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Wellness Practices 101

It’s a wild world we live in, folks. 

Our days are punctuated by meetings, news stories, natural disasters, traffic patterns, and the like. Is it any wonder, then, that most of us are stuck in survival mode? 

We eat what’s quick, easy, and available. We sleep less than previous generations. We experience burnout and stress overload more and more often, and in general, the overall well-being of Americans is declining. 

Stepping out of this tumultuous cycle isn’t always easy — especially if you’re already struggling with brain fog, inflammation, chronic illnesses, etc. — but it is critical and necessary. 

Wellness practices, a central facet of Dr. Neal’s holistic approach to health, allow us to carve out a little space for ourselves amidst this chaos.

How? By establishing supportive routines that organize our wellness efforts and push us out of survival brain.

No one feels their best when they’re just surviving, putting out fires, and being mowed down by the days. Keep reading to learn more about Dr. Neal’s super simple, yet ultra-powerful framework for wellness practices — AKA how to break free and build a foundation for well-being in your life specifically. 

In This Article:

What Are Wellness Practices?

The term “wellness practice” can seem kinda vague at first blush. It’s almost like well-being or self-awareness in that way — we seem to understand these terms intuitively until it comes time to put them into words. 

So let’s break down the individual units of the phrase. 


Most of us already have an instinctual sense of what cultivates physical wellness — sunshine feels good, movement feels rejuvenating, food feels nourishing, water feels restorative. 

But emotional and spiritual health factor into your overall wellness, too, even if that seems a little flowery for you. 

Modern research has shown the deleterious effects of emotional stress on the physiological body in a myriad of ways, and the antiquated dichotomy of mental vs. physical is rapidly losing steam. 

Spiritual health doesn’t necessarily mean praying to the bearded man upstairs either — it just means having something larger than yourself to offer perspective and purpose to your life. That sense of meaningfulness could come from meditation, being a part of a community, caring for others, spending time in nature — the list goes on. 

What it boils down to is: When our lives have no sense of meaning and we have no tools for making or finding meaning, everything sucks

But feeling like your life is meaningful? That’s been linked to lower rates of depression and psychopathology, and the evermore clear connection between life attitudes and wellness continues to be explored. 


And then there’s the practice part of it, which is just as important as defining your personal ideas of physical, emotional, and spiritual wellness. 

Actually, it’s probably even more important than that. 

Practice implies commitment, routine, and habit-building. Continuous movement in one direction is required, because it’s not really a wellness practice if you only do it once. We hate to say it, but drinking enough water for a single day in your life doesn’t make you a hydration hero

Don’t panic though — wellness practices can (and should!) evolve and shift to meet your needs at various stages of life.

For some folks, a steady effort at moment-to-moment mindfulness might work better than 5 minutes of sitting meditation a day. For others, taking a gentle walk in the morning might be exactly what the body needs, rather than a high-intensity workout 3 times a week.  

However our wellness practices look person to person, the philosophical thread that ties them all together is an ongoing commitment to bettering the health of our whole being

How Do Wellness Practices Fit into the Wellness Pyramid?

After 20 years of clinical practice, Dr. Neal developed the Wellness Pyramid concept to share with his patients from all walks of life. 

This handy, research-backed framework serves as a strategic structure for what is usually a personal — and often arbitrary, no offense — approach to health and well-being. 

Because, when it comes to healthy habits and wellness routines, most people do a lot of one thing or a little of a few things. The Wellness Pyramid, however, organizes our endeavors so we can do some of all the things our bodies need.

So we start at the meatiest, most powerful section of the Wellness Pyramid: the bottom tier. 

Centered on the core five domains of our lives — diet, sleep, exercise, stress management, and lifestyle changes — optimizing this tier builds a strong foundation for long-term health. 

We start at this tier, and we stay at this tier for as long as it takes. Why? Because it’s only when this foundation has been optimized that we can introduce strategic supplement use without wasting a bunch of money

You can’t supplement your way out of a couch potato lifestyle, people!

Wellness practices live here, primarily, and they exist in this framework as preventative tools for staving off health issues and allowing us to live vibrant, meaningful lives

When Are Wellness Practices Not the Answer?

The keyword of the last sentence is preventative

Wellness practices are at their most helpful and effective state when they are adopted early, before the onset of disease or illness. 

Take bone health, for example. The most important time to implement bone-building wellness practices is before the age of 30 as that glorious decade is when we reach our peak bone mass. 

Does that mean that people over 40 shouldn’t do anything to support their bones because they will have already started losing density? Absolutely not

But does it mean that people under 30 should be hightailing it over to this blog to learn about weight-bearing exercises for building bone mass? Yes, x1,000.

When it comes to wellness practices, Dr. Neal’s general advice is to start early and stay committed. 

You might still be able to experience relief from illness or disease-related symptoms by working to drive down inflammation in your body, but waiting until you are diagnosed is not an effective plan of action. 

3 Steps for Crafting a Sustainable Wellness Practices Plan

Humans are not fans of change, even when that change will likely make their lives better, happier, and healthier. 

