I mentioned before that the dimensions are not listed in order of importance. It's more YOUR order of importance regarding which ones affect your life the most. I start with physical wellness because that is the one that everyone knows about and some of us (myself included) think that your physical fitness is the essence of your wellness. Well, we are now evolving to know that this is not the case and that we have 8 dimensions to explore.
Physical wellness, being the most obvious is the place to start. I always like to start with something easy - like when you begin a new college course and the first chapter is a breeze and you become arrogant and think the course is a breeze until you get to about chapter 3 and the bottom falls out on your pipe dream?
I digress. Physical wellness is your fitness level and your nutrition plan and all those little extra things that you don't think count. Like wearing a seat belt, wearing a helmet, not smoking, not breathing in second-hand smoke, getting regular rest, using alcohol in moderation, watching meal portions and paying attention to signs of illness and calling the doctor and actually listening to what he or she says and really following it. UGH! How did this get so complicated?
Let's take a look at these.
Physical fitness is DIFFERENT than physical activity. Physical activity is holding hands with your sweetie while strolling along a path, or picking the weeds out of your garden. It's good - definitely better than sitting glued to your smart phone, but it is not exercise. When I go for a walk - I power walk. I walk fast enough to be slightly out of breath and I pump my arms. Yes, I am one of those people you see walking briskly with weights in their hands, vigorously pumping their arms. It looks weird, I know, but we are past 50 now so who cares anymore? My family will NOT walk with me because of this, but I do it to increase my endurance. Activity is helpful, but true exercise gives you the health benefits you need to keep strong. I will share the recommended guidelines in another post, because that is just a totally different conversation.
Nutrition and smaller meal portions. Here is where I struggle because growing up, more was better. I would go to a buffet with my parents who grew up during the Great Depression. You brought the deepest purse you owned and stuffed as much food as you could in it - as well as stuffing your face at the buffet. If you didn't fill up your plate 3 times you didn't get the full value. Large portions and over-abundance is a real problem for me and for many Americans. You are not alone. I do not believe in any special diets - just whole, preferably organic foods whenever you are able to get them. If not, there are a lot of healthy, frozen options. Again - another post. There's so much to discover!
Oh, protective equipment is part of physical wellness. So when I'm in a rush and don't put the seat-belt on right away, or when I ride a bike and refuse to wear a helmet, or don't follow safety instructions on loads of other things, I am not honoring my physical wellness. No one is perfect all the time, but we just have to keep trying.
Smoking and second-hand smoking. I usually just graze over this one because I never smoked but second-hand is not something we can always avoid. I try to hold my breath as long as possible and run like heck. What about the years of our youth when our parents drove us to every campground in the state with the windows rolled up and the cigarette smoke billowing around the car? We can't do anything about that either. Again, all we can do is limit and try our best.
Same with sleep although this one can be a bit trickier. Most of us (women) just cannot physically sleep through the night anymore - even those of us who exercise our pants off! If that is the case, I ask you to do two things.
Please consider not eating heavy or sugary meals later at night, put your smart phones and tablets away about a 1/2 hour before bedtime, turn off the TV, dim the lights and prepare.
Teach yourself a breathing meditation. Do this for 10-15 minutes. Just deep belly breathing. In through the nose, out through the mouth. The busy monkey mind will probably keep rolling unless you are a veteran meditation expert. Just go with it. Let the thoughts come and go, and just acknowledge them, let them be, and imagine them floating off into the night.
At the very least, you will receive rest if not total sleep. Your body needs the rest and the stress-free time. Reward your body with this small task.
Evaluating illness. This is such a fine line. No one wants to be that person that runs to the doctor with every sniffle. The technique of body awareness needs to be cultivated over time. Knowing your body stopping to hear and respond to the signals it's giving you is important. One of my favorite quotes has always been, "you are your own best doctor". If you cultivate awareness and listen to your body, you will be an expert on YOU.
I was brought up with parents who believed that you only saw a doctor when you were so sick you couldn't stand. That kind of defeats the point of going to the doctor because if you're too sick to stand you probably won't go. If you did go, and the doctor prescribed something for you, like an antibiotic, you would only take a few days worth until you felt better. My parents lived independently until their deaths at 88 years old. They had their health problems, but since they rarely saw a doctor, by the time they decided to do something about the symptoms, they were already terminal. My dad loved the song, "I did it my way". He did, but it may not have been the best way. Always work with your doctor and question, question, question! Get the answers you deserve!
Alcohol. Why is everybody drinking - a lot? OK, so it's not a big deal to me, one every couple weeks or so. Is it boredom? Is it stress relief? Is it, "I deserves this - I work hard". The simple answer to this and most everything else is: Moderation in all things. Why is this so hard for us?
Self-regulation and habits. Change your habits, and change your life. So inspiring, yet so difficult! I struggle so much with this! I want instant gratification now, and for some reason, I think I actually deserve it.
This, my friends, is the rabbit hole none of us want to go down because we have to be accountable. But why wait until we are too sick, tired or fragile to say, "gee, why didn't I do this earlier"? I want to be active and independent in my eighties and I don't want to be on a ton of prescription medications. I want to be able to get on the floor and play with grand kids or go on a hike if I want. Don't you?
Coaching can help and I will be offering it soon. But many of just can't afford it. I get that. I will do my best to give as much accurate, simple, clear advice that you can count on. We are on this aging journey together and we will do what we can.
More on particular physical wellness details to come. Have a great summer weekend!