Wellness, much like happiness, is a much sought-after commodity. Defined as the state of feeling healthy in both mind and body, it is the end-goal of many a modern day heath kick, detox programme and fitness plan. So why is it, with so many supposed solutions, that ‘wellness’ seems to elude so many of us?
The problem, perhaps, is one of expectations. Are we asking too much of our body for it to feel energised ALL the time? Are we already at our peak of wellness, but we just don’t realise or appreciate how it feels?
The alternative explanation is that we’re missing something when it comes to doing right by our minds and bodies, and that these shortfalls are keeping us from living ‘our best life’, as Oprah would put it.
Both of the above are ideas that I’ve toyed with for the purpose of working out what ‘world wellness day’ means to me.
I have concluded that I’m probably guilty of both habits. Expecting too much, and not doing enough. So perhaps the answer to wellness lies in a two pronged approach of lowering my standards yet raising my game.
For me, the latter involved some serious lateral thinking. What habits could I tweak or turn around to my advantage? How could I reduce stress and increase peace? How could I be more motivated?
My conclusions were as follows:
Mission: Bad habit blitz
Solution: More water
Not drinking enough water is one of the most common causes of sub-optimum wellness. In isolation, dehydration makes you feel less than great, and from a more complex perspective it catalyses a chain reaction of body responses and behaviours that, again, sap our energy and vitality. In a bid to up my water intake, I trialled the Equa smart water bottle, which glows every time you should take a sip of water. The gentle reminder and convenient design made all the difference to my previously less than optimum water intake, and with none of the risks associated with plastic bottles. This meant that the hydration boost wasn’t at the expense of any wider wellness factors.
Mission: Reduce stress
Exercise has always been my go-to for stress relief, but admittedly my regime had become stuck in a rut and was, over time, providing less and less of an endorphin boost. It was the predicament of not being able to get to the gym as much (after baby no. 2 arrived) that led me to turn my attention to the home workout option. Having seen Kayla Itsines on instagram, I decided to follow one of her now world-famous routines. Despite having always considered myself fairly fit, the workout left me red faced and gasping, as though I’d never been to a gym in my life. Based on the HIIT approach, the workouts do thankfully get easier over time, and the results physically and mentally have left me favouring this new routine over my trusty cross trainer regime that I never thought I’d turn my back on.
Mission: Find peace
Peace is purported to be a cornerstone of wellness, and although a simple concept (the absence of noise, right?) it can be one of the more difficult principles to put into practice, not least because it is our own internal dialogue that is often the greatest disturbance. Thoughts, ideas and to do’s have a tendency to rattle around in our heads unless converted to the written word, which is why my ‘wellness day’ action plan involved lists, lists, lists. Not just writing new ones, but getting rid of the build up of old ones littering my desk. There really is truth in the ‘tidy house, tidy mind’ expression, after all.
Mission: Find new motivation
Solution: A change is as good as a rest
From a personal perspective, motivation has always been a side-effect of habit. In this case, the habit of exercising daily. The ‘habit’ boosts the motivation (through energy, adrenaline etc) which then drives the habit. This kind of motivation hasn’t been a problem, rather it is the motivation to venture off the hamster week that I decided would be most beneficial for ‘wellness day’. It seems a contradiction in terms, but I figured this is one change that really would be as good as a rest! The results in terms of wellness were certainly worth the effort of stepping outside my usually active comfort zone. It was an exercise in self-kindness to forcibly abandon the ‘lazy day’ guilt and self-talk and put my feet up. The resultant rest (for body and mind) has proved a platform to better performance and workout satisfaction the subsequent day, ultimately making the motivation to be unmotivated, a cornerstone of wellness in my case.
My conclusion is that wellness lies as much in the pursuit, as in the attainment of all that symbolises wellness. Leaner limbs, brighter skin and a ‘cleaner’ body are all great, but the physical and mental benefits of the efforts to this end are probably greater than the sum of these physical outcomes.