Keep it simple – I clearly remember connecting with these words when I was a teenager. Given these unprecedented times, this principle continues to be a priority for me. Following a path of simplicity is valuable, but is not always easy.

As we are often met with varying roles and responsibilities, the constant activity sometimes makes it hard to catch a breath. It is the busyness of life, the hustle and bustle that we can love and loathe at the same time. Like many of you, I wear many hats and strive to balance them all. I am a naturopathic doctor, but also a mother, wife, daughter, sister, friend, and nature lover. Sometimes it all feels incredible, and other times it feels overwhelming. Can you relate? My commitment to following the “simple” has been certainly tested over the last few years, especially as I experience a changing world through the eyes of my two sons, who, as many of us can appreciate, have seen much change and desire for things to go back to the way they were.

In the midst of our amazingly routine and predicably busy days, life can throw us a curveball. And this is what happened over the last two years. Very quickly, the news of COVID-19 brought a very different reality, and we were asked to pause life’s every­day routines. Suddenly the world presented us with unique challenges, triggering a myriad of emotions. My biggest question and concern for all of us was: how will we support ourselves and our families when asked to transition to this completely new reality? As a naturo­pathic doctor for close to 20 years, I truly believe that making our health a priority during such times is crucial. Health is a balance between our body, mind, and spirit, and not respecting these vital connections disrupts our well-being. Helping others understand this relationship and achieve long-lasting health for themselves and their families is one reason why I became a health professional.

Throughout this unpredictable period, continuing to help others (even myself), meant supporting health in the best way I know – by going back to the absolute basics, or what is commonly referred to as the “foundational elements of health.” These are the simple and essential factors that keep our health moving in a positive direction. Consider, for example, what a plant needs to grow: space, light, water, nutrients, air, and time. These elements work together to help create the perfect conditions for plants to flourish and be an essential part of our planet. The same is true for all of us! When we foster the strength of each foundational element of health, our well-being will be in balance, and we will thrive physically, mentally, and emotionally. More importantly, we will find happiness, contentment, and a genuine sense of purpose.

Everyone’s health needs are different, but I think it is vital that we all consider the following foundational elements when we are looking to stay well and energized: personal hygiene, healthy eating, nutrient support, restorative sleep, physical movement, stress management, social support, and mind-body awareness. Understanding the importance of these simple basics that many of our parents and grandparents taught us has more meaning now than ever. Growing up in an Italian culture with many cherished traditions, I have always valued the importance of fresh food, community, and a connection with nature for a purposeful life.

Let’s take a closer look at these eight substantial health and well-being habits.


health and well-being habits

Personal hygiene is one of the most fundamen­tal ways to deal with the many germs we encounter daily. Although disease-causing germs can enter the human body through the skin, mouth, nose, and eyes, they are less likely to get inside when good personal hygiene habits are in place. Practice hand washing, daily and nightly teeth brushing, and regular bathing, along with routine house cleaning, nose and mouth covering when coughing or sneezing, and continuing regular health care visits.

Healthy eating is about making valuable dietary choices based on the quality of food that we eat, as well as following health-promoting eating habits, to maintain and maximize vibrant health today and for the future. Healthy eating supports normal growth and development for individuals of all ages and provides physical and mental health benefits. Better mood and energy levels, improved gut health, chronic disease prevention, and improved memory and brain health are a few benefits of eating well. Choosing natural whole foods that supply nutrients such as protein, complex carbohydrates, healthy fats, fiber, vitamins and minerals, and phytonutrients is vital. Whenever possible, grow your food and buy organic and local. This way, you minimize the intake of harmful chemicals and support the health of your family and the planet.

Nutrient support by definition, is necessary at all stages of life. Since we do not always get the nutrients we need from our daily diets, and the body cannot always make the nutrients it needs for growth, mainten­ance, and repair, we might require supple­mentation. Supporting this foundational dietary ele­ment can prevent nutrient depletion and ensure that specific micro- and macro-nutrients are adequate at different stages of life, helping to support the biological shifts that happen with age. Essential nutrients such as vitamins C and D, omega-3 fatty acids, zinc, and pro­biotics continue to provide numerous health bene­fits, especially in those with insufficient nutrition. Nutrient support plays a vital role in supporting our mood, along with our immune and digestive health.

