What comes to mind when you think about wellness? Images of a nutritious meal of grilled salmon and steamed broccoli, or perhaps a young women blissfully running along the sea shore. These images are not an entirely inaccurate representation of what it means to live well, but they are only part of the picture.
Indeed, physical fitness and nutritional awareness are important aspects of wellness, but wellness is about every aspect of a person’s life. A change in diet can aid in a better night’s sleep, or stress at work can take it’s toll on the body, resulting in weight gain or headaches.
To understand what wellness is really all about, here are nine basic principles of how people can and do change their lifestyle behavior, and what might be holding them back.
Wellness is Holistic
In wellness, we choose to look at the whole person, mind, body and spirit! Anything short of that endeavor is limiting, incomplete, and ultimately unproductive. By just focusing on one of these dimensions, while minimizing the others doesn’t work in the long term, creating imbalance, which can lead to life dissatisfaction, anxiety and sickness.
Restore life balance by paying attention to any areas of your life where you might be lacking or you have been ignoring for a long time. Make a commitment to yourself to explore and take action in those areas that are underserved.
No one is more responsible for your own health and wellbeing than you are! Our health is indeed subject to risk factors such as genetics and environmental toxins, yet our beliefs, emotions and lifestyle choices matter greatly in determining our health and wellbeing more than any other factor. Clinging to blame or excuses paves the bumpy road to passivity and sickness. Living with chronic stress, sleep deprivation or a poor diet only serves to reduce the body’s ability to resist illness and disease.
The path to wellness can be regained in taking your health back into your own hands by living a well-balanced, healthy lifestyle in which you get more rest, eat more healthfully and effectively manage your stress. By educating yourself on your own health condition and being your own advocate, you can be empowered to make lasting change!
For making lasting change, we need a dose of healthy self-esteem. In order to be well, you have to care enough about yourself to take an inventory of your life, make any necessary changes, and to find the support needed to maintain your motivation. Explore what might be holding you back from feeling good about yourself and work through the blocks, not around them.
Probably for most of us, lasting change requires the hard, roll-up-your-sleeves, type of effort of facing our fears and reservations. Positive affirmations can be beneficial for boosting your self-esteem, but is most effective if paired with a life-long commitment to self-reflection and being willing to challenge the beliefs we hold about ourselves and the world around us.
Perfectionism is an insidious, shame-based process that reinforces our negative self-assessments that can lead to addiction, eating disorders and workaholism. To pursue wellness doesn’t mean you have to to swear off beer and pizza for life. Rather, it means that you quit rationalizing about what you eat, and make healthier choices, such as having a night out of gluten-free beer and pizza.
When your healthy habits turn from positive actions to guilt-based compulsions, it only works against you. Extreme behaviors surrounding exercise or nutrition can be cause harm to our bodies, increase isolation, and impair relationships with our families and loved ones.
There’s a saying that you become like the company you keep. Indeed, who we surround ourselves with either serves to help us or to hinder us. We are all exposed to the societal norms, practices and patterns of behavior shape who we are, they way we feel about ourselves, the food we choose to eat and how we move. Efforts to make lifestyle changes can be encouraged or discouraged by the the people we are surrounded by.
Mutually beneficial relationships with those who care about us as people are the ones we need to seek out and nurture. Those who truly care will not feel threatened by our personal growth, rather they support and encourage it, and celebrate your successes!
We all need to become aware that we have choices in life and that we are empowered to act on them. Conscious living involves a recognition that we don’t have to live on autopilot any longer. Each day, we can set new intentions for bringing about lasting change, such as reading food labels, putting down your cellphone one day a week, or noticing how the sunshine feels on your skin! Living consciously brings a new level of awareness to the things we take for granted, can make a difference in relationships, alter your attitude towards your work, and maximize your potential.
Expanding our network of connections with other people can be one of the most powerful acts we can take for increasing our health and wellbeing. By allowing ourselves to move beyond fear, come out of isolation, and to create genuine connections with other people, we propel ourselves forward into lasting change.
This means we may need to take a break from the virtual world of social media, television, gaming and chat rooms, in favor of quality time with the people we share our lives with, and to find creative ways to make connections with other like-minded people.
When we increase our self-sufficiency, we gain a newfound confidence that empowers us to move forward into increased health and wellbeing. By acquiring new knowledge and skills, we can enable ourselves to make wiser food choices, take a hike in the wilderness, start a vegetable garden or join a yoga class, all of which serve to increase our self-respect and sense of self-worth. In turn, we can give back, by sharing these new skills and learning with others, especially future generations!
We’ve all seen the happiness on the face of a child engaged in dress-up, or their blissful abandon as they chase around the back yard. This is the joy of play. By definition, play is purposeless, all-consuming and fun, yet it is anything from trivial, and it isn’t just for kids! Rather, it is as integral to our health as a eight hours of sleep or a nutritious meal. It is essential to our social skills, adaptability, creativity, problems solving ability and so on.
Today’s society suffers from play deprivation and most adults have “forgotten” what it was like to engage in free play. Still, when you begin to reminisce about you happiest and most memorable childhood moments, you can recapture the emotions of those moments and begin to connect again to what truly excited you in life! Only then can you infuse your life with those elements that once brought you joy!