Ahhh, “wellness”...such a nice word with such a vague meaning. Don’t we all want to be well? So what is it and how do we get it? Why is wellness such an enormous industry? The answer probably lies within the fact that people long to be well and stress free. Wellness has different definitions but all are positive,inviting, and cluster around life satisfaction. It is, in short, entirely positive. The central tenant of wellness is recognizing the importance of being healthy from the angle of medical diseases/illnesses, but also to have a general “well-being”. Most experts agree that there are different components to wellness: emotional, physical, spiritual, social, intellectual and environmental.

Emotional wellness is lacking for many. In fact, 1 in 5 adult Americans experience mental illness at any given time. Think about that for a moment. This takes a toll on all other wellness components. The importance of seeing a clinician and getting help cannot be underscored. Although not extremely easy, there are a few simple/doable/FREE things one can do to move toward emotional wellness. One such action focuses on exercising forgiveness. Ugh, I know .. stay with me. Research studies abound supporting one simple fact: forgiving oneself and others eliminates stress to a large degree. Additionally, exercising prayer, meditation, or quiet reflection all aid our emotions. Time magazine recently issued a special edition on wellness which cites an acronym to stay in check with emotional wellness in time of stress. This acronym, “STOP” :

Stop yourself

Proceed but more slowly and mindfully to give yourself a moment before an impulse reaction. Certainly, we all can relate to that.

Social wellness: A survey from the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) cites that 1:3 adults over 45 in the USA report feeling lonely. Not only is this sad and shocking , it is unhealthy. In fact, suffering from loneliness carries the same health risk as smoking 1/2 pack of cigarettes a day. Staying connected with the right circles is an option for all of us. Social groups, volunteering, work, religious participation, community center membership are all opportunities readily available. Life is not a rehearsal. So what would happen if we actually did step out of our comfort zones to widen our social support circles? Probably... something positive.

Spiritual wellness:Spirituality is healthy as there is typically an association with social support and good health habits.

Intellectual wellness: Your brain needs to exercise or it gets “fuzzy”. Keeping the cylinders in your brain active through activities like playing puzzles or playing a board game, taking a class, crafting etc all decrease the incidence of cognitive impairment. Sign me up! 

Environmental wellness: In short, getting outside anywhere particularly in a green, colorful space makes people happier. This facet of wellness is a broad topic but study after study points to the “bottom line” being to decrease exposure to pesticides, preservatives, packaged foods and plastic drinking bottles. Something as simple as having plants in your home or office space helps to clear harmful chemicals - Jade, Spider plant, and Bromeliad are some examples.

Physical wellness: Another shocking fact for all of us is that 72% of Americans over 20 are overweight or obese. The American Heart Association recommends 30 minutes of moderate exercise daily along with weight bearing exercise. The best way to increase our metabolism is to increase muscle mass. The truth is that it is never too late to start exercising. As a side note, yoga is an exercise that has been shown to not only decrease menopausal hot flashes but also to improve overall wellness. OK, yoga.... what’s the appeal? Essentially yoga can make one more aware of what your mind is taking you and can subsequently offer a reprieve to the rat race. Consider inhaling and exhaling fully, releasing tension, increasing strength, and letting the mind rest. One simple thing all of us can do to move toward physical wellness is to slow down our eating pace. When we slow down, chew, and enjoy each bite we get full sooner and derive more pleasure from eating.

Both “Calm” and “Headspace” are two awesome wellness apps. Something good to consider.

As we all continue this life’s journey, I wish you the best in wellness.

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