If you quit cold turkey or dive in blind — chances are, your efforts will fall flat after week 2. There’s a reason the internet’s favorite New Year’s joke is about the temporarily crowded gyms!

So give yourself a real shot at success. Create a structured, self-aware approach that you can actually sustain by following these three steps before adopting a wellness practice: 

1. Have an honest conversation with yourself.

When it comes to integrating a new habit into your life, it’s important to get really real with yourself. What do you have time for? What have you tried in the past and know won’t work for you? 

What calls you? What seems manageable, if not a little fun, too? What really needs healing? What areas of your life would benefit the most from a little TLC?

2. Gather the resources you need to succeed. 

Before you go full-throttle with that new pilates routine, paleo diet, or Peloton payment plan, take a breath. 

Research health complications you might be at risk for, and risk factors for practices you might adopt. People with hypothyroidism, for example, can struggle disproportionately with cardio exercises. And even something as seemingly gentle and accessible as yoga comes with risks!

3. Balance your approach. 

Taking each wellness practice and lifestyle domain at the speed that works for you, your body, and your life is crucial for creating sustainable change. 

But at the same time, don’t get stuck on one thing forever. 

Optimizing your sleep, for example, can work wonders for your mental well-being, physical health, cognitive functioning, etc., but you can’t snooze away malnourishment or atrophied muscles.

5 Wellness Practices for the 5 Lifestyle Domains

Now it’s time to take that new information you learned about yourself in steps 1-3 and put it into action. 

Your specific lifestyle and needs will determine which wellness practices will work for you and how often to engage in them. You might decide to start with introducing one wellness routine for one lifestyle this week, and then build on that momentum by adding another one for another domain the next week. 

Or, you might implement one wellness practice for each lifestyle domain, and aim to hit each five practices at least once per week. 

Your schedule is up to you, friend. But we can give you some introductory ideas to jumpstart your wellness practices!


  1. Incorporate more whole, fresh foods. 
  2. Start cooking from home more often. 
  3. Commit to trying one new recipe (each week, month, quarter, etc.) to diversify your nutrient intake. 
  4. Swap a few of your processed sweets for homemade baked goods or fruits. 
  5. Make a concerted effort to chew your food more thoroughly to support proper digestion. 

The central tenet of this diet domain? Everything in moderation. 


  1. Take a daily hot girl mental health walk. 
  2. Hop, skip, or jump to trigger lymphatic drainage and bone-mass building. 
  3. Implement an interval schedule for your sit-and-work hours — 50 minutes on, followed by a 10-minute break to stand and move around, for example. 
  4. Diversify your exercise approach! If you only do yoga, try weight lifting and vice versa. 
  5. Introduce your body to something totally new — dancing in your kitchen, joining a rock climbing club, taking a grappling class, etc. 

You don’t have to become a bodybuilder or climb Mount Everest to benefit from regular movement and exercise. 


  1. Avoid stimulants 1-4 hours before bed, please!
  2. Add hypoallergenic pillow covers to combat allergies and improve quality of sleep. 
  3. Limit exposure to blue light (from screens) after dark.
  4. Use a high-quality, comfortable sleep mask to block out artificial light that causes circadian rhythm disruption
  5. Avoid eating heavy, greasy, or spicy foods within 3 hours of your bedtime. 

When it comes to sleep, there are really only three things you need: a calm mind, a calm body, and a comfortable environment.

Stress Management

  1. Give meditation or mindfulness practices a try — even 5 minutes a day can yield benefits.
  2. Test out breath work, tai chi, dream recording, or other, more physical modalities if you’re meditation-averse.  
  3. Schedule time for joy — literally put it in your calendar. 
  4. Schedule a session with a licensed therapist while you’re at it. 
  5. Prioritize connection with others and community building in your social circles and beyond. 

Does having more things piled onto your planner sound stressful? Take a different approach! Your zen will be specific to you. 

Lifestyle Changes

  1. Cut back on alcohol, drugs, smoking. 
  2. Reorient your life to support your circadian rhythm — ie, sleeping when you’re tired, waking when you’re rested. 
  3. Get more sunlight on your skin safely and with sunscreen. 
  4. Remove the TV from your bedroom. 
  5. Reduce the number of toxins you bring into your home by swapping inflammatory or carcinogenic products for effective, natural alternatives. 

We like to think of this section as the simple stuff you change outside of yourself — limiting your exposure, working with the external milieu, and focusing on the small things you can control.

The Middle Path of Wellness 

The axiological truth of all the various frameworks we share here — the Wellness Pyramid, wellness practices, the Vital5 — is balanced on, well, balance

Because, here at Woodstock Vitamins, we walk the middle path of wellness. This path is the one that incorporates the best of both natural traditions and rigorously researched modern medicine. The common ground we create between them is standards that are high AF

Learn MoreThe Middle Path of Wellness | Dr. Neal Smoller

But walking a middle path in a world of chaos, clutter, and noise is no small feat — you shouldn’t have to do it alone. 

The first step is fueled by high-quality education, and the second, by comprehensive support! Talk the walk with one of our holistic wellness experts via a free Counterside Consult today. 


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