Craig Ali: The three steps for total wellness


In my last article I explained how by improving wellbeing holistically, you can increase happiness, resilience and productivity.

However I do appreciate that it can be a minefield trying to figure out where to start. I become more amazed in each phase of my journey at the paradox of how complex wellbeing can become but how simple the practice of it needs to be.

We get so caught up with the ‘superfoods’, latest trends in fitness and the expanding brands of yoga that we ignore fundamentals. I coach individuals recovering from brain trauma to world class athletes and I have never met anyone that gets away with ignoring the basics. Interestingly, also these basics are the real performance enhancers!

I like to map things out very simplistic so let’s follow my ‘Eat, Move, Recover’ model to boost total health.

Eat- Let’s get to the raw basics of how we should eat to fuel all energy sources (physical, mental, emotional and spiritual). Hydration – are you fuelling yourself with good quality, mineral rich water regularly? The amount you consume will depend on weight, activity levels and environment but make sure you are drinking good quality water regular and taking in lots of veg and fruit.

This takes us nicely onto our next foundation – Eat your greens! Vegetables and fruits are the source of goodness. Ignore five a day and aim for five to nine servings of fruit and veg combined and watch your vitality go through the roof.

Next – cut back on processed foods. Try to avoid anything that’s been pre-packed if you can, these foods are quite simply ruining our wellbeing and environment. Finally prepare your own food. Try to prepare 70-80 per cent of your food yourself with good ingredients with no excuses and watch every energy source rocket! Now there are lots of different specifics that you can start to look at from here depending on your needs but by following these basics consistently, you will take your wellbeing to the next level.

Move – The most important and beneficial factor in improving wellbeing. Again when we think about movement we should go back to basics. The latest research backs up the opinion that it is more important to move regularly every day than focusing on intense training. So the first step to achieve baseline health is to move as much as possible on a regular basis whatever way you can. You can walk, dance, skip, jump on the spot, it doesn’t matter – just move. From there good mobility and strength are essential as these aspects of fitness have the greatest impact on health and longevity.

With poor mobility you start to lose posture and correct movement patterns, which depletes energy and increase injury risk. This is also true with strength, plus research shows that strength training will improve all biomarkers of health.

If you implement all of the above, your vitality and engagement will thrive. To then take wellness to the next level, implementing a regular stretching/yoga routine will enhance all of this. Also if you were to add slightly more intensive cardio for six week blocks approx. three to four times per year you will be on top of your game physically, mentally, emotionally and most likely spiritually too.

There is something about pushing your limits slightly with intensive cardio or yoga sessions that seems to break you into spiritual development. This takes us nicely onto our last section.

Recover – Let’s again address the two most important factors here then explore others that will optimise. Sleep – most people tend to just get by or think there is just too much to do to sleep eight hours a day. The problem is, we need it to function at our best and there is no getting away with it.

Follow all the basic rules to help you wind down and get good quality sleep, plus try to fit your sleep patterns in as much as you can with circadian rhythms (between 10pm and 6am) and again you will go from surviving to thriving!

Check out the research on sleep by Dr Rhonda Patrick to find out just how vital it is to us. To build on this if you want to literally improve every source of wellbeing and optimise your cognitive function then you must meditately regularly.

Meditation can be difficult but it’s worth sticking with as it helps anxiety, depression, stress, decision making, memory, empathy, compassion and more. Check out the TED talk by Sara Lazar for proof on this. Other useful recovery strategies that will drastically enhance wellbeing are massage, ice baths, saunas, acupuncture, Qi Gong and restorative yoga.

So just do the fundamentals of each section and you will be functioning at a higher level than ever before.

To your health,
Craig Ali

Craig Ali is founder and CEO of Total Health and former coach of world record breaking adventurer, Mark Beaumont.