do not allow your children to become picky eaters. One possible exception to this might be to give them some leeway if they refuse to eat broccoli or Brussel sprouts.
They may worry you to buy them junk food. Understand that they will also be going through sugar withdrawal and junk-food withdrawal.
When that happens explain that you will not be buying those kinds of foods anymore since you would rather spend your limited funds on those lovely apples, bananas, and plums, etc., that you should always have within their easy reach. If children are truly hungry, they will pick up a piece of fruit as a snack instead.
Do not hold up any type of junk food as a treat or give it to them as a reward. A far more valuable lesson for them (and you!) to learn is that when they get that craving for junk food, the thing to do is eat a banana or other fruit - slowly, meditatively.
At Supplement.Relief.com our Recipes section shows how you can eat economically and healthily and benefit from a varied diet.
When Times Are Hard
Like ensuring that you eat the right amount of the right foods to keep you healthy, keeping to your budget requires work, and a little imagination. We understand that times are hard, and unemployment is on the increase. If you have just lost your job, reach out to organizations that are assisting families with food and other essentials.
There is no shame in receiving help when you need it, especially when those offering the help want to give. Think of it as being one half of a reciprocal arrangement. Well-being involves accepting simple acts of kindness the way you would hope your own kindnesses to others would be received.
Other Ways to Save
Team up with a neighbor or family members with grocery shopping. Perhaps you cannot manage a whole packet of carrots or a whole pocket of oranges or onions in one week but could cope with half a pocket.
Dividing up basic fresh fruit and vegetable supplies (and the cost) with a neighbor or someone in your family nearby each week can save you a little money because things are generally cheaper as a "bulk" buy.
Make sure you are upfront right from the start with the person you share purchases with. You need to make it clear what your weekly spending limit is for those groceries and stick to that limit.
It is a great way to avoid waste, or indeed, prevent yourself from eating more than you need simply because the fresh produce in question might spoil before you get to the end of the bag. One way to avoid spoilage is to cook enough for two meals and place half in the freezer compartment of your fridge for some future date.
The internet is full of videos and recommendations on how to freeze various foods, and also give tips on pickled vegetables and preserving surplus fruit.
Sharing this way is social. It gets you talking and, who knows, you might eventually get all the secret ingredients for that amazing curry your sister or neighbor makes. It will also help you to plan your meals for the week ahead and make conscious choices, rather than grabbing the most convenient items off a supermarket shelf in haste at the end of a busy working day.
The satisfaction of sticking within a budget and planning and eating healthy meals as well as introducing a social component to the endeavor will definitely enhance several of your pillars of well-being at once.
How Green Is Your Garden?
Many people live in cities and cannot begin to think of growing their own food. If you live in a city apartment, you can still grow a couple of tomato plants or green beans in pots either indoors or on the tiniest of balconies. You can also sprout your own mung beans or alfalfa seeds in your kitchen, or kitchenette at minimal cost.
If you do have a back yard. start a small vegetable patch, or plant a fruit tree. Start small, and keep your project intentionally low cost. Expect no results, but delight in each small success you do have.
Gardening, like anything else in life, is a process of discovery. Touching soil and getting your hands dirty is said to reduce anxiety and stress. Besides, gardening is good exercise, takes your mind off your worries in a productive way - and you acquire a respectful appreciation of the food you do eat.
Aligning your skills and talents with your means of earning a living is probably one of the most difficult things to do. Sometimes, you just have to do the work whether you like it or not. This is a fact of life.
There is no point in being resentful about it. You will only make yourself sick. One remedy to having to put up with a job that does not thrill you is to have an occupational activity that does bring you joy.
There are also sorts of hobbies, from knitting to mountain climbing. Keep yourself sane by cultivating an interest outside of the activity that puts food on your table and keeps you and yours with a roof over your heads.
If you are fortunate to be working in an area that you are passionate about, give it your full energy. Make the most of being in the zone. Because your example could well inspire others to pursue a life that rewards them with a similar sense of well-being and purpose.
The last of the eight pillars of well-being concerns not only the environment in general but your personal environment. In other words, whatever surrounds you in your life.
The well-being of the environment is definitely where the personal becomes political, but it is also a question of the survival of the planet and humankind. We all need to contribute to the well-being of the planet as a matter of urgency.
Here are some things to consider:
- The true environmental cost of meat production through the product cycle backed by science and studies
- The need to purchase goods and food that come from sustainable sources
- CO2 emission reduction for vehicles
- Energy-efficient housing and buildings
- Solar power and marine renewable energies (MRE)
- Cleaning up the oceans
- Rethinking water use and land use
- Recycling garbage
- Organic farming practices
That's quite a tough list which tells us that Mother Earth herself is ailing, and is in need of our help.
As individuals, we are possibly on a tight budget, and struggling with our own issues to do with overcoming our addiction to consuming things that are bad for our bodies, minds, souls, and hearts. And bad for our Planet. So, what can we do?
Point of Departure
It is true to say that our starting point always has to be ourselves before we can reach out to others. We need to start at home, wherever that may be, and however humble that place might be. By looking creatively at our own immediate environment, we can identify what needs to change to make it a more peaceable space, and then take concrete step-by-step action to achieve it.
