What is Wellness?

What is wellness?

This week, September 19-25, is National Wellness Week, which made me wonder “How do I ensure wellness?”

For me, wellness is currently my most important goal. While I can’t control wellness completely — thankfully I was given some pretty good DNA to work from — the aspects I can control have taken front and center in my life.

My goals with wellness are straight-forward:

  1. I want to prevent illness.
  2. When I can’t, I want to bounce back quickly.

How I’m Ensuring Wellness

Wellness, to me, isn’t about being a particular weight (although it will help), having a specific Body Mass Index (although lower is better), or running a mile in a certain time (although faster is great). Rather, it’s monitoring my performance in the following 10 Domains of Wellness.

Stress management

“Prolonged stress has an undeniable adverse effect on health. It can — and does — lead to illness. It can also precipitate relapse, both in mental illness and in addiction. The ability to reduce and/or counter stress is critical in dealing with behavioral health problems, as well in promoting health and wellness” (CIHS).

For me, that means ensuring I do things that first avoid stress, and then help me deal with it. To avoid stress, I’m practicing the art of “no” more, or scheduling things 3-4 weeks in advance. Doing so gives me time to prepare as I attend to the other commitments I’ve already made.

To help me deal with stress, I schedule in activities that help me de-stress — exercise, time with wife and pets, and hobbies like this blog.

Healthy eating

The fuel I put into my body directly correlates with my mood. Some foods “burn” dirty, while others clean. Sugary, fatty, or processed foods leave me feeling blah while fruit, vegetables, and lean meats leave me satiated and recharged. Try reducing your sugar intake for a couple of weeks — it’s amazing how different you will feel!

Physical activity

Daily exercise helps me lose weight. However, that’s not entirely my goal. First and foremost, I exercise to reduce stress, spend time with my wife and friends, and for the joy of movement. Scheduling daily exercise helps me achieve these things.

I often put out a large challenge — participating in triathlon, running a half-marathon, or cycling a century — just for the challenge. I know I can complete any of these challenges if I put my mind to it, and when I do it serves to boost my self-confidence. Although some say that is boosted enough.

Restful sleep

Long-term sleep deprivation is associated with many illnesses, including high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, obesity, and behavioral health problems. So I schedule my sleep, sometimes even rescheduling commitments if I haven’t had enough. Sure, I accept a 4-hour rest some days, but that means the next day I need to make up that deficit; I don’t keep running on empty.

Support network

I know I can’t do this alone. If you are reading this, you are part of my support network — welcome! I “fat blog” because I want to be held accountable. If you see me not taking care of myself, call me out and let me know, please.

Service to others

Wellness isn’t all about me. I get a extra boost of joy when I help others, either volunteering, donating, or even helping a friend with some struggle. In a rut with your wellness plan? Try helping someone else for a bit.

Optimism

There are tons of stuff I can’t do, I’m bad at, etc. But focusing and worrying on these things doesn’t accomplish much. Instead, I try to focus my thoughts on the things I can control and be successful with.

Turns out, there are tons of stuff I can do and I’m good at, too.

Cognitive skills to avoid negative thinking

A person increases their chance at happiness by telling his or her self a more positive story, rather than a miserable one.

As Health Consultant and Writer Martha Beck stated, “Your situation may endanger your life and limbs, but only your thoughts can endanger your happiness.”

Spiritual beliefs and practices

It’s strange an atheist like me would bring up spiritual beliefs and practices. Take a read/listen to this sermon — The Spirituality of Atheism — by Rev. Anthony David of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Atlanta.

A sense of meaning and purpose

I need to be able to answer why. It turns out this question has lead to a pretty interesting journey.

What is your meaning and purpose?

What do you do to stay well?

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