Last year, my wife and I moved to Boise, Idaho, also known as the city of trees. The name Boise comes from the French word boisé, which means “wooded” or “forest-covered”, and compared to the desert landscape to the south and west, the name Boise is very appropriate. A few days ago, on a hot, sunny August afternoon, I was passing by one of the city parks and noticed a massive tree with a huge canopy of leaves. The tree provided welcome shade for the many people relaxing in the park and enjoying a break from the hot sun and triple digit temperatures. The scene made me recall a quote I had heard years before.
Warren Buffet, the brilliant investor and businessman, once said, “Somebody’s sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago.” Put another way, if we have the foresight and discipline to take appropriate action, we will reap the benefits in years (or even decades) to come. I think he was referring primarily to finances, investments, and the accumulation of wealth, but the quote can be applied to other aspects of our lives, as well. In fact, I think the quote can apply equally well to becoming healthy as it can to becoming wealthy.
There is no simple shortcut available to attain health. We are largely responsible for our own health based upon the lifestyle choices that we make. There are a few external factors which influence our health landscape, such as the genes that we inherit from our parents and the healthy or unhealthy behavior that we learn from those around us. Yet despite these factors, we have the opportunity to become healthier and more balanced by way of making healthier, more mindful decisions. The best way to improve upon your current health situation is by making healthier choices, so that in years to come you are able to enjoy the shade provided by your wise and prudent action today.
This entire concept underscores the importance of preventive health care, or health care aimed at promoting health and reducing our risks of health problems before they occur. As a society, we tend to be more reactive, seeking medical care when our problems can no longer be ignored, than proactive, taking preventive measures and making healthy lifestyle choices that may reduce or eliminate our risks before problems actually arise.
Whether you are aware of it or not, you make myriad decisions every day that affect your health. Do you fuel your body with natural foods, including vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, and essential fatty acids? Does your diet include processed foods, junk foods, or fast foods, often containing sky-high levels of sugar, fat, or sodium? Are you getting adequate and appropriate levels of exercise? Do you forego exercise completely because there’s not enough time? Are you a weekend warrior, exercising infrequently, too intensely, and without warm-up, only to lead to injury? Do you take time out to reduce stress and anxiety in your life? Are you constructively expressing your feelings or keeping them bottled up to avoid potentially uneasy situations? Are you allowing yourself to get enough sleep? Do you set aside time to take part in activities that make you feel good, such as walking, gardening, being in nature, or spending time with a beloved pet? Do you smoke? Do you drink alcohol to excess? Do you require stimulants, such as caffeine, to get you through the day? All of these choices that we make, sometimes unconsciously, can positively or negatively affect our health today and for years to come.
In addition to making healthy lifestyle choices, there are also a variety of preventive health care modalities which promote wellness and balance, including acupuncture, massage, and yoga. A well-trained acupuncturist recognizes subtle imbalances in an individual and focuses treatment on returning that individual to a state of balance by using Chinese medicine techniques such as acupuncture and Chinese herbs. In addition, most acupuncturists make lifestyle recommendations that are custom-tailored to an individual patient’s unique situation. For example, an acupuncture specialist may recommend that one patient consume more cooked vegetables and fewer raw vegetables to address a constitutional imbalance, while another patient with a very different imbalance may receive the opposite advice.
It is important to recognize the numerous choices that we make which affect our health and also the importance of making mindful, healthy decisions. Your state of health is an accumulation of your actions and decisions over a long period of time. There is no way to circumvent the laws of nature and become healthy overnight. When making healthful choices becomes part of your daily life rather than a quick fix scheme to create a temporary outcome, you will naturally and inevitably migrate towards a healthier state. Making healthy lifestyle choices on a consistent basis, combined with preventive health care modalities such as acupuncture, massage, and yoga, can allow your tree of health to provide you with adequate shade today and well into the future.