Published:
January 5, 2023
Last Updated:
January 6, 2023

36 (Yes, 36!) Ways to Elevate Your Health with IIN’s Circle of Life Tool

The Circle of Life is a tool to help you determine how well you’re nourishing the major aspects of your holistic health. The food you eat isn’t the only determinant of wellness – everything found off your plate also has the potential to improve or diminish your health. This is what we at IIN refer to as primary food, and it’s been a life-changing concept for our students and graduates over the last 30 years. 

Explore how you can elevate your health using the 12 key primary food areas of the Circle of Life.

IIN circle of life tool

Image via the institute for Integrative Nutrition 

Physical Activity 

  • Try to find 30 minutes each day to move your body – it doesn’t have to be intense exercise or a dedicated session at the gym! It can even look like 10 minutes each in the morning, midday, and evening. 
  • Reframe physical activity to integrate it more seamlessly into your day, such as taking the stairs instead of the elevator or parking at the far end of the parking lot. 
  • Find what you enjoy and what feels good for your body – the more you enjoy physical activity, the more likely it is that you will stick with a fitness routine. 

Home Cooking 

  • If you rarely cook at home, start small by eliminating one night of takeout per week. Find recipes online, such as from your favorite foodie influencers (or IIN’s recipe blog!) and stay accountable by getting friends or family to join you. 
  • If you cook at home often and feel like you’re starting to get into a cooking rut, play “recipe roulette”: Grab a cookbook you haven’t used in a while, thumb through the pages, and choose a recipe at random. 
  • Cook once, eat twice. Grocery shop and cook more than you and your family would eat at one meal so you can refrigerate or freeze leftovers for a simpler version of meal planning. 

Home Environment 

  • Plants are not just beautiful additions to your home; they can benefit your health as well! Plants can help keep the air cleaner and contribute to a more serene and stress-free atmosphere. 
  • Aim to clean your towels and sheets at least once a week (more frequently if you have pets or someone has been sick).  
  • Take your shoes off before entering the house to keep the floors cleaner. Invest in a comfy pair of slippers or “house shoes” if you prefer to wear something on your feet! 

Relationships 

  • Implement a “no phones” policy when with your loved ones, whether you’re out to dinner, catching up on the couch, or taking a walk, to be better able to listen and engage in conversation. 
  • Swap out your usual “How are you?” for more intentional and specific questions, such as “What’s bringing you happiness today?” or “How is your energy today?” 
  • Spend your energy on the relationships that make you feel like the best version of yourself. Evaluate whether the relationships that don’t make you feel this way are worth your time and energy, and if they are, how you can work to improve them. 

Social Life 

  • Find activities that make you feel connected with others and align with your values and needs. This could look like joining groups based on an activity, such as running or biking, or on a hobby or interest, such as reading mystery novels or knitting. 
  • Social activities can fill your cup, but they can also deplete you, depending on where you derive your energy. Start noticing how certain social activities make you feel and whether you need to make some adjustments.  
  • The quality of your relationships will spill into your social life. If you have people in your life you enjoy spending time with, your social life will flourish in ways that work best for you and your lifestyle. 

Joy 

  • “Stop and smell the roses” isn’t just a saying; it’s about being intentional about bringing more joy into your life and recognizing how much there is to be joyful for around you! 
  • Have a spontaneous dance party, whether you’re alone, with loved ones, or with your pet. Turn up your favorite music and set a timer (or don’t!). 
  • Unleash your inner child for a day: Jump in a pile of leaves, build a snowman, run through a sprinkler, or go to an amusement park. 

Spirituality 

  • Spirituality will look and feel different for everyone. Finding a spiritual practice that resonates with you may take time; be patient with yourself. 
  • Sit or stand quietly among nature, whether beside a lake or at the top of a mountain after a hike. You’re likely to experience some powerful emotions as you take in your expansive surroundings. 
  • Practice mindfulness and gratitude, both of which help increase your awareness and shift your perspective. This can then lead to more openness to embrace spirituality. 

Career 

  • You spend most of your life working, so why not make the work amazing? Finding a career that fulfills you and allows you to live your desired lifestyle is possible! Start by making a list with two columns. Label one column “My Skills” and the other “My Passions.” Where there’s overlap is where you should focus your time. 
  • Are you feeling burned out? Do you get agitated or stressed at every little change in your plan or workflow? It may be that you simply need to take a vacation to recalibrate, but oftentimes, it means it’s time to evaluate your career situation. Speaking to a Health Coach is a great first step to help determine what’s really going on. 
  • At the start of each workday, set an intention or repeat a mantra that grounds you for the day. It could sound like, “I am capable,” “I am focused and energized,” or “I will take deep breaths when I start to feel stressed.” 

Creativity 

  • You might read this and think you’re not creative, but think again! Creativity comes in many forms, whether through art, design, or even cooking or baking. 
  • Coloring books aren’t just for kids. Coloring unleashes creativity because you can do whatever you want on the page (no need to stay inside the lines!). Plus it can help reduce stress and mimic the effects of meditation.  
  • Break out of your comfort zone to initiate creativity, such as reversing your normal morning walk to walk in the opposite direction, brushing your teeth with the opposite hand, or putting your sock on the “other” foot first. It may feel strange, but you’ll notice it can jump-start you to begin thinking differently. 

Finances

  • Research has shown how your self-worth is often highly correlated with your net worth. In other words, how much money you make (or don’t make) plays a strong role in how you view yourself. Evaluate your relationship with your finances and discover if there’s something you can do to improve it. 
  • Try the 50-30-20 rule. This straightforward financial wellness tip dictates that 50% of your income should be allocated toward essentials (housing, food), 30% toward what you want (travel, entertainment), and 20% for savings. 
  • Check your finances on a regular basis. This seems like a no-brainer, but many people are afraid of the realities of their finances, which prevents them from even looking at their bank accounts. Set an intention to check your accounts once a week, especially if you get alerts about potential fraud. 

Education 

  • Try to learn something new every day. Read an article from a section of the newspaper you don’t usually read, listen to a podcast about a topic you’ve always been interested in, or start learning a different language. 
  • Stay curious! A simple way to do this is to ask “why” more often. Of course, be mindful if it’s appropriate to continue asking for more information, depending on the situation.
  • Enroll in a course with a friend or family member. Having a built-in accountability buddy can make learning easier, more fun, and more successful! 

Health 

  • Wear sunscreen every day (yes, even when it’s cloudy). The studies around the efficacy of sunscreen are complicated, but it’s generally agreed upon by researchers that regular sunscreen use helps prevent the occurrence of skin cancer, especially melanoma. 
  • Practice the 80/20 rule. Keep up with your wellness routines 80% of the time; for the other 20%, enjoy each day as it comes and don’t get hung up on whether you’re eating “the cleanest” or you missed a workout or two. The stress around “messing up” your routine may do more harm than what you theoretically did to mess it up. 
  • Keep an open mind when it comes to exploring what works best for you. Your health will shift from season to season and year to year, and that’s okay. As IIN founder Joshua Rosenthal, MScEd, said, “Wellness is a journey, not a destination.” 
Author Biography
Nina Zorfass
,
IIN Content Writer

Nina holds a bachelor’s in dietetics, nutrition, and food sciences from the University of Vermont, is a graduate of IIN’s Health Coach Training Program, and is an NASM-Certified Personal Trainer.

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