Wellness from Within

Wellness From Within: The First Step

"If you could choose to enjoy better health, would you be interested? Do increased energy, greater enthusiasm, and an enhanced sense of well-being appeal to you? How about a greater sense of joy?

The good news is, these things are possible for you. Within yourself, you have the power you need to create wellness in your life. That power is your power of choice.

Health is More Than the Absence of Disease.

According to the World Health Organization, "Health is more than the absence of disease. Health is a state of optimal well-being." Optimal well-being is a concept of health that goes beyond the curing of illness to one of achieving wellness. Achieving wellness requires balancing the various aspects of the whole person. These aspects are physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual. This broader, (w)holistic approach to health involves the integration of all of these aspects and is an ongoing process.

The American Holistic Health Association (AHHA) has developed this booklet to help you achieve wellness in your life. It will answer some of the most commonly asked questions about the holistic approach to health and wellness and start you on your path to optimal well-being.

Your Health is Your Responsibility 

Many of us have been brought up to believe that our health depends solely on the quality of the healthcare we receive. The truth is, your health is your responsibility. You are the only person who can make the lifestyle decisions that contribute to your well-being. You are the one who must take the steps to preserve your health and promote your wellness. Only you have the power to create wellness for yourself.

Your power lies in the choices you make every day on your own behalf. If you react out of habit or fixed attitudes, you may not be using your choices wisely to create wellness in your life. To create wellness you must expand your focus beyond mere physical health, and: 

  • Strive to balance and integrate your physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual aspects
  • Establish respectful, cooperative relationships with your family, friends, community, and the environment
  • Gather information and make informed wellness-oriented choices
  • Actively participate in your health decisions and healing process.

Your Wellness Team 

To understand wellness, it helps to think of yourself as a team made up of several members. For the team to be effective, each member (each aspect of yourself) must have its needs met and must work in harmony with the other team members. These aspects of yourself are:

  • Physical (your body)-- the tangible structure and the five senses which enable you to touch, see, hear, smell and taste the world around you.
  • Emotional (your feelings)--the range of emotions; fear, anger, love, joy, etc.
  • Mental (your thoughts)--this is knowledge, attitudes and beliefs; your analytical self.
  • Spiritual (your spirit )-- relationships with your self, creativity, life purpose, and with a Higher Power.

All of these aspects work together to make you a whole person. What happens to one aspect can affect all the other aspects. That's why being confined to bed with a sore back (physical) can lead to depression (emotional), or why denying your anger (emotional) can lead to a headache (physical). This relationship between your different aspects is often referred to as the mind/body connection. Since all four parts of you must work in harmony to achieve wellness, each part needs your attention and care to perform at its best.

  • The physical requires good nutrition, appropriate weight, beneficial exercise and adequate rest.
  • The emotional you needs to give and receive forgiveness, love and compassion; needs to laugh and experience happiness; needs joyful relationships with yourself and others.
  • The mental you needs self-supportive attitudes, positive thoughts and viewpoints and a positive self-image.
  • The spiritual you requires inner calmness, openness to your creativity, and trust in your inner knowing.

The Captain of the Team 

A comfortable, healthy balance between your physical, mental, emotional and spiritual aspects doesn't happen accidentally. Someone has to be in charge, and that someone is always you.

Your behavior and the choices you make in your life affect your health. You can choose to do more of what's good for you and the world around you, and to do less of what is harmful. You can choose to learn more about your health and the variety of healthcare options available and you can choose how you will react in a given situation.

In order to make wise choices, however, you must know what changes you may need to make. To help you determine your current degree of wellness, take the following short quiz. Do not judge yourself by your answers. Simply accept yourself as you are at this moment, knowing that tomorrow is a new day and that you can always make new choices that will take you closer to the wellness you desire.

Wellness Quiz

Do you wake up with enthusiasm for the day ahead?

Do you have the high energy you need to do what you want?

Do you laugh easily and often, especially at yourself?

Do you confidently find solutions for the challenges in your life?

Do you feel valued and appreciated?

Do you appreciate others and let them know it?

Do you have a circle of warm, caring friends?

Do the choices you make every day get you what you want?

If you answered "no" to any of these questions, congratulations! You have identified areas in your life that you may want to change. This can be valuable information.

Know Your Team 

To enhance your health you must be aware of yourself. When any aspect of your "self" is out of balance, it will let you know.

  • Be aware of your body--what makes it feel good and what makes it hurt. Learn to listen to your body when it communicates.
  • Be aware of your emotions--which people or activities cause you to feel happy, loving, connected, and which create feelings of anger, fear, depression.
  • Be aware of your thoughts--which thoughts make you smile and feel good, and which bring a frown or cause your muscles to tighten.
  • Be aware of your spiritual condition--what causes you to feel inner peace, joy, a sense that all is right with the world. Be aware of the intuitive thoughts which guide you to your highest good and bring the gift of creativity.

Caring For the Team 

When you are conscious of your physical, emotional, mental and spiritual condition you can act quickly to prevent illness if one or more of these aspects is out of balance.

For example, working on a challenging project can be exciting and stimulating. Sometimes, however, we will work past the point of exhaustion, neglecting our physical body's need for food and rest, neglecting our emotional need for connection to others, and neglecting our spiritual need for quiet time. This sort of imbalance can lead to illness or disease (dis-ease) in one form or another. Some of us may find ourselves crying easily for no apparent reason. Others may catch a cold or develop stomach problems. Still others may find themselves bingeing on junk food or yelling at their mate.

When this happens, it's time to call "time out."  Stop working and take a long, peaceful walk. Or, meet a special friend for a relaxed lunch or dinner, go to a concert, or watch a movie. It doesn't matter what you do, as long as it is something beneficial that will rest and refresh the neglected and overworked team members.

