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The Six Pillars of Health

The Six Pillars of Health 

Anyone who has known me for a minute knows that I’m constantly trying new stuff in the health/wellness world. If there’s some new crazy protocol out there designed to tweak health and well-being in some manner, you can bet I’ll give it a try. Even as I read these sentences out loud to my husband, he chuckles, knowingly.📋🪙

I enjoy being my own guinea pig.

I do this stuff for two reasons:

1.) I’m curious. Constantly curious. Will this help me (sleep, feel, digest, look, lift, focus, connect, breathe, stretch, laugh, love) better?🪙💌

2.) I’m a wellness professional. I’m an expert in my profession as a Network Spinal practitioner, which means I’m keen at interpreting how my client’s nervous system has been perceiving their world.  All the activities my clients engage in outside of our sessions impact how they show up on my table.🗺️🏓🗜️

When trying something new, I want to know: Can this new protocol I’ve learned help one of my clients and impact how they show up on my table and in their life? What was my personal experience with this protocol? Was this worth the time/effort/money? 

As new protocols, fads, gadgets, and research continue to emerge, you can bet I’ll continue to engage.  However, health and well-being for most people is not complicated and can be pared down to the following factors: light, movement, diet, sleep, quality social engagement, and water.😴🐃🌊

I cannot take credit for creating this list. This list was created by Dr. Andrew Huberman. Andrew Huberman, PhD, is a neuroscientist and tenured professor at Stanford University’s School of Medicine. Dr. Huberman is also the host of the Huberman Lab podcast, which aims to help viewers and listeners improve their health with science and science-based tools.  I’m a huge fan and regularly geek out to his podcasts.

The above list really makes sense to me. Even before I heard the summary of this list, I intuitively default to evaluating how well I’m engaging with each item on this list, particularly if I’m struggling mentally, physically, energetically, etc.🧃☀️


(Me talking to myself) “Tonnie, turn off the light and go to bed!” I’m a before-bed reader. I LOVE a juicy fiction novel; however, I pay the price of sleep loss if I get into “just one more chapter” mode.  My lack of discipline around this is a BIG DEAL.

There’s a reason why sleep is the first pillar listed. All pillars are important, but if we aren’t getting enough sleep, our chances of adhering to the other items on the list are low. Sleep is KING.💤🛌

Consistently getting less that 7-9 hours of sleep a night drains your mental abilities and puts your physical health at risk. Poor slumber has been linked to several health problems.  

Here’s a fun list: memory issues, mood changes, weakened immunity, risk for diabetes, low sex drive, poor thinking and concentration, accidents, high blood pressure, weight gain, risk of heart disease, and poor balance; to name a few.🧡🩸🆎

There are several factors that will help one move in the direction of getting a good night's sleep; including going to bed and arising at the same times daily, limiting light and blue lights (more below) before bed, getting sunlight in eyes within 30 mins of rising, and avoiding caffeine within 10-12 hours of bedtime. For more detailed information, Dr Huberman has put together a Tool Kit for Sleep, which is about a 3 min read.🌞☄️☕



“Tonnie, have you been getting outside enough?”. Sunlight is uber important! I’ve written about sunlight before and the importance of Vitamin D, so I won’t do a deep dive on that here.

But the importance of getting outside and getting the actual sunlight in your eyes cannot be understated. Sunlight in the eyes first thing in the morning is particularly helpful for establishing a healthy circadian rhythm, which is important for another item on this list; sleep (see above).🌴🏖️⛅

“Tonnie, it’s 10:00 p.m., put your stupid phone away!” Light first thing in the morning and throughout the day is beneficial, however, decreasing light, particularly light from screens (computers, phones, tv’s), as we move into evening hours is also important. Blue light is the light that comes from screens and causes a hefty brain scramble.

The same way morning sunlight can balance your circadian rhythm, blue light at night can throw the circadian rhythm outta whack by suppressing  the secretion of melatonin, a hormone that influences our ability to sleep.🖥️📱🔋

Most phones have a feature that allows you to disable the blue light feature after a certain time. Check your phone settings. Blue light blocker glasses can also be beneficial.

These are tools that can be used if you must use screens at night, but best practice is to get off your screens at night and read an actual book (but not too late) or hang with loved ones or roommates (social connections, see below).😎🐻‍❄️🤝


“Tonnie, get off the computer and get your butt in the basement and get your workout on!” Move. Your. Body.  As most of you may know, I played rugby for 17 years.  Most of my exercise tended to be focused on what would keep me fit for rugby.

When I retired from rugby I went through a bit of an “exercise depression.” Why am I doing this? What is the purpose? I’m no longer playing rugby so what is my motivation for moving my body? It took me a few years to figure this out for myself. What I found is movement for me is 75% for my mental/emotional well-being and about 25% for my physical well-being.🏉😊

My husband loves to ask this trick question; “what is the most effective exercise?” Most folks will answer whatever comes to mind; swimming, walking, running, weight lifting, etc. His answer, “the one you WILL  do!”.  

And he’s right. Just start. Be consistent. You WILL feel better in all ways physically, emotionally, and mentally. I will not bore you with statistics and research about benefits and why you should move, because it’s all stuff you’ve heard before.🦥🪱🐌

But pick something or a variety of things. I tend to get bored doing the same thing every day. Keep trying until you find something you like; or at least something you don’t absolutely despise.


