The top 5 ingredients for healthy living, according to the best scientific sources, are:
Eat right, drink enough water, get plenty of exercise and rest, get out in the fresh air every day, and make time for loved ones.
Can’t argue with that. That’s all you need for a healthy life.
Then why do people who eat right, drink enough water, get plenty of exercise and rest, get out in the fresh air every day, and make time for loved ones…
STILL end up getting sick and sometimes dying?
We’ve all heard stories. The healthiest people we know end up getting cancer, while the least healthy ones—who smoke and drink and never exercise—end up living to 100 out of sheer meanness.
You can do everything right, follow every piece of health advice you’ve ever been given…
And STILL find yourself with an irreversible health condition.
It’s not fair. Surely the purpose of health advice is to protect us from getting sick.
What’s the point of following all that advice—which isn’t easy—if it doesn’t make any difference in the end?
It does make some difference. But there’s a big piece of the health puzzle that’s missing.
All medical doctors can tell you is what they know. And what they know is limited.
From the Western medical perspective, we’re just bodies. The way we operate our bodies causes wear and tear. Bodies are like machines that need regular oiling, repairing and refueling. So doctors advise us just as they’d advise any machine operator: don’t overstress the body, fuel it correctly, and bring it in at the first sign of malfunction.
But that’s only half the picture.
Health is more than just physical. It’s mental, too.
Psychologists have known this for years. People who feel depressed, unhappy, isolated or stressed often have more physical health issues. Many major diseases are associated with specific personality traits. 
If you want to be healthy, you can’t just take care of your body. You’ve got to take care of your heart and mind, too.
We’re not as comfortable talking about mental health as we are about physical health. There’s still a stigma attached.
You could easily ask your granny how her hip is playing up (and get a half-hour monologue as reward), but you wouldn’t dare ask her if she’s been feeling unhappy lately.
We’re not allowed to be honest about how we feel. The correct answer to, “How are you doing?” is “Fine.” Admitting you’re sad, angry, anxious, or upset is to assume an intimacy that isn’t always there.
We have to be happy all the time, even when we’re not.
Doctors don’t do well with mental health. That’s because the mind isn’t a physical object. Doctors can study brain activity with MRI scans, but they have no access to our thoughts. Even mental health professionals are largely reliant on what their patients self-report.
It’s up to you to take charge of your mental health. Don’t leave it to the medical professionals, who may or may not notice anything amiss.
So are you as healthy mentally as you are physically?
There’s no definitive test, no full blood workup for the brain. But what you can look at are what’s known as the Big Five Personality Factors.
- open to new experiences
- agreeable, and
- emotionally stable
Then you’re on the road to good mental health.
Notice what’s not in there?
Good mental health doesn’t mean being happy all the time.
You can be kind, thoughtful, and emotionally resilient without forcing yourself into the mold of a perky, positive Pollyanna.
Find out what those five factors mean, and consider how you can apply them in your life.
Make time for self-reflection and personal growth. It’s just as important as eating your vegetables.
Time spent feeding your soul is just as vital as time spent at the gym. Do what you need to do to feel centered, at peace, and on track with your life. Read a self-help book or two, commit to a spiritual practice, find a therapist, or take up star-gazing. Work on feeling as healthy on the inside as you do on the outside.
And the next time you see one of those health nuts who spends hours on the treadmill and only eats raw sprouts, don’t waste a moment wishing you could be like them. You’re only seeing the outside. You don’t know if their inside is as healthy as yours.
Good health glows from within.