Since most of my friends are 9 hours behind me and I can't bother them right now with what's on my mind, I thought I'd use this blog of mine to get it off my chest. Because what else is it for if not that? And see, I even gave you a picture of a nice cup of tea, so get comfy...
One thing that I have felt particularly bombarded by recently is the idea of "wellness". There are wellness sections or tags on many blogs I read (including this one!), drugstores claim to promote wellness, people can become experts in wellness, and it almost feels as though if you're not actively pursuing wellness and all that it entails, then you're not doing something right. In fact, I've even read that 2015 has been dubbed "The Year of Wellness". Ok, that's great, but what does wellness actually mean? "Wellness is a state of optimal well-being that is oriented toward maximizing an individual’s potential. This is a life-long process of moving towards enhancing your physical, intellectual, emotional, social, spiritual, and environmental well-being" (source). Sounds valid and like something we should all be working on everyday of our life.
Except that the type of wellness I am feeling pressured to pursue by external sources is sort of different. According to instagram, tumblr, blogs, and TV, wellness means: photogenic smoothie bowls with 10,000 ingredients, top of the line exercise gear, perfect glowing skin, tight pilates bodies, nut milk and coconut water, ridiculously expensive non-toxic beauty finds, chia seeds, logging each and every meal in a journal, and the rare indulgent bite of pizza or bread, to keep things balanced you know. And all of that seems to fit into only one of the categories mentioned above — the physical element of well-being. But what about the other elements?
This might be an unpopular opinion but it seems to me that this is all just a new way to hyper focus once again on our looks, bodies, and social statuses without it coming off as shallow. Don't get me wrong, I think it's great that it's trendy to eat nutritious food and consider what chemicals may be in the deodorant you use — that is all valid and important. What I don't like is the fact that we're still comparing ourselves to one another, only now it's about who eats the most quinoa and the least amount of baguettes, and who can take the prettiest picture of a pitaya smoothie bowl (what is that exactly? I admit I like the color). This is just a new form of targeted marketing designed to leave us feeling inadequate, yet again.
If 2015 really is "The Year of Wellness", then we have to consider all of the elements described above, and then some. And what's more, I think the best practice would be to define each of those elements for ourselves and figure out how to realistically work each element into our lives, rather than subscribing to a premade photogenic yet often unattainable definition.
Here's where I put my money where my mouth is and define each of the above categories for myself and my own, unique set of circumstances:
Undeniably, being physically healthy is a very important element of what wellness means to me. When my body doesn't feel or move well, it's very hard for me to be happy. When I don't eat a balanced, nutritious, and delicious diet — either by indulging too much or not indulging enough — I can feel my physical energy start to shut down. The physical element of wellness for me means that my body is able to function properly, and do all the complicated work it needs to do to allow me to enjoy my life as much as I can. This requires exercise, good quality and good tasting food — including at least 2 pasta dinners a week, wine, bread, cheese, potatoes, which the internet keeps telling me are big no-nos — lots of water, regular stretching, and good sleep.
My emotions are arguably the hardest area for me to manage. I have some pretty gnarly hormonal shifts every month that make me swing in every direction. It's exhausting to experience in my own head, and probably worse for people who have to deal with me. I have always been a big believer in letting myself be the emotionally charged person that I am and trying to work out why I feel the way I feel about things. If I'm sad, I let myself be sad, while trying to understand what is contributing to that sadness. But I struggle to allow myself to feel joy and express it. I think that just like suppressing joy and happiness can become a habit, expressing it can also become a habit. Emotional wellness in my life means owning my emotions, not letting them own me, and remembering that its important to let the world know when I'm happy.
My spiritual wellness takes active, focused, daily work. It requires effort, because it slips away from me too easily. Meditation, yoga, learning about other faiths, and being surrounded by nature are the ways I find my own spirituality. But then there are brief, passing moments where all it takes is a walk in the forest or a swim in salty ocean water to help me feel balanced spiritually. I find myself humbled by the wonders of the world and feel a bit more connected to our world and its natural rhythms. I'd like to be able to experience that more.
This is an area that I've been neglecting for some time. It's not nearly as important to me as some of the other categories, but I can feel that there is something lacking in my life and I have a nagging feeling it has to do with this element. For me intellectual wellness means making sure that I am aware of what is going on in the world around me, keeping my mind sharp and active by always learning new things (i.e. taking random classes on Khan Academy), traveling and absorbing new sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and ideas, and diving in to learn as much as I can about the things that interest me, like sustainable agriculture, health and medicine.
Social anxiety is another one of my major challenges in life. I've been dealing with this one since I was a little girl. I tend to build up a lot of resentment in social situations, and I am often annoyed with myself so I assume everybody else must be annoyed with me too. I also have a history of letting relationships turn sour often because I am not clear about my boundaries to begin with and I ultimately can't handle the resulting relationship. To practice social wellness, I am trying to be more generous with people and reserve my judgements and assumptions (a work in progress). I am trying to always make sure people feel comfortable around me while at the same time clearly defining my boundaries.
There is no doubt in my mind that my own well-being is very much connected to the well-being of my natural and social environment. The air I breathe, the water I drink, trees that surround me, the home I live in, the people I interact with — all of these things impact my own state of wellness directly. So I feel a responsibility to impact my own environment in a positive way, primarily by growing as much of my own food as I can. I also feel a responsibility to appreciate and admire my own environment and share its beauty with everyone I can.
The coolest thing about this exercise is that while I was writing all of these out, I realized that they all impact each other. Each element flows into all of the other ones, emphasizing the concept of a "holistic" lifestyle. My spirituality impacts my mood, which impacts my physical self, which turns around and impacts my mood again, which changes how I interact socially and in my environment and what I pursue intellectually, which turns right back around and impacts my spirituality.
So what I'm basically saying is, photogenic smoothie bowls and trendy Soul Cycle classes are good and healthy, but true wellness is a little more complex and dynamic than that. And it doesn't really matter if your version of wellness does or doesn't fit into the picture that's being thrown at all of us these days. We all need to define our own values and interests and be proud of them.
Thanks for looking at a picture of a cup of tea and reading my thoughts!