Leaders need to be fit of mind and body, only then can they reach their full potential and support teams and organisations to achieve great things. The majority of leaders are good at resting their minds after a long day at the office. Reading, watching TV, going to the theatre, movies or sports events are all popular pastimes, yet few give an equal amount of time to looking after their bodies in the same way.
Often, time is used as an excuse, when in reality it’s simply a question of preference.
The human body is an incredible machine and needs to be given priority. It needs to be loved and cared for, stretched and flexed and fixed (where possible) when it doesn’t work as it should.
However, project management and conscious leadership are my areas of expertise, not health sciences, so I asked my friend, chiropractor extraordinaire and all round nice guy Dr. Nick Gentile, to step in and provide some advice to leaders on how they can take steps to look after the most precious thing they own.
Over to you Nick…
In the 1960s the Great Lakes that sit between the US and Canada were in very bad shape. In fact such bad shape that lake Eire in particular was declared a dead ecosystem. To put this in context, the great lakes contain 21% of the Earth’s total surface fresh water. One of those five lakes was declared dead. What was once an incredibly popular place for summer camping, fishing and swimming now closely resembled a wasteland and became a green stinky soup. The fish began to die and float to the shore, the birds that ate the fish started producing brittle eggs that never got the chance to hatch, the predators that ate the birds began to disappear because of the poisonous birds they were eating, and the forest surrounding the lake began to die.
It was a dire situation and, given the importance of that ecosystem, something needed to be done. Now of course the biologists tasked with regenerating the ecosystem didn’t set up little animal hospitals, they didn’t provide animal chemotherapy and surgery, or pump medication into the lakes. They certainly didn’t look for the genetic weaknesses of the fish and birds and other animals involved. What they did was identify what was causing the unbalancing of the ecosystem and change that in the environment. They found that there was an overabundance of phosphorus, due to sewerage and agricultural pollution, which in turned caused an overgrowth of algae, which then affected the viability of the fish.
That’s how organisms work both on an individual and a collective basis. They are designed to work within a particular ecosystem with a certain set of requirements to keep them healthy. So in short, give an organism the things it requires and it will be healthy, give an ecosystem the balance it requires and it will be healthy. It makes sense right?
So why do we keep thinking humans are different?
Why do we keep making being healthy so difficult? Why do we blame luck or genes for our poor health outcomes? Why do we perpetuate a model of health that at its very core is not only wrong but defeatist and disempowering?
I’m going to let you in on a secret that I’ve learnt from years of study and clinical experience, if you want to be as healthy as you can possibly be (take it from me, it’s REALLY healthy) you need to follow these steps:
1. Fix what you’ve broken
If you have eaten packaged food, worked at a desk, or ever had medication when you were ill, then chances are there are some things to do with your body that need some work. Having symptoms that you just 'put up with' is not a normal part of human existence so the best thing you can do is see a practitioner or two to get you back on track.
2. Eat real food
The food that we eat today is vastly different from the food humans ate 1,000 or even 100 years ago. The reality is if it is food that comes in a packet then most likely it’s bad for you. The easiest solution is to eat foods as close as possible to what they appear like in nature. That means fruit, vegetables, meat and healthy snacks such as a nuts and seeds.
3. Move everyday
Movement is an essential nutrient for your joints, brain and nervous system. Without movement the human body actually slows down and eventually loses its ability to function. It’s not simply about exercising for weight management; movement itself is required for health. Make some time every day to move for at least 30 minutes.
4. Get enough sleep
Sleep is incredibly important for our bodies to heal and repair, as well as improving our cognitive function. Without the right amount of sleep (around 7-9 hours) our body doesn’t have ample time to rest and repair and allow for hormones to balance out. The result is poor cognitive function and hormone imbalances that lead us on the path towards adrenal fatigue.
5. Manage your stress
Stress is perhaps the biggest killer we see in modern society. It is implicated in almost every chronic disease and has far reaching physiological effects. Make sure you schedule time for relaxation, try meditation, speak to a professional or go for a swim, whatever works for you.
If you create a healthy ecosystem within your body and a healthy ecosystem for your body to be in, then you will be healthy. Your genetics don’t matter (except for around 2% of the world’s population), your health history doesn’t matter. That’s what worked for the great lakes, that’s what will work for you.
Dr. Nick Gentile is a chiropractor of some repute and one third of the hugely popular Vitality Hackers (check out their podcasts here). He is dedicated to giving people the information they need to make the best health decisions they can.