“Without health, life is not life; it is only a state of languor and suffering.” – Francois Rabelais
2016 will soon be upon us and, if you’re like most people, you’re debating the idea of setting some wellness goals for the new year. You’ve done it in the past and done reasonably well, at least for a while. You came out of the gate pretty strong on January 2, exercising ambitiously while following a rigorous diet. You held up well for a while. Somewhere around 90 days or so you lost your mojo and slowly drifted back almost to where you started from. You ended up just slightly better than you were on January 1, rationalized that it was okay, but deep inside you know better. This has happened before at the beginning of many years. Why does this happen and, more importantly, how can you prevent it from happening again this year?
There are a number of reasons why people fail in their wellness goals. Most people consider wellness to be a matter of vanity. If they look better, then they believe that they are more well then when they started. The problem is that wellness is more than mere vanity and a matter of looks. Unfortunately, true wellness cannot be measured with a tape measure or a bathroom scale. Inevitably, some aspect of life will arise and challenge you within those first 90 days of the new year. Someone will get sick, maybe even you, work will get demanding, your car will break down, your parents or children will need you, and that slightly overly ambitious program of diet and exercise will be too much to sustain. Wellness is not a goal to be reached, but a journey to be maintained and enjoyed.
If you’re someone who announces to everyone in their life that “This is the year that I____________, ” then they will notice when you begin doing whatever your goal is. If you goal is to lose weight, then they will begin to notice when those first few pounds come off. You’ll get praise and recognition from them, making you feel pretty good about yourself. If you’re not careful, this will be reward enough. You’ve received their praise and if you are someone who is externally motivated this might subconsciously give you all the reward that you need, making it easier to give up and rationalize quitting. After all, even if I didn’t lose those 25 pounds at least I lost 10, right? A lot of research indicates that it makes sense to keep goals to yourself and learn to become internally motivated, satisfying yourself and learning to reward yourself with positive self talk and improved sense of purpose and self esteem. While letting others know may put extra pressure on you, that kind of logic is difficult to sustain over the long haul. Remember, wellness is a lifestyle and a journey, not a destination, and it is up to you to maintain it day in and day out.
A complete plan of wellness attends to three major components of the human experience-physical, emotional, and spiritual. When most people fail to follow through or begin to compromise their wellness program, it is usually because one of these three areas gets out of balance with the others and a person is overwhelmed, confused, and loses their drive and motivation. The key to sustaining wellness is to be aware of the three separate areas and strive to keep them in balance. If you examine times when you failed to maintain any one aspect of your three areas, you’ll probably find this to be true.
Let’s take a look at what is likely to be an obstacle to each of the three areas:
1. Physical Wellness.
“To me, good health is more than just exercise and diet. It’s really a point of view and a mental attitude you have about yourself.” -Albert Schweitzer
There are a number of consistent ways that people inadvertently sabotage their physical wellness. Usually it is the tendency to externalize wellness, meaning if I look good physically then I am healthy and well. Looking better, particularly if you’ve allowed yourself to get too out of shape, can take too long to hold your interest. Not getting praise or accolades from others after 30 days of hard work can be enough for you to give up, or at least to begin to compromise your plan. Strive to find ways to reward yourself, rather than rely on others for feedback. Rewarding yourself for consistent effort is the first step towards sustaining a wellness plan that will become a permanent part of your lifestyle.
It’s important to start with small, manageable, yet measurable steps that you can notice before anyone else does. For example, noticing that your resting pulse rate in the morning is coming down, that blood pressure is improving, or that those pants are getting a little bit more loose, are some of the first steps that may give you enough incentive to continue. Coming out of the gate too enthusiastically and ambitiously with a program that is impossible to keep up with,given the realities of your lifestyle, is a setup for failure. If a commercial gym or formal exercise class is too difficult to get to, then you are not going to do it. Fit it into the schedule that you already have as much is possible. Don’t get too wrapped up into what the best exercises are, program to follow, class to take etc. The best exercise routine is the one that you will do.
“Do the best you can, with what you have, where you are.”-Theodore Roosevelt
If you don’t have a steady block of time during your day, break up the day into small bouts of walking and exercise. Five or 10 minutes stretching in the morning, followed by a half an hour walk during your lunch hour, supplemented by some resistance work, calisthenics, or a gym workout in the evening, makes for a well-rounded program. If you missed the gym workouts for some reason, it’s not a big deal because you’ve already got some exercise in that day. If you’re creative you can find a multitude of micro-moments in your day that can keep your wellness plan on track. Consistency is the key.
