Health is more than the absence of disease
If you could choose to enjoy better health, would you be interested? Do increased energy, greater enthusiasm, and an enhanced sense of well-being appeal to you? How about a greater sense of joy?
The good news is, these things are possible for you. Within yourself, you have the power you need to create wellness in your life. That power is your power of choice, your power of intention and your power of healing.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO),
"Health is more than the absence of disease. Health is a state of optimal well-being."
Optimal well-being is a concept of health that goes beyond the curing of illness to one of achieving wellness. Achieving wellness requires balancing the various aspects of the whole person. These aspects are physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual. This broader, (w)holistic approach to health involves the integration of all of these aspects and is an ongoing process.
Your health is your responsibility
Many of us have been brought up to believe that our health depends solely on the quality of the healthcare we receive. The truth is, your health is your responsibility. You are the only person who can make the lifestyle decisions that contribute to your well-being. You are the one who must take the steps to preserve your health and promote your wellness. Only you have the power to create wellness for yourself.
Your power lies in the choices you make every day on your own behalf. If you react out of habit or fixed attitudes, you may not be using your choices wisely to create wellness in your life. To create wellness you must expand your focus beyond mere physical health, and:
- Strive to balance and integrate your physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual aspects.
- Establish respectful, cooperative relationships with your family, friends, community, and the environment.
- Gather information and make informed wellness-oriented lifestyle choices.
- Actively participate in your health decisions and healing process.
Your wellness team
To understand wellness, it helps to think of yourself as a team made up of several members. For the team to be effective, each member (each aspect of yourself) must have its harmony with the other team members. These aspects of yourself are:
- Physical you (your body) - your tangible structure and the five senses which enable you to touch, see, hear, smell, and taste the world around you.
- Emotional you (your feelings) - your range of emotions from fear to anger to love and joy.
- Mental you (your thoughts) - your knowledge, attitudes, and beliefs; your analytical self.
- Spiritual you (your spirit) - your relationship with yourself, your creativity, your life purpose, your intentions, and your relationship with a Higher Power.
All these aspects work together to make you a whole person. What happens to one aspect can affect all the other aspects. That's why being confined to bed with a sore back (physical) can lead to depression (emotional), or why denying your anger (emotional) can lead to a headache (physical), or some past shock/trauma event (emotional) can lead to cancer (physical). This relationship between your different aspects is often referred to as the mind-body connection. Since all four parts of you must work in harmony to achieve wellness, each part needs your attention and care to perform at its best.
- The physical you requires good nutrition/diet, appropriate weight, beneficial exercise, and adequate rest.
- The emotional you needs to give and receive forgiveness, love and compassion; needs to laugh and experience happiness; needs joyful relationships with yourself and others.
- The mental you needs self-supportive attitudes, positive thoughts, intentions and viewpoints, and a positive self-image.
- The spiritual you requires inner calmness, openness to your creativity, and trust in your inner knowing.
The captain of the team
A comfortable, healthy balance between your physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual aspects doesn't happen accidentally. Someone has to be in charge, and that someone is always you.
Your behavior and the choices you make in your life affect your health. You can choose to do more of what's good for you and the world around you, and to do less of what is harmful. You can choose to learn more about your health and the variety of healthcare options available, and you can choose how you will react in a given situation.
In order to make wise choices, however, you must know what changes you may need to make. To help you determine your current degree of wellness, take the following short quiz. Do not judge yourself by your answers. Simply accept yourself as you are at this moment, knowing that tomorrow is a new day and that you can always make new choices that will take you closer to the wellness you desire.
If you answered "no" to any of these questions, congratulations! You have identified areas in your life that you may want to change. This can be valuable information.
Know your team
To enhance your health you must be aware of yourself. When any aspect of your "self" is out of balance, it will let you know.
Training your team
We've already talked about the fact that the physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual aspects of yourself must be in balance for optimal well-being. But what exactly do we mean? What sorts of activities and choices lead to wellness? The following suggestions are some of the specific things you can do to enhance your health and promote your own wellness.
