By Susan Kurlander, M.Ed.
I recently saw a commercial for a protein drink that repeatedly used the phrase “Live Well” to sell its product. Of course, the implication was that living well was a sure thing for anyone who bought and used this protein drink.
But what is wellness —a word that seems so simplistic, and yet is so complex? If you’re not well, are you sick? If you wake up in the morning and feel fine physically are you truly well? The fact is that wellness encompasses much more than physical health, it also takes into account the whole person. Could you be doing something to increase that sense of wellness so that your life is healthier and happier?
A current way of approaching life and living it to its fullest is called “Mindfulness.” In its most concise form, mindfulness is a way of life that promotes a “state of being that is actively and openly attentive to the present.” Mindfulness, as originated by Jon Kabat-Zinn in the 1970’s but growing in popularity currently, says that we can gain much by living our lives without judgment but simply being mindful of what we are experiencing at that moment.
What does mindfulness have to do with wellness? In my opinion, the two could go hand in hand. The more present we are in our choices and experiences, the greater likelihood we will be “well,” that we will take better care of ourselves.
Here are some suggestions to achieving that level of mindfulness which encourages you to live well, and to lead that healthier, happier life (as developed by the University of California at Riverdale):
- PHYSICAL WELLNESS: KEEP MOVING AND EAT WELL
We’ve all been inundated with messages about eating well, but that may be difficult when we’re on the go getting ourselves and our family from one place to another. If that is your lifestyle, try packing something healthy to eat when you’re sitting on the parking lot or wind up having a few extra minutes waiting in a doctor’s office. It’s much less tempting to go through the drive-thru if you have something with you.
No matter how you move, be mindful of moving whenever possible. Exert yourself a little more when walking up and down the aisles of the grocery store. Don’t run into someone as you jog down the cookie aisle, but do speed up your pace to keep the heart rate going.
- INTELLECTUAL WELLNESS: CHALLENGE YOUR MIND
Play cards or mah jong, do a crossword puzzle, read a non-fiction book, work on a puzzle or challenge yourself with a difficult knitting pattern. Learn something new.
- EMOTIONAL WELLNESS: DO WHAT MAKES YOU HAPPY
Of course, we can’t always do only those things that make us happy, but, at least once a day, do something that makes you smile. Find something that makes you forget about time, something that you so enjoy doing you can lose yourself doing it. Be mindful of the pleasure you feel when doing what makes you happy.
- SPIRITUAL WELLNESS: LIVE WITH MEANING AND PURPOSE
Have a reason to get up in the morning. Find a few minutes each day to close your eyes and think about who you are, your strengths and weaknesses, and how you can best make use of your strongest assets.
- SOCIAL WELLNESS: STAY CONNECTED
Take the time and do the work necessary to maintain relationships that you value.
- VOCATIONAL WELLNESS: SHARE YOUR SKILLS
Volunteer your skills at a school, hospital, or senior center. Read to children who may not have access to books. Teach computer skills at the library. Answer questions about gardening at the local nursery.
- ENVIRONMENTAL WELLNESS: COMMUNE WITH MOTHER NATURE
Be present when you’re taking a walk. Notice the leaves changing or the flowers blossoming. Put away or turn off your iPhone so that you can concentrate on observing what’s around you even if you are just walking from your car to a building.
Mindfulness can be life changing, even transformative, if worked on for the right reasons—to contribute to one’s sense of well-being and wellness. May that journey increase our life expectancy and quality of life for many years to come.
By Susan Kurlander, M.Ed., JCS Health Educator
JCS provides a broad range of services that meet the diverse, multi-dimensional needs of individuals and families throughout Central Maryland. We offer guidance and support when you are seeking solutions for emotional well-being, aging and caregiving, parenting, job seeking, employers and businesses, achieving financial stability, living with special needs, and preventing risky behaviors. To learn more, please visit our home page or call 410-466-9200.