Depression, health, longevity and my “4 Leaves of Health”

J. Morris Hicks

As I approach the end of my seventh decade on this planet in a few years, I am gaining a better overall perspective on health, longevity, quality of life, being happy and the absence of depression. And the older I get, the more important I consider my “fourth leaf” of health—the positive mental attitude.

Just in the past few weeks, I have been noticing some of my friends who seem to be the happiest. And while most of them continue to eat the toxic western diet and exercise very little—they’ve got something that others lack. They look forward to getting up in the morning, they have a major purpose in their life and they always exude energy and enthusiasm.

Now, I am not suggesting that you chuck the healthy diet and routine exercise and start listening to motivational tapes all the time. But I am suggesting that the mental aspect of vibrant health doesn’t always get the credit it deserves.

As for our 4Leaf Program, the dietary part is well-docmented on this site. The other “three leaves” of health are exercise, rest and mental attitude—none of which have received a great deal of attention in my blogs. See a few links below to some of those blogs.

Loneliness in the news. Recently, I noticed a piece of news on CNN—it was all about loneliness, depression and the corresponding increase in the risk of heart disease. (See link to 6-18-12 article below) It began:

Loneliness and isolation can affect your quality of life — and maybe your quantity of life, too. According to a pair of studies published today in the Archives of Internal Medicine, living alone — or even just feeling lonely — may increase a person’s risk of premature death.

One study followed nearly 45,000 people ages 45 and up who had heart disease or a high risk of developing the condition. Those who lived alone, the study found, were more likely to die from heart attacks, strokes, or other heart complications over a four-year period than people living with family or friends, or in some other communal arrangement.

Why is living alone potentially harmful? Especially among the middle-aged, a demographic in which living with a spouse or partner is the norm, living alone may be a sign of social or psychological problems, such as relationship trouble, a weak support system, job stress, or depression– all of which have been linked to heart disease.

The article goes on to discuss the topic of “loneliness” in great detail and how it can negatively impact one’s life. In my case, the fact that I live alone (Since 1998) hasn’t made me feel lonely. Maybe it’s because I have an abundant local network of friends and family coupled with an international network of thousands with whom I communicate regularly.

I found this book helpful; for more information, see link below.

My purpose in this blog is not to pretend to be any sort of expert on this topic, but rather to share my own personal experience on the crucial importance of always remembering the mental side of things when we talk about vibrant health. Having experienced bouts of acute depression a few times in my life, I have a personal knowledge of what it feels like. It sucks.

Maybe that’s why I appreciated what my son went through a few years back and shared in his joy when he was eventually able to “just say no” to medications of all kinds, including anti-depressants. And I think that his diet and exercise regimen had something to do with that.

The Bottom Line. My definition of vibrant health includes the collective positive benefits of healthy eating, adequate rest (7 to 9 hours of sleep), routine exercise and a positive mental attitude. My feeling is that you need all four to enjoy the highest levels of health and that the “total can be greater than the sum of the parts.” Scroll down for my “happiness photo of the week…

“Living alone is kind of like sailing alone; it’s not necessarily my preference, but it ain’t all bad”

Living alone is kind of like sailing alone; it’s not necessarily my preference, but it ain’t all bad.

Handy 4-piece take-charge-of-your-health kit—from

Want to find out how healthy your family is eating? Take our free 4Leaf Diagnostic Survey. It takes less than five minutes and you can score it yourself. After taking the survey, please give me your feedback as it will be helpful in the development of our future 4Leaf app for smartphones. Send feedback to

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J. Morris Hicks, working daily to promote health, hope and harmony on planet Earth.

For help in your own quest to take charge of your health, you might find some useful information at our 4Leaf page or some great recipes at Lisa’s 4Leaf Kitchen.

Got a question? Let me hear from you at Or give me a call on my cell at 917-399-9700.

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Blogging daily at…from the seaside village of Stonington, Connecticut – Be well and have a great day.

—J. Morris Hicks, board member, T. Colin Campbell Foundation

About J. Morris Hicks

A former strategic management consultant and senior corporate executive with Ralph Lauren in New York, J. Morris Hicks has always focused on the "big picture" when analyzing any issue. In 2002, after becoming curious about our "optimal diet," he began a study of what we eat from a global perspective ---- discovering many startling issues and opportunities along the way. In addition to an MBA and a BS in Industrial Engineering, he holds a certificate in plant-based nutrition from the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies, where he has also been a member of the board of directors since 2012. Having concluded that our food choices hold the key to the sustainability of our civilization, he has made this his #1 priority---exploring all avenues for influencing humans everywhere to move back to the natural plant-based diet for our species.
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4 Responses to Depression, health, longevity and my “4 Leaves of Health”

  1. David Jodrey (blogging as Broadway Dave at McDougall's discussion board) says:

    As has been said, one needs someone or something to love, something to do, and something to look forward to. With regard to “something to do”, in the last few weeks, as I have now accomplished one of my goals – to live long enough to receive Medicare – I’ve been thinking about what my “project” should be. And now I think I’ve got it: To spread the gospel of plant-based eating (better for you, better for the animals, better for the planet) to a number of my actual or potential associates.

    To do this, I will keep doing the “anarchy in action”/”social marketing” things which I’ve already begun (for example, I’ve given my pastor a copy of Dr. Neal Barnard’s Program to Reverse Diabetes Now, and my older brother a copy of Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease: The Revolutionary, Scientifically Proven, Nutrition-Based Cure by Caldwell B. Esselstyn, M.D.) I also intend to get involved in the “health ministry” of the parish I attend, although the details are still to be worked out. Meanwhile, I am accumulating books and downloads, and reading in these, about “social marketing.” I don’t want just to inform people – I want them to change their behavior, and to do that I have to make them an offer they decide not to refuse. Part III of your book deals with relevant issues, of course.

    I am familiarizing myself more with the already existent programs of the major players currently active in this area: in addition to McDougall, Barnard, and Esselstyn, these include Colin Campbell, Hans Diehl, Dean Ornish, John Robbins, and Joel Fuhrman. How does one mobilize volunteers to get the most “bang for the buck” in something like this? Is Kaiser Permanente (about to be my Medicare Advantage provider) doing something I can hook up with, piggyback on, participate in, or copy? There’s a lot to do, but one step at a time.

  2. Ruth Seydel says:

    Jim, So happy to see you including this. You know how much I enjoyed Dan Baker’s book. I think many people eat the wrong foods and overeat due to unhappiness and being lonely. You and I are both blessed with our social skills and loving to be with happy people.

  3. Linda201 says:

    Also, as my daughter pointed out, maybe people who live alone die are more likely to die from the diseases mentioned because they don’t want to cook for just themselves, and are more likely to eat processed foods and/or typical restaurant and carry-out foods than people who live with a partner or a family.

  4. Linda201 says:

    If people who live alone are more likely to DIE from the causes mentioned, it may simply be a reflection of the fact that there is no one else there to contact emergency help. It would have been a better study if it had determined which group (alone vs. not) actually HAS more illnesses of the type that could potentially lead to emergency situations.

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