If you are a generally well person, maintaining health should not be a difficult thing yet it has become this way for many. We have a 5 trillion dollar government healthcare expenditure and multi-billion dollar wellness industry to prove it. We are depressed. We are anxious. We are fatigued. We cannot sleep. We have stomach issues. We have aches and pains. ALL THE THINGS. Numerous tests have been developed to figure out what’s wrong with us and there is exponential growth in the number of pharmaceuticals, supplements, and treatments touted to fix us, but I can tell you that the most transformational answers to our problems do not lie in these things. I see it every day with patients wanting to understand what’s wrong with them and willing to shell out hundreds and thousands for it. For many, the answers they are looking have been readily available to them this whole time and, for the most part, are free.
That’s because what many of us have forgotten is that we are animals, and animals thrive in an innate habitat of nature and survive by carrying out basic functioning – eating to provide the energy and nutrients for the body to operate, sleeping for cellular repair and recharge, having sex which provides benefits far beyond that of procreation (increased immunity and decreased stress for starters), moving for food, shelter, and predatory escape that inherently strengthens all body systems, and, for many species, fostering community for survival. Humans are no exception to these needs and before modern conveniences they were readily a part of our life. Today we are doing far less of all of these things and essentially living a life incompatible with how we were designed to live – most Americans are malnourished, not getting adequate sleep, spend most of their time indoors, are sexually or creatively repressed, not exercising, and lacking in authentic human connection thanks to electronics. Because of this, it should come as no surprise that mental health issues, chronic disease, and healthcare spending are all on the rise. Addressing these foundational aspects is the key to mental and physical health and the cornerstone of naturopathic medicine. We need to start attending to our basic animal needs.
When I work with patients – and the next time you have a health complaint – I ask for honest introspection on these things: how well are you functioning AS AN ANIMAL? Are you sustaining yourself with the appropriate nutrients, are you spending quality time outdoors, are you sleeping, are you moving, are you connecting with other humans, are you fulfilling your sexual needs? If the latter is not available to you, as humans we can substitute this with creativity and play – activities of personal expression that make us happy: music, dancing, laughing, singing, drawing, writing, sculpting, painting, etc. It is not always this simple but it is important to acknowledge the profound impact these aspects have on wellbeing so that when we are ready to prioritize ourselves, we can seek out the necessary steps toward our health goal(s). I speak of prioritization because
when we deny ourselves these things we are inherently denying our worth.
Sit on that for a second and recognize the truth in it: if we feel unmotivated or are too busy to attend to our needs or constantly put others needs ahead of our own we are ultimately telling ourselves we aren’t valuable enough to invest in ourselves. If this doesn’t resonate with you or make you pause, I would argue you have some introspection to do. This ignoring of self eventually impacts everything else in life – something in the day to day is going to suffer whether it be work, relationships, or overall health and these issues will continue to build until something stops working and disrupts the patterning. Some will take the wake up call and make life changes and many will suppress it and continue on as they have been. What I look for in working with patients is this acknowledgement of, and commitment to, self because I know without it they are going to have a difficult time achieving their goals – health and otherwise. So if you want to be on the road to health, start acting like the animal you are. This is the underlying answer to so many health issues today and what I work to restore in my patients for the most transformational changes.