A Comprehensive Way to Greater Health and Wellness
All too often, especially when young, people tend to fall into the trap of taking their health for granted and not understanding what it really means to live well. Generally, one’s health and wellness can only be neglected for so long before it either stops you in your tracks or greatly impedes your ability to live your ideal life. By learning to attend to your health as early as possible and by taking a multi-faceted approach to living well, you can greatly accelerate your progress toward living your ideal life.
In this article I present a roadmap for increasing your physical and mental wellbeing. There are many coaches who specialize in this area who can help you one-on-one to increase your level of health and wellness. Often the accountability and encouragement a coach can provide can make the difference in getting you to reach your goals.
A comprehensive strategy
When many people think about getting healthier, they often make the mistake of thinking too narrowly—getting physically healthier by either joining a gym, exercising more or losing weight. And while getting adequate exercise and maintaining muscle mass especially as you age is certainly a part of healthy living, it is but one arm of a comprehensive strategy for increasing health and wellness.
A comprehensive approach to health and wellness must first take into consideration the connection between the mind and body. While we once thought, as Descartes proposed, that the mind and body were separate entities that functioned independently, it is now widely accepted that they are actually intricately interconnected. The positive mental benefits that accompany physical exercise is but one example of this connection. How strong you feel physically also tends to correlate with how capable you feel to cope with life’s challenges.
I encourage you to consider a multi-faceted approach that takes into consideration both your physical (body) and psychological (mind) needs. Let’s walk through the key components of what I mean by a comprehensive health and wellness strategy. Some of these may be more obvious while you may never had considered the others as key to bolstering your health and wellbeing.
A multi-faceted approach
Exercise – Moderate exercise at least three days a week is a key component of a comprehensive health and wellness strategy. As previously mentioned, exercise has both physical and psychological benefits. In addition to increasing physical functioning and longevity, exercise can be a great stress reliever and mood enhancer. If you’re committed to increasing your health and wellbeing incorporating some form of regular moderate exercise is a necessity. The key is to understand yourself well enough to choose a form of exercise that you both enjoy and to which you can commit. For example, do you prefer going for a run by yourself several times a week or do you need the accountability of committing to a group exercise class?
Nutrition – In recent years, the connection between nutrition and not only our physical wellbeing but also our psychological functioning is becoming more clearly understood. Our bodies are simply not designed to consume the amounts of processed food, additives and sugar that the average individual typically consumes. Over time, such a diet can lead to chronic inflammation in our system and negative psychological effects. Reducing your intake of sugar, processed foods and simple carbohydrates while increasing your intake of vegetables and proteins can have a powerful impact on both your physical and mental wellbeing (Campbell-McBridge, 2010). Many people make the mistake of beginning an exercise program while continuing to eat in an unhealthy way. Doing so is like taking one step forward and two steps back. Your progress will be exponential if you combine both exercise and healthy eating.
Sleep – Many people fail to recognize how important sleep is to our physical and mental wellbeing. As Arianna Huffington brings to light in her book, The Sleep Revolution: Transforming Your Life, One Night at a Time, modern technology that never shuts off and hectic lifestyles often leave most people significantly sleep-deprived which can have dramatic negative impacts on our wellbeing. When trying to optimize your health and wellbeing it’s critical to first understand how much sleep you personally need to maintain your health and then make the necessary changes in your daily routine to ensure you’re getting enough sleep as least most of the time.
Optimal stress levels – When most people hear the word stress, they think of it as something to avoid or decrease in their lives. Typically, people are referring to a sense of distress or feeling overwhelmed when they say they are “stressed.” But as stress researcher Hans Selye (1978) explains, stress is the “spice of life” and that humans actually need an optimal level of stress in order to feel engaged in life. With too little stress, we end up feeling bored and ultimately stop growing because there is nothing challenging us. With too much stress, we end up feeling more overwhelmed and threatened. But with an optimal level of stress we feel engaged, challenged, stimulated and ultimately end up enjoying life more. The key for your wellbeing is to find just the right sweet spot of stress level that works for you.