By giving every member of your team a chance to participate, you can help yourself be well. With teamwork, you can avoid burnout from overwork, resentment from giving too much of your time to others, physical problems from inactivity or stress, spiritual emptiness from lack of time spent in reflection.

Training your Team 

We've already talked about the fact that the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual aspects of yourself must be in balance for optimal well-being. But what exactly do we mean? What sorts of activities and choices lead to wellness? The following suggestions are some of the specific things you can do to enhance your health and promote your own wellness.

PHYSICAL:

  • Eat fresh, wholesome food. Avoid or limit sugar, salt and fatty foods. Replace processed foods with fresh vegetables and whole grains as much as possible.
  • Drink lots of pure water. In many localities, where tap water is not pure, you may need to invest in a water filtration system or drink bottled water.
  • Take time for enjoyable exercise. Some find it helpful to join a gym or lift weights. Others find activities such as dancing, walking, bicycling and skating enjoyable and beneficial. The important thing is to get at least 20 minutes of exercise three times a week.
  • Get adequate rest. Many people do not realize that too little sleep may be the reason for inattentiveness or lack of motivation. Experiment to find out what your natural rhythm is and how much sleep you need to feel your best.

EMOTIONAL:

  • Laugh, play, and have fun often. Laughter is good medicine, and the ability to play is a necessity for a balanced life.
  • Share your feelings with others. Spend time with the people you can trust with your feelings and give them the gift of really knowing you.
  • Create warm, loving relationships. Forgive yourself and others. If you have issues or grievances with family and friends, face the issues and recover lost emotional closeness.

MENTAL:

  • Explore new ideas. Find a hobby, take a class, read a nonfiction book, watch educational television.
  • Cultivate positive attitudes. Instead of criticizing, catch yourself and others at being good. Look for what is positive in a situation.
  • Examine your beliefs. Listen to other points of view. When others disagree with you, try to see things through their eyes.

SPIRITUAL:

  • Take time to be quiet with yourself. Meditate, pray, or go fishing. We each get in touch with our inner selves or a Higher Power in different ways.
  • Be open to your creativity. Learn to trust your innate creativity and intuitive thinking. Express the inner you.
  • Savor the moment. Enjoy what you are doing now, instead of reliving the past or anticipating the future.

Be a Participant--not a Spectator 

No one's life is perfect. We all have difficult situations, hard times, losses to deal with. But some people's lives seem to work better than others. Have you ever wondered why?

An important difference is in how they react to what happens to them. We always have a choice. In the game of life, the active participant comes out a winner, while the passive spectator is often the loser.

When we allow and accept everything that happens to us as though we have no choice, we are taking a passive role in our lives. The feeling that we are victims of circumstances, that we have no choice but to accept our lot in life, leaves us feeling helpless, hopeless and depressed. These negative emotions can cause our physical self to fall down on its job of taking care of itself and fighting off disease.

Knowing you have a choice in how you respond in a given situation empowers you to choose what is good for you. Sometimes we may choose to accept what happens and go on with our business. Other times, it may be best to confront the situation and make our anger, hurt, or confusion known. Even if you have been passive in the past, in the future you can choose to be active.

You can learn that it's normal for others to see things differently than you do and, as an active participant in life, you can learn to accept differences and find something in common that allows you to work together for the good of all concerned.

You can decide how you will get your needs met and work in cooperation with others to accomplish what is wanted.

You can let others know how you wish to be treated and what you will and will not accept. Only you can set boundaries for yourself.

Learning to respond differently may not happen overnight. Begin by being more aware of how you are reacting to various people and events. You can try different responses until you find the ones that work for you. With practice, your heightened sense of awareness, coupled with your power of choice, will help you establish new behaviors and create wellness.

Motivating your Team 

By now, you are probably beginning to realize that achieving wellness in your life will involve changing some of your behaviors. However, human beings are creatures of habit and ingrained attitudes. It takes a strong desire to overcome our natural resistance to change, but the more we want to change, the easier change becomes.

We usually change our behavior or attitudes for one of two reasons:

  • We are afraid of what will happen if we don't change, or
  • We are excited about what will happen if we do change.

While fear is a useful motivator when we are in immediate danger, it is not a good motivator for long-term change. People who change their habits out of fear often find themselves backsliding and returning to their old ways. Even people who have survived a life-threatening illness may find it difficult to maintain the kind of lifestyle necessary to promote continued health.

When we change because we genuinely want to experience the positive results of change, we are much more likely to succeed. Anyone who smokes cigarettes knows how difficult it is to break the habit, but every year thousands of expectant mothers do it out of love for their unborn child.

Your Winning Team Needs a Goal

To reach your wellness goals you must first define what wellness is for you. A computer programmer, a new mother, someone who is physically challenged, a tree trimmer and a retiree might each picture different wellness goals to support their individual lifestyles.

What kind of lifestyle do you have now? What kind do you want? Think about what isn't working for you. Think about what you want to change. Be specific.

Take a moment now to write down your wellness goals. For each goal, list all the positive benefits you will gain by reaching your goals. For example, quit smoking:

Benefits: easier breathing, more socially desirable, a kissable mouth,
whiter teeth, more money to spend on clothes or entertainment

Don't leave anything out, no matter how silly it may seem. Remember not to use fear as an inducement. In other words, do not list "reduce risk of cancer" as a reason to quit smoking, even though it may be true.

Don't get stuck by labeling your choices as either right or wrong. Just choose what is appropriate for you. On the next pages are some wellness practices you might consider.      Put a check mark next to those you want to include."


Published by the American Holistic Health Association: Copyright © 2003         

Alessandra Lior, RN                  303-502-6152                  alessa44@yahoo.com