By Renee Goyeneche—
The term wellness is a holistic concept meant to encompass all aspects of our physical, emotional and mental health. However, thanks to a relentless barrage of perfect imagery, it’s easy to focus on the aesthetic elements of wellness and lose sight of the bigger picture.
Aside from what we see, wellness is significant on a larger scale because research indicates health and happiness are inextricably linked. Healthy people tend to feel happier, and happier people tend to make better efforts to care for their health.
Quantifiable evidence also supports the idea that stress levels decline when we maintain consistent health practices, which is a goal worth pursuing for several reasons. We know that stress undermines our mental state and is linked to anxiety, and depression. It’s also been tied to heart disease, arrhythmias, high blood pressure, strokes, and other health conditions and symptoms. People under chronic stress are also more likely to develop viral illnesses like colds and flu, and have longer recovery times from injury and illness.
We know prioritizing self-care has immense benefits. Why is it so difficult?
Unfortunately, understanding how vital wellness practices are, and actually implementing them in real time, can be two very different things. As our schedules fill, it can be challenging to attend to ourselves. We live in a world that values our non-stop availability over a legitimate human need for sustainable self-care practices. Placing your own needs first may seem like an indulgence if you have a highly demanding personal or professional life. Plus, we often lack the three things that allow us to prioritize ourselves; time, energy, and resources. However, we can build all three into our lives to support our own health and happiness.
1) Claim more time for yourself.
Fitting even one more thing into an already over-packed day can feel like an impossible task, but if you’re constantly doing for everyone but yourself, it’s time to reclaim space in your own life. This means taking a hard look at your to-do list. An overflowing workload is not a badge of honor, and it doesn’t mean you are productive. More often than not, it’s just a precursor to exhaustion and burnout.
Go down that list, and start asking questions. What can you delegate to someone else, what can you defer to a later date, and what can you delete entirely? Few things in life are truly urgent, so what’s your actual level of accountability? Release some tasks, and reclaim that time for yourself.
2) Increase your energy.
Lightening your load goes a long way toward reducing fatigue; in fact, it’s probably the most important way to begin. Follow that with small steps toward your health and wellness goals. Grab that extra 15 minutes of sleep. Do some food prep that ensures you’re fueling your body in healthy ways. Allow yourself a walk around the neighborhood. Slow down, breathe, and drink your water. You’ll be surprised how all these little changes lead to higher energy levels across the board.
Mindset also affects energy levels. Optimists tend to get less bogged down by challenges, which means they generally experience less stress and can manage it more effectively when it’s unavoidable. Keep a positive attitude, and surround yourself with people who do the same.
3) Develop your resources.
We can classify resources as either internal or external, and we need both to pursue our goals successfully. You may not see immediate results when working toward increased health and happiness, but don’t let that deter you. Remember, this is a marathon, not a sprint.
Don’t think you have the internal resources necessary to follow through? You absolutely do. To better understand your motivators, take the time to analyze why increasing your happiness is so important. Shorthand your conclusions into a list, and post it where you’ll see it every day. That visual cue will remind you that a commitment to yourself is no less important than any other in your life.
Then think about how you can benefit from external resources. Who and what can help you move closer to your goals? Are there programs or technology, free or paid, that will keep you on track? Will an accountability partner help? There’s no rule that says you must accomplish these things alone for them to have value. Our communities often serve as our strongest external resource. Take advantage of them.
Remember, we cannot be at our best or hope to reach our goals by sacrificing our mental, emotional and physical wellness. Nurturing personal health and happiness should be a non-negotiable mandate for all of us, so building more time, energy and resources into our lives is critical.
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