There are four pillars that make up the foundation of your wellbeing: mind, activity, sleep and nutrition – and all of them depend on and affect each other. Understanding the connections that exist between these four pillars is essential for your long-term health.
How the four pillars affect each other
What you’re feeling can affect your physical state and daily life. Stress, anxiety and low mood can make it harder for you to get good quality sleep, which can make you less able to regulate your emotions and cope with stress. If you’re worried or anxious, your body sometimes responds with physical symptoms like a quickening heartbeat, nausea or digestive discomfort, and shortness of breath. Emotional eating is also typically a response to negative feelings and experiences like long-term stress, fatigue, health problems and financial issues.
What you eat and drink has the power to change your mood, impact your sleep quality and influence your activity levels. For example, consuming sugar can dampen your stress-related responses and emotions. It can become a habit to reach for sugary treats whenever you’re stressed or upset because your brain links food with comfort. If this happens regularly, it can cause you to have an unbalanced diet, which is linked to poor mental health, increased risk of several chronic diseases, and sleep issues.
Physical activity doesn’t just help with weight management – although that’s certainly a benefit. People often sleep better and feel more alert during the day if they regularly engage in moderate to vigorous exercise. One study found that participants who followed the World Health Organisation’s physical activity guidelines of doing 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise each week improved their sleep by an average of 65%. Your mental wellbeing gets a boost too; being physically active is linked to mood improvement, increased self-confidence and reduced stress.
When you don’t get enough good quality rest, chemical changes occur in your body that increase your cravings and hunger, reduce your willpower, and inhibit your ability to regulate emotions such as stress and anxiety. Sleep deficiency and disruptions can also cause you to feel tired and raise your risk of disease and chronic illness, including diabetes, obesity, heart disease and high blood pressure.
Using healthy habits to improve your wellbeing
Your lifestyle is a product of the behaviours, habits and actions that you engage in each day. In short, it’s what you eat and drink, your sleeping habits, your social connections, and much more.
When you’re trying to improve your health and wellbeing, it can be tempting to try and do everything at once. Focusing on small changes over time is a much more manageable approach. Plus, healthy looks and feels different for everyone, so it’s important to take time finding a balance and forming habits that work for you.