What is Wellness?
“Wellness is the act of practising healthy habits on a daily basis to attain better physical and mental health outcomes so that instead of just surviving, you are thriving.”
Wellness is a lifestyle choice and personalized approach to how you choose to live your life in order to achieve optimum health.
According to WHO (World Health Organization), health is defined as a “state of complete physical, mental and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease and infirmity”.
Overall wellness focuses on 8 x key lifestyle areas which are complementary to each other and include:
Identifying WELLNESS and understanding the basic concept is just the beginning
But how do we actually start to incorporate it into our everyday lives?
It is easy to read and research, but also easy to get bogged down in the details.
There is so much information and so many different ideas on what we should and shouldn’t be doing, that we end up bombarded with conflicting advice.
If we attempted to follow all the advice and tried to include everything in our everyday lives we’d have no time for anything else.
We often become so overwhelmed trying to improve our physical and mental well-being that we give up before we even start.
Have you attempted any of the following recommended morning activities:
- getting up earlier
- drinking lemon water
- 30 minutes of exercise
- practising breath-work
- practising gratitude
- eating a healthy breakfast
- having a cold shower to reset your nervous system
- reading for 20 minutes to stimulate your brain
I have, and quickly discovered I would need to start work two hours later than normal to fit it all in!
While it is important to do something, we can’t do everything!
Instead, you need to focus on one or two quick and simple steps from each of the eight key areas and identify what works for you.
Let’s break it down and look at how this can be achieved. But remember, there is no right or wrong way, it’s just how you can make it work for you.
Physical Wellness: Nourishing the body through Exercise, Nutrition and Sleep
Physical wellness is crucial. We all know that. It doesn’t matter what we read or listen to, someone is always spruiking the benefits of exercise, nutrition and sleep.
And for good reason, physical wellness is essential for our overall health and well-being.
Even though we know it is important, it is easy to cultivate bad habits and push the benefits of physical wellness to nether regions of our minds.
We are a culture that has developed poor physical habits. These unhealthy habits include over-indulging in unhealthy eating, consuming excessive alcohol, and lack of exercise and sleep.
It is easier to unwind with a glass of wine and Netflix than go for a brisk walk. Unfortunately, I am guilty of this more often than not.
Despite knowing what is good for us and our best intentions, bad habits are hard to break.
I know I am guilty of being aware of what I need to do, but actually putting it into practice and doing it is challenging.
Humans have this amazing knack for making up excuses for anything that we don’t want to invest time in.
Or in things that cause any discomfort.
But it is necessary that we start listening to, and taking care of our bodies. And start making a conscious effort to form good habits which will lead to a healthier lifestyle.
Physical activity helps keep our bodies fit and healthy, and has proven immediate and long-term health benefits.
Regular physical activity and exercise may:
- improve bone strength
- improve muscle and joint health
- reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as cancer, diabetes, stroke and heart attack
- lower blood pressure and improve heart health
- boost energy levels
- improve sleep quality
- enhance mood and mental well-being
- sharpen mental clarity
- assist with weight management
- improve memory and brain health
Aim for 30-minutes a day
Health professionals recommend that a minimum of 30-minutes of vigorous daily exercise has a positive impact on your overall health and well-being. Additionally, the benefits of being physically fit have been proven to reduce your risk of disease.
Regular physical activity can include:
- going to the gym
- yoga or Pilates
- team sports
It is suggested to engage in 30-minutes of physical activity where it is difficult to talk in full sentences. So in other words, you need to puff a bit and not take a leisurely stroll (guilty).
Also, flexibility and stretching help keep your muscles and joints healthy so always warm up or include a quick yoga session in your routine.
Mood and Memory
Physical activity and exercise are proven to assist with brain health. As a result, it enhances your mood, reduces depression and anxiety, blocks negative thoughts and distracts you from constant worries.
Exercise also stimulates the release of endorphins and reduces stress hormones.
- mental health
- cognitive functioning
- social anxiety
One study outlined a combination of moderate and vigorous physical activity each week saw a positive effect on cognitive function increase to 8% for men and 15% for women.
So next time you hit the gym, remember you are exercising more than just your body, you are keeping your brain fit and healthy at the same time.
Take care of your body – it is the only place you have to live
Doing some exercise a day is better than doing none.
Some days it is difficult to motivate yourself, but if you persist and get into the daily habit of participating in physical activity you will experience the benefits. Once you see the results of regular exercise, it will become easier to include in your normal daily routine.
Try to be active on most days of the week and aim for 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise.
A quick and easy way to increase your physical activity can be as simple as putting on YouTube and following a 30-minute Yoga or HIIT session. Or grabbing the dog lead and going for a brisk walk around the block.
Whatever you decide to do, whether it be walking the kids to school or participating in a structured gym class, or pounding the pavement jogging, it is always a good idea to see your doctor if you have any underlying health conditions, are physically unfit or pregnant.
Nutrition is vital for overall physical wellness.
The common saying “you are what you eat” is pretty spot on.
If you eat unhealthily and indulge in sugar and fat-laden foods you feel sluggish and increase your risk of disease.
Whereas if you include a healthy selection of food from the five main food groups, your body will thank you accordingly.
By changing your nutritional habits and ensuring you include a wide range of healthy food in your diet you improve your physical well-being. Furthermore, you are also reducing the risk of obesity and lifestyle-related chronic diseases.
A healthy and balanced diet provides your body with the nutrients it needs to function correctly. To maintain good health, limit your intake of empty calories. Empty calorie foods include cakes, biscuits, processed meats, energy and sugary drinks, and fried foods.
Without a balanced diet and good nutrition, your body is more prone to disease, infection and fatigue.
