The 7 Aspects of Wellness Medicine
Dr Rajen Cooppan practices as a General and Ayurvedic Practitioner in Durban, South Africa, integrating nutritional and lifestyle medicine with allopathic practice. He is also the mentor to Neerja Ahuja and students at the Ayurvedic Awareness Centre in Perth where I myself studied the Foundations of Clinical Ayurveda 5 years ago. I was privileged to attend a seminar facilitated by Dr Cooppan a few weeks ago while he was visiting Perth. His teachings helped me to deepen my understanding of the 7 Aspects of Wellness Medicine. As humans, we are currently encountering numerous external threats to our health. By focussing our attention on what we can do to optimise wellness internally, we will be better serving ourselves, our families and the communities in which we live.
1. Competent Nutrition
Most of us have an idea of what good nutrition means, however with so many different people and organisations telling us what we should eat, it can get quite overwhelming. From an Ayurvedic perspective, it is advised that we eat a plant-based diet composing of organic, high quality whole foods. Our diet should include whole grains, fresh fruit and vegetables and protein. In particular, we need to ensure our diet contains essential fatty acids, essential minerals, vitamins, omega 3s and trace elements, carotenoids, flavonoids and cruciferous vegetables. If you’re interested in understanding more about how to choose what you eat in order to optimise your health, then consider watching the one-hour documentary “In Defence of Food” by Michel Pollan. For a brief introduction to the film, watch this 2-minute trailer.
2. Balanced Metabolism
Our metabolism is the result of our body’s enzymes and hormones working in sync and excreting toxins from our body. Eating a diet as described above will help provide the necessary nutrients to produce the enzymes and hormones we need and ensure that our detoxification pathways function optimally. One dietary supplement that is particularly useful for balancing our metabolism is colostrum. This can be purchased in powder form. Avoiding toxins, such as sugar, alcohol and cigarettes, is another way to support our metabolism to remain in balance.
3. Peace of Mind
Maintaining mental and emotional equanimity is analogous to emotional detoxification. Again, competent nutrition is critical to achieving emotional wellbeing. Dietary deficiencies such as zinc can cause mental agitation, so optimising our intake of essential vitamins and minerals are important for sustaining peace of mind. Other important lifestyle factors that support peace of mind include meditation, physical activity and meaningful social connection.
4. Adequate Sleep
Most people in the modern world are sleep deprived and this persistent lack of sleep is contributing significantly to the world’s chronic disease burden. It is well-known that humans need 7-9 hours of sleep every night. Of all the aspects of wellness, adequate sleep is the highest priority. Sleep is the time when our bodies undergo a process of rejuvenation by releasing growth hormone. Growth hormone is an anti-ageing hormone that is essential to optimising our wellness.
5. Appropriate exercise
Not all individuals require the same types of exercise. In Ayurveda, an assessment of the person’s body type is helpful for determining what type of exercise is appropriate. Milder body types are best served by repleting exercise, such as yoga and tai chi. Stronger body types need more aerobic exercise such as weights and running. Regular appropriate exercise is important for maintaining our metabolism, creating peace of mind and sustaining immune competence.
6. Immune competence
Our immune system is constantly being challenged by pathogens and toxins from the world around us. In order to ensure our immune system is functioning efficiently and effectively, it is important to provide it with essential nutrients in our diet. These include the carotenoids, flavonoids and cruciferous foods. Adequate sleep, managing our stress levels effectively, appropriate exercise and nurturing our relationships are also important factors for maintaining immune competence.
7. Joy & Bliss
The default physiological state of the human being is joy and bliss. Joy is an innate state of being that can be evoked with competent nutrition, adequate sleep, appropriate exercise and peace of mind. The limbic system, in particular the hippocampus and amygdala, are our threat detection centres that produce neuropeptides that communicate emotion to the body. We experience joy when the emotional state of the brain is in balance. According to the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu, there are 8 habits that can be practised on a regular basis to optimise our levels of joy and bliss. These include
For a more detailed exploration of the 8 pillars of joy, you might like to refer to “The Little Book of Joy” by the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu.
By attending to each of these 7 Aspects of Wellness on a daily basis, it shouldn’t take long for you to start noticing a shift in your sense of wellbeing. Personally, since completing my Ayurveda training 5 years ago, I have been making a conscious effort to eat a diet containing the necessary nutrients for wellness, meditate regularly, get at least 7 hours of sleep (almost) every night, practice yoga (almost) every morning and embrace the 8 pillars of joy in my daily life in order to maintain a balanced metabolism and competent immune system. Consequently, I am experiencing the benefits, which include good energy levels, peace of mind and infrequent illness. I must disclose that this is a result of seeking the support of my family and friends as well as holistic health practitioners with skills in wellness medicine. Achieving wellness is a shared journey and I encourage you to engage a team of supporters to ensure you can manifest a state of wellbeing and enjoy a long and fulfilling life.