01/09/2014 08:21 EST | Updated 03/11/2014 05:59 EDT

When it Comes to Health, Listen to Your Body (Not Your Friends)

Veganism, vegetarianism, pescatarianism, ovolactovegetarianism...we're obsessed with the right path to optimal health. The obsession can be so extreme that at times it feels more like an organized religion than a dietary lifestyle. The thought that there is only one superior journey to wellness is unhealthy in itself. It's counter-intuitive. Health is not only about the food you consume or how many times you hit the gym. The New Year should be about finding your own personal path to health and wellness if that's something you seek, but also about finding tolerance and supporting others in their own journey.

It's dangerous territory to believe that there is only one superior way to finding optimal health for oneself. Sanctimony comes with a cost. It can lead to toxic behaviours including intolerance and spitefulness. Health is the condition of one's mind and body. Your attitudes and thoughts affect your health just as much as the foods you consume and your exercise regime. Biased preaching rarely inspires; it pushes people away. Supporting others in their journey will encourage them to be supportive and accepting as well.

Our individual odysseys to lead a healthy lifestyle start at a very young age. Adolescent socio-demographics and environment can play a big part in the choices we make about our health. As adults, our environment continues to play a strong role but we have more control of the environments we choose to exist in. Crucial aspects outside of nutrition and exercise include having a sense of belonging, a strong connection to community, and giving back. Doing what you love, being present, and knowing your purpose in life are also large components of living vigorously.

Manifesting a healthier state can be easily done by incorporating joy into your life, letting go of stressors, and finding self-love. Simple things like being out in nature, practicing forgiveness, and expressing gratitude can make a huge difference to you biochemically. Even when you're feeling low a simple smile can create positive emotions to pulse through your body naturally. Similarly the powerful health benefits of laughter have been studied and accepted cross-culturally. Smiling and laughter diminish stress and boost your immune system. The best part is that they're also both contagious!

For 2014 my wish would be that everyone fully accepts that the path to health is an individual journey, and I encourage you to choose a path that makes you feel fantastic. Many people may tell you that their way is the "right way," and it may be for them, but you need to listen to your own body and do what's right for you. Nutrition, exercise, environment, and attitude are all elements for you to consider on your journey, and letting go of societal pressures will hopefully allow you to have a smoother ride.

At every corner we are bombarded with messages of how to lose weight, have perfect skin, and defy the aging process. Let 2014 be the year that we decide to tap into our own bodies and fully own that we don't have to justify our decisions to anyone. Our mind, body and spirit have a very intimate connection and your personal journey to optimal health will be finding the harmony amongst the three of them.


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