This month, I want to share ways to improve your wellness, including your mental wellness. The World Health Organization defines mental wellness as a “state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.”
Before we begin to explore ways to improve your wellness, I believe it is important to first understand what wellness is and is not. Over the last decade, wellness has become a buzzword. In some cases, it is representing some form of good health. In many, it refers to physical health – in particular, diet and nutrition – while leaving out mental health. As of lately, wellness has become anything from health treatments, mindfulness practices, exercise, and a whole bunch of supposed quick fixes found on social media.
What is concerning to me is the power that “wellness” has in social media to lure people into products and treatments that have no evidence-base, and worst yet may even be conspiracy theories. There is a growing community of wellness gurus who share misleading information and sometimes complete lies. There have been social media posts from such gurus claiming that COVID-19 is a hoax and that vaccines will lead to all kinds of medical concerns that have never been founded in medical research. Some gurus even go as far as sharing conspiracy theories about controlling the masses, the one percent, anti-semitism, and even pedophilia.
As someone who spent many years studying wellness, conducting research on wellness, and applying it to my clinical practice, I can tell you what wellness is and what it is not.
Wellness is finding harmony in your life. This is not necessarily balance, rather finding congruence amongst the different aspects of your life. Wellness is complex and dynamic, and it can always be changed and improved upon. Wellness is multi-faceted and contributes to our overall identity. It includes physical identity, emotional identity, spiritual identity, relational identity, and performance identity. When working to improve our overall wellness, it takes time and is a process. It is not a quick fix. There are different ways to improve your overall wellness, including but not limited to counseling, medical care, complementary health care, yoga and exercise, cultural traditions, and mindfulness. And most importantly, there is a science of wellness.
