What does good health and wellbeing mean?
The world health organisation defines health and wellbeing as a state of complete physical mental and social wellbeing and not just the absence of disease or infirmity. Health is as much about mental health and mental wellbeing as it is about physical health and it includes social wellbeing.
Being healthy means we can live our lives fully not merely because can prevent disease but also because we can bounce back and recover quickly when we do become ill.
Spiritual health and emotional health are also linked to psychological wellbeing and low stress levels so good health includes the mind, the body, the social sphere, and it results in feeling physically fit, feeling good about ourselves and out lives and being able to achieve what we want in life.
In this article I don't want to talk about public health and public health care by focusing on health problems. Instead I'd like to look at health promotion from a holistic standpoint.
There are many factors that can affect health and wellbeing. Many issues can impact the health and wellbeing of an individual.
I believe the best way to find a practical health and wellbeing model is to ask ourselves: what do healthy people do differently? What can we learn from them?
Here are 5 positive strategies that will help you improve your quality of life. Practice these activities and you will find out what health and wellness really feel like for you.
Do what you can, enjoy what you do, move your mood.
It is common knowledge that physical activity boosts mood, lowers stress levels and keeps us fit and healthy. Some of us however shy away from exercise, finding it boring, difficult or impractical.
In order to make being active something you do daily, trying shifting your perspective. You don't have to go to the gym to stay active. Being active doesn't have to be complicated. And most importantly the key to success is to do something you actually enjoy!
How to be active if you are feeling lazy
A good place to start is to make an activity that you have to engage in every day, such as going to work, more active. So for example if you normally take the car or bus to work try going by bike or walking.
If you find walking or biking boring why not spice it up by adding an activity that you find interesting such as listening to your favourite podcast, music or audiobook while you do it? Be creative and make it work for you!
How to set yourself up for success
If you want to get fitter and take your activity level up a notch always start small so you set yourself up for success.
Ask yourself: "can I just..." (run for 5 minutes, swim once a week, do yoga with a friend on Wednesdays etc). Think about the benefits to you will get when you stick to your 'easy' program!
How to keep it interesting
Once you get used to a level of exercise and movement that works for you keep it interesting by challenging yourself a little more but never overdo it!
You want to hit the sweet spot between comfort and challenge so you can keep increasing your fitness while at the same time improving your confidence. This way you will not burn out, injure yourself or get bored.
And remember: when you move your body you also move your mood, so if you are feeling low the best thing you can do is force yourself out of the couch, even if that's the last thing you want to do!
Talk and Listen. Be there, Show up and Feel Connected.
Human connection is essential to psychological wellbeing. Talking to supportive people breaks feelings of isolation and shame and fosters connection. When we listen to others we recognise that we are all 'in the same boat' in this life and we feel less alone and burdened.
Why we stop communicating
Sometimes people stop communicating because they are scared of 'burdening' others with their problems. This assumption stems from the idea that we are here to 'fix' others or 'be fixed', which in itself comes from seeing ourselves and others as having to be perfect to be worthy of love and belonging.
Often this idea is the result of negative learning following childhood traumatic experiences where we got rejected or bullied just for being 'ourselves'.
Vulnerability and Authenticity as a strength
As adults however, we need to find connection with people that have earned our trust. What if instead of viewing vulnerability as a weakness we started seeing it as a strength?
When we show others who we really are and expose our 'soft underbelly' to those who can hold us in our moment of need we find out who our real friends are and we form bonds that sustain us through the hard times and give us joy through the good times.
Think about it: when someone you love talks to you about a problem what do you feel? Compassionate or judgemental? If you feel critical towards others you may want to lower your own self criticism and be kinder to yourself as often we transfer on others the same expectations and judgments we put on ourselves.
2 Ways to start connecting to others more deeply
1) Try sharing your feelings about a topic - instead of facts - with someone you'd like to feel closer to today. Do you feel more or less connected?
2) Listen to someone you want to feel closer to today and resist the urge to offer solutions. Just empathise and when in doubt ask questions.
