Building Your House of Wellness

By: Katherine Watkins, FDN

Average reading time: 4 minutes

Our modern lives are nothing short of crazy. Every day, we rush around juggling multiple commitments, feeling overwhelmed and out of control. Living this way is not only exhausting but unsustainable. It’s hardly surprising that it can lead to serious health complications.

Research shows that a whopping 70% to 90% of health conditions can be prevented or managed through lifestyle alone. Creating a life of optimal health and vitality is like building a house. Your personal “House of Wellness” is not a hotel room you can trash while partying like a rockstar! It’s a home that shelters and cares for you your entire life. That means maintaining it, caring for it, keeping it clean, and doing the occasional renovation.

But let’s begin at the beginning, shall we? What’s the first step in building your House of Wellness? It’s the same as it is with any house—you must first build a solid foundation. Focus your attention on each of the steps outlined in this article to lay the foundation for a life of ultimate health and vitality.

1.)  Nourish your body with fresh, whole foods

Your body does not know what to do with processed, artificial foods any more than a car knows how to run on Kool-Aid. Step 1 is reducing your reliance on this stuff.

Start building your House of Wellness by nourishing your body with real food, and plenty of it! Don’t starve yourself with the latest “get thin quick” fad diet. Without proper nutrition, your body is in a constant state of stress, and your organs and cells are unable to function as they should.

Instead, focus on eating an abundance of wholesome, minimally processed foods (preferably organic). Eat the foods our ancestors ate—meat, fish, vegetables, tubers, nuts, and seeds—a diet that is far more in accord with our physiological make-up.

Real food is farmed and prepared using methods that have been around for thousands of years. Beef and dairy products come from grass-fed cows that roam free on pastures; eggs are laid by hens that live in fresh air and sunlight; real butter is raw, not heated or processed; and fish are wild and swim free in oceans and rivers.

PRO TIP: Load your plate with an abundance of colorful fruit and vegetables. Different colors reflect different nutrient profiles, so focus on getting a little of each color of the rainbow in your diet every day to maximize the nutritional benefits.

2.)  Sleep deeply

Most of us know how crucial sleep is for health, yet often it’s the thing we most readily neglect!

A lack of good quality sleep has been associated with an increased risk of stroke, diabetes, heart disease, depression, substance abuse and memory impairment. It also leads to weight gain—something many of us thyroid people already struggle enough with!

It has recently been discovered that your brain detoxifies itself at night. Without restful sleep, your brain literally has no way of dumping out all the harmful chemicals and pollutants we are exposed to in our daily lives.

To ensure the highest quality of sleep, sync your body with the natural light and dark cycles of the Earth. Aim to go to bed at around 10.30 pm and aim for about 7 to 9 hours of sleep.

Avoid reliance on drugs and alcohol to help you sleep. Even though it may seem like this is helping you, it significantly disrupts sleep quality.

Wind down for the evening by going for a light walk, having a warm bath or jotting down your thoughts from the day in a journal. Keep your sleep environment as dark as possible, and if your room is not totally black, invest in a sleep mask. Keep your bedroom free of electronics so that there are no harmful electromagnetic frequencies disrupting your sleep.

PRO TIP: Help yourself coast off to dreamland by having a glass of tart cherry juice before bed. This boosts melatonin (the hormone that tells your body that it is time to sleep).

3.)  Move regularly

There are thousands of studies showcasing the benefits of exercise. It reduces stress and anxiety, improves blood sugar control, increases bone density, protects against heart disease, releases endorphins, and burns calories.

A complete exercise program should include all of the following elements: cardiovascular exercise (like fast walking or biking), resistance exercise (for example, weight training or bodyweight training) and flexibility/mobility training (like yoga or primal movement classes).

If you are returning to exercise after some time off or struggle to exercise because your thyroid condition makes you tired and unmotivated, then start small and work your way up. For a detailed discussion of exercising with a thyroid condition, read our Guide to Exercising with a Thyroid or Adrenal Condition.

Sticking to a structured exercise regimen is good, but it may not be enough to outweigh a sedentary lifestyle. Try to incorporate movement into your day as much as possible. For example, take the stairs instead of the elevator, replace your desk chair with a stability ball (or better still, replace with a standing desk), or take 1 to 2-minute breaks every hour and perform some simple bodyweight movements. Walk as much as you can—use a pedometer and aim for 10,000 steps per day.

PRO TIP: Most importantly, when designing your exercise regimen, choose a type of movement that you love. You’re more likely to stick with and benefit from activities you enjoy.

