Wellbeing and wellness are often mixed up. Are they the same though? Simply put, it is hard to have wellbeing without wellness.
Wellness can be defined as the state of being in good health, especially as an actively pursued goal. What comes to your mind when you think about wellness? From where I stand, wellness makes me think about balance, finding the balance in one’s life. However, a balanced life can have different meanings, depending on culture, resources, circumstances, among other factors.
When was the last time you felt joy and fulfillment? Perhaps you are most joyful when spending time with family and friends, or having some quality ‘me time’ exercising or meditating. Maybe it is while working on an exciting project or serving your community. It can be a bit of all.
Balance can also gain a new meaning during different phases in your life. If you recently became a mom, taking a nap (or as many as possible!) is probably what you crave the most for. That and perhaps catching up with your friends after around-the-clock diaper changing and nursing. If you are starting your own business, learning new skills and expanding your network is something you are fully dedicated to and you find joy in it.
As your needs, preferences and resources may change along your journey, make sure you check in with yourself regularly and take time to re-balance according to what is happening in your life. If you find yourself going through a tough or more challenging time, you may find these 6 practices helpful to work towards your wellness.
1. Get lots of sleep: Sleeping allows the body and mind to renew and heal from the stress and tension experienced during the day. It supports your immune system having an overall impact in your health. Sometimes we do not get the sleep we wished for though, especially with babies. When you feel extremely tired, try to take a power nap even in the middle of the day. Just close your eyes and rest for 20 minutes. It might make the trick if you did not have a good night sleep. Also important, notice your habits before bedtime. Avoid screen time right before going to bed, reading a book or listening to music smooths your transition to sleep.
2. Exercise regularly: Regular exercise not only aids in weight management, reduces tension and anxiety and lowers blood pressure, but also improves your quality of sleep and strengthens your immune system against diseases. Together with exercise, a well-balanced diet provides you the minerals, vitamins and nutrients to keep your body and mind healthy and sharp. Go for a walk or a run first thing in the morning, stretch, practice yoga, go shopping on your bike, join a dance class (plenty of online options these days), use the stairs instead of the lift. Explore and find what works for you. We all have our preferences, what matters is to exercise on a regular basis to keep your energy and motivation.
3. Practice meditation: Meditation does not equal empty mind. We have more than 6000 thoughts a day! Our mind is constantly running on worries, lists, solutions…thoughts of all kinds. Meditation allows you to connect with your inner world, towards a state of consciousness and awareness. You are not turning off your thoughts or feelings, rather learning to observe them from a place of non-judgement. As any other practice, it needs to be learned so you need to start somewhere. The same as with exercising, there are several forms of meditation. Go ahead and try it out, until you find which one suits you best. It might get uncomfortable in the beginning, as it’s like a muscle you need to develop. Though once you start, you realize its benefits on your mental, physical and emotional health.
4. Smile and laugh: You have probably heard the saying “laughter is the best medicine”. Laughter has proven to be a great way to deal with stress. This is not the only benefit however. When we laugh, endorphins are released in the brain via opioid receptors, inducing euphoria. This endorphin effect reflects also on other people, one of the reasons why laughter is contagious promoting a sense of social bonding and togetherness. Not only on social occasions, laughter has a prime role to relationships increasing connectedness and intimacy. Next time you are having a particularly tough day, remember to have a good laugh. Maybe you just laugh it out alone or crack a joke with your partner. Perhaps you watch a sitcom that makes you burst out laughing. Whatever it is that makes the trick, have a good laugh.
5. Set an intention: Intention setting can make a huge difference when it comes to achieve your goals. You can set an intention for the day, the week, the month, the year. An intention is nothing else than a word or a phrase that guides your actions throughout that day (or period of time). Different from a concrete goal, an intention must evoke a feeling or emotion that aligns with your body, mind and heart. Intentions will not only keep you focused and improve your effectiveness, as much as they affect every aspect of your life. Setting intentions influences how you show up to your daily activities, from professional to leisure, to your personal life. While you meditate or get ready to start the day (showering, having breakfast, going for a morning walk), set a clear intention. Whenever the day gets tough or stressful, remind yourself of that intention and let it guide your actions and decisions.
6. Love yourself: Use the practice of loving yourself for the whole of who you are. Love yourself for your body, your mind, your heart, your soul. We have talked about in more detail during the week dedicated to self-acceptance. Accepting yourself for who you are, including the aspects you do not appreciate that much or cannot change, gives you the permission to embrace the whole of you. Self-love translates into more trust and respect for yourself, reflecting in how you choose to see the (inner and outer) world. Notice your thoughts and your emotions, learn to listen to your intuition, expand outside your comfort zone, practice letting go (expectations, guilt, self-judgement), tune into your body and the signals it gives you, do more of the things you truly enjoy. Loving yourself expresses in many shapes. It matters what makes you happy, joyful, playful, creative.
Remember that wellness is more than a goal to be achieved, rather a lifestyle you choose to adopt. You have to make this choice every single day and act accordingly. Wellness comes from finding a balance through the many areas of your life. It can be that some areas get a higher priority considering what is taking place in your life. Nonetheless, keep working toward a healthy lifestyle and notice the impact it has on your wellbeing.