Sleep, Food, Mood, Exercise: Four Keys to Vibrant Health

When I subtitled my blog, “musings on the science of holistic wellness,” I did so because I believe that any strategy to improve human wellbeing has to look at things holistically.  By this I mean nothing can be taken in isolation.  Humans are complex and our wellbeing is affected by things that happen in many domains in our life.  (Stanford Professor Richard Zare said it well: “real problems are rarely solved by single department.”) 

Even in the spa industry (where I work,) although there is much lip service given to holistic healing (“mind, body & spirit,”) the reality is that only a small percentage of spas actually seem to thoughtfully consider how they treat their clients beyond the physical domain.  And most approaches to health and wellness seem to focus on nutrition and exercise (fuel and mechanics for the physical “machine.”)  Where do the mind and spirit come in?

I’m excited to say that the idea of holistic wellness seems to be finally catching on.  Specifically, I see a new model of wellness evolving around four simple concepts: Sleep, Food, Mood and Exercise.  I first heard these words put together in this way from Marie-Josee Shaar, author of Smarts and Stamina: The Busy Person’s Guide to Optimal Health and Performance (I wrote the foreword for the book here.) 

Marie-Josee has found that she can improve her coaching clients’ wellbeing by looking at their lifestyle across these four categories (and perhaps more importantly, the interactions between them.)  As an example, if someone isn’t exercising it could be due to lack of energy from not eating properly or not getting sufficient sleep.  Or maybe they are just emotionally down, making it hard for them to find motivation.

While the categories of sleep, food, mood and exercise are fairly simple and easy for her clients to understand, Marie-Josee has done a lot of research on the intricate workings of each of these facets of wellness and how they alter the body’s chemistry in dramatic ways.  True wellbeing comes when all four are being addressed adequately.

After hearing about Marie-Josee’s wellness model, I noticed a similar program being offered by Core Performance, a company offering elite corporate wellness programs (they’ve also created the fitness concept for our Sheraton hotel brand.)  Core Performance’s model is based on recovery, nutrition, mindset and movement (another way of saying sleep, food, mood and exercise.)

And this June, the Harvard Medical School Department of Continuing Education offered a course on “The Revolutionary Practice of Mind Body Medicine.”  What topics did they cover?  You guessed it, “recuperative sleep, nutrition and supplements, healing beliefs, and exercise and physical activity.”  Sleep, food, mood and exercise.

Diet and exercise have long been the staples of our daily dialogues around wellness, but they limit us to looking at the human body as a machine and leave out the psychosocial factors that affect our wellbeing.  I am glad to see a more comprehensive model starting to emerge that truly considers the mind and spirit components in wellness.  In fact, I think this model highlights the two biggest trends in wellness today: sleep/rest/recovery and mood/mindset/emotions. 

But even more important than the expanding research in two additional domains of wellness, is a shift in philosophy towards a more holistic approach and a new breed of wellness experts like Marie-Josee Shaar, who don’t look at the body as a machine to be repaired, but consider how lifestyle, emotion, thoughts and behaviors all interact to determine our state of health. 

Marie-Josee (and her co-author, Kathryn Britton) are teaching a course on this starting next week.  If interested, register here.

References and recommended reading:

Shaar, M & Britton, K. (2011).  Smarts and Stamina: The Busy Person’s Guide to Optimal Health and Performance.  Positive Psychology Press.

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14 Responses to Sleep, Food, Mood, Exercise: Four Keys to Vibrant Health

  1. Barley Green January 10, 2012 at 8:53 pm #

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  2. Prof J Paul De Vierville January 11, 2012 at 1:16 am #

    Four (4) Major Keys: Sleep, Food, Mood & Exercise for a vibrant Body-Mind-Heart-Soul

    Yes, these are The Four (4) conscious Keys to Holistic Health and Wellness,

    Yet there is a Fifth (5) unconscious Key within our full-time Psychology of Wellbeing:

    This is the quintessential Key found within our real rapid eye movement (REM) DREAMS & regular nightly DREAMING.

    From a perspective of holistic Time, we live 24 hours over 365+ Days and Nights each year during which about a 1/3 of this is Sleep Time, and about a 1/4 of this Sleep Time our Body-Mind-Heart & Souls are in a dynamic altered-state of Dream Time.

    So about 1/12th of our Lives are lived within The Realm of Dreams and Dreaming.

    That is a lot of Time, especially beyond the daily physical domain.

    What is all this free information (sleeping/live-nighttime inner-web) and personal imagination?
    How are these nightly images, symbols and visions holistically interpreted and integrated into our daily human health, wellness and wellbeing?
    How do DREAMS & DREAMING relate to our Sleep, Food, Mood & Exercise?

    These are some of the searching questions and resilient solutions encountered in:

    July 1st to 6th , 2012 at Bad Orb, Germany

    In this small experiential and experimental seminar (limit 12) we explore our:
    Dream Stories, Fairy Tales, Cultural Myths and Universal Patterns as they relate to our depth Psychology of Wellbeing as well as the history and legacy of ancient, contemporary and avant-garde Spa Cultures.

    After a wooded walk along Europe’s longest barefoot hiking path and stream fed pools, we float and flow in the creative Liquid Sound Temple and social geo-thermal baths.
    One afternoon we visit the museum/hometown of the Brothers Grimm, who two-hundred years ago first published their famous collections of Fairy Tales.
    Most of all we Move and Eat, Soak and Share, Sleep and Dream in the SpaWaters and SpaCulture at Bad Orb, Germany.