4.)  Meditate daily

Stress is a part of our lives, and some degree of stress is healthy and essential. But long-term or chronic stress has a significant effect on our bodies, which can ultimately lead to illness and disease. Those of us suffering from a thyroid condition know only too well the effect that feeling stressed can have on our bodies. Often it’s the straw that breaks the camel’s back, and can knock us out for days (or even weeks).

Meditation may seem like just another hot trend these days when it comes to stress relief, but meditation and healing prayer have been used for thousands of years to improve well-being and connection to others. This is ancient wisdom, and now we have the science to back it up!

Meditation reduces stress, improves mental alertness, reduces anxiety and depression, increases focus, promotes healthy eating habits, increases quality and quantity of sleep, reduces pain, and even helps you lose weight.

And if you’re not sold already, you can practice it for free, in the comfort of your own home! Choose from one of our many guided meditations:

PRO TIP: If you’re new to meditation, start by doing 10 minutes each day just sitting still and focusing on your breath. If you prefer a bit more guidance, try one of the many apps available, like Headspace or Insight Timer (free). If you are really looking to up your meditation game, try doing a course in Transcendental Meditation. This practice involves meditating twice a day for 20 minute periods, and the results are nothing short of astounding.

5.)  Connect meaningfully with others

We know how awful it is to feel isolated and lonely, but research shows that a lack of social connection is significantly detrimental to our health. People who live alone, rely on a small social network, or have limited participation in social activities tend to suffer higher rates of early death, impaired immune function, increased susceptibility to diabetes and heart disease, and more.

For all of us seeking to live longer (you can definitely include me in this category!), you’ll be interested to know that social connection is actually the biggest predictor of longevity. I’m going to say that again just to help it sink in:

Social connection is the biggest predictor of longevity.

Although you may feel too tired and unmotivated to make the effort (not uncommon when living with a thyroid condition!) it’s vital to get yourself out of the house and connect with others. You’ll be happy that you did!

Remember, it’s about quality, not quantity. Seek real connection and meaning in your social time. Instead of leaving you tired and drained, this will leave you feeling invigorated and energized.

PRO TIP: Find a group of friends that enjoy getting out and doing fun things together—something active if you’re up to it. Or, pick up the phone and make plans to catch up with a treasured friend over tea or lunch. If you’re looking to meet new friends, there are plenty of Meet Up groups online that are available for everything from hiking, to cooking and reading.

6.)  Live playfully

George Bernard Shaw once said, “We do not stop playing because we grow old, we grow old because we stop playing.” This could not be truer!

Children place play right at the top of their list of priorities. But as adults, our priorities become opposite. Between our career, household, and parental responsibilities, play seems like the absolute last thing we could or should be doing!

But studies provide plenty of evidence to suggest that play has significant body, mind and health benefits for adults as well as children! It unlocks the mind, and seeks and finds new levels of creative opportunities. Play provides laughter and joy and the pursuit of healthful pleasure in life and relationships.

Make an effort to schedule ‘play time’ into your day just as you would a daily workout or lunch with friends. Think of ‘play’ as something you do for the sheer pleasure of it, without a specific goal in mind. Go dancing, play cards, do a handstand, have fun! (Bonus points for trying something new!)

Approach life with a new playful personality by sharing a joke with a stranger or goofing around with young children. When you catch yourself thinking that your best years are behind you, rediscover play and become a kid at heart again. You are as young as you feel!

PRO TIP: If you’re having trouble coming up with ideas, create a list of the things that you loved to do for fun as a kid. Then, go over your list and highlight the things that still sound appealing. As a child, I loved hanging upside down in trees and doing gymnastics—and you will still find me doing this today!

You deserve a lifetime of ultimate health and vitality, and you’re worth it. Everything you need to start creating that is within your power. I hope this information has inspired you to start laying the foundation of your House of Wellness. Maybe we can be neighbors!


About the Author

Katherine Watkins is a Functional Health Consultant from London, UK. She is a certified Functional Diagnostic Nutrition (FDN) practitioner, a graduate of the Institute of Integrative Nutrition (IIN) in New York and a certified personal trainer (specializing in advanced clinical testing, detailed symptom profiling, mindset and emotional work). She is currently completing a life coaching certification from the Martha Beck Institute. When she was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, Katherine used her extensive knowledge and resources to naturally heal her underlying health imbalances. She now lives symptom-free and is passionate about helping others live similarly healthy, happy lives.