Four of the top ten leading causes of death can be directly linked to diet:
- heart disease
- type 2 diabetes
A nutritionally balanced diet includes a variety of food from the following groups:
- Lean meats, poultry and fish
There is an overload of online information when it comes to healthy food choices and nutritional advice. Regardless of what type of diet you follow, from vegan to pescatarian, you will find what you are looking for.
But the general consensus is to include a variety of nutritional foods in your daily dietary regime. As well as limiting unhealthy, occasional foods that don’t fit into the five food groups because they are unnecessary for a healthy diet.
Occasional foods are high in saturated fat, added salt and sugar, and have low levels of fibre:
- sweet biscuits, cakes, desserts, pastries
- processed meats, savoury pastries with high fat and salt content
- takeaway foods such as hot chips, hamburgers and pizza
- ice cream
- fried foods
- confectionary including chocolate
- potato chips, crisps or other salty packaged foods
- cream, butter and spreads high in saturated fats
Hmmm, hang on a minute … I’m focusing on the occasional food reference here.
Irrespective of how healthy I am trying to be … my cheese, bikkies and red wine aren’t going anywhere! No matter how much I want to embrace this wellness thingy, I still want to enjoy life!
So, my personal takeaway from all this is “enjoy in moderation”.
Even though I follow a balanced diet the majority of the time, I am still going to occasionally indulge and enjoy some of the things on the naughty list.
But, what you do is your choice. Personally, I believe life is too short for a diet of carrot sticks and tofu.
Side Note: healthy nutrition is difficult for me personally due to a total gastrectomy post gastric cancer. Maintaining a healthy diet whilst not having a stomach can be challenging, but is achievable. And I can eat most things these days. But malabsorption is an issue which can lead to nutritional deficiencies. Nutritional deficiencies can result in anemia and metabolic bone disease so therefore needs to be closely monitored.
Sleep is the final key area and dimension in physical wellness, and probably the most underrated.
Lack of sleep can be detrimental to your physical and mental well-being.
To fit everything else into our busy schedules we often sacrifice sleep.
Although the recommended minimum is for 8 hours of restful sleep to adequately function, the average adult sleeps less than six to seven hours a night. This then increases fatigue and daytime drowsiness.
The ill-effects of not getting enough sleep are a decline in function and performance, slower reaction times, decreased concentration and focus, and the inability to make informed judgements and decisions.
Being awake for 17 hours is equivalent to a blood alcohol content of 0.05, and can greatly impact our day-to-day functioning if we are sleep deprived.
The benefits of a great night’s sleep can assist mental alertness and physical wellness as it:
- improves attention and concentration
- helps maintain a healthy weight
- promotes heart health
- keeps the immune system strong
- improves emotional and mental well-being
- reduces stress levels
- regulates blood sugars
The 3 R’s – Recharge, Repair and Reset
Establishing a good bedtime routine helps promote healthy sleep to ensure you recharge, repair and reset:
- Ensure you go to bed and wake up at the same time, including at weekends, to regulate your body clock and reset your Circadian rhythm
- Make sure your sleep environment is quiet and comfortable
- Don’t drink caffeine after midday
- Avoid screens and white light in the last hour before bed
- Don’t watch TV, use screens or read in bed – bed is for sleep and intimacy only
- Alcohol interferes with your sleep cycle, so don’t drink in the evening
- Avoid stimulating activities before bedtime
- Relax your mind and try relaxation techniques or breathing exercises
- Listen to soothing sounds, relaxing music or sleep stories on a meditation app like CALM
- Turn your alarm clock away from you so you aren’t watching time tick by, or better still wake up naturally if possible
Life Begins at the End of your Comfort Zone
The bombardment of conflicting advice and overload of information on what you should do to attain a healthy body and mind can be overwhelming.
Trying to incorporate everything into your daily routine is challenging to maintain and sets you up to fail as it becomes unachievable.
Even though we know what is good for us, it’s easy to creep back into the familiar routines that we are comfortable with. As discussed in earlier posts, stepping out of your comfort zone and facing discomfort head-on, encourages us to grow, and change.
This is where the no pain, no gain comes into play.
Pain doesn’t necessarily mean physical pain. It can be the discomfort of getting up early, feeling self-conscious exercising in a group, the burn of underused muscles or the icy splash of cold water as you dive into a pool. It is anything that causes you discomfort and is outside your comfort zone.
Motivation is what gets you started. Habit is what keeps you going. – Jim Rohn
A Change in Habits Leads to a Change in Life
Be self-aware and pay attention to yourself, and what you are feeling. Know your strengths and weaknesses, and have an understanding of what you want to achieve. Knowing your end goal helps enhance your chance of success and achieving change.
“Your brain – every brain – is a work in progress. It is ‘plastic’. From the day we’re born to the day we die, it continuously revises and remodels, improving or slowly declining, as a function of how we use it.” – Michael Merzenich
The brain has this amazing ability to change, and rewire, as a result of our repeated actions.
Our everyday behaviour is already repeated in the form of habits, either good or bad, from unconsciously brushing our teeth or inattentively biting our fingernails.
Forming new and healthy habits creates a behaviour that happens without much awareness or conscious thought. New habits are formed through frequent repetition.
Cultivating good habits is pivotal as they influence health, well-being and quality of life.
Choose one or two simple steps to focus on, and once those steps are a regular part of your daily routine, then you can begin to implement other steps, and so on.
Making good choices and embracing healthy habits will help you achieve physical wellness.
And remember it’s never too early or too late to work towards being the healthiest you.
The 3 Steps to Physical Wellness:
- 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity a day
- Eat a balanced diet and don’t over-indulge in the occasional foods
- Implement a regular sleep routine and aim for 7-8 hours of restful slumber