Wellness is the buzz word for health these days and I like it. It implies a much wider scope of fitness than a balanced diet, regular exercise or a well-toned body. It speaks of an wholistic approach and attitude to living, taking in emotional and psychological factors as well as physical.
So, what does wellness entail?
Thought is where it all begins but there must also be practical action in order for a truly positive life to be lived. People often think that `positive thinking' is fantasy-land, especially in the current world climate. It would be if this philosophy only encourages generic, bland attitudes but, in actual fact, positive thinking is about awareness and aliveness, not burying one's head in the sand. It is a choice, a way of life that truly believes, in all circumstances, the glass is always `half-full.' Positive life means searching for the gift in every and any tragedy; not to smile inanely through adversity but to choose hope over despair.
With this attitude in place, life becomes more prosperous in general, brighter and less fearful. Demons can be vanquished or at least, disabled. A positive life is one in which `bad' things can and will still happen but can be overcome more easily with the courage and joy that this form of wellness brings.
Health in all its forms is requisite to an overall sense of wellbeing. It's impossible to feel good if we're tired, ill, cranky or in pain. Balance is the key to this as to many other life-skills. The things that damage health are excesses of all kinds, addictive behaviour, discordant relationships, poor diet, inadequate sleep and lack of physical fitness. As boring as it sounds, moderation is necessary for all forms of wellbeing. We need, each day, to honour our emotional, spiritual and physical needs. We need to feed the soul, nourish the body and work the mind 'every day, not just occasionally.
Most of us are taught early in life to do the basics like cleaning our teeth, washing our bodies, using the toilet, sleeping and eating but of course, there is more to physical fitness than that. My feeling is `no pain, plenty of gain.' Exercise should be fun, easy and never excessive. If it takes over and becomes punitive then surely we've added stress to our daily routines rather than reduced it. So find something that you enjoy doing, whether it's just walking round the block or playing social tennis, and do it regularly.
Emotional needs are catered for better by some than others. We're all emotional creatures whether we show our feelings outwardly or not. Letting them flow naturally is the secret; it's important not to let them choke on themselves, especially the ones we find most uncomfortable. Make friends with your darker side, keep working at self-knowledge and be honest with yourself and about yourself. Banish worry as it's a totally useless waste of energy. Be as relaxed as possible every day, develop acceptance and be gentle with yourself.
Spiritual nourishment can come in many forms other than religious practice or meditation. You can feed your soul with poetry, music, nature, love of children and animals, being near water, walking and swimming, being in silence, looking at beauty.
Self-love is a big part of these means to wellness as when you value yourself, you automatically look after your body, feed your mind with stimulating conversation, knowledge, reading and ideas, nourish your soul by a variety of pleasurable pursuits, and you will no longer feel the need to sabotage your happiness and success by obsolete beliefs and self-defeating behaviours. Negativity of thought, action, attitude and feeling counteracts this. With a positive mind and a healthy body, there's not much we can't achieve.
A key factor in health is prevention. Taking responsibility for your own health, living pro-actively and not waiting till illness has already struck to improve your health habits. The number of times that people have said to me their cancer or heart disease turned out to be a great gift because it forced them to change their diet, get more sleep, exercise more etc 'my answer is why wait till you're sick to look at these issues?
Often the alteration to lifestyle is quite minor yet the benefits are enormous. For instance, just walking daily, taking Garlic and Vitamin C for prevention of colds and flu and reducing stress can make all the difference.
We live in stressful times 'no-one would dispute this. Recent world events have further heightened our sense of powerlessness and the inevitability of change that already has proven to be the hallmark of the 21st century. Thus, it's more essential than ever to develop our spiritual muscles and muster our physical stamina as this exercise called life is getting tougher and tougher to manoeuvre. With added external stress comes the need for more internal calm; amidst the global turmoil, we need more personal peace.
Where is it to be found? Where it always resides 'inside each of us. Right now, we need some extra awareness of its existence and a reminder that we carry the seeds of peace always and ever with us. This is a time of greater need for meditation in whatever form appeals, more communing with nature, more time spent with loved ones as we are daily reminded of the fragility of life, more reflection upon the things that really matter in the end.
In practical terms, we can ward off stress overload by effective time management, keeping things in perspective, not giving in to negative thinkiing and fear, moderating our schedules and living habits, staying in touch with joy.
A very under-rated emotion. It's not deep and intense like anger or jealousy and it sounds a bit fluffy like delight or curiosity. Yet, for me, joy is the centre of existence because it is the essence of our life-force and offers such gifts as creativity, sexuality and spirituality. All the best things come from joy. So, if you're in touch with your own wellspring of joy, how can you fail to also have wellbeing?
Joy is present in the midst of tragedy, death, sorrow, disappointment, conflict, anger, violence. It is an integral part of the human condition so it can never be absent from our endeavours, our daily lives and even our pain. We are after all, creatures of contradiction, of polarity, are we not? Our lives are always walked on the tightrope of contrasting desires and energies; hence the desire for addiction, excesses, oblivion. It's a constant balancing act and some people falter more readily and reach out for negative remedies that poison rather than cure.
Psychological health is walking the fine line between the darkness and the light, between our shining selves and our negative egos. It's there between the contrasts that we find true wellness. It is a place of healing and serenity, not of struggle and exertion. In a nutshell, we all basically try too hard at life 'too hard to be happy, to be successful, to be beautiful, to be loved, to be secure, to be safe 'all myths. But joy is not. It is our constant gift in an ever-changing world, totally effortless and free. When we cannot feel joy, we are separated from the best part of ourselves.
We are never without love whether we have family and friends, whether we're in a relationship or whether we're considered lovable or not. Like joy, love is a birthright and therefore, resides deep within us at all times. All you have to do is access it and you need never again feel alone or lonely, isolated or rejected
Once you feel that love within yourself, you'll easily love others, attract love to yourself from outside and find more things around you to love. The world will look like the amazing place it is despite the horrors of war, poverty, crime, violence and natural disasters. You will indeed see through rose-coloured glasses but not ones by which you disguise the ugliness; rather that the love you feel will shine out for others to see and in turn, your own vision will be brighter. Life takes on a different glow and the bridge between you and the rest of the world will seem less large. If you've never experienced this, I urge you to try working from the inside out and start sensing the peace and harmony you have at your disposal every day of your life. Love is the ultimate high!
Overall wellness is not just possible, it is readily attainable if we just let it be, if we own our joy and love ourselves enough to let life be easy.
Some readers may be struggling with disability, disease, loss, financial hardship and so on. Where is the wellness in these conditions, you might ask. Well, no-one owns the territory of your mind except you. Even in the darkest prison, you always have the illumination of your inner beauty. Be there and you will feel your own presence, your inner comfort and that, is the meaning of true wellbeing.
About the Author: Dr Charmaine Saunders is a therapist, columnist, magazine and online contributor, lecturer and author of 6 self-help books. Her web site is at www.charmainesaunders.com