How to Have a Balanced Health Triangle
The Health Triangle is a helpful tool for visualizing your total well-being. The triangle is made of up three sides, each representing an important side of your health: Physical, Mental and Social. Physical health represents your biological welfare and how to protect your body from illness or injury. Mental health includes your emotional life and how you process things such as stress or anxiety. Social health indicates your placement in a broader community of friends and family. Bolstering each side of the triangle will help you lead a healthy life.
Protecting Your Physical Health
Eat a healthy diet.Consuming a well-balanced diet is one of the best ways to fuel your physical health.A healthy diet generally consists of the following items:
- Whole grains such as whole wheat bread, pasta and brown rice.
- Lean meats such as chicken, pork, and fish.
- Vegetables such as spinach, broccoli and bell peppers which are rich in vitamins and antioxidants.
- Fruits such as berries, oranges, apples and bananas.
- Fat free or low fat dairy products such as milk, yogurt, and cheese.
- Other protein-rich foods such as eggs, beans and legumes.
- Broth-based soups.
Limit unhealthy foods.Foods that should be eaten rarely or in moderation include sodas, fried foods, full-fat dairy products, sugary processed foods like cookies, cakes and cereals. Eating these calorie-laden foods in excess could cause you to become overweight or obese, increasing your risk of heart disease, diabetes and other serious health conditions.
- You should also limit your intake of caffeine and alcoholic drinks.
Stay hydrated.Drinking water is a core element of your physical health. Water regulates your body temperature and keeps your joints well-lubricated. It also removes toxins from your body via urination and bowel movements.
- The recommended amount of water to drink each day will vary from person to person, but general guidelines suggest 13 cups of water for men and 9 cups of water for women every day.
- To get in the habit of drinking more water, keep a bottle of water on your desk. Seeing the water in close proximity will probably prompt you to drink it more often, but you can also set your phone or computer to give you a reminder every half hour to drink.
- If you are in the habit of drinking soda, try drinking sparkling water instead. The fizzy, carbonated texture of the drink will remind you of soda, but you won't be consuming any of the harmful sugars or chemicals from soda.
Exercise.You don't have to compete in Ultra-Marathons in order to reap the physical benefits of exercise. 30 minutes of moderate to intense exercise (like brisk walking, running, swimming or hiking) 4-5 times a week is the recommended amount for most people.
- Exercise can help you lose weight and reduce your risk of suffering from heart disease, diabetes, chronic fatigue, and even some cancers, such as endometrial and lung cancer.
- It may take some time to find a form of exercise you really enjoy. Try a wide variety of activities: walking, running, swimming, yoga, pilates, ballet. You can also look into team sports such as soccer, basketball, football, and softball. Your local gym or community center may offer classes in these areas, but you can also look for DVDs or fitness videos on YouTube to give you guidance.
- Don't give up on a new exercise regime immediately. It will take time for your muscles to adjust to the demands of the activity. Try each activity for at least a month before you move onto something new.
Sleep 7 to 9 hours every night.A full night's sleep can have multiple physical benefits, from boosting your immune system to improving your ability to concentrate and complete projects when you are awake.
- If you struggle to get a full night's sleep, try creating a regular bedtime routine in the hour leading up to the time you want to sleep. Wash your face, brush your teeth, and play some relaxing music. You might read a book in bed before going to sleep. Repeating these activities will prepare your body for sleep.
- Improve your sleeping conditions. If you need to sleep in a cool room, add an extra fan or remove a layer of blankets from your bed. If you live by a noisy street, try using a white noise machine to drown out any noise. Use thick curtains to shut out any light from street lamps or nearby buildings.
Shower regularly.Showering every day will not only help you feel refreshed, it will also promote good hygiene. Be sure to use water and soap when you shower or take a bath.
Wash your hands.Regular hand washing is one of the most effective methods in preventing the spread of disease. It reduces the transmission of diarrhea, the flu, and other communicable diseases.
- Be sure to use warm water, antibacterial hand soap (either in a bar or liquid form) and a clean towel to dry your hands.
- Wash your hands before you prepare food, insert contact lenses, or apply any kind of medical treatment such as a bandage to the skin.
- Wash your hands after going to the bathroom, taking out the trash, blowing your nose, handling raw meat or eggs, or touching an animal.
Preserve your dental health.Brush your teeth in the morning and in the evening for two minutes each time. Use a fluoride-based toothpaste. Your dentist may want you to brush after every meal or 3 times a day, so always follow her directions.
- You can purchase toothpaste and a toothbrush from your local grocery store or a drugstore.
- Floss. You should also floss between your teeth to remove bacteria and protect your gums from infection. Take a piece of dental floss and wrap the ends of it on the index finger on your right hand and the index finger of your left hand. Insert the string of floss between your teeth, moving it up and down to thoroughly clean the space between the teeth and your gums.
Take good care of your skin.Your skin is the largest organ in your body, so it is important to take good care of it. Always wear sunscreen when you spend time outdoors and get regular skin checks from a doctor or dermatologist.
- See a doctor right away if you notice a new mole or growth on your skin. Melanoma (skin cancer) is one of the most common forms of cancer and it can spread to other parts of your body if not treated early.
Get regular check ups.You should schedule a yearly exam with your family doctor (or general practitioner) just so they can monitor your blood pressure, cholesterol levels, weight, reflexes and any other signs of good health.
