When we think about modern medicine it is probably images of doctors, drugs and hospitals that first come to mind, but our health is much more in our own hands than we realize. Our lifestyle is where we can begin to take control of our own health care – all the choices we make and the habits we develop throughout each day. I have identified five areas of lifestyle where we can focus our efforts and I call them The 5 Keys to Staying Healthy.
When I started to write about The 5 Keys I was inspired by my longtime exploration of the 5 Elements in Traditional Chinese Medicine and their various correspondences. Creating health through the harmony of these five essential and interrelated elements was the subject of my first book Staying Healthy with the Seasons. The 5 Chinese Elements relate to each other in both creative, and controlling or destructive ways. For example, it is said that Wood (as fuel) “creates” Fire, while Water “controls” Fire (by extinguishing it).
Similarly, each of the 5 Keys can either support the others or undermine them and thus enhance or diminish our health. For example, good nutrition and regular exercise can lessen stress and improve sleep; while stress can negatively impact digestion and sleep, creating a vicious cycle of more stress, even worse sleep, diminished vitality and increased susceptibility to disease.
Staying Healthy with NEW Medicine, my most recent book, which has a chapter on the 5 Keys, is really the next octave of what I presented in Staying Healthy with the Seasons. These two five-fold systems are not exactly equivalent, but here are my basic Key-Season-Element correspondences:
- Nutrition aligns with Spring and Wood – nature’s renewal, plant life as the source of food (even most of the animals we consume as meat depend on plants for their food!).
- Exercise aligns with Summer and Fire – physical activity, heat, outward expression.
- Stress aligns with Autumn and Metal/Air – it’s all about the mind-body relationship.
- Sleep aligns with Winter and Water – nature’s rest/recuperation, hibernation, depth and inwardness.
That leaves Attitude aligned with Late Summer and Earth, which might seem a bit confusing at first. However Late Summer/Earth is referred to as the Doyo, meaning “transition time,” which also occurs between each of the seasons, around the two Equinoxes and Solstices. The direction assigned to this element is the CENTER with transition itself as a unifying principle. This creates an alternate arrangement.
This relationship of Elements and Seasons made perfect sense to me as the model for the 5 Keys, as I realized that while I usually present Attitude as the fifth key, it can also be considered the first or central one, because our thoughts, feelings and beliefs really are the foundation of our healthy, or unhealthy lifestyle choices.