Every living being seeks optimal health and happiness, a quality of life where there is a healthy balance between the mind, body, soul and spirit. Our ultimate goal is to live a life of purpose, one of meaning, to love and to be loved, and be healthy. Life throws everything at you, and you frantically juggle to keep things balanced. The pieces come together to create our unique lives that are forever changing. With this comes a feeling of well-being, a status of our wellness. It is the combination of the physical, mental, spiritual, intellectual, social, environmental and socioeconomic components that determines our overall state of health.
The abundance of information about wellness in books, magazines and websites is overwhelming and often causes more confusion than anything else since the sources of information at times oppose one another on a particular topic. For example, in nutrition some say eating late at night leads to weight gain, whereas others stress that it’s the total amount of food eaten day by day that will determine weight gain/loss; and in exercise, some promise a magical flat stomach using their unique machine or diet product, whereas others strongly advise that this is only achievable if overall body fat is reduced. It is important that the information comes from a reliable source and has solid evidence backing the claim. Using the services of a certified professional in the field will be of much benefit as they will have the answers and be aware of any recent discoveries in research.
It certainly isn’t rocket science to be able to understand how to live a healthy life; most know the basics but there is more to it, isn’t there? Lifestyles are becoming increasingly high-paced due to advances in technology and higher cost of living which ultimately results in stress, binge eating, and roller-coaster emotions which leads to our health being neglected. It becomes easier to order fast food, skip exercise, and interact with our friends online instead of actually visiting them in person. This is detrimental to our well-being and is the leading cause of global health issues like obesity, heart disease, diabetes, cancer and depression. Chronic diseases such as these are preventable by taking the necessary precautions and making small lifestyle changes that can positively impact your wellness. Unfortunately, only small proportions of society actively maintain and/or improve their lifestyles, whereas the rest continue to let their health slide and chronic diseases sky-rocket.
We have all heard of the saying ‘money can’t buy you happiness’, and in some sense this is true. A recent study has indicated that there is an increase in perceived well-being with an increase in income; however once income rises past a certain level, emotional feelings (such as happiness, and affection) generally tend to level off due to work related stress and unhappiness. Lower incomes were linked to more sadness and stress; and increasingly so with poverty and the occurrence of disease. Considering this, there are those at both extremes that are at the peak of health and happiness since they have been able to maintain a balance of the elements that fulfill their unique needs and desires despite between very rich or poor. Of course there are many factors that can influence a particular situation; however the study demonstrates the importance of balance according to ones values and aspirations. Most live imbalanced lifestyles leading to reduced wellness. For example your physical health may be great since you exercise regularly and eat a nutritious, well-balance diet; but you work too much, have family issues and don’t socialize enough with friends. The key is to maintain a balance between the different components of wellness.
Physically, taking part in activity that boosts your heart rate just a few times a week can improve your health significantly. It doesn’t mean you have to join the gym if that’s not what you like. Take a walk outside, go swimming or cycling, join a dance class or yoga class, or simply stay at home and move to your Zumba DVD. Whatever it may be, there are unlimited options. The key is to find something you like doing, exercise regularly, and have the support of friends and family (getting them involved will be even more beneficial since it strengthens relationships). Combining this with good nutritional habits will enhance results even more. Keep it simple; eat a balanced diet full of natural foods avoiding saturated and trans fats (avoid or at least limit takeaways), watch the portion sizes, grill don’t fry, drink alcohol in moderation, and drink enough water. There are online food journals that are great for those who want ideas on meals, track what they eat and the amount of calories consumed. Learning how to read food labels is advised since many products are labeled as ‘healthy’, ‘low-fat’, or having ‘reduced sugar’ but be warned that these are often very similar to their ‘unhealthy’ counterparts.
There is strong scientific evidence showing the connection of the body and mind, hence maintaining healthy diet and exercise habits is a major step in the right direction to improved health. The importance of mental and emotional health is largely underexposed and should be considered just as important as physical health. Emotions can trigger physiological changes in the body and prolonged negative emotional health can lead to hormone imbalance, hypertension, weaker immune systems, depression and various other threatening health conditions.
Why get infuriated when another driver of a car does something that is out of your control? Your enraged emotions only affect your health since your blood pressure rises and mood becomes edgier, whilst the other driver goes unharmed. Why become an emotional eater? Food is not going to solve the problem! Learning to control your emotions and how you react to various situations will certainly improve your internal homeostasis. Learn stress management techniques, relax (consider meditation and yoga or just breathe), talk to someone, be positive and just smile.
Relationships are another crucial factor. We all want that feeling of belonging to something and being loved. Find the time to talk to your loved ones, visit or even call your friends more often, organize regular gatherings and make new friends by joining a membership or class. As hard as it may be, switch off your electronic device and get talking to a real person!
Ensure you are sleeping your 7-8 hours a day since deficiencies in sleep can strongly affect your cognitive performance, cause weight fluctuations, diabetes, and other physiological imbalances. Also, be willing to learn something new whenever the opportunity presents itself. The brain is amazing and feeding it with new information not only boosts your mental health, but also improves your intellectual well-being. Doing something of meaning according to our values is another driving force to happiness. It doesn’t mean quitting the job you don’t enjoy as it isn’t always possible but one has the power to take the steps to make some long-term investment to making that change in the future. Some are lucky enough to call the work they do their passion and don’t need to consider it their ‘job’, yet this is a small population. Participating in church programs, or belonging to a charity organization is a great way to boost your soul and spirit.
Life is magnificent and we all deserve to enjoy it to its fullest. There are some things we cannot control but mostly we have the power to choose how to live and react. Taking small steps to introduce healthier habits will make a significant difference to your overall health, remembering to maintain constructive balance of all components. Don’t wait until it’s too late as some things are difficult to reverse. Live a healthy and happy live!