Five Keys to Optimal Wellness

Between one-half and two-thirds of the premature deaths in the country are due to lifestyle choices.  Many of these health issues are preventable.  One aspect that supports the prevention of unnecessary chronic diseases and disorders is wellness.  Wellness is a holistic approach to addressing physical and mental health issues.  Wellness includes the following aspects:

·       Physical

·       Emotional

·       Spiritual

·       Mental

·       Relational

 When we do not attend to our wellness, we often feel burned-out, which can result in our decreased motivation to complete our daily tasks, increase susceptibility to illnesses, chronic fatigue, difficulty with focusing, relationship challenges, anxiety, depression, and irritability.  Following these five keys to optimal wellness will help reduce the impact of burnout and increase our overall wellness.

1.    Treat your body well: Taking care of our physical bodies may seem like an enormous task, but with diligence, our physical wellbeing can be taken care of.  Exercise regularly, eat healthy meals and snacks, drinking more water, engage in a healthy nighttime and sleep routine, as well as get regular wellness checkups are ways that we can protect our physical bodies from injury, illness, and fatigue. Remember our physical health is improved from the inside out.  Taking care of our physical bodies will allow our bodies to work at its optimal level which can improve our mood, our concentration and focus, and our self-esteem.   

2.    Think what you want to feel: Whether we realize it or not, our feelings are impacted by what we think.  Our thoughts are often automatic and reflect how we perceive situations.  These thoughts significantly impact our emotions and actions.  Our thoughts can be neutral (e.g., I think I will go to the store today), positive (e.g., I can dance really well), or negative (e.g., I can never do anything right).  Our automatic thoughts most often reflect our worries. If we think something enough, those thoughts become beliefs that guide our feelings and perceptions. Imagine if you thought “I can’t do anything right” versus “This is challenging, but I know I can do it if I try;” our thoughts about ourselves would be drastically different with each of these thoughts. Taking the time to practice identifying the nature of our thoughts will help us identify our negative thinking habits so that we can shift those negative feelings to be positive.  Additionally, recognizing what our thoughts and feelings are will help us better understand how to cope with those thoughts and feelings. 

3.    Be grateful for all things: Practicing gratefulness allows us to see past negative situations that come up in our lives.  Practicing gratefulness involves shifting our focus from thinking about the things that are not going right, to thinking about things that we appreciate about ourselves and our experiences.  Focusing on what we are grateful for connects us to our inner and outer experiences.  However, people are not hardwired to focus on the good.  Gratitude helps us gain perspective about our situations, meaning we can understand what good there may be in a not so great situation. Also, gratitude can help us realize what we have.  Most importantly, gratitude helps strengthen our relationships, improve our overall health, reduce our experience of stress, and contribute to our overall experience of happiness. Practicing gratefulness also connects us to our spiritual experiences by reminding ourselves of the meaning in the middle of our experiences as well as by inspiring hope, comfort, and a sense of inner peace.  Ask yourself, “what did I learn from this situation,” and “how can I grow from this experience” to help you identify what you are grateful for.  Keeping a gratitude journal so you can document how much you have learned and grown is also a great tool for identifying what you are grateful for.

4.    Mind your mind: Our mental health is important for helping use to regulate our daily activities.  At times, we become overwhelmed with many activities especially when we do not take the time to check-in with ourselves.  Remember to be kind to yourself.  Do not overwhelm yourself with major changes.  Trust that making small and steady changes will still allow you to accomplish what you would like to see for yourself.  Take time to assess what you have accomplished and what things you still need to do.  Unplug from technology every once in a while, which can have positive effects on your mental health. Additionally, engage in mindfulness activities like deep breathing, meditation, and yoga to help reduce your experience of stress. Moreover, feed your creative drive and develop and engage in hobbies and interests. 

5.    Connect: Connecting with others is a way to meet one of our most important needs which is for love and belonging.  Connections are important for our overall wellbeing.  Connection with others is where we learn our strengths and where we gain a sense of value and support.  Understand that connection with others, whether within family relationships, friendships, or professional networking all require nurturing.  Connecting with others will allow you to share your ideas and have a sense of solidarity with individuals who are like-minded.  Take the time to nurture old and new relationships, join new clubs, and engage with organizations that matter to you to build healthy relationships and to strengthen your sense of connection.  Be sure that you take care of yourself within your relationships and use your support system when needed. 

In order to maintain our physical, spiritual, mental, emotional, and social wellness, we need to engage intentionally in the above areas.  Remember that wellness gives us a sense of balance in our lives.  At times things may seem overwhelming, but taking care of our whole self will help reduce the impact of negative life circumstances.  Like most things, practicing wellness is key to maintaining it, so practice, practice, practice and live life well!

Tanisha Johnson