Be a participant - not a spectator
No one's life is perfect. We all have difficult situations, hard times, losses to deal with. But some people's lives seem to work better than others. Have you ever wondered why?
An important difference is in how they react to what happens to them. We always have a choice. In the game of life, the active participant comes out a winner, while the passive spectator is often the loser.
When we allow and accept everything that happens to us as though we have no choice, we are taking a passive role in our lives. The feeling that we are victims of circumstances, that we have no choice but to accept our lot in life, leaves us feeling helpless, hopeless, and depressed. These negative emotions can cause our physical self to fall down on its job of taking care of itself and fighting off disease.
Knowing you have a choice in how you respond in a given situation empowers you to choose what is good for you. Sometimes we may choose to accept what happens and go on with our business. Other times, it may be best to confront the situation and make our anger, hurt, or confusion known. Even if you have been passive in the past, in the future you can choose to be active.
You can learn that it's normal for others to see things differently than you do and, as an active participant in life, you can learn to accept differences and find something in common that allows you to work together for the good of all concerned.
You can decide how you will get your needs met and work in cooperation with others to accomplish what is wanted. You can let others know how you wish to be treated and what you will and will not accept. Only you can set boundaries for yourself.
Learning to respond differently may not happen overnight. Begin by being more aware of how you are reacting to various people and events. You can try different responses until you find the ones that work for you. With practice, your heightened sense of awareness, coupled with your power of choice, will help you establish new behaviors and create wellness.
Your winning team needs a goal
To reach your wellness goals you must first define what wellness is for you. A computer programmer, a new mother, someone who is physically challenged, a tree trimmer, and a retiree might each picture different wellness goals to support their individual lifestyles.
What kind of lifestyle do you have now? What kind do you want? Think about what isn't working for you. Think about what you want to change. Be specific. Take a moment to write down your wellness goals. For each goal, list all the positive benefits you will gain by reaching your goals. Don't leave anything out, no matter how silly it may seem. Remember not to use fear as an inducement. In other words, do not list "reduce risk of cancer" as a reason to quit smoking, even though it may be true.
Don't get stuck labeling your choices as either right or wrong. Just choose what is appropriate for you.
Taking the first step
Once you have determined your personal wellness goals, it is time to decide what changes you must make to achieve them. Be patient with yourself. Creating wellness is an ongoing process. As you make more beneficial choices and fewer harmful ones, you gradually tip the scales toward wellness. You can reach your wellness goals, even difficult ones, one step at a time.
The most important step is the first one. Ask yourself which change will benefit you the most. Are you willing to make this change? If so, get started on your path to wellness by making this first step.
There are a number of ways to go about changing your habits and lifestyle.
As you begin to make the changes needed to achieve and enjoy your wellness, keep these important points in mind:
Calling on the reinforcements
Although the decision to change your lifestyle to support wellness must come from you, there are many sources available to help you along the way. The more you learn about health and wellness, the easier it will be for you to know which changes to make and the best way to implement those changes. Educational materials, resource organizations, local programs, and a wide range of healthcare practitioners are some of the resources available to assist you.
Find practitioners who are willing to help you reach your wellness goals - those who can coach you and your team effectively. Establish a partnership relationship with these practitioners by being an active participant.
It's your choice
By now you should have learned that creating wellness in your life means learning about your options, choosing what is best for you, and acting on those choices.
All of us have incredible inner wisdom. As you gather information and experience, you will gain confidence in using your inner knowing to follow your path to wellness.
In the past you may have thought there was nothing you could do. Now you know there are many options to choose from in any situation.
In the past you may have thought you had to do it the way someone else said it should be done. Now you know you can choose your own path and methods.
In the past you may have thought that someone else was in control. Now you know that you are in charge and your choices give you the power to create wellness in your life.
In the past you may have thought you had to change all at once. Now you know the path to wellness is taken one step at a time.
Are you ready to take your first step?
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