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The Joe Tequila Effect and the Forgotten THREE

by Dr. Jon Repole, DC, NC, HHP, CPT, CFMP

There is no question that eating a whole food plant-based diet, exercising, practicing healthy sleep hygiene habits, drinking and breathing fresh, clean, water and air all have a direct and dramatic effect on both our aging (quality of life) and longevity (quantity of life). With that said, however, I can’t deny coming across “contradictions” on a small but consistent regularity in our practice month after month. These contradictions, in turn, are worthy of discussion. For example, imagine a patient whom I will call, Joe Tequila. He is for all intent and purposes aging with a certain level of gracefulness and health despite the fact he is engaging in dietary and lifestyle choices that myself and others would consider deleterious to their physical, emotional, relational, spiritual, and mental health such as daily alcohol bingeing, eating an abundance of fried foods, processed foods, and so forth.

So, what exactly is going on here? What are the hidden factors that are overriding the deleterious messages from poor dietary and lifestyle choices?  And are we minimizing these contributions?

Note: This article is not about EITHER/OR but rather embracing the concept of BOTH/AND. In other words – it’s about combining BOTH the hidden factors (which I call the BIG THREE) AND conventional or traditional ideas of health and wellness such as diet and lifestyle. We need to compound these hidden factors (discussed below) on top of well know factors such as diet, lifestyle changes, sleep hygiene, movement, etc.  So sorry to put this bluntly – this is NOT a free pass to stupidity!

Social Creatures

Humans are naturally social creatures. Our modern and post-modern ways of life, however, are greatly reducing the quality and quantity (number of Facebook friends do not count!) of our social relationships. More and more people are becoming socially isolated, and “loneliness” is, unfortunately, becoming increasingly common.

So the question is – are social connections really that important?

According to a study published in the American Journal of Public Health (November 2013, Social Isolation: A Predictor of Mortality Comparable to Traditional Clinical Risk Factors), the strength of social isolation as a predictor of MORTALITY is similar to that of well documented traditional clinical risk factors such as smoking, obesity, and high blood pressure!

Social isolation is defined as disengagement from social ties, institutional connections, or community participation. In some studies, it has been suggested that the rate of all-cause mortality among the most socially isolated individuals may be 50% higher than the rate of socially integrated individuals.

In our practice, we always try to address first things first rather than second things first. In other words, most patients come in wanting to address secondary concerns (a specific supplement, a “get rich/healthy scheme”, an advanced diagnostic test) while having no awareness over the fact that their fundamentals (diet, exercise, sleep hygiene, etc.) are in a sorry state of neglect. Regarding any health related challenge, we always need to start with the lowest hanging fruit (eating healthy, movement, and so on).

One of the most profound observations I have made in working with patients is how the factors (referred to as the BIG THREE) listed below can influence someone’s overall health, well-being, aging, longevity, and overall success. I truly, believe, that these factors greatly influence all-cause mortality and should be included in the core of the fundamentals. My hope is that these factors will spark in you a reboot, of sorts, in reassessing your actions and behaviors. So, pay attention!

  • Stress Index
  • Happiness Quotient
  • Victim vs. Co-creator consciousness

Stress Index

Assessing this index is simple. Ask yourself, how do I grade my stress on a level of 0-10 (0 is no stress, and 10 is maximal stress). The answer to this question is 100% subjective and has absolutely nothing to do with external events or circumstances. It is about how you INTERNALIZE or interpret what is going on and how it is effecting you. In other words, this is called suffering. A high stress index means you are, in fact, resisting life, the present moment, or “what is.” As you perceive an internal world of chaos – your hormones switch to stress physiology and your body begins a predictable sequence of catabolism or break down such as: a decrease in sex hormone production, increased stress hormones, decreased energy utilization, poor digestion, incoherence between brain, heart, and respiration, increased inflammation, short term memory loss, and more.

The quick solution here is to practice the serenity prayer: “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

Happiness Quotient

The question here is, how do you grade your overall sense of well-being, happiness, and fulfillment in life on a scale of 0-10 (0 is “depression/apathy” and 10 is complete satisfaction and fulfillment). A decreased happiness quotient means you are lacking or deficient in one of the following human needs: physiological (food, air, water, etc.), safety, security, love/belongingness, purpose, growth, contribution, meaning, self-esteem, and so on. A low happiness quotient also means you are unable to recognize the “light within.” Shawn Achor, author of The Happiness Advantage, sums this up perfectly – it is not about whether the glass is ½ empty of ½ full but rather if you can recognize the pitcher of water sitting within. Thus, happiness, is about intrinsic rather than extrinsic rewards (looking for something outside of ourselves) to “fill us up.”