    Your HEALTH and WELLBEING OF PSYCHE depend upon it.

  3. Charlie Wills January 12, 2012 at 3:38 pm #

    Great Thoughts here… Congratulations

    The Wills System aka Masters of Relaxation uses three tools:
    One for the mind, one for the body and one for the soul. All three are backed by many sciences, holstic teachings, biology, neurocardiology and many oher fantastic Universities like Oxford.

    48 or more Tripadvisor posts along with video testimonials (even from a Dr. who studied at the Mayo Clinic for 5 years) back are great success. But there is a dangerous downside to this in Spas especially if they are connected to Hotels that are not specifically labeled Wellness or Self Help Centers (and most are not)

    You see the person that needs the most hep is already on MANY medications, typically anti-depressants, pain, sleep, blood pressure and anxiety just to name the most common…

    Ever been around someone that has not sleep well for a few weeks or months? NASTY, thats why the CIA keeps you up all night..

    So here we are dealing with these folks that are clearly on the edge, Most Love it but few that are Mad, not sleeping that get anger for no good reason, Bipolar or one of the many things that are negative that most of those medications side effects produce…

    If 3% of the people you’re trying to help, complain… there’s a Big problem. How come people only see black and white?

    Who are the biggest Losers here?
    Who benefits?
    Why no support?
    Should all True Helpers go to the Private sector?

    The Future is a battle of Love and Greed between the Healers and the others….there is no middle…

  4. Marie-Josee Shaar January 13, 2012 at 9:40 am #

    Wow, Jeremy!

    You know I have a lot of esteem for you – first for who you are as a whole and second for the beautiful thinker and thought-provoker that you are. In fact, I might very well be your #1 fan! To see you praise my work so openly is a huge honor! Thank you!


  5. Affiliated Physicians January 13, 2012 at 4:29 pm #

    Mental health is just as important as physical health. When you are feeling down it’s hard to find the energy to exercise or eat properly. Corporate wellness programs are beginning to address this issue as well.

  6. charlie wills January 14, 2012 at 10:44 am #

    Jeremy said “Even in the spa industry (where I work,) although there is much lip service given to holistic healing (“mind, body & spirit,”) the reality is that only a small percentage of spas actually seem to thoughtfully consider how they treat their clients beyond the physical domain. And most approaches to health and wellness seem to focus on nutrition and exercise (fuel and mechanics for the physical “machine.”) Where do the mind and spirit come in?”

    That is the Problem!!!
    Who is going to deal with all these mental issues along with all these folks that have many, many issues and Anger is right there on the Top of the List!!!! Remember they are on many medications.

    What Spa owner/director or GM of a hotel has been trained to deal with complaints from Bipolar,depressed or guests living with constant pain? None that I know of.

    When your dealing with these folks who are crying for help 25% will resist for many physiological reasons, then you have a problem because when these folks Flip On or Off watch out..even when I have one of the most Humblist persons on earth trying to work with these blessed people we stll have the same problems…unless of course all you do is listen and do nothing to start the change and help that person needs….

    So the Greed answer is we can’t have those roblems here….

    How are you going to End that Mentality so we can do what Jeremy is quoted saying at the top of this post?

    Help Needed!!!!

  7. charlie wills January 17, 2012 at 10:42 am #

    No Replies?
    Very sad!

  8. Jeremy McCarthy January 17, 2012 at 1:25 pm #

    Hi Charlie,

    I apologize for the lack of response. We actually gave birth to our second son last week and so I have been busy connecting with baby, big brother and mommy and making sure everyone is healthy and happy (they are!) I agree with your comments on the battle between love and greed and next week will be posting an article about my experience of delivering the baby in the hospital. There is a tremendous amount of fear involved in putting the lives of your loved ones in the hands of a health care system that you know has profit as its prime motivator.

    Regarding the holistic treatment of people with certain psychological conditions, you bring up a good point. One of the things that I like about the spa world is that unlike our medical health care model model, it is focused more on positive health. It is not necessarily about how to treat people with certain conditions, but how can we make people’s lives better, regardless of their condition. Naturally, different people have different situations and therefore different needs so there is an infinite amount of learning that we need to do to improve our ability to handle the diverse complexity of human experience and wellbeing.

    A book I would recommend (and plan to cover on a future article) is “What’s the Economy For Anyway?” which talks in depth about this inherent problem in our society of economic goals conflicting with the needs of humanity rather than supporting them (authors are Batker and de Graaf.)

  9. charlie wills January 18, 2012 at 10:14 am #

    Congratulations on being a Great Dad again,,,,one of my Favorite Jobs!!!

  10. DrJeff January 18, 2012 at 5:44 pm #

    These are the basics….the foundations of mental and physical health, and the place I start working with all my clients. I also practice what I preach, finding that “the four keys to vibrant health” are essential to my well being. Los Angeles Psychologist

  11. Prof J Paul De Vierville January 18, 2012 at 9:19 pm #

    Congratulations. DAD
    Looking forward to hearing about your birthing experience.
    Hope you will be getting some sleep?

  12. Jeremy McCarthy January 18, 2012 at 10:22 pm #

    Thanks Professor! Ironic that I would write about the importance of sleep a month before I find myself completely deprived of it.


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