How do you define your Wellness? How does it show up in your life currently? About 15 years ago, I ask myself these questions many times. When I was in my early thirties, I watched my body, my health, my emotions and my sense of “self” slip away. I did not know what it felt like to wake up with a purpose and the will to move forward. I wanted to get a handle on my life and find a better way of living, one that would enhance the quality of my life as I aged.
After researching, soul searching, educating and defining what was important to me, I've come to believe that incorporating wellness habits into your life on a daily basis is the key. I recognize that wellness is unique to each person; it encompasses every aspect of your life and requires work, determination and commitment to bring about change. The change needed to bring balance and harmony to your life. This means wellness is a choice. What an enlightening discovery, I thought. Once I realized that it was a choice, I found a way to tap into my “self “strength and saw a time of change as an opportunity to be a better me.
Wellness is a choice. It requires that you do something everyday to honor your body, mind and spirit. Achieving wellness means taking control and directing your life where you want it to go. It means you are in command of all aspects of your life: physical, career, relationships, finances, spiritual, environment and emotional well-being. As you know, this is easier said than done. I’ve been a wellness coach for several years and find the denial of self-improvement and the lack of effort to achieve wellness, especially for those over the age of 30, dangerous.
The dictionary definition of wellness is: “The state of optimal well-being, not simply the absence of illness, but an improved quality of life resulting from enhanced physical, mental, and spiritual health”.
Many people are not willing to do the work to achieve wellness and go into denial about how well they really are. After a while they find comfort within their denial and use it as a coping strategy to avoid bigger problems. They will continue avoiding small problems until a major crisis develops, and sometimes even then it doesn’t trigger any action. The areas of life someone thinks about in the privacy of his or her heart (or alone in the dark) are exactly the areas that need to be honored--the mind, body and spirit.
Some reasons why adults don’t incorporate wellness activities into their daily lives include lack of time, effort, desire and commitment. I was talking to a client of mine the other day and he told me a co-worker had challenged him to run in a race. My client has been a heavy smoker for years and has not been physically active. I asked him how he planned on running the entire distance. He then told me about what a great runner he was in high school – more than twenty years ago. I explained to him that he had become very comfortable with denial about his health and wellness, and that I needed him to accept the truth about his overall well-being. We then set some goals to get him through a race at a later time, which included kicking the smoking habit as a first step.
It’s not only the physical being that affects wellness; stress is a growing contributor and excuse preventing people from taking control of their own destiny. Investigating where your time is going and then adjusting your priorities to free up time to incorporate activities important to your health and wellness reduces stress. You must re-evaluate your daily priorities and approach them in order of importance for your efforts to be successful. One suggestion might be instead of working 12 hours per day, work 10 and spend the two extra hours honoring your well-being.
According to time-use researchers and exercise experts, we’re making excuses about our time. “People certainly do have time. There are about 40 hours a week of free time in this country,” says John Robinson, a professor of sociology at the University of Maryland and co-author of Time for Life: The Surprising Way Americans Use Their Time. People are watching TV an average of 15 to 20 hours a week, so they have "room to carve out more time to be active."
The main thing you should do is put yourself at the top of your priority list. Wellness is important, especially after age 30, because getting older brings with it an abundance of new metabolic, physical, physiological, emotional and mental challenges. And while change can be unsettling, this time of change can also be viewed as an opportunity to get the most out of life.
Later life can be a time of rest, fun, relaxation, maybe even retirement, and most of all a time to enjoy life. It should be a time to embark on new adventures whether it’s travel, a hobby or a fun job. Here are some suggestions to start creating a life that honors your wellness:
- Be honest about how well you really are. Realistically look at the areas of your life: physical, career, relationships, finances, spiritual, environment and emotional well-being. Identify the area(s) that need improvement. Set goals to achieve desired results one step at a time. Buy a journal to track your activity.
- Assess your readiness for change and willingness to embrace it. Identify and write down the benefits of wellness to your life and your willingness to make the necessary changes. Remember: every move, forward or back, is part of the normal process of change.
- Identify and eliminate barriers and challenges that could impede your success. There are always barriers to overcome as we move toward our goals. Select one barrier to work on at time. For every negative message you encounter, turn it into a positive one. For example,”I don't have enough time” can turn into “everything that needs to be done will get done”. Learning to replace the negative messages with positive ones is a matter of establishing new habits. It takes time and practice.
- Set clearly defined and measurable wellness goals. Create fun and interesting ways to fulfill your goals. For example, to be more physically active at work, you may want to take a two-minute walk every hour around your work environment. Break your goals down into small, incremental steps.
- Create meaningful wellness priorities. Take a closer look at how you spend your time on an average day. Record your daily activity. Find opportunities for wellness activities you might not have known existed and incorporate them into your daily life.
- Challenge your wellness changes and strive to achieve even more. Make simple changes first and then take a look at the things that are harder and that will require the most change to achieve your desired results. Tackle them one at a time.
- Design and refine your goals so you’ll get the most out of them everyday. If you don’t get the results you want in a reasonable amount of time, go back to the “drawing board.” Re-design and refine your goals to fit what works for you. You may even want to get some professional help.
- Make lasting changes to your lifestyle. Identify and celebrate your accomplishments. Reward yourself! Review your favorite activities. Try new activities to renew your motivation.
The pace of today’s world is so fast that we expect quick solutions to everything. If results are not immediate we’re quick to quit. However, the long-term results that extend our lives are well worth the time, work and effort that we put into taking care of ourselves. Wellness is a way of life. Get yours back!