3 Modern Staples of Great Health

Posted on 9/29/2014 by Dr. Adrian den Boer
Categories: lifestyle, sleep, stress

When I started my practice back in 1989, there were three main components that I always preached to my patients to help jumpstart their great health. The first was to quit tobacco products, the second was to eliminate soda from their diet, and the last was to start moving. If my patients were doing these three things, along with eating fresh, non-processed foods, they typically went from a survival state, to one of thriving. Interestingly enough, as time and technology have evolved over the last 25 years, my three main health staples have evolved as well. Though my previous health staples are still important to wellbeing, they are more mainstream and many of my patients already adhere to them. I now preach these three modern staples of health to my patients to encourage a state of vibrant health.
1) Regulate your schedule.
Society has become more and more fragmented and hectic. We’re now able to access far more information than we used to through the Internet, social media, and our mobile devices. In fact, among smartphone owners aged 18-44, 79% of people have their phone on or near them for all but up to 2 hours of their waking day (Garibian, 2013). Though these technological advancements are helpful in some ways, our attention and focus have been yanked every which way, and it’s hurting our regularity of schedule. I see it with some of my patients; they are glued to their screens, hurting relaxation time and thwarting their opportunity to interact with others. 
A regular schedule, which includes a regular bedtime, is a key foundational piece to health. It’s especially critical for children, as it gives them a sense of security and helps them to develop self-discipline. The bedtimes of some of my younger patients are far too late beyond the ideal 6 – 8 PM timeframe, and it affects their health, growth, and behavior. In fact, British researchers found that both mothers and teachers rated 7-year-olds who had inconsistent bedtimes as being more hyperactive than their better-rested peers, and as having more social, emotional, and behavioral problems (Nierenberg, 2013).
A regular schedule is easy for me to preach, because where I grew up in the Netherlands, it’s a given. We get up at the same time, eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner at the same time, and go to bed at the same time. It’s cemented; no one touches the schedule. Though it takes a little willpower, once it’s in place, it will give you more space to do the things you want to do, and decrease the stress of a varied schedule.
2) Compartmentalize screen time.
As mentioned above, technology is a wonderful deal, but if you check your phone every time you hear a “ding,” that cause problems.  According to Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers’s annual Internet Trends report, people check their phones an average of 150 times per day (Meeker, 2013). Being on our devices frequently can decrease productivity, lead to poor sleep, create anxiety, and may even lead to addiction (Holmes, 2014).
Finding a system for checking your devices can be extremely helpful in regulating the amount of time you spend on them. I recently shifted to checking news and emails only twice per day, and it’s such a relief. If there are other articles that I want to read, I choose to actively do that rather than passively watching television at night. This system allows me to focus on what I want and need to focus on. It also affords me better, more restorative sleep at night, which leads me to my third health staple.
3) Reestablish healthy sleep habits.
So many of my patients do everything right, except for sleeping well, and it’s very evident on their BioImpedance Analysis. Exercise, recovery from stress, and food choices are hugely impacted by lack of sleep. A one-hour loss of sleep decreases the immune system by 20% the next day! If you’re chronically sleep deprived, it’s like taking a loan from the bank; at some point, you have to repay all of it, along with interest. Check out my post on developing healthy sleep habits here.
If you want to thrive, these three basic health staples must be in place. It may take a bit of work on the front of end, but once these habits are in place, it’s phenomenal to watch your health and wellbeing soar!  
Garibian, L. 2013. 7 in 10 Smartphone Owners Access Facebook via Their Device. MarketingProfs. http://www.marketingprofs.com/charts/2013/10459/7-in10-smartphone-owners-access-facebook-via-device.
Holmes, L. 2014. All the Ways Your Phone Is Messing Up Your Life, In One Chart. Huffington Post. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/07/31/smartphone-addiction_n_5626996.html.
Meeker, M. 2013 Internet Trends. Kleiner Perkins Caufield Byers. http://www.kpcb.com/insights/2013-internet-trends.
Nierenberg, C. 2013. Regular Bedtime For Kids Could Be the Secret to Good Behavior. Huffington Post. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/10/14/kids-bedtime-behavior_n_4096675.html