Why Wellness Matters
Start the New Year with your own personal wellness plan
Wellness matters because everything we do and every emotion we have is related to our wellbeing. Having Optimal Wellness is the active process of making choices toward a healthy and purposeful life.
Wellness is essential to enjoying a better quality of life. Having optimal wellness helps you manage stress, reduce the risk of disease, and allows for positive, social, emotional, and spiritual experiences. This ultimately leads to a healthier, happier, and more meaningful life.
In order to attain optimal wellness, you will need a plan. Studies show that setting specific goals when committing to lifestyle changes is necessary to produce lasting results.
In developing your plan one has to address The Mind, Body, and Spirit. We hear these terms often, but how do they translate to wellness? Mind, body and spirit describe the many complicated interactions between your thoughts, your body, and your environment. Your health depends on many factors: not only your genetics and current health status, but on your lifestyle, your emotional state, and social interactions. Understanding and believing you have control over your health is important in successfully making changes in your lifestyle, such as losing weight. In order to be successful, you need to be an active participant in designing your wellness plan.
There are many key aspects of Wellness to consider, especially the Emotional, Physical, Social, and Spiritual elements.
In order to achieve optimal wellness, you will need to evaluate what areas in your life need optimizing to attain your goal.
Let’s look at a few of these and get started on developing your own personal wellness plan. You can start writing your plan now. Get a piece of paper and write the word “Motivation.” Next, list all the reasons YOU want to have optimal wellness. Be specific: these are your uniquely personal reasons. Then write down short term and a corresponding long-term goal. Next to each short and long term goal, write the word “plan.” As we explore the different components of wellness, add any additional goals to your list. You can use suggestions from this article to help formulate your plan(s) for each goal. Later, we will discuss how to start executing your plan and how to stay on track to focus on and prioritize your goals.
Let’s define some of the areas of wellness and offer some suggestions on how to kick-start your plan.
Physical wellness relates to the proper care of our bodies for optimal health and functioning. Overall physical wellness is the appropriate balance of nutrition, physical activity, and emotional well-being.
Benefits of Exercise
Physical activity is critical to optimal wellness. The benefits of exercise are endless. If we could bottle exercise in a pill, it would be prescribed for everyone daily. Physical exercise strengthens the heart, skeletal muscles, and bones. It improves lung function, increases energy, and decreases our risk of developing chronic diseases like heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, stroke, and Alzheimer’s disease. Studies show exercise also improves cognitive function, memory, focus, and executive control function. It can also treat mild cases of depression and anxiety. Exercise reduces stress and increases a sense of well-being.
Here are a few methods to begin increasing your activity:
There are many different recommendations on how much exercise is enough. most experts recommend 30 minutes of aerobic exercise at least five times a week for cardiovascular health. You can break it up into three 10-minute sessions and it is equally effective. Some activity is always better than none. Get a pedometer and attempt to walk 10,000 steps a day. I like the Fitbit, but trackers manufactured by Nike, Garmin, and others will also do the trick. In addition you should also try and do weight bearing exercises at least 20minutes three times a week. Studies shows that these devices help keep people committed and motivated. You will need to schedule activity into your day. When you get up in the morning, make sure to plan some form of exercise into your daily schedule. If you don’t plan to do it, you probably won’t!
Make sure to find activities you enjoy:
Consider finding an exercise buddy. Sign up for a class together or just get out and walk, hike or ride a bike. Having an exercise buddy will turn your workout into a social plan…and each of you can motivate the other to stay on track!
If you work long hours and time is tight, take a walk at lunchtime, and even consider organizing a lunchtime walking group.
No time or interest in going to a gym? Need to work out at night? There are countless online exercise programs that cost under a dollar per class, including FITORBIT, HITCHFIT, and TRAINONLINE. You can also opt for an online program that combines toning, yoga, and Pilates, likes barre3.com. Of course, there are a variety of exercise DVD’s available in every fitness level and method. This is a great way to keep your exercise routine fresh and new.
Prefer tuning in while you work out? Purchase a piece of home exercise equipment and walk on the treadmill, do the elliptical, or ride the exercise bike while watching your favorite TV shows.
Adequate sleep is absolutely vital to your physical mental and emotional wellness.
Both the body and mind repair, and renew themselves while you sleep. Lack of sleep is associated with obesity, increased risk of diabetes, heart disease, and hypertension. In addition lack of sleep can cause mood disorders like depression and anxiety and reduced to cognitive function. There is also increasing evidence that chronic lack of sleep is associated with increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
So make sure you prioritize getting enough sleep. Ideally, try to maintain a regular sleep cycle. This means going to bed and getting up at the same time 7 days a week and getting between 7-9 hours of sleep a night.
Eating well is essential to have your body run in top condition. Food is your body’s fuel, and without the right nutrients, it cannot perform optimally. Food not only provides the essential nutrients for your body to function, it fuels your brain as well. Your food also informs your genes on how to express themselves; eating highly-processed nutritionally deficient food tells your body to slow down, and increases your risk of developing many diseases including, obesity, heart disease, diabetes, stoke, depression, Alzheimer’s, autoimmune diseases, and cancer. Eating the right foods is critical if your goal is optimal wellness.