It starts with a choice, with making a decision to choose those things which are essential to our well-being - the eight pillars discussed above, for example - and working on a plan and strategy to bring them to the forefront of our lives.
This might require a lot of effort from you, and discipline to ensure that wellness becomes a constant feature in every aspect of your life. Once you have surpassed the initial hurdles to embarking on a life focusing on health, wellness, and balance, you will be able to see more clearly what the next steps are. And so on.
It is probably worth noting that such a grand project has no end date per se. But it does have incredibly rewarding milestones, and its positive effects are contagious in the way that laughter can be. Once you have your own house in order and have attained a stable, well-grounded sense of well-being (despite the odd curveball), the natural dynamic is for the positivity to spread.
It spreads to your neighbor, the street where you live, your place of worship, the school your kids attend, the place where you play sport. It extends to the whole community and becomes collective action.
The same healthy dynamic you have created around your own dinner table, where you flourish amid good food and good debate can certainly take hold in your community. A community that embraces well-being and a desire to live better can act in concert to bring powerful, bright ideas to fruition through the sheer force of faith, hope, and love.
As communities, we can join forces to tackle that tough environment list above; it's that simple.
At some point in this arc of development, it might occur to you that the community is an intricate network of people and organizations that support each other and shows many of the hallmark characteristics of wellness that first crossed your mind one sleepless night in the not-so-distant past. This is how the personal becomes political.
If this sounds like a manifesto, it is. For what is a manifesto but the expression of a desire for a better life for yourself and those around you? And what is a better life, but a place where being well and well-being have an equal footing?
How you get there is entirely up to you: the choice is yours.
Live Long and Prosper
We hope that you found something in this article to give you food for thought, to nourish your desire to live better. We hope that we have been able to show that in many respects, "You are what you eat," as the old saying goes. Getting the basics right will have a ripple effect in your life and empower you to live better and understand what it means to live better in a deeply personal way.
We urge you to sign up for free membership at SupplementRelief.com. You'll learn a whole lot of valuable information that can help you live a life of wellness.
Please call or email us anytime using the form below. We are happy to provide you with specific information or help with more general questions too. If we cannot attend to you right away, please leave a detailed message and we will get back to you as soon as we can.
We know we do not have all the answers, but leave you with one thought. Life for humans is supposed to be an experience of abundance, happiness, and fulfillment. We need to learn how to perfect the art of living better and acquire wisdom and the capacity to be loved and love on the way to achieving our full potential.
For our part, we echo the words of the song, "We wish you health, we wish you wealth, we wish you love".
Jay Todtenbier is an original founder of SupplementRelief.com in 2010 and has operated the business ever since. Formerly he spent 25 years in business development, technology and marketing with startups, and well-established organizations having gone through the tech boom of Silicon Valley in the 90s. He became passionate about, and began studying and practicing Wellness as a Lifestyle, after experiencing chronic, personal health challenges, including auto-immune diseases, and being overweight, that impacted his ability to live a healthy, vibrant life. Since then, he has been passionate about encouraging others to live better through whole-foods nutrition, stress management, reasonable exercise, and the use of targeted, high-quality supplements.
Learn more about Jay Todtenbier.
Related Wellness Resources
We encourage you to take advantage of these FREE Wellness Resources on our website.
A Stay at Home Wellness Guide
With the onset of COVID-19 in early 2020, more people are spending time at home. This is impacting all aspects of our life and living including how we eat, exercise, work, further our education, worship, shop, and enjoy entertainment, just to name a few important things. This series will provide tips and common sense for how we can live a happier and healthier life while spending more time at home, or any other place for that matter.
Common Sense for Living a Healthier Life
An estimated 95 percent of the world's population suffers from some type of medical condition according to recent reports from the healthcare sector. More than a third live with as many as five simultaneous health issues.1 At the same time, one in four people currently suffer from a mental illness, and this number is expected to increase during the years to come.
Healthy Living Whole Foods Cookbook
Many people know "what" to do to be healthy, but HOW do you do it? One of the best ways we have found is to show people how we eat as a family. This customizable, whole foods cookbook features two hobby chefs! Sara Kosmiski is an amazing RAW foods expert, and Libby Wright shares good foods for beginners in healthy cooking. We hope you enjoy these recipes and encourage you to share them with your family and friends!
Webinar: Better Sleep Tonight!
Facilitator Libby Wright interviews Dr. Jamie Wright who discusses the role of sleep in weight loss with participants of the Your Best Weight program. Dr. Wright is a board certified physician with a Masters Degree in Metabolic and Nutritional Medicine. The webinar last for 29 minutes and addresses questions submitted by the program participants.
You can learn more about the NuMedica supplements discussed: Liquid Melatonin.
Please enjoy the webinar. You may also wish to view or download the slides used for the presentation. We encourage you to ask questions or share your thoughts in the Discussion Forum.
Webinar: What About Water
Facilitator Libby Wright discusses the role of hydration in weight loss with participants of the Your Best Weight program. The webinar last for 21 minutes and addresses questions submitted by the program participants.
You may view or download the slides used for the presentation. We encourage you to take advantage of the supporting content on the Resources tab and to ask questions or share your thoughts in the Discussion Forum.
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