Creativity/growth/making an impact – As humans, we have a natural inclination to want to grow and develop our gifts and talents. Going right along with finding our optimal stress levels, when we find the right level of challenge in our lives we are more likely to discover states of flow as described by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (1990). Flow states are associated with greater levels of creativity and wellbeing. The more you can find ways of developing your gifts and talents to create something that positively impacts something beyond yourself – either other people, animals, the environment, or a body of knowledge, the greater your wellbeing and sense of meaning in your life.
Connection – Humans are social beings and having healthy social support and feeling connected to our family, friends and community plays an important part in maintaining our health and wellbeing. With changes in how we communicate and interact with modern technology, one phenomenon is that while we may be “connected” to several people, those connections are often taking place over some piece of technology. When talking about feeling genuinely connected to others, pay particular attention to the power of the human touch and actually being physically present with someone. There’s nothing like feeling someone’s hand on your shoulder or looking into someone’s eyes.
Spirituality – In conjunction with our need as human beings to feel connected to other people, is our need to feel connected to something larger than ourselves – be it God, the universe or some higher power. While in the past, most people were introduced to a spiritual life through formal religion, many young people have become disillusioned and don’t attend formal religious services regularly. In such cases, it’s important to find alternative ways of nurturing one’s spiritual life.
Solitude/Time in Nature – An important part of ensuring one’s health and wellbeing is finding time to reconnect with yourself in moments of solitude. In today’s modern world where you can be surrounded by noise and stimulation 24/7 if you choose to, making the time to consciously disconnect with the outside world in order to reconnect with your inner world is more important to one’s health and wellbeing than you might realize. For at least 15-20 minutes every day, disconnect from all electronics and sit by yourself either in silence or practice some form of meditation. I think you’ll be amazed at the impact on your sense of wellbeing.
Many people find being out in nature is a helpful way of finding peace and solitude. I encourage you to not only spend as much time as you could outdoors but be fully present when doing so. Pay attention to all your senses: notice the sounds of the birds, fragrances of the flowers, and the feel of the ground underneath you. Finding time for solitude and moments of quiet in nature can be quite challenging in today’s fast-paced highly stimulating world but it’s crucial to obtaining higher levels of health and wellbeing.
Fun – While feeling productive and making a contribution to the world is important, so is simply having fun and truly enjoying oneself. Learning to embrace those moments where you can just relax, have fun and enjoy either what you are doing or the company you are sharing is also important for maintaining health and wellbeing. While having fun tends to come more naturally to us as children, many adults often get weighed down by responsibilities and commitments and forget to simply have fun. Be sure to not only allow yourself to have fun but consciously carve out time to simply play and you may be amazed at the positive impact on your wellbeing.
Watch Your Thinking – When considering one’s health and wellbeing, one factor that often gets overlooked but has a tremendous impact on our overall functioning is the quality of our thinking. The reason our thinking is so important for our wellbeing is its relationship to our emotions. Our emotions are forms of energy that run through our bodies. The quality of our thinking determines what emotions, and therefore what types of energy, ends up flowing through our bodies. Negative thinking leads to more negative emotions, such as fear and anger, which cause distress to our bodies and ultimately decreases our health and wellbeing. More constructive thinking ultimately sends either neutral or more positive energies through our system. Becoming more mindful or aware of your thinking and ultimately learning to engage only constructive or positive thoughts can be one of the most powerful things you can do to increase your health and wellbeing. Any form of meditation, yoga or similar exercise can be a powerful strategy you can use to gain better control over your thinking and ultimately your health and wellbeing.
Hopefully, you now have a better understanding of the need to take a multi-faceted approach to maintaining your health and wellbeing. I hope you take the time, perhaps in conjunction with a coach, to create a comprehensive wellness plan tailored specifically for you—one that fits you and your lifestyle and one to which you can fully commit.
Campbell-McBride, N. (2010). Gut and Psychology Syndrome: Natural Treatment for Autism, Dyspraxia, A.D.D., Dyslexia, A.D.H.D., Depression, Schizophrenia. Cambridge, England: Medinform Publishing.
Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1990). Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience. New York, NY: Harper & Row Publishers, Inc.
Huffington, A. (2016). The Sleep Revolution: Transforming Your Life, One Night at a Time. New York, NY: Harmony Books.
Selye, H. (1978). The Stress of Life. By: Hans Selye.
All too often, especially when young, people tend to fall into the trap of taking their health for granted and not understanding what it rea...