Your time, your words, your presence
You don't have to be rich to give. You are the most precious gift you could offer to anyone. So give of yourself. When we give of ourselves and we are generous with our time we offer much more than money could ever buy. Your full attention can heal more than any therapy.
We often are too distracted with our phones, computers, jobs, errands and chores to give our full attention to our kids, our partners and our friends as well as our clients at work.
When you deny others of your attention not only the relationship suffer but you also miss out. Giving makes us feel valuable because contribution is one of the essential human needs we must fulfil in order to be happy.
It is not enough to simply look after ourselves. When we have a higher purpose, even if it is to simply share our vision, understanding, time or knowledge we are reaching out to the wider community. This gives us a sense of wider belonging and strengthens our sense of self worth.
Remember the simple things that give you joy
Being mindful means to notice what you are feeling in the present so you can enjoy the moment fully and remember it later. Think about the last time you felt alive and vibrant: what were you doing? Take a moment to think of this. What makes you feel joy in your life? Here's some examples:
- Is it walking in park with your dog?
- Is it sharing a cup of tea with your partner while talking about your day?
- Is it watching your favourite TV show or movie with a friend?
- Is it patting your cat last thing at night?
- Is it making and eating a healthy meal?
- Is it going for a bike ride on the beach?
- Is it sharing a joke with a co-worker?
- Is it telling your kid a bedtime story?
- Is it baking some muffins for a fundraiser?
- Is it singing along to the radio in the shower?
- Is it dancing to your favourite tune?
- Is it reading a book by the fire?
- Is it going for a walk in nature?
- Is it painting a picture or writing a song?
- Is it playing a particular sport?
It literally could be anything! Notice what it is and make a commitment to repeat it on a regular basis. While you engage in this activity make sure you are fully present so you can really enjoy it. Being present means that you are giving the activity your full attention rather than thinking about the past or the future.
Remember: what you focus on expands. What you focus on you get ore of. Some focus on what gives you joy and do more of it!
Embrace new experiences, see opportunities, surprise yourself
Learning will keep your brain young and your confidence high. This is because when you learn new things you stretch yourself beyond what you already know and your horizons expand.
This makes you realise your full capability and your confidence increases. When you feel mentally sharp and emotionally satisfied you see and grab new opportunities more easily and your quality of life improves.
Fear will keep you safe but also small and bored. When you open yourself up to new experiences you are giving yourself an opportunity to enlarge your world and your own opinion of yourself.
So aim to surprise yourself often by going beyond your comfort zone. Give yourself a chance to go beyond what you think you can do. At first learning can be challenging but if you stick with it you will get better at it.
Why frustration is good for you
Think of frustration and initial difficulties this way: when a baby is learning how to stand up straight she will fall a hundred times before successfully getting it right. By accepting frustration as normal and trying again she ensures success.
So endeavour to see initial frustration as part of the process. As you gently encourage yourself to stick with it you will feel an enormous sense of accomplishment that will make you feel good.
Learning beyond books
And remember: learning doesn't have to be limited to books. You learn something whenever you go beyond your self imposed limits. Nothing of great value was ever obtained without great risk so risk a little frustration and gain self esteem in return!
What are your limits? What is it you say to yourself you can never do? Is it paragliding or learning french? talking to a stranger? going to a dance class? giving a speech? reading a manual? learning to drive?
Take a first step now towards this challenge. Longterm your emotional wellbeing depends on it.
Five Strategies to health wellbeing
Be Active - Do what you can, enjoy what you do, move your mood.
Connect - Talk and Listen. Be there, Feel Connected.
Give - your Time, your Words, your Presence.
Take Notice - Remember the simple things that give you joy.
Keep Learning - Embrace new experiences. See Opportunities. Surprise Yourself.
Nothing of great value was ever obtained without great risk so risk a little frustration and gain self esteem in return!
If you need some help making changes in your life, coaching may be the answer for you.
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