Victim vs. Co-Creator Consciousness

Victim and co-creator consciousness are some of the most important lenses we use to interpret reality. The question here is why is it important to understand our current “lens of reality?” The answer is simple – if you do not recognize the lens that you are using to interpret reality then you will become a victim of life’s circumstances. You will go down the path that society and culture (rather than what you choose) pushes you to travel. Without this light of awareness, you will be living a life by someone else’s design – all without you ever even knowing it!  

The research on happiness and fulfillment is clear – our external circumstances (although important) only contribute a small fraction to how we live, how we feel, how we behave, and so on. You have most likely heard this before – but really think about what the following statement really means for your life:

Our outer world is a reflection of our inner world and not vice versa.

We all wear colored “lenses” of reality that we use (consciously or unconsciously) to view our world. Scientists, philosophers, and theorists (from Spiral Dynamics to Integral Theory) use different names for these “lenses” such as: memes, beliefs, structures of consciousness, and cultural indoctrination. More formal designations in the literature refer to them with the following meme (a unit of cultural inheritance) designations: archaic, magical, mythical, rational, pluralistic and integral. For our purposes here, we will discuss a simple and more useful continuum to help you on your journey to self-actualization. Read over the following lenses or structures of consciousness and identify where you currently are? Perhaps you trade lenses depending on circumstances – such as a lens for your work life and a lens for your home life.

  • Victim Consciousness: It is here where we live a life by “other’s design.” Life is viewed as fearful and we project our internal reality to the outside world living as habituated machines and prisoners of life’s circumstances – we have no time, we work too long, everything in life is working against us, we are victims of our inheritance, we have no control over our health, we carry our diagnoses like a badge of honor – to name a few. It is here where life’s relationship is one of survival. Our to-do list is managing us.
  • Rational Consciousness: In this lens of reality, we begin questioning all our inherited cultural viewpoints of the world – our religion, our leaders, what we learned in school, how we are to live our life, what is the meaning of all the monotony, and so on. In short, we begin to “see” that we are not living a life by design. We are witnessing our life but not necessarily, at this moment, doing anything about it.
  • Co-Creator Consciousness: In this lens, we make a momentous leap forward in that we are not only witnessing and questioning our current life but we are actually taking action in “creating a life by design.”  As our internal world shifts, we, in turn, begin to change who we thought we were capable of becoming and begin to understand that we are not victims but rather participants possessing co-creative powers to actualize our potential. We begin to manage life’s priorities rather than our to-do list. A Course in Miracles states succinctly, “The Holy Spirit (our soul) cannot do for us what he cannot do through us.” It is here where life’s relationship is one of living.
  • Unity Consciousness: This is a lens of reality that sees the interconnectedness in all things – we are a whole which is part of another whole. We begin to understand the giving is receiving, and that “doing good” in the world is synonymous with “doing good” for us. Fear turns to love and we view everything as either love or a “call for love.”

The Alignment Continuum

Creating alignment of the following factors is the key to health, well-being, and inner peace:

Our soul’s awareness and non-attachment, our mind’s attention, our heart’s intention and our body’s inspired actions/behaviors.

If we use the lens of victim consciousness, fear runs the alignment continuum and creates what can be thought of as “the un-alignment continuum.” It is here where our thoughts, feelings and actions are in direct opposition to our soul’s awareness and heart’s intention. Physiologically, we are caught in what psychologists call, The Pleasure Trap. The mind keeps us incarcerated in a perpetual fear-based loop by rewarding us (i.e. such as increasing neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin) for doing the WRONG thing (drugs, poor food choices, unhealthy behaviors, etc.) and penalizing us for doing the RIGHT thing.  

In stark contrast, using the lens of co-creation, we invite “love” or the power of self-actualization to fuel the alignment continuum towards coherence of actions and behaviors with or soul’s awareness. It is here we live a life by design.

Putting It All Together

In summary, how you “grade” the BIG THREE has an enormous impact on your health and wellness. The Joe Tequila effect is, in essence, a person who has a high happiness quotient, strong social networks, a low stress index, and wears a type of co-creator lens while at the same time engages in deleterious dietary and lifestyle habits. There seems to be an overriding protective mechanism (with the BIG THREE) in helping to trump some of the deleterious effects of poor diet and lifestyle when someone:

  • has low levels of stress
  • is simply HAPPY
  • savors life and experiences
  • enjoys time spent with others

Imagine, however, what health benefits could be gained if the effects were compounded with proper dietary and lifestyle habits! Thus, let’s all take advantage of Joe Tequila’s mindset in our everyday lives while at the same time choosing healthy habits.