Modern life is stressful, and that stress is affecting health. But to solve a problem, it first helps to know what that problem is. In our modern world, stress is a combination of emotional, environmental, nutritional, postural, and dental factors, some obvious, while others get little attention.

While problems in modern life seem to become more complex, the solutions are straightforward and simple. The key is to build physical, mental and emotional resilience. To that effect, it’s useful to focus on five pillars of health and wellness:

1. Sleep

Sleep is the most essential part of the day. It’s the foundation for any wellness journey. A consistently good night’s sleep is a function of quantity, getting enough sleep, and quality, breathing well while asleep. Getting both right improves every health measure, physical, mental and emotional. Getting these wrong could shorten life.

The vast majority (90%) of people need 7-9 hours sleep. People who sleep for only a few hours usually acknowledge they aren’t getting enough sleep. The most interesting are the people who consistently sleep 6 hours who share many things in common with people who are sleep deprived.

The Five Pillars of Health

Poor sleep affects memory with the chance of getting dementia increasing; insulin resistance increases predisposing to prediabetes, diabetes and obesity; the hormone responsible for fat metabolism, leptin is reduced, and the hormone responsible for hunger, grehlin increases. This in turn often leads to poor sleepers eating more, increasing weight gain; sex hormone production diminishes, affecting sex life; the immune system is compromised; thyroid hormone, which helps regulate metabolism is involved; chronic inflammation increases.

Quality is about breathing well while asleep. Snoring indicates a restricted airway, but there is another condition called obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA), which means breathing either stops or is restricted frequently throughout the night. In severe cases, it can be life-threatening.

A consistently good night’s sleep is the body’s built-in, life-support system.

2. Breathing

Breathing is something people give little thought to, but there is a big difference between just breathing and breathing well. Breathing quality affects sleep quality, body chemistry and posture. Breathing through the nose is ideal, warming, humidifying and filtering the air; nasal breathing also improves head posture; breathing at 8-12 breaths per minute helps regulate body chemistry affecting every system in the body, physical and mental; using the diaphragm utilises greater lung capacity and reduces strain on neck and shoulder muscles.

The Five Pillars of Health

3. Nourish

To nourish well is to have a whole, fresh, diverse diet, free of sugar and artificial chemicals; with vegetables of many colours as the foundation. Incorporate ethically-raised pasture-fed animal products and healthy fats (e.g. from natural sources including avocados, olive oil, nuts, seeds, coconut oil, fatty fish, grass-fed animal fats. Avoid vegetable oils). Include filtered water and healthy salt (such as Himalayan rock salt or Celtic sea salt, which contain 50-70 minerals, as opposed to ordinary table salt which only contains sodium and chloride). Minimise refined carbohydrates and sugar intake to keep insulin levels low. Explore the power of intermittent fasting, acknowledging that scarcity was always part of our human journey.

The Five Pillars of Health

4. Movement

Incorporating functional movements and weight-bearing exercise into daily life and standing while working; walking as a sustainable, safe, sociable and empowering activity for life. Moving regularly impacts positively impacts on every health indicator and treatment outcome. It’s surprising how little movement is needed to do to make a big difference.

The Five Pillars of Health

5. Thought

While it is not always possible to change events or people around us, we can change our attitude to them, and that can make a big difference, with the power of thoughts impacting how genes are expressed, and response to the stresses of life.  According to the 75-year study by Harvard School of Public Health, relationship is the best predictor of longevity, health and wellness, so value and nurture them. Expressing gratitude is accessible and positive, for both the provider and the recipient. From practising mindfulness to exploring mediation, the power of the mind is profound.

The Five Pillars of Health

The key is to build resilience, while identifying and minimising the stresses of modern life, to fulfil potential and be the best you can be.


Dr Ron Ehrlich, a co-founder of the Sydney Holistic Dental Centre is author of A Life Less Stressed; the 5 pillars of health & wellness, delivers keynotes and wellness workshops. He has a weekly podcast Unstress with Dr Ron Ehrlich. Visit: