What does “wellness” mean to you? The term itself is somewhat vague and could easily be written off as a buzzword. Lately, I’ve seen it used to refer to everything from exercise to holistic medicine. I suppose wellness is broad enough to encompass a lot of health-related topics, especially if we take the term to mean something like “the state of being well.” But then we’re back to where we started: what does it mean to be well?
A lot of people will answer that question differently. Some may prioritize mental health, some fitness, some nourishment, some relaxation–the list goes on. If being well is a combination of these states, then there are also lots of different ways to achieve them. My path to wellness, for instance, includes lots of organic, mostly vegan foods–especially greens and whole grains–and organic, whole beauty and skin care products. I also work in a lot of creative and mental health practices like journaling, writing out my daily and weekly intentions, and planning and cooking meals at home. And, finally, I exercise a few times a week. I try to keep it fun, but I’ll admit, sometimes exercise is the last thing I want to do. If I’m feeling strongly about not exercising, I don’t–and I don’t let myself feel guilty about it. Other days I push through, because I tend to feel better when I stay active. And by “better” I mean calmer, emotionally lighter, happier, and like life in general runs a little smoother. That doesn’t mean life is always perfect because I actively work toward wellness; it just means that when I let healthy living practices go I often feel cranky, crappy, and out of control.
Maybe that’s just me, but that’s my “why” when it comes to wellness.
So why should you care about wellness? Well, the short answer is that you shouldn’t–not unless you have something to gain that you actually value. I’m not going to try to convince you that you need to live a certain way, because how you live is really none of my business. Some people couldn’t care less about wellness, and that’s totally up to them. If you’re someone who wants to live a healthier lifestyle, though, there’s probably something you want to gain from it, and you will be more invested in following healthy practices if you’re clear about what that is.
My advice to you, then, is to articulate what you stand to gain from a healthy lifestyle, and identify what practices will help you get there with the most joy and peace. In other words, don’t just say “I want X goal” because society says it’s cool to have/be, and then decide you need to start/stop doing X to get there. You’ll probably be miserable trying to live a lifestyle you aren’t completely invested in, working toward a goal you may not truly want, and then when you give up you’ll likely experience feelings of guilt and failure. If this scenario sounds at all familiar to you, why not try a different approach?
The great thing about wellness being such a broad category is that you get to identify what makes you feel well. Try out some different healthy practices, see what works and what doesn’t, and take note. Practice really listening to your body and how it responds to foods/products instead of following established standards or trends. If following someone else’s strict diet or exercise regimen is difficult for you, identify what’s not working and adapt your own plan. Health and wellness shouldn’t have to be hard or feel like a chore, because if doing something feels awful, guess what? That’s the opposite of wellness.
If you’re ready to identify your unique wellness goals + the practices that will help you live and feel better, here are some things you can do right away:
- Start a journal in which you write goals, intentions, and responses to things in your life. Journaling doesn’t have to be a long, drawn-out nightly process during which you pour out your heart and soul. If that’s the kind of journaling you do, awesome, but a few of the following ideas might be a positive addition to your practice. Try journaling in list-form. My daily and weekly intentions are really just lists of things I want to achieve and steps I need to take to get there. I usually write intentions in the mornings, and in the evenings I write about my responses and reactions to different parts of my day/life. If I felt angry on a given day, I make a note and try to figure out what I was reacting to. If I felt queasy or overly-tired, I write down any factors that might be related, like food, amount of sleep, caffeine consumption, etc. If I have a breakout, I list what I ate and used on my skin recently. Lists are a great way to identify what is and isn’t working in your life as well as set new goals for things you want to change or implement.
- Get cooking. Making your own meals at home helps you connect with what you’re consuming, and it also means you’re absolutely certain about what’s going into your meals. Think about what foods make you feel good while you eat them (taste), immediately after (satiety), and several hours later (wellness). (If you’re not sure, see step 1.) Foods that meet all three criteria should be your staples. Try coming up with new recipes that incorporate them, or, if they line up with my wellness foods, check out some of my recipes.
- Do what you love + focus on your end-goal. Find something pleasurable about both the act of exercise and what exercise does for you. Let’s be honest–exercise is often challenging, and it takes work. That’s kind of the point. You’ll probably get tired. You may not feel like doing it every day, but if you can find some part of it that you enjoy, let that be your focus. For instance, I love running outdoors, but it’s not super-easy for me. I have to work to convince myself to even get out the door, and while running I have to intersperse a lot of walking breaks. But I love being outside; I truly do enjoy running once I’ve hit my stride; and I love the way running regularly mellows me out (I’m naturally very anxious, somewhat high-strung, and emotional–running helps me chill out!). I do yoga for the same reason. Consider how you can make exercise work for you. What do you want to get out of it, and what will you actually enjoy doing?
Remember, wellness is about feeling well, not following trends or standards. Your choices are up to you and you alone, so figure out what you want and what you need to do to achieve it. I’d love to connect with you about your healthy living + wellness intentions. Feel free to comment or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you find these tips helpful, you can also subscribe to the blog and follow me on social media (see below) to make sure you don’t miss out on anything!