Wellness in the recent years has become a popular word – you would often hear it among the people who practice yoga, adhere to ‘healthy’ diets and follow different holistic practices. To people ‘in the know’ wellness is the way of life, to those unaware it may sound like a fad. But the truth is – it is not a fad and you do not have to follow any of those practices in particular to find your personal wellness.
I have embarked on my search for Wellness about 4 years ago, and yes, for me it did mean a drastic shift in my lifestyle, and this shift was for the better, I can say for sure. But eventually this shift led me to a collapse, because I was trying too hard to be all the things ‘healthy’ on the outside while totally ignoring the way I felt on the inside. So, even though I had long thought that I have found my Wellness, I yet had to embark on another search for it, to truly understand what my personal wellness was, not the one I have been reading about online.
During this time I have learned a few critical things about Wellness:
- There are many aspects in life that contribute to your personal wellness – focusing on just one of them will not miraculously make you feel good.
- Adhering to particular diets, exercises and other practices that are advertised to boost your wellness will not necessarily boost it. Each person is unique and needs a unique approach. You can try as many things as you like, but if it doesn’t feel right, it’s not going to work.
- Your life changes and evolves all the time, things change and your needs change, too; this may shift the balance between the different aspects of your well-being, so doing the things that have previously worked for you may no longer work. It is important to understand this and be flexible and adaptive.
- Ultimately, it is not about doing certain things, it is about doing the things that make you feel good inside and outside.
To explore the aspects, or dimensions, of Your Personal Wellness I suggest to look at this Wellness Wheel below. The wellness wheel seems to be a popular tool when explaining what wellness is, and I find it useful, too – it is visual and uncomplicated, and shows all the dimensions of your wellness.
- Emotional wellness means being aware of your feelings and emotions and also being positive about your life. It is being able to feel happiness and joy, or being emotionally stable. It doesn’t mean that you should never feel sad or angry, but it means accepting those feelings and being able to move on, to manage your emotions. Emotional wellness affects your self-esteem and self-perception as well as the perception of your life in general. If your emotions are off and you feel stressed out, sad, angry or fearful, ask yourself what makes you feel that way? Do you get enough sleep? Do you work too much or have problems in school or other areas of your life, such as relationship or finances? Even a cluttered environment can affect your emotions in a bad way. See if you can change the situation or change the way you feel about it. Think what can bring happiness and joy back into your life. Read a book on positive psychology or attend a positive thinking workshop and devise a plan to manage your problems.
- Intellectual wellness means being curious and engaged, striving to continue self-development and learn new things and skills, being creative. It also means being able to think critically, solve problems and make decisions, being able to set goals and take reasonable risks. Can you manage your time? Are you accountable for your actions? Are you investing time in education and personal development? Are you independent in your decisions? If you answer ‘no’ to any of those questions, take time to reflect and ask yourself ‘why’? Take up a new hobby, read books or sign up for classes that you have never tried. Challenge your intellectual side.
- Being in a good physical shape is very important for the way you feel about yourself and the quality of your life. Physical aspect involves your nutrition, your physical activity and health. It is also important that you get enough sleep and a proper medical care. If you feel like you’re out of shape, take up walking or take a fitness or a dancing class. It doesn’t have to be the same thing as everyone else is doing. It should be something that you enjoy doing, something that gives you energy and nourishes your soul and mind, not just conditions your body. If you do not like something there’s no point in doing it – look for other ways, there are plenty. Likewise, if you feel that your dietary habits let you down, try changing your meals to healthier ones. Try new things but don’t beat yourself up if you don’t like them, there’s got to be something else for you that will work. Just make sure that it is well-balanced and not lacking in vital nutrients. ‘Addition, not exclusion’ is the best rule to go by. Don’t focus on foods you should not eat, just add better options to your daily menu, especially vegetables and fruits, and let them gradually change your habits.
- Being socially well means having positive relationships with people and being a part of a community, enjoying socializing with friends and colleagues, being able to engage with people, show empathy and care and be a good listener. We are social creatures and having relationships with other people is extremely important to us. But it also happens that sometimes we need to re-assess our relationships. Do you have close friends or family members that you could go to in times of need or stress? Do your relationships bring you positive emotions or are they negative and toxic? Do you feel like you belong in your community or culture? All these things matter. If something feels off, it is time to think and reflect and may be let go of relationships that no longer bring you joy, and make room for new, more positive relationships.
- Occupational wellness includes your attitude towards your work, your career goals and current occupational status. Are you doing what you want to be doing? Do you possess the necessary skills, are you provided with relevant training and given opportunity for growth at your work place? How is your work-life balance? Is your work environment healthy and safe? Are you satisfied with your job? See if you can improve any of those to improve your life quality.
- Healthy living environment covers everything from clean air and water, availability of healthy organic foods and toxin-free personal products to your immediate living environment – your home. If your living conditions are not up to a certain standard, it may be hard for you to feel truly well. When your home is cluttered, it may stress you out and not let you relax or focus. In a bigger picture, it is not uncommon for people to move cities or even countries to avail of a better climate that is more appropriate for their health conditions. Explore your options with an open mind before you start arguing that you couldn’t move because of this and that. It is your health and quality of life that matter the most.
- Another aspect of environmental wellness is being aware about your environmental footprint and living consciously, recycling and composting whenever you can, conserving energy and other resources. We could always go a little bit greener – not only is it good for the planet, it is also good for our sense of well-being. Doing your bit and being a conscious consumer is the way to help you improve your environmental wellness.
- Being financially well is understanding your financial situation, being able to successfully manage your finances and finding a balance between your earnings, savings and investments. Trying to budget ahead and keep debt-free while also learning to be a responsible consumer is the ultimate way to go for a healthy financial status.
- Although it sounds close to being religious, being spiritual does not necessarily mean religion. Being spiritual means the ‘ability to experience and integrate meaning and purpose in life through a person’s connectedness with self, others art, music, literature, nature, or a power greater than oneself’. There are many ways to nurture your spirituality; faith, religion and prayer is a more traditional and accepted way. Yoga and meditation are ways to find your spirituality, too, depending on how deep you want to go in those practices. Long walks in the nature on your own is another way to connect with yourself and nature. Being spiritual also means forgiving, both yourself and the others, it means being kind, loving and caring as a person. Your spirituality and beliefs are responsible for shaping your core values, your vision and experience of the world around you, it is a part of who you are and thus it affects your sense of well-being. Getting in touch with your spiritual side may help fill the void we sometimes have and also open new doors.
So what is wellness after all? It is a very fine balance between all of those dimensions. If each of the dimensions is perfectly balanced to your individual needs, you will have the overall feeling of wellness. If any one of them is out of balance, you will feel out of balance too. And because our circumstances change over time, our needs change, too. Changes in any of them will lead to a shift in the way you feel and will require you to take action, to change something to get back on track. That is why it is important to listen to what your body and mind say, and this is exactly where some kind of spiritual practices, like meditation or mindfulness come in handy – they enable you to take some time and look inside your mind. Since you are a unique human being, your personal wellness is a unique balance between those dimensions, and only you know which things are truly good for you. You may not see it straight away, it may take a lot of reflecting and experimenting, but ultimately only you can decide what is good for you and what isn’t. Keep an open mind, listen to your body and follow your heart.
Listen to silence. It has so much to say.