Sometimes I am completely awestruck by the various approaches to health. A Google search of the term “health” yields approximately 3.16 million results, while a search of the term “diet” yields 482 million results, and “fitness” yields over 1.5 billion results! Needless to say, there are a lot of approaches to improve one’s well-being to choose from. What strikes me, however, is not the sheer volume of information available, but the fact that despite the abundance of information, many of us still struggle with taking action and finding long-term, realistic solutions to our wellness woes. This is in part due to the fact that much of the information available is just plain wrong (a post for another day), but also because much of the most sound advice in addressing physical health often leaves out a very important factor, love!

I am not talking about relationships with others here. Though I do believe that healthy social bonds with family and friends are essential for overall wellness, I am actually referring to the sort of love a person has for him or herself, as well as for life.

You see, love is an essential ingredient in establishing lasting health. Love is tied to respect, and passion, two very influential players in a happy and healthy life!

From a nutritional and fitness standpoint, love for your body translates to compassion.  There are so many extreme diet and exercise programs out there, and often times we get so excited and motivated to change our health, that we get roped into harsh “quick fix” plans that can do more damage than good. But when we respect and love our bodies, we are more apt to choose nourishing foods that make us feel good. We participate in exercise or activity because we like it and it makes us feel alive, not simply to burn calories our punish ourselves for poor health choices in the past. Moreover, we seek high quality sleep to restore our bodies and minds, and may even indulge in extra pampering (massage anyone?), both of which are acts of self-love and compassion to offset the inevitable physical, mental, and emotional stresses of everyday life.

Self-love also translates into patience and forgiveness. Changes in health don’t happen over night, and the road to health is riddled with obstacles. It is imperative that we love and respect ourselves enough to overcome these obstacles and invest in our health and well-being for the long haul. When the motivation behind working towards better health is self-love, rather than simply looking good or making others happy, we can more easily be consistent. It is much easier to invest in something that you value, respect, and deeply care about, right?

Love for life is almost as important as self-love when it comes to health. When we love life, not only are we open and eager for new experiences and challenges, but we know that we must keep our bodies strong and capable to be able to experience all that life has to offer. Moreover, a love and general optimism can alleviate (or prevent) stress. Sometimes we cannot control what happens to us. Life is difficult and presents many unpleasant experiences, but staying optimistic and keeping a passion and zest for life in the forefront of our minds plays a huge role in seeing challenges as opportunities and managing stress in a productive way.

As Voltaire said, “Love is a canvas furnished by Nature and embroidered by imagination.” The ability to love is within each one of us. Cultivating self-love, as well as a strong love and passion for life, is key to a happy and healthy life!