Many of us assume that, if we don’t have an illness, we must be well. But if someone is bored, depressed, stressed or simply unhappy with their life, are they truly well? I know from personal experience that over time, negative emotional states can weaken the immune system, leading to physical and mental illness. Also, when we feel down, we may turn to smoking, alcohol and/or food as a substitute for other needs that are missing in our life – such as respect, recognition, support, a sense of purpose and belonging.
Wellness is a choice.
Every day you make choices. You choose what to eat, how to exercise both your body and your mind, how to express your emotions, how you react to situations you find yourself in, how to interact with others. You also choose how to take care of your environment. All our choices affect our level of well-being – some support it, and some destroy it.
Our “health care” system is actually one of “illness-care” for it only comes into play when something has “gone wrong” – it’s valuable in diagnosing disease, repairing injuries and the treatment of symptoms, but it is not effective in supporting us to make good choices towards our well-being.
Wellness comes from our lifestyle.
Most illnesses today are the result of our lifestyle. The introduction of technology means that rather than the physical work of our ancestors, we spend hours sitting at a desk, getting very little exercise. When we do get outside, it can be difficult to breath in “clean” air – there is so much pollution in our atmosphere from the number of cars on the road today. Our food is mass produced, genetically modified, covered in pesticides and insecticides, picked before it’s fully ripe and frozen to keep it looking “fresh” for longer. Our bodies are finely tuned computers, but they struggle to cope with the foreign onslaught they are expected to deal with – is it any wonder that we get sick?
Wellness is a process.
There are lots of ways we can create the life we want rather than just reacting to whatever comes along. I remember someone telling me some time ago “it’s not what happens to you, but how you react to what happens to you that counts”. It’s certainly true that there is benefit in seeing life’s challenges as opportunities for growth rather than as problems! If you are looking for a sense of satisfaction, I encourage you to volunteer on projects in your community that are meaningful to you.
Learn to create and nourish close relationships with others. It’s good for our well-being and for theirs too. Be open and supportive of those around you, but don’t forget to ask simply and directly for what you need and want from others, or you will struggle emotionally. And trust your intuition, it knows what’s best for you.
Wellness is the loving acceptance of yourself.
There are many stories about young people travelling the world in search of truth, only to return home and find the answer in their own backyard. The same is true of our own health and wellness. Attempts to find the doctor, book or “expert” that has the answers to our questions usually ends in frustration. Looking within, and assuming responsibility for what you find there is a necessary condition for wellness. A friend and mentor once told me “If you don’t look within, you’ll go without”. How true! Know that you are unique and the only expert about yourself.
And then there is love. Love is not “out there” waiting to be found, it is within you, wanting to be recognised. In fact, as you fall in love with yourself, you naturally get healthier. To love yourself is to love your body, your emotions, your intelligence, your spiritual nature. It is to trust, accept, understand and forgive yourself. Forgiveness, whether of yourself or others, often brings with it a relaxation in the body, and peace of mind. This harmony is the essence of health and the heart of wellness.
How we think affects how we feel. How we feel affects how we take care of ourselves. How we take care of ourselves affects how we think and feel. It’s a circle. We can either go on an upward spiral, or a downward one. I know which direction I like to go in – what about you? What are your thoughts about wellness and (as I prefer to call it) well-being? Please share in the comments below!