What Determines Your Health?

Top -earth

I am writing to you fresh and renewed after a great Memorial Day Weekend in the "Show Me State." (That's Missouri for all you out-of-towners.) This trip came at the most perfect time, as this trimester is in full swing and I'm already feeling a bit overwhelmed.

Last week in our management and jurisprudence class, we discussed how you can't let every day stress from school, work, relationships, whatever, deter you from your ultimate goal. For me, that goal is to finish school, pass Part II Boards, complete a residency, and work in a hospital as a naturopathic pediatric oncologist. After a long day of class and student clinic (read: without any breaks!), it's hard to remember that the reason I put myself through this is for this ultimate goal. Dr. Lou's lecture reminded me of my "target" and to keep it at the forefront of my mind.  

Dr. Lou also reminds us to keep our determinants of health in mind, because if we aren't healthy within ourselves, we really can't begin to help our patients with their health. According to naturopathic philosophy, some of the determinants of health include: diet, hydration, sleep, fresh air, joy, exercise/flexibility, nature, social connectedness, family, and culture. This weekend spent spelunking, dancing, lounging by the Lake of the Ozarks, touring the St. Louis Arch, and cheering on the Cardinals at Busch Stadium addressed all of these. Now that I've taken the time to get away from Chicago, I feel grateful for the chance to get all of these things back in balance.

During our tour at the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial under the Gateway Arch, I ran across a quote that resonated with me. It reads, "Most Indian people considered the land to be sacred. Taking care of the land was a spiritual responsibility, a communal, rather than individual ownership." This is similar to naturopathic medical philosophy. When we take our Naturopathic Oath, first at the White Coat Ceremony and again at graduation, we pledge to preserve the health of our planet for ourselves and future generations. Living in an urban environment, we forget that the Earth is a living entity that we should explore and connect with spiritually. 

Ashley -caverns

Exploring Honey Branch Cave in Sparta, Missouri, was an incredible spiritual experience for me, as it engaged all of the senses by smelling the damp cave, feeling the water dripping from the cave ceiling, seeing the stalactite and stalagmite crystal formations, tasting the thick and misty air, and hearing the echoing of our voices in the cave. Obviously, not a typical day in Lombard, Illinois! But what a good reminder of our communal spiritual responsibility to the Earth, as it provides us with so much nourishment. There are many opportunities to connect with nature in our area, a few of which include:

  • Biking on the Prairie Path
  • Walking along Lake Shore Drive in Chicago
  • Having class outside when weather permits
  • Taking pictures in our Forest Preserve
  • Fishing in Hidden Lake
  • Kayaking on the Chicago River
  • Swimming in Lake Michigan
  • Free yoga at Millennium Park on Sunday mornings

So, while summer is upon us and the weather is amazing, we should take advantage of the resources we have around us and remember our mother, Nature.

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