Ways to improve your Nutrition:
Follow a whole food diet, based on vegetables, fruits, protein, some whole grains, and healthy fats. Research also shows that following a low glycemic load diet is important in optimal health and reducing risks of developing chronic disease. For more information regarding nutrition, read “The Low Glycemic Load Diet” by Dr Robert Thompson.
Remember to eat mindfully: sit down, enjoy your food, and take the time to enjoy every bite. Don’t eat while watching TV, checking e-mail, or reading.
Keep a food diary, at least for the first 21 days. This will help keep you on track until your new healthy eating choices have become your new habits.
Make sure to remove unhealthy foods from your house. If it’s not in your house, you will not be tempted. Make sure you have removed any trigger foods (those foods which you can’t stop eating).
Mental and Emotional wellness:
Emotional wellness includes self-care, relaxation, stress reduction, and the development of inner strength.
Optimism is essential for emotional wellness. Optimism allows you to handle emotions both positive and negative with an attitude that allows you to learn from your mistakes. Optimism is a choice: the more you practice it the more natural it will become to you.
Ways to reach emotional wellness:
Remind yourself to stay positive. When negative thoughts enter your head, block them and think the opposite. Trying to stop thinking of something negative will only make you think of it more. Replace the thought with something positive.
Smile! It will make you and those around you feel happier.
Be grateful: focus on what you have, not on what you don’t.
Practice being mindful: meditation can help decrease the physiologic and mental effects of stress. To understand more about the benefits of meditation click on articles on our website to read “Meditation Matters”
Practice techniques to decrease stress: Some effective methods to decrease stress include, exercise, focused breathing, visual imagery; spending time with family and friends, listen to relaxing music.
In order to have true emotional wellness, one needs to have a healthy diet, daily exercise, adequate sleep, manage stress and have good social connections.
Social wellness refers to the relationships we have and how we interact with others. We are social beings, and being connected members of a community is vital to our emotional health. Our relationships fill our lives with meaning, purpose, and joy. They also offer needed support during difficult times. Social wellness involves building healthy, nurturing, and supportive relationships, surrounding you with a positive social network that increases your self-esteem, happiness and emotional resilience.
Here are a few tips on improving social wellness:
Stay connected; make time to spend time with friends and family.
Reconnect with friends you have not seen in a while
Spend time volunteering; get a friend to join you.
Find an activity you enjoy and set up regular times to meet a friend; walking, hiking, and meeting at the gym are a fun way to complete your daily workout, but you can also bowl, play cards or other games, or see a movie.
It is also equally important to remove those people from your life who negatively affect your social wellness.
Spiritual wellness is about finding meaning and purpose in your life. It is about seeking meaning in your life events and realizing your individual purpose. Spiritual wellness does not mean you have to participate in a religious practice, however, that may be the way you choose to find your spiritual connection. Spiritual wellness is very personal, and your upbringing and personal experience may influence this journey.
Ways to find spiritual wellness:
Be self-reflective: what is my purpose?
How can I contribute to make the world a better place?
What gifts were you given to help others?
Putting You Plan Into Action
Here are some basic guidelines to get you started. You can see that all areas of wellness overlap and any improvement in one area of wellness will benefit them all.
First, in order to make lasting changes, you will need to make a commitment to yourself. All the advice about exercise, nutrition, and stress reduction will only work if you are committed to make the necessary changes. Tell yourself every morning, “ I can do this” your mind is the most powerful tool you have. Only you can make these changes permanent. Your thoughts dictate your actions. ‘I can,” translates into your personal success. Visual imagery can also help keep you motivated. Picture a physically healthier, happier you every day
So now you have your list of what motivates you. Self-motivation comes from finding exactly what motivates you. Whatever your reason, such as “I want to have more energy to do activities with my kids,” is fine. Write it down and keep it in your thoughts. This will help you to make healthy choices.
You now also have a list of short and long term goals, and have started to formulate a plan for each.
Make sure your goals and plans are specific. “I am going to exercise Mondays Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays before work.”
Next you will need to review your list of short and long-term goals. Prioritize what is the most important thing on your short-term goal list and write the #1 next to it. Do the same for your list of long-term goals. Continue to assign a number in order of priority to the rest of your goals. (you can use the Personal Wellness Plan Worksheet on our Web Site)
Pick the #1 short-term goal and develop a plan of action to accomplish it. Then repeat this for the corresponding long-term goal. Have a plan and a back-up plan. For example: “I’m going to get up and exercise every morning before work.” Are you really going to accomplish this every day? Your back-up plan can be a walk at lunch. Start with only this one change, then evaluate your success at the end of the week, and give yourself positive reinforcement. Did you have problems keeping the plan? How about the back-up plan? Perhaps exercising at a later time of the day might make it easier for you to commit. Was the plan too difficult or frustrating? If yes, evaluate how to rework your plan and get help if necessary. Your friends and family can be a resource, and seeking professional help may just be the answer you need to move forward.
Once you have successfully mastered your first goal, continue down your list. Some people may try to change more than one thing at a time. Do what works for you; many times, we try to change everything at once, become overwhelmed and give up. Start slow: the journey to wellness is more of a marathon than a sprint.
Start your day by telling yourself “It is going to be a great day! I can accomplish my
Good luck on your Wellness Plan…the healthier, happier, more evolved “you” will greatly appreciate all your efforts.