I renewed my membership to the gym, so I’m breathing in short puffs as sweat pours out of my hot, red face. I’m standing with my feet hip distance apart, (no comment on how far that might be), one hand is empty, and the other grips a small black dumbbell that I am lifting in time to Carol’s counts. The shock comes when I innocently glance into the ever-present mirror, and see myself in my full perspiration soaked glory.
Up until that moment, I had been looking at knees. Carol, the teacher I am following at the gym has great knees, (among other things), and I had been watching them as I struggled to follow along with the lifts and the counts. So you can imagine the shock as I glanced at my own flabby refection in the mirror!
Why am I doing this? I ask that question of myself often as I haul my sweet rotunda to the gym, and the answer is; the Wellness bug infected me.
Most of medicine seems to focus on how to fix a problem, but the focus of Wellness is on problem prevention, and I’m getting young enough to find that idea important.
There are usually six areas of Wellness, and I could see in a flash where I was deficient, so I’m making an effort to pump up my weak areas (pun intended).
The first Wellness area is physical well being. As you might imagine, this means being physically fit, and eating healthy. It also means being pleased with the way your body looks, rarely experiencing the physical symptoms of stress like headaches, back pain or neck pain and being free of serious physical health problems like cancer, heart disease or diabetes. No kidding!
It seems obvious that to be well, one must be physically healthy, but did you know that to really be well one must also have a sense of social connectedness? Being socially connected means having caring friendships that are rewarding, and possibly even being close to your extended family. It also means receiving the kind of physical attention you desire like hugs, massages or back rubs, and feeling sexually content. It is freedom from loneliness or isolation and considering yourself valuable. So if someone who is physically fit goes home to an empty, lonely house each day, he or she may want to work on finding some social connections to really be well.
A third part of wellness is emotional well-being. The obvious definition of emotional well-being is being free of emotional problems like depression, anxiety or phobias, and being able to cope with stress without relying on addictive or compulsive behaviors like overeating, smoking, drug use, or excessive work. But being emotionally healthy also means being able to express feelings (joy, anger, fear, happiness, love, hurt) appropriately to others. It doesn’t count if you do it alone, because emotionally healthy people get their emotional needs met in relationships, not alone, and they are comfortable asking for suitable help. In addition, they are not taken advantage of in relationships. They can set limits and say “no” to friends, family and even work without feeling guilty.
Thank goodness rest, pleasure and play is also an important aspect of wellness. This means being able to take time off without feeling guilty, to do whatever seems like fun to you; vacation, sleep, laugh, connect to nature, sit in silence, read or visit with friends. Now you’ve seen it in print, those of you who are too busy to stop and relax. To be truly well, you must have rest, pleasure and play to help balance your life.
Actually allowing the time for play would fall into the Wellness category of self-care. This means doing what is necessary to take care of ourselves, like being aware of the symptoms of stress and not letting them go too far, and providing a living and work environment that is comfortable and soothing. So clear away the junk and set out a vase of flowers. It also means practicing preventative self care like medical and dental check ups, safe sex and seat belts.
Finally, to be really well, one has to have a sense of purpose and meaning. Well balanced, healthy people often feel connected to something larger than themselves like God, a higher power, the universe or nature. They also have personal and professional relationships that support those beliefs and values. (If honesty is important to you, don’t marry someone who cheats on his taxes.) The goal is to find life purposeful, interesting and gratifying.
The big idea behind Wellness is to be balanced as much as possible in all of the categories. It seems to me that true Wellness isn’t something we gain easily, it takes a little work, so maybe this quote by William Jennings Bryan will be helpful for any of us who are setting out to do the work;
“Destiny is no matter of chance. It is a matter of choice; it is not a thing to be waited for, it is a thing to be achieved.”
I hope we are destined to meet in the gym instead of the doctors office, and if we do meet in the gym, keep your eyes off my knees, okay?