2. Emotional Wellness
Staying on top of your mental health is not something that most people consider to be part of their wellness plan, but it is the critical component that holds the whole plan together. If you are coming at your life from a place of emotional weakness, doubt, and the lack of confidence, you’re not going to have a satisfying life and you are certainly not going to stick to a wellness plan. Being aware of your thoughts, moods, attitudes, and mental energy levels can make all the difference in the world and influence whether or not you are living the kind of life that you want. Too many people are completely unaware of their typical thought processes, the nature of their self talk, and lack insight in their beliefs and views about the world.
Self-awareness has to be a part of a total plan of wellness. Naturally, some psychotherapy or coaching can help with this, but there’s a lot someone can do on their own with a notebook, pen, and some well-planned exercises of self-help. Setting aside a few moments each week to get in touch with your emotional state creates self-awareness that can carry over into all areas of your life and relationships. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is an excellent vehicle to develop this insight into yourself. It can be done with a therapist, counselor, or coach, but can be equally effective if done properly as a self-help tool. I’ve written some Quickstart guides available on Amazon.com Kindle that are available for instant download here: http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B00LRJF0W6. These guides are a good place for you to start.The “Categories” section to the right of this post has many helpful articles as well.
Emotional wellness can help you get a grip on states such as depression, anxiety, guilt, and shame, which can derail a plan of wellness and condemn you to an unsatisfying and unfulfilling life. Being aware of the onset, causes, and antidotes to the states are all components of emotional wellness. Learning to manage stress without these negative emotional states is one of life’s most basic challenges. While we will never defeat these challenges, a good plan of emotional wellness just may be able to get you a truce with these negative emotions.
“Fatigue makes cowards of us all.”-Vince Lombardi
Mental stress is the most insidious type of fatigue, and is the biggest factor in why people give up on a plan of wellness, compromise their goals, and stop attending to aspects of life that they deem to be important. The day to day grind of struggling to make a living, and trying to maintain meaningful relationships and connections with others simply wears people down. Much of this fatigue is mental. Physical fatigue is far more easily remedied than mental fatigue. Being aware of the emotional states that cause this mental fatigue is perhaps the most important component of a wellness plan. Learn to notice what causes this fatigue, learn how to cope with it, arrange a truce with it, and your wellness plan will stay on track.
3. Spiritual Wellness
“We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.” – Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
Spirituality is something that is seldom thought of when people speak of wellness and is a missing piece for a lot of us when it comes to how we are feeling emotionally, as well as physically. Spirituality does not necessarily mean belief in formal religion, or even a belief in God, although it can. If your religious beliefs are those of an organized and formal religion, consider yourself lucky. You have a blueprint for living, clear guidelines to follow, text to consider and digest, and probably a support group of others that feel the same way that you do. If you don’t have formal religion, you must seek to find it. It is important part of how you process human existence and your place on the planet, shaping how you view the world and your outlook on life.
Whether theist, atheist, agnostic, or just someone seeking the truth, we all need to have some sense of what we’re doing on this huge chunk of rock hurtling through the universe. We are connected to nature, all its creatures, human and otherwise. We are all connected to those who have preceded us, as well as those who will come after us. Our time here is merely the blink of an eye. This realization can be depressing, energy depleting, and terrifying at times. It is important for all of us to have a belief that supports us, allowing us to be as fulfilled as possible in the time that we have. Getting to the basis of some ultimate questions is an important part of a complete wellness plan.
“Nothing in nature lives for itself. Rivers don’t drink their own water. Trees don’t eat their own fruit. The sun doesn’t shine for itself. A flower’s fragrance is not for itself. Living for each other is the rule of nature.”- Unknown
A way to develop your spirituality is to be inquisitive about the nature of your human experience. What are you doing here? How did you come to be here and where are you going after this existence is over? Read what great minds have given us for great spiritual books such as the Bible, the Bhagavad-Gita, the Koran, the Tao, and great spiritual traditions such as Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam etc. Be curious and inquisitive, know what these traditions espouse before you condemn them. Read what great philosophers have said about the nature of human existence, and then formulate your own philosophy, one that works for you and gives you a life meaning and context. Find your own truth.
In your day-to-day life, be kind to other human beings, creatures, and living things as much as possible. Doing so will make you feel better about yourself physically and emotionally, grounding you in a way that nothing else can. Be sure to include yourself among those human beings that you are being kind to. Remember, wellness is the ultimate act of self kindness.
If your plan of wellness falters and waivers, take a look and see if one of these three elements has gotten out of balance. Don’t expect instant results or a quick fix. Sometimes miracles develop over time.
P. S. If you found this article helpful, you may benefit from some personalized mindbody coaching. Contact me at http://mindbodycoach.org/contact-us/ if interested in online mindbody coaching. Please check out my Products page through the link at the top of this post.. Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and social media. Email me with questions at firstname.lastname@example.org