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The life-changing realization that leads to health and happiness

Becoming your own health hero takes just five minutes a day — no cape or x-ray vision required.
Image: A woman walks dogs in an autumn woodland
A woman walks dogs in an autumn woodlandMatilda Delves / Getty Images

I nearly died when I was six years old.

A normal and fearless kid who loved running wild, school, sports and music, I suddenly found myself suffering from intense joint pain that prevented me from enjoying these things that I loved. Seemingly overnight, I transformed from an adventurous explorer to a kid who had lost interest in everything.

I was eventually diagnosed with rheumatic fever, a potentially life threatening disease of the joints and heart. That's when I met the unforgettable doctor who would forever change me. During my hospital stay, he saved my life with his knowledge, skill, strength and compassion. He was my superhero. My parents, the way they stepped up for and cared for me, were my superheroes. I wanted to be just like them. They were my very first Health Heroes.

So there I was, only six years old, having discovered what I wanted to do with my life. I wanted to save people who were sick. I wanted to make them strong so that they could be their own heroes. Not the kind with capes and x-ray vision. But those who realize their power to take charge of their health and live their best lives; those who make their health a priority and implement important life changes to achieve greater health and happiness. #HealthHeroes.

The key is implementing small, manageable changes that are realistic and sustainable.

Having the power to be your own hero! This was exciting to six-year-old me lying in that hospital bed, and it's the same exciting notion that drives me to this day.

I want to create a world full of Health Heroes.

Becoming Your Own #HealthHero

How do you achieve #HealthHero status? You start by taking control of your health and making conscious choices that empower you to live your best life. The key is implementing small, manageable changes that are realistic and sustainable. It doesn't have to be complicated and overwhelming.

Image: ASK DR. NANDI: 5 Steps to Becoming your Own #HealthHero for Longevity, Well-being, and a Joyful Life
ASK DR. NANDI: 5 Steps to Becoming your Own #HealthHero for Longevity, Well-being, and a Joyful Life.Courtesy Partha Nandi, M.D.

You start small. You can actually transform your life by devoting even five minutes a day to what I refer to as the "5 pillars." When you incorporate healthy nutrition, purpose, movement, mindfulness and tribe into your daily routine, you create a life path that promotes physical health, mental health and cultivation of the soul. You'll experience more joy, a greater sense of fulfillment, deeper relationships, increased energy and more passion for life!

Now more than ever, I encourage you to step up and commit to this life-changing decision. It's one we all must carefully consider as we navigate our increasingly stressful and hectic world.

We're more stressed than ever

Consistent stress is a silent killer, and you live in a stressful world. You're likely in a constant struggle to manage jam-packed schedules and under pressure to do a million things at once. Implementing effective stress reduction techniques has never been more important. Left unmanaged, stress can sneak up on you and significantly elevate your risk for depression, disease and premature death.

Prioritizing healthy nutrition and mindfulness practices like meditation and yoga are some of the most effective ways to reduce stress while also transforming your body and mind.

#HealthHero Spotlight: Greg

DJ from Canada. Life-long battle with depression. Navigating a divorce. Constantly dining in restaurants. Takes on too much.

Realization: "Everyone deserves to find the better person that's inside of them."

Greg courageously began his Health Hero transformation when he chose to step out of his comfort zone and prioritize his health ... despite current stress-inducing challenges.

Greg's DJ career requires him to be out and socializing, which means lots of available food and alcohol. This could easily derail his success, yet he beats the temptation and sticks to healthy choices that will ensure long-term success.

He now takes his dogs on two long walks every day. He cut back on drinking, joined a gym, started fueling his body with healthy home-cooked foods and lost 19 pounds.

He opened up about his depression and now speaks to support groups and works with organizations that help teens fight their own depression.

Despite living in a stressful world, Greg continues to find a sense of peace and resilience. He is transforming his body and soul, and started with nothing more than the desire to live a healthier life.

We forget to put ourselves first

One of the most important gifts you can give yourself is permission to put yourself — and your health — first. A Health Hero knows that you have to maintain your own well-being in order to have the ability and energy to take care of those you love. When you make your health a priority, you're able to better care for elderly parents, ailing children, patients or anyone else who needs your support.

Set aside time every day for self-care. Whether taking five minutes to reflect and release your worries while breathing deeply or taking a moment to create a healthy meal plan for the week, make your mental and physical health a top priority.

#HealthHero Spotlight: Patty

Cynical New Yorker. Doubtful that she could make lasting life changes. Managing family/health issues.

Realization: "Even if I do just a five-minute meditation to breathe, I feel so much better and energized and focused on what I need to do."

Patty found purpose and came to the realization that she had to take care of herself first so that she could properly care for her daughter.

Her hectic life and some family issues demand her attention, but once she connected with her purpose — to care for her family — she made the necessary changes that empowered her to handle it all with grace.

Patty now makes time for herself by going to the gym and meditating on the bus ride to work. She even plans to create her own meditation circle! She makes smart nutritional choices (like bringing healthy snacks to work) which has resulted in losing enough weight that her clothes are becoming loose-fitting.

Patty would tell you that it's the tiny things that have added up to many beautiful life changes. She now has the tools to deal with life, and no matter what challenges come her way, she makes time to prioritize her health and happiness.

We deserve happiness and fulfillment

Purpose is a fundamental part of everyone's well-being. A strong sense of purpose can actually help us to heal and extend our lifespan. It gives us access to hope, resiliency and motivation. We need to ask ourselves how we can find meaning and purpose in life and use that to create healthy habits for mind and body.

Those with a strong sense of purpose experience less depression, less stress, a greater sense of fulfillment, deeper relationships and live more fulfilled lives. Take the time to discover new things about yourself. It's a great example of self-care and can lead to a more joyful life.

Image: Judy
Dr. Nandi challenged Judy, very shy by nature, to speak to one person each week. That tiny change led to Judy making several friends who now plan an annual trip together.

#HealthHero Spotlight: Judy

Struggled with depression her entire life. Felt lost. Her kids are her world.

Realization: "I want to get out of bed now. I want to face my world. Now I have more friends, better friends, my children, my grandchildren. I have life."

When Judy began changing her life, she didn't have a specific goal in mind. She only knew that she felt lost and wanted something better.

She is an incredible example of someone who created huge life changes by starting small. Judy's choices caused a ripple effect that has led her to a life she barely recognizes. What started as making the choice to drink 64 ounces of water each week led to learning portion control, stretching every morning, walking on the treadmill every day, more confidence, a sense of purpose and forming genuine connections with new friends.

I challenged Judy, very shy by nature, to speak to one person each week. That's it. Just a quick hello to anyone she happened to see. That tiny change led to Judy getting to know several local women who decided to plan annual group casino trips!

Judy lost 25 pounds and found ... herself.

I encourage you to make the life-changing decision to become your own Health Hero. Realize your power to take charge of your health and live your best life. Implement important life changes so that you can achieve greater health and happiness. You just have to be willing to make the choice and take control. Think about it. You can be your own hero! No cape or x-ray vision required.

Dr. Partha Nandi is a creator and host of the internationally syndicated, award-winning medical lifestyle television show, Ask Dr. Nandi and author of the upcoming book, ASK DR. NANDI: 5 Steps to Becoming your Own #HealthHero for Longevity, Well-being, and a Joyful Life (September 12, 2017; North Star Way; Hardcover; $26.00.) For more information, visit