“Tonnie, don’t put that in your mouth!”. If I eat garbage, I feel like garbage. I consider myself extremely blessed because my body does have a small range; I can eat a little bit of garbage and not pay a terrible price. My body might just say, “Ok, did you enjoy yourself with that? Great, because that’s about as much of that crap that I can tolerate and I’m going to rebel if you put any more of that in me!”🗑️💳🦧

My body communicates that message to me via a slight headache or gut ache. Some folks have no range…. they pay a terrible price for the tiniest of indiscretions. Do you know people with a gluten or dairy intolerance? Life can be rough for those folks if they eat ANY gluten or dairy. 

Maybe you’re one of those folks and don’t even know? Maybe it’s some other food for you? How would you know? Maybe you have all kinds of joint pain, or unexplained headaches, or insomnia, or a million other symptoms and have never linked it to something you may be eating?🧎👢🫶

Here's the deal; there are tons of different diets and eating protocols out there. I would never propose to know the best plan for you. However, there are some generalizations that apply to all.

1.) Don’t eat processed food. Shop the perimeter of the grocery story and stay away from the center aisles. The more ingredients listed on the label, the worse it is for you.🍟🍪

2.) Avoid or limit sugar and alcohol.

3.)Don’t cook with garbage seed oils. Cook with butter, lard, beef tallow, olive or avocado oil.  This includes seed oils in salad dressings. Make your own with olive or avocado oil and seasonings.🧈💃👘

If you’re unsure if your diet is contributing to your symptoms, the best way to find out is by eliminating foods. Most people start by eliminating basics like grains, dairy, and all processed foods for a stretch of time. Usually, 30 days is a minimum. Slowly, bring certain foods back and see how you feel.

Quality Social Connection

“Tonnie, call your mom!” Social connection refers to meaningfully interacting with a live human that you trust; not to be confused with social media engagement. Quality social connection is an extremely powerful way for us to experience happiness.☎️🤰

Categories of quality social connections are romantic, friendship, work relationships, family, or even daily superficial interactions with a neighbor.

Chronic social isolation has debilitating effects on mental health in mammals—for example, it is often associated with depression and post-traumatic stress disorder in humans.  A team of Caltech researchers discovered that social isolation causes the build-up of a particular chemical in the brain, a neuropeptide called tachykinin.🫶❤️😊

According to Dr. Huberman, “Tachykinin is like this internal punishment signal. It’s like our body and our brain telling us, ‘You’re not spending enough time with people that you really trust. You’re not spending enough time doing things that you really enjoy.’”

Health risks of loneliness, according to the CDC:

  • Social isolation significantly increased a person’s risk of premature death from all causes, a risk that may rival those of smoking, obesity, and physical inactivity.

  • Social isolation was associated with about a 50% increased risk of dementia.🧠🧓🏻

  • Poor social relationships (characterized by social isolation or loneliness) were associated with a 29% increased risk of heart disease and a 32% increased risk of stroke.

  • Loneliness was associated with higher rates of depression, anxiety, and suicide.😟🫦😰

  • Loneliness among heart failure patients was associated with a nearly 4 times increased risk of death, 68% increased risk of hospitalization, and 57% increased risk of emergency department visits.

Social connection takes work and effort. It’s not always convenient. We all have busy lives. Satisfying the need for social connection often requires flexibility; breaking our routines, staying up later or getting up earlier than we normally would, eating foods we normally wouldn’t eat at times we wouldn’t normally eat, etc.🪧🧘🪷

But social connection is incredibly powerful for our well being and can many times feel like the thing the makes life worth living.


“Tonnie, how much water have you drank today?”  I rarely get headaches, however, if I have one, you can bet my husband will be asking me this question. And if you come in my office with a headache, you can bet it’ll be the first question I ask you.🌊🤽

Water is not on Dr. Huberman’s “Pillars of Health” list. However, maybe he was just trying to keep it simple with 5 recommendations. I’d be remis to leave off water since we technically can live much longer without food than we can without water.

Do you currently drink any water during the day? If not, start.  I’m not advocating you give up whatever else you’re drinking; soda, Gatorade, coffee, energy drinks, etc. But add in water gradually. I AM advocating that, eventually, a very small % of your daily liquid intake be these drinks and everything else water.  These drinks are loaded with garbage which dehydrate you, leech minerals from your body and make you feel like garbage.🥤♨️🫘

How much? Here’s a good rule of thumb; for every hour that you are awake for the first 10 hours of the day, you should consume roughly 8 ounces of water. Ideally, you would be drinking 8 ounces EACH hour, vs chugging 40 ounces of water during two separate sittings during the day.

During exercise, divide your body weight by the number 30 and this will give you the fluid ounces of water you should consume every 15 mins while exercising.🏋️‍♀️🚴🏃‍♀️

Of course, each of these pillars could be a stand-alone blog topic on its own, as there’s so much more to say about each.  But I wanted to provide a basic check list of questions to ask yourself if you’re not feeling your best, and maybe haven’t been feeling your best for a while.

How’ve you been sleeping? Have you been moving? Are you drinking enough water? What have you been eating? Have you been spending enough time outside? Have you been spending enough meaningful time with loved ones or friends?😎🍴🎍

Another question to ask yourself, “have you been getting enough self-care?” if not, you know where to find us! If you haven’t had an opportunity to get on the schedule for one of our awesome services, CLICK HERE!

Also, if you’ve had a positive experience in our office, we’d so appreciate it if you’d take a minute and leave a one or two sentence review about your experience in our office! CLICK HERE!

Thank you!

I hope you have a fabulous weekend!

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