In 2011, we lost one of the greatest innovators the modern-day world has ever seen. Steve Jobs was notorious for being a relentless tech guru, but beyond the keynotes and theatrics, he was a human being like the rest of us. In his last days battling pancreatic cancer, he dropped many truth bombs about what’s truly important in life.
In a profound conclusion to one of his ‘speeches’, Jobs stated the six best doctors in the world:
“Maintain them in all stages of life and enjoy a healthy life.”
Without any formal training in health and wellness education, Steve was able to hit the nail on the head in many areas. Although this isn’t an end-all-be-all list to ‘bulletproofing your life’, Jobs is able to articulate our complex needs for multiple dimensions of wellness.
In a world full of hurting, sick people, primary prevention is often an afterthought. By reflecting on his own life, Steve was able to realize that we should be stewarding our health and wellness every day, before sickness strikes.
Each of these ‘doctors’ has a critical role in our own lives. The reality is, healthy living is holistic living. If we can lead a well-rounded life, we’ll foster resilience and longevity.
“The greatest medicine of all is teaching people how to not need it.” — Hippocrates
The Six Best Doctors, According to Steve Jobs
It is a primary driver of vitamin D production and is an integral ingredient for anything from fighting off inflammation to brain and muscle function. As diurnal creatures, we humans are programmed to be outdoors while the sun is shining and home in bed at night. Proper sunlight exposure can support the body’s circadian rhythms, fostering healthy sleep patterns.
Beyond this, sunshine can boost melatonin levels, allowing for positive moods and calm yet focused mental outlooks. Furthermore, UVR (ultraviolet radiation) increases blood levels of natural opiates called endorphins, known as natural pain-killers.
Most public health messages of the past century have focused on the hazards of too much sun exposure. However, excessive UVR exposure accounts for only 0.1% of the total global burden of disease in disability-adjusted life years, according to the World Health Organization. It’s time we focus on the benefits of sunshine and prioritize daily (safe) exposure when possible.
This is an ironic point considering the blistering tempo that Jobs lived by. Regardless, rest is a crucial element to a healthy life. Just look to Matthew Walker’s Why We Sleep: “…cancer, diabetes, heart attacks, infertility, weight gain, obesity, or immune deficiency. No facet of the human body is spared the crippling, noxious harm of sleep loss.”
Allowing time for sleep and rest is not a luxury. It is a pre-requisite to functioning properly. Your creativity, innovation, emotional regulation, and fitness will take a toll if you fail to prioritize proper shut-eye. Pen in 7–9 hours of sleep every night, attempt to keep it within a consistent schedule, and supplement with 20min naps when needed.
In a world that glorifies sleep deprivation in the name of the ‘hustle’, please don’t buy-in. We are better people when we’re rested — plain and simple.
As a kinesiologist, I’m forever grateful that Steve included physical activity in his list. I believe there to be no better ‘medication’ than moving your body. Strive for at least 150min of moderate-to-vigorous exercise every week and ensure there’s an element of cardio, strength, and mobility/flexibility training. Here are five quick reasons to prioritize physical activity in your life:
It boosts ‘happy brain chemicals’ such as serotonin, dopamine, and oxytocin that have been proven to enhance emotional regulation, mood, motivation, and even digestion.
It prevents chronic diseases such as atherosclerosis, diabetes, cancer, osteoarthritis, and mental health disorders.
It boosts neuroplasticity, helping the brain to form new neural connections and strengthen old ones. It has even been proven to ameliorate anxiety, depression, and PTSD.
It elevates BDNF levels in the brain, playing a role in the growth, maturation, and maintenance of cells.
It’s a natural stress reliever through lowering cortisol levels and slowing down the HPA axis. You can also decrease the activity of the amygdala, the fear center of the brain, with consistent activity.
Proper nutrition goes far beyond keeping weight gain at bay. A poor diet can lead to multiple risk factors including diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, osteoporosis, and more. Like exercise, your diet has important implications for cognitive function as well. The fuel that powers your internal machinery comes directly from your dietary intake.
Put simply, what you eat directly affects the structure and function of your brain and, ultimately, your mood. -Eva Selhub MD
Your diet also controls the fate of your microbiome. If you eat well, you can construct a strong barrier against toxins and intruders, limiting systemic inflammation. Fail to do so, and expect your immunity and energy levels to plummet.
According to the CDC, nearly 40% of US adults have obesity setting back the health care system $147 billion every year. Additionally, more than 1 in 3 adults have pre-diabetes, and less than 10% are eating enough fruits and veggies. There is a desperate need for a cultural rewiring of our consumption habits in North America.
We have a lot of work to do.
This is a powerful reminder to smile at yourself in the mirror. Self-confidence is key to a healthy, well-rounded life because it fosters community and productivity. Many coping mechanisms (alcohol, drugs, social isolation) that come with anxiety and depression are correlated to low self-esteem. To breed self-confidence, be intentional about forming healthy relationships, learn to say no, give yourself frequent challenges, and most of all… be kind to yourself.
One of the best antidotes to fear, anxiety, and loneliness is community. Surrounding yourself with people that you can be vulnerable with (and also laugh with) is one of the best treatments you can receive. Cultivating this quality of friendship doesn’t happen overnight, and there are often sacrifices involved, but the end product is always worthwhile.
Investing in friendships is one of the best decisions you can ever make. As health is extremely interconnected, your social wellbeing can be a powerful catalyst for developing other aspects of wellness. In the age of social media, strive for authentic, intimate relationships. It’s worth it.
Let Steve Jobs’ final remarks be a guide for healthy living. Invest in a holistic approach to wellness and discover its powerful benefits. Beyond a personal enhancement of health, this philosophy fosters a cultural shift that we must take. Let’s promote wellness before sickness strikes. Let’s prioritize programs that allow the next generation to thrive. Let’s build our nation with health and wellness at the forefront, and not just an afterthought.
Who knows, Steves Jobs may be onto something. Perhaps the six best doctors don’t belong in hospitals after all…
“The doctor of the future will give no medicine, but will instruct his (or her) patients in care of the human frame, in diet and in the cause and prevention of disease.” — Thomas Edison