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Te Whare Tapa Whā (four cornerstones of health) was developed by leading Māori health advocate and researcher Professor Sir Mason Durie in 1984. It is a simple and really useful way to think about our health; as a whare (house). The whare has four walls with each wall representing a different dimension of health. All four walls are needed and must be in balance for the house (our health), to be strong. When all these things are in balance, we thrive. When one or more of these is out of balance our wellbeing is impacted.

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Taha Tinana - physical health

Taha tinana is about how your body feels and how you care for it. Refuelling your body helps you feel mentally well. Sometimes your tinana might not be where you'd like it to be and this might be beyond your control. What's important is that you do what you can to nurture it.

Looking after your physical health includes sleep, nutrition, and exercise. 


Regular physical activity will help you have more energy, lower your stress level, maintain a healthy weight, keep bones and muscles strong and joints flexible, feel more relaxed and sleep better. Aim for a mix of physical activities, including aerobic activities that raise your heart rate and improve circulation of oxygen, and activities to improve muscle and bone strength. Break up the amount of time you spend sitting and move more each day. Physical activity reduces your risk of many health conditions, and helps you manage the ones you already have. It also works wonders for your mental wellbeing. It doesn't have to be an hour at the gym; there are free exercise programmes online and everything counts; from a brisk walk, to climbing stairs, to carrying the kids.

Your diet can play another huge part in how you feel and how you can cope. A few simple tips include eating more colours (ie colourful veges), following the healthy plate guidelines of half veges, quarter protein, and quarter carbs. There are loads of healthy cooking ideas and recipes online you can try until you find some that you and your family love. Drinking more water is another super simple step, as is reducing alcohol and coffee.

Sleep is the other thing to work on improving. Some tips to help you sleep better include turning off all devices at least an hour before bed and replacing it with talking or reading, taking a bath, having a calming drink such as camomile tea, breathing exercises, and guided sleep meditations or sleep music.


Remember: Even small improvements in these can improve your health and help you cope better. It’s never too early or too late to start.

Taha wairua - spiritual health

Taha wairua explores your relationship with the environment, people and heritage in the past, present and future. For some, wairua is about faith, religious beliefs, or a connection to the universe. For others it is about their inherent values and beliefs, the core things that make up who they are.

Our sense of belonging and/or our ability to have faith in a higher power have a significant effect on our wairua. To know our own identity and find contentment with who we are, despite the challenges we face, contribute to a strong wairua. To take time to reflect and do things that bring us joy are important in developing our wairua.


Remember the spiritual essence of a person is their life force. This determines who and what we are as individuals and as a collective, where we have come from and where we are going. Some things that can help you strengthen your wairua are to get into nature, go to church, listen to music, find a mentor, contact someone important to you that you haven't spoken with in a long time, get creative, connect with a marae, or join a group of like minded people. ​

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Taha whanau - family health

Taha whānau is about who makes you feel you belong, who you care about, and who you share your life with. Whānau is about extended relationships, including colleagues, friends, and  community. You have a unique place and role within your whānau and your whānau contributes to your wellbeing and identity.

A strong community really helps. No matter who your family or whānau are, it is important to stay connected with them. This is a way to protect yourself from stress and distress – even at times when things are not going so well.

If you want to re-connect with or extend your community, there are lots of things you can do, such as helping out at a local community centre or marae, join a group, organise get togethers - these can be as simple as going for a beach walk or having a coffee - exercise with someone, join online forums and groups where you can share your journey and/or your load, or pay it forward by helping someone you know who is struggling and needs support.​

Taha hinengaro - mental health

Just like your physical health, your taha hinengaro / mental and emotional wellbeing needs to be taken care of. Taha hinengaro is your mind, heart, conscience, thoughts and feelings. It's about how you feel as well as how you communicate and think.

You may have already noticed that there are many cross-overs between the four walls, where one action can help two or more aspects of the whare, of your overall wellbeing. Taking action to improving your physical health, for example, can also improve your mental health.

Some examples of ways we can protect our mental and emotional health, include: practicing mindfulness, seeing a counsellor, taking a day trip or a holiday to give yourself a break from your everyday life, exploring somewhere you haven't been before, doing an activity that requires complete focus, such as skiing. Getting creative, decluttering, starting a journal, joining a support group, or volunteering.

These sorts of activities can give you a sense of purpose and fulfilment, increase self-confidence, improve brain functioning, give you a feeling of appreciation, reduce stress and increase happiness. Why not commit to taking one action today?

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