Whole Person Wellness
~ By Thomas Jeffers, President, New West Physicians ~
As I consider what true wellness is about, I know that it goes beyond just physical well-being. It incorporates fostering good personal relationships with family, friends, co-workers; being a person who is thankful and humble; and being generous with one’s talents by giving back to the community. It is in this spirit that we bring you a special edition of our Quarterly Newsletter dedicated to Whole Person Wellbeing. We hope you enjoy learning more about the journey to wellness!
As a basis for sharing this information, we have chosen to use the Whole-Person Wellness Model developed by Jan Montague, MGS. For over 30 years, Jan has focused on the advancement of whole-person wellness, education, strategies and outcome for individuals and organizations. Jan received her Masters of Gerontological Studies from Miami University, Oxford, Ohio. She serves on several national and international advisory boards and has authored numerous articles for professional journals on whole-person wellness and optimal living across the life course.
Jan has graciously given her permission for New West Physicians to use this information free of charge – we appreciate her generosity.
Six Dimensions of Wellness
Promotes the use of one’s mind to create a greater understanding and appreciation of one’s self and others. It involves one’s ability to think creatively and rationally. This dimension encourages an individual to expand his/her knowledge and skills-base through a variety of resources and activities.
The human brain, weighing in at only three pounds, and with 100 billion neurons, comprises a network more sophisticated than any supercomputer. And yet brain function does slowly fall off in most normal individuals as we age. This is most commonly experienced as simple things like not being able to remember phone numbers like you used to, or not being able to instantly recall the name of an acquaintance you haven’t seen in a while.
Are there exercises for the brain like there are for your muscles? The answer is clearly yes. Most of us use our brains in about the same way day in and day out when variety is what’s needed. It turns out that the brain is divided into what are known as domains, and each domain is responsible for an area of brain function. These include, among others, language, calculation, puzzle solving, and visual spatial relationships. The key is to try and use all of these domains in order to keep all of those nerve pathways firing optimally. The best way to do this is to change how you do things. If you like to do crossword puzzles, try adding Sudoku. If you play cards, try a different card game. If you are right handed, try doing some activities with your left hand.
Other great ways to exercise different brain domains are doing puzzles, learning a new language, learning to play a musical instrument, or tackling an art project. For those who enjoy the internet, there is a good website called Lumosity.com that offers online games, each of which is designed to exercise a different brain domain. Also, remember that physical exercise has been shown to improve brain function too. The long term health of our brain contributes to our wellbeing and enjoyment of life.
Use it or lose it definitely applies to brain health, so work out those neurons!
Promotes participation in personal safety and activities for cardiovascular endurance, muscular strength, balance and flexibility. This multi-faceted dimension is relative to each person’s abilities and disabilities. It promotes healthy lifestyle habits and discourages negative and excessive behavior.
We are what we eat and, unfortunately, one of every two Coloradans is now overweight. The key reasons for this are our unhealthful diets and lack of physical activity. For many people, the solution seems insurmountable; however, if we break the problem down, some remarkably simple solutions emerge.
On the diet side of the equation, there are three core principles:
- Take time to learn and read nutrition labels. Our diets are overloaded with sugar and, by learning to read nutrition labels; you will be startled by how much sugar we consume. The easy calculation to keep in mind is: one teaspoon of sugar is 4 grams. So, that yogurt you thought was healthy actually has 28 grams of sugar – the equivalent of 7 teaspoons of sugar! A can of sugared soda has 12 teaspoons of sugar, and a glass of juice has 9 teaspoons!
- “Think fresh, green and not white”. We should be eating five servings of fresh green vegetables daily; however, the average American has one or two. For instance, consuming 100 calories of broccoli has more protein than a hundred calories of beef. Substituting fresh green vegetables for processed white carbs (breads, rice, pasta and potatoes) may result in weight loss and reductions in stroke, heart attack and cancer.
- Our most calorically dense foods are meats. Limiting meat portions to four ounces per serving is critical to controlling weight. So the bottom line is to read the labels and plan out what you want your plate to look like. If half of your plate is fresh and green, you are headed in the right direction.
The exercise prescription is even simpler – do what you like. Four hours of vigorous physical activity weekly reduces your risk of stroke and heart attack by 50%, even if you don’t lose a pound. If you are in the process of developing a new habit of exercising, keep it simple so that you set yourself up for success. It takes 2-3 weeks to typically develop a new habit and the benefits of greater health and wellbeing are tremendous. The other added benefit of regular exercise is the production of wonder molecules called endorphins. These neurotransmitters can assist in stress and pain reduction while lifting our spirits.
Ken Cohen, MD, FACP
Chief Medical Officer, New West Physicians
Evergreen Internal Medicine
Look for Part 2 of this series in the May edition of Prime Time For Seniors