- If you are a woman, then you should have annual checkups with a gynecologist as well.
- If you have a family history of a particular disease -- such as diabetes or lung cancer -- you should talk to your doctor about monitoring for these conditions and what you can do to prevent them from developing.
Preserving Your Mental Health
Treat mental illness as seriously as physical illness.Just because the symptoms of mental illness might not be visible in the same way as those of a physical disease, you shouldn't dismiss the symptoms of stress, depression or anxiety. Symptoms of poor mental health might include:
- Anger or irritability
- Feeling powerless or helpless
- A sense of disconnection or numbness to your emotions
- A loss of appetite or diminished libido
- Loss of interest in activities you normally love
Make time for activities that give you joy.You probably have a very busy schedule with the demands of work, home and everything in between. But preserving your mental health means making time for doing things that bring you joy and also keep you calm.
- Make a list of things that you enjoy doing in your spare time. Perhaps you like practicing photography, reading mystery novels, or testing out new recipes. Whatever it is you enjoy doing, set aside at least a few hours each week in which you can relax and take this time to yourself.
Practice deep breathing.Simply breathing in long, soothing breaths can help regulate your body's response to stress.
- Inhale by expanding your diaphragm outward; this is located in your lower stomach. Hold your breath for five seconds. Then, exhale, drawing your diaphragm back inward.
Embrace meditation and spirituality.In meditation, you empty your mind so you only focus on your breathing and the rhythms of your body as you inhale and exhale.
- Find a comfortable space to sit or lie down while you focus on your breathing. If you are not comfortable lying or sitting down, then try going for a walk and focusing only on your surroundings.
- If you tend to "overthink" or have a rush of anxious thoughts, especially before you go to bed, meditation can help you clear you mind of these toxic ideas and instead focus on the experience of breathing.
Exercise.In addition to having excellent physical benefits, exercise can also relieve the symptoms of depression and anxiety. The endorphins released during exercise might help boost your mood and relieve the symptoms of depression.
- Many forms of exercise -- such as yoga and tai chi -- combine the benefits of exercise with the focus on deep, meditative breathing. These exercises are a great way to quell the symptoms of stress or anxiety.
Consult a therapist.While you should certainly visit a counselor or psychiatrist if you suffer from depression or acute anxiety, you might seek treatment for seemingly more minor experiences of stress. A counselor, therapist, or psychiatrist can give you helpful tips for managing stress and maintaining your mental health.
Improving Your Social Health
Build up a community.Social health is bolstered by networks of friends and family members. They are people who support us, give us guidance, and celebrate joyful moments in life. They provide a crucial sense of belonging that is necessary to our overall health.
- Keep in mind that you do not need to have tons of friends to be happy. Even one or two good friends may be enough to provide you with a strong support system.
- Try to build networks that meet regularly in person. Taking a class, attending a monthly book club, or joining a local tennis team means you will have a regular, recurring opportunity to make friendships.
Bond with people over common interests.If you are looking to make new friends, then join groups where you have a particular hobby or skill in common. For instance, consider joining a hiking group or a creative writing group.
- Look online at local Facebook groups or groups on MeetUp to find hobby-based groups.
Volunteer.Another great way to bolster your social health is to give back to your community. This will help you meet new people while also strengthening your sense of belonging to your local town or city.
- Volunteering has been shown to have enormous benefits for its participants, especially in increasing their psychological well-being and sense of social integration.
Reach out to existing networks.Perhaps you have a co-worker you've wanted to get to know better. Invite him out for a cup of coffee. If you have a friend you have not spoken to in a few months, go ahead and give her a call or shoot her an email to see how she is doing.
- Maintaining older friendship networks has been shown to yield significant happiness for people. Happiness, contentment and a sense of social belonging are key ingredients to maintaining your social health.
- Remember that you don't need to have lots of different friendships in order to have a healthy social life. Maintaining a few quality friendships can have greater benefits -- including a prolonged lifespan -- than only having peripheral friendships with acquaintances.
Initiate invitations to social events.Whether you are trying to make new friendships or revive old ones, consider hosting and organizing events when you can bond socially with others. Invite new friends over to dinner (you can make it a potluck if you don't want to cook for many people). If you don't have space to host dinner, consider having cocktails and appetizers instead.
- You can also organize very simple events, like going to see a movie or a concert, trying out a new restaurant for brunch or dinner, or grabbing a drink at happy hour.
Say yes.Similarly, do not reject opportunities to meet new people. If you are invited to a party, attend it, even if you do not know anyone else going.
- Be open to trying new things. If someone invites you to a new restaurant or a festival you've never been to, then go along with it. Even if it is not exactly what you would prefer to do, be flexible for the sake of meeting new people.
Express genuine interest in others.One of the best ways to make friendships is to simply show interest in the other person. Ask them about their hobbies, their current goals or missions, and what are they passionate about.
- Look at people directly in the eye when you talk to them. Smile and have a friendly, generous manner toward them.
- Don't dismiss someone just because they seem to different from you at first (i.e. they may have a different political or religious belief system than you). While they might appear to be your polar opposite, they still could be a wonderful, loyal friend to you.
Video: How to Have a Balanced Health Triangle/ Protecting Your Physical Health
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