Personal health is something that most of us strive for, but often don’t feel like we’ve achieved.
It’s a never-ending project that takes time, effort, consideration, and a certain amount of dedication. Actually who am I kidding, A LOT of dedication.
Some of us are under the impression that we have our general health under control, while others feel like they have no clue where their health stands—or perhaps their health is not a priority right now.
But the real question is, what does “being healthy” really mean?
The definition of healthy is subjective, and could mean a number of things to different people. What you define as healthy could be quite different from what your best friend or partner deems as healthy. Which can—and often does—lead to debate.
My goal is to change that, and find some common ground between the opposing beliefs to establish and define a standard. Ambitious, I know. But here it goes.
When I think of being healthy the following things come to mind:
- Exercising daily
- Sleeping 7-9 hours a night
- Eating as little processed foods as possible, organic as often as possible, and as many veggies as I can
- Drinking lots of water
- Drinking a moderate amount of alcohol, or none at all
- Meditating daily, or participating in another daily activity to help reduce stress
- Making time for close friends and family, weekly
- Walking Ellie (my dog) EVERY day (usually 3 times)
- Thinking about personal development—what are the little things that I can do each day to be better?
- Making time for the things that make me happy, daily
When I think of health and wellness I often go back to a model that I learned in 1st year psych—which outlines the 7 dimensions of wellness. So I figured it would be a good idea to share those dimensions with you.
- Social Wellness– The ability to relate to and connect with other people in our world. Our ability to establish and maintain positive relationships with family, friends and co-workers contributes to our social wellness.
- Emotional Wellness – The ability to understand ourselves and cope with the challenges life can bring. The ability to acknowledge and share feelings of anger, fear, sadness or stress, as well as hope, love, joy and happiness in a productive manner contributes to our emotional wellness.
- Spiritual Wellness – The ability to establish peace and harmony in our lives. The ability to develop congruency between values and actions and to realize a common purpose that binds creation together contributes to our spiritual wellness.
- Environmental Wellness – The ability to recognize our own responsibility for the quality of the air, the water and the land that surrounds us. The ability to make a positive impact on the quality of our environment—be it our homes, our communities or our planet—contributes to our environmental wellness.
- Occupational Wellness – The ability to get personal fulfillment from our jobs or our chosen career fields, while still maintaining balance in our lives. Our desire to contribute in our careers to make a positive impact on the organizations we work in and to society as a whole leads to our occupational wellness.
- Intellectual Wellness – The ability to open our minds to new ideas and experiences that can be applied to personal decisions, group interaction and community betterment. The desire to learn new concepts, improve skills and seek challenges in pursuit of lifelong learning contributes to our intellectual wellness.
- Physical Wellness – The ability to maintain a healthy quality of life that allows us to get through our daily activities without undue fatigue or physical stress. The ability to recognize that our behaviors have a significant impact on our wellness and adopting healthful habits (routine check-ups, a balanced diet, exercise, etc.) while avoiding destructive habits (tobacco, drugs, alcohol, etc.) will lead to optimal physical wellness.
I like this model because it highlights that physical wellness is only one piece of the health and wellness puzzle. Often when people think of their health, they only see the physical side of the picture. Which—as this model emphasis—is only one facet to your overall health and well being.
The key to achieving a healthy and happy life is balance.
I often feel like our attempts at being healthy lead to some adverse side effects. Like stress. We often put a lot of pressure on ourselves to achieve our goals—health and otherwise—which can lead to unnecessary stress on our body. But this does not have to be the case.
Let’s look at how introducing exercise—or perhaps increasing the amount of exercise that you currently do—can effect your overall health and well being. When planning to start or continue with an exercise program you must ensure that you are doing so in a way that enables you to maintain a balanced routine. Which means that you must evaluate your current life first.
If you don’t exercise and/or eat poorly, then your lifestyle is not balanced and needs to be addressed without question. To make sure that you lead a healthy life you have to find a way to incorporate physical fitness and a healthy diet into your routine, while effectively balancing all other aspects—social, emotional, spiritual, environmental, occupational, and intellectual.
This can be a daunting task, but the first step to success is to put yourself—and your current lifestyle—under the microscope.
Most of us spend too much time honing in on one the 7 dimensions of wellness. Which of course causes us to put the others on the back burner.
- You may currently be working too many hours—causing you to feel like you don’t have time to exercise. If this is the case, ask yourself: Is there any way I can increase my efficency at work so that I can leave early two to three times per week?
- You like to go out with friends a few nights a week for dinner, to the movies, etc. which causes you to eat foods that are unhealthy for you, or skip your workouts. If this is the case, ask yourself: Can I recruit any of these friends to be active with me? Or can we get together to make some healthy meals for the week instead of going out for dinner?
- You love to watch TV because it “takes your mind off things.” If this sounds like you, try going for a walk or replacing one hour of your TV time with exercise. Or cutdown on your TV intake and go to bed an hour earlier for some extra ZZZ’s.
These are just a few examples, but your can see how analyzing your current routine will illuminate where you have some wiggle room.
The point is to do your best to be realistic, look for solutions, and try not to compromise one area of your wellness for another. At risk of sounding like a broken record, strive for balance.
Don’t expect each week to be perfect; and contrarily, don’t let imperfections lead you to failure. Know that success takes work and your pathway will not be linear.
More often than not when people try to lead a healthier lifestyle they focus on all of the sacrifices they will need to make in order to exericse and/or eat better. Sacrifices are necessary, but before you start making them it’s important to recognize that being healthy is a practice that will never be perfect. The quest for perfection—in anything—is a journey that will only lead to disappointment if you set unrealistic goals for yourself. So before you take your first step on your road to health and wellness, set goals you know you can achieve—be honest with yourself—don’t be afraid to seek help and support, and make sure to celebrate each success, no matter how big or small. I guarantee that by doing so you will contribute to your overall personal happiness.
What are you waiting for?
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