Wellness. That word has been thrown around with abandon in recent years. But what exactly is it, and how can it be applied to our everyday lives?
“A state of optimal well-being that is oriented toward maximizing an individual's potential.” Mickinley Health Center, Illinois
“A dynamic process of becoming aware of, taking responsibility for, and making choices that directly contribute to one's well-being and that of the common good." Herbert Wellness Center, Miami
There are countless definitions of wellness, and the word means different things to different people.
For my purposes, I define Wellness as: “A state of being where everything is working together harmoniously; mind, body, and spirit, in a way that optimizes physical health, mental clarity, productivity, and acceptance of self and others.”
When we are well, we are at ease. We feel fulfilled. When mind, body, and spirit sync up amazing things happen for our health, relationships, and career. This is because when all three aspects are working together, they take care of each other.
We make healthier food choices and move our bodies more, because our mind and spirit want a healthy vehicle to transport them around.
We are more productive at school or work because our body and spirit want our mind to realize its potential.
We let go of relationships that no longer serve us, avoid drama, and gravitate towards those who support us and hold space for us to grow. We feel a deepened sense of connection to others and ourselves. The body and the mind know that we need a strong spirit in order to live our best lives.
The above are just the tip of the iceberg in terms of what fostering the mind, body, spirit connection can do for us.
Sound good? Still with me?
Now that we've defined Wellness, how do we achieve this state of heightened awareness and synergy ?
In a word, Mindfulness.
The standard definition of mindfulness is: "A mental state achieved by focusing one's awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one's feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations."
The definition I like best comes from the title of a book by Ram Das: “Be Here Now.”
Be. Here. Now.
Simple statement, challenging practice. Sadly, the majority of us frequently find ourselves caught in one of the below three categories:
Be there now.
We live in a culture of want and never enough. We envy the lifestyles of celebrities, flip through the Victoria’s Secret catalog while berating our thighs, scroll through our Facebook feed and compare our lives unfavorably to those of our high school classmates. We think that we could attain happiness if we could have the talent, looks, money or education of others. We may long for the glory days of the past, or lament the roads not traveled, the opportunities not seized.
Be everywhere now.
American culture glorifies busy. We lead these lives with jam-packed schedules, where we are always rushing to get to the next activity. We have breakfast on the commute to work/school, we check emails while out to lunch with a friend, drive the kids to soccer practice while making mental to-do lists for after they go to sleep. We fall into our beds exhausted, yet unfulfilled. Another day checked off, new cycle to start again in the morning. We have become so good at multitasking, and have such fear of missing out, that we are everywhere but where we actually are.
Be nowhere now.
Burnout and depression are far too common in our society. Frustrated that we can't have it all or do it all, many of us withdraw and avoid the present. We go from one mind-numbing activity to another all day long. We play games on our phones, binge watch television shows we have seen countless times before, we put unhealthy food in our bodies at an alarming rate, numb ourselves with one too many glasses of wine/beers after work. We are totally zoned out, because we don’t want to deal with how unhappy and disconnected we feel from ourselves and others.
One of the things all these states of being have in common, is that none of them are focused on the present. In fact, they all use tactics to actively distract us from the present moment!
I am here to tell you , It doesn’t have to be that way.
So what now ?
To cultivate an environment where well-being can take root and flourish, we begin by introducing mindfulness to the body, which in turn spills over to the mind and spirit.
One method is the physical practice of Yoga. Yoga is not just stretching. It forces us to be in our bodies 100%, and notice what we notice. When we become more aware of our body and what it truly does for us every day, we want to treat it more kindly. Do things that make it feel good. Feed it nourishing foods and move it more.
When we are totally in our bodies, our minds cannot wander, so we start to foster a connection between body and mind. Our mind stays in the present, which with practice translates to our lives beyond the Yoga mat. We start to be more present at work, in our relationships, even while completing the most mundane everyday tasks! We start to notice things we hadn’t seen before; the beautiful blue of the sky, that old Victorian house overgrown with vines that we drive past every day (when did they put that there?!),we catch subtle expressions and body language cues from coworkers, clients and family members. We notice small ways we can improve our work productivity or manage our time better.
As we continue in our mindfulness practices we find a form of meditation that works for us. Not all meditation is done seated in a lotus position, chanting a mantra, while gazing out through our third-eye. Meditation can happen while on a hike,cooking a favorite meal, or while petting your dog.
There are many ways to the top of the mountain, and not all paths are right for all people. It is about listening to yourself and finding your personal path to Wellness. It takes a fierce level of commitment and it can be extremely beneficial to have a mentor to help guide, support, cheer you on, and hold you accountable on your journey.
Still here? Awesome. Intrigued? Whether you think you might benefit from a private Yoga session, or some goal-focused coaching, I'd love to hear from you.