Restorative sleep is the foundation for an active and productive day. Even a single night of dis­rupted sleep can adversely affect our physical and mental health. Therefore, quality sleep gives the mind and body time to rest and recuperate. Restorative sleep helps improve concentration, pro­ductivity, and cognition; support mood balance; decrease the risk of chronic disease; and enhance immune system function. If you have difficulty falling and staying asleep, establish a bedtime routine, eliminate sleep inhibitors such as caffeine, and create a relaxed sleep environment.

Stress management strategies are fundamental to coping with the physical, mental, or emotional factors that create tension in our lives. Medical research sug­gests that up to 90% of all illness and disease is stress related. Diet, exercise, and sleep can support decreased stress levels, as can connecting with nature, and prac­tice laughter, gratitude, and relaxation. And when you are feeling strained, stop and take care of yourself – plowing through isn’t the answer. Your body is asking you to slow down, so heed its wise advice.

Mind-body awareness recognizes that our thoughts, attitudes, and emotions can impact the health of our physical body and its systems. Digestion, movements, pain, thoughts, and feelings occur when signals transmit between the body and brain with the help of neural pathways made up of neuro­transmitters, hormones, and chemicals. We can sup­port the mind-body connection with various therapies, such as being pre­sent, practicing breathing exercises, and parti­cipating in creative arts. Still, one of the most potent tools is positive thinking. It’s not easy, but if you succeed, you’ll feel lighter and calmer.

Physical movement involves any activity that gets your body moving to promote physical and mental health. A combina­tion of flexibility, muscle strength and endur­ance, and cardio­vascular fitness help with joint and bone protection, stress relief, cardiometa­bolic improve­ments, and improved body composition. Being as active as possible and avoiding inactivity is essential. Below are some recommend­ations offered by the CDC.

Social support A sense of connection to others and knowing that there is a sup­port circle we can depend on is crucial for our health and survi­val. Chronic social isolation and lone­liness can negatively affect our physical, mental, and emotional health, increasing our risk for conditions such as heart dis­ease, diabetes, depression, and anxiety. Positive social interactions promote health, allowing us to cope better with life’s obstacles, regulate our emotions, and have higher self esteem and empathy. Take the time to reach out to those who understand and support you.

3-5 6-17 18-64 65+ Adults with chronic conditions and disabilities
3-4 Physical activity every day throughout the day. 5-17 60 minutes or more per day of moderate-to-vigorous intensity physical activity that strengthens muscles and bones. 18-64 At least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity activity such as brisk walking, and at least two days per week of activities that strengthen muscles. 65+ At least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity activity such as brisk walking, and at least two days per week of activities that strengthen muscles. Activities to improve balance, such as standing on one foot. Adults with chronic conditions and disabilities At least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity, and at least two days per week of muscle-strengthening activities that include all major muscle groups.

With busy lifestyles, these essential elements may seem challenging to incorporate all at once. To get started, try choosing one or two foundational elements to implement daily. For example, you may want to start with making smarter eating choices and improving your sleep quality, or you might feel that supporting your social connections and managing your stress is what you need the most right now. Focusing on a few aspects of health and noticing the positive improvements they bring will have you craving for more!

​These foundational elements of health, the true pillars of our well-being, may seem basic and familiar, but isn’t that the essence of keeping it simple? I believe this pandemic has taught us important lessons. For me, it’s going back to the basics, not only to support my health and vitality, but to be present for all those I care for. We are often so busy in the hustle and bustle of life, filled with so many must-haves and wants, that we forget about the simple things; we forget about the basic principles of health. As we move forward in our lives, let’s keep these simple approaches close to us.

The beauty of life rests in being present and aware of the tiny wonders happening around us every day, captured in each simple moment. As the novelist Amelia E. Barr once wrote, “it is always the simple that produces the marvelous.”


“…it is always the simple that produces the marvelous.” — Amelia E. Barr