The California Health & Longevity Institute was created to offer a holistic approach to health, to help improve people’s quality of life. Can you describe a bit what you mean by “a holistic approach to health”, and why that’s important?
We live in a time of amazing breakthroughs in medicine and technology, but it’s important to remember that the scientific, reductionist view of problem solving that make many advances possible can also drag us down into the weeds where we see everything as a discrete event. Health and wellbeing are more than a compilation of lab results and scans. At CHLI those medical tests are only a jumping-off place for a more inclusive approach to what we call the Five Pillars of Wellness: preventive medicine, nutrition, fitness, life balance, and therapeutic spa.
What you eat and drink, how you fuel your body, has a direct impact on your physical and mental well-being. Periodically pushing your system to higher, but safe, levels of operation through exercise keeps your body running at optimal levels and is proven to reduce factors associated with increased risk of cancer and heart disease.
The website Stress.org reported a statistic that 1 in 5 Americans experience “extreme stress”, resulting in shake, heart palpitations, and depression. Why are Americans so stressed?
All animals, including humans, are wired to experience stress. It is related to the fight-or-flight mechanism that can save one’s life when in danger. The problem is that many Americans are drowning in stimulus and false danger signals. News outlets turn every storm or event into a potential disaster to manipulate viewers into staying tuned through the commercials. Sportscasters exaggerate the importance of games and rivalries amount teams to produce a near hysteria among fans. Most of us also contribute mightily to the churning soup of stress within us by viewing petty office and personal conflicts as do-or-die duels.
The Life Balance pillar at CHLI helps our guests identify and sort out the few legitimate stressors from the many pretenders. CHLI’s sister company, California Wellbeing, then takes a step beyond physical wellness by emphasizing the importance of connection with and service to the bigger community. A lot of false stress comes from envisioning ourselves alone at the center of a threatening world. Seeing ourselves, instead, as a positive contributor to family and friends, and to the broader world around us, helps to change our focus, reduce stress, and leads us to live a mindful life.
In the last 20 years, there’s been a 60% increase in workplace productivity, despite stagnant, if not diminishing, wages. In light of this, why is it important for people to gain control over their stress to not only function, but thrive?
Gaining control over stress is an important element of each human’s progression to gain self-awareness. This self awareness supports improved health and well-being and also helps us recognize and diffuse false stressors and become more effective in our daily life.
Your productivity and wage statistics also hint at a growing stressor. Technology, robotics, and artificial intelligence (AI) are all contributing to increased productivity with little or no human input. That means weak job creation and wages in traditional sectors, but opportunities in new fields. Adapting to changes in the economic structure will help people control stress and thrive in a rapidly changing work world.
Likewise, 3 out of 4 doctors visits are for stress-related illnesses. How is being perpetually stressed not only bad for one’s health, but also pocketbook?
That statistic may be misleading. I think the majority of doctor visits are related to illness. Stress, along with poor diet and fitness, obesity, genetics, inadequate sleep, and environmental conditions all contribute to illness, and hence visits to the doctor. The cost concern is very real. Poor health not only hits your wallet with doctor bills, but can also reduce income with time missed at work. Stress and illness can also reduce energy level and mental acuity, which are also associated with lower earning power.
Stress also increases the risk of heart disease by 40%, the risk of heart attack by 25%, and the risk of stroke by 50%. What are some other unexpected effects that stress can have on someone’s health?
I am not a physician and cannot speak to specific health effects of stress. However, I will key-in on the word “unexpected.” A core belief at CHLI is that people can proactively improve their health with annual preventive medical health check-ups, learning individualized ways to improve their nutrition and fitness, and also learning to recognize and manage stress and create life balance. In this way, when a person takes charge of their own well-being, the role of stress in their life is not “unexpected.” With improved self-knowledge we can develop a sensitivity to recognize and disarm stressors.
A lot of people think of being interested in personal finances as being selfish and self-involved. How can having control and clarity of someone’s finances actually help them to be better engaged in the world and do more good?
The Gallup-Healthways Wellbeing Index tracks key markers in individual well-being. Financial security is one of those markers. It’s not about being rich, but living within your means and taking control to plan and organize the resources you have. Taking interest in and planning your personal finances is a way of taking control of your holistic life, just like improving your nutrition and fitness. Being confident about your finances is also a big way to reduce stress.
Many people think of budgeting and personal finances as dry and dull, as well. How can having a greater understanding of one’s finances actually help someone have a richer and more fulfilling life?
A richer and more fulfilling life is how I describe well-being, and as I said, financial security is a component of wellbeing. I suppose that mindful eating and regular workouts can also be seen as dull or routine, but taking care of your well-being, be it financial or physical, is essential and ultimately freeing. Zen teaches us that routine action is the path to life fulfillment.
How can having a calm, centered mind help someone build the life they’re dreaming of, by increasing clarity, focus, and improving their mood?
A calm, centered mind is actually a byproduct of well-being. It comes when you eat clean, stay active, monitor your health with regular preventive medical checks, and mind your stress with a balanced life. It gets back to where we started. A holistic approach is the key to wellness. The resulting calm, centered mind is the way you carry that physical wellness beyond yourself to achieve comprehensive well-being within your broader life circle and community.
What are three simple things someone can do to get more healthy, calm their mind, and put their life on the right track that you would recommend?
California Wellbeing promotes a 3-fold path to well-being including physical wellness, connection to others, and contribution to community. The three things people can do to optimize their well-being are (1) pursue a holistic approach to physical wellness; (2) thoughtfully engage in building a life foundation including financial security, meaningful work, and loving connection for family and friends; and (3) experience the “me” that is part of “we” by contributing to the broader community in small or large ways. Just as physical wellness is holistic, so is comprehensive well-being, which is a synthesis of the physical me as biological machine, the social me with my immediate personal life, and also the part of me that is part of the bigger world. Making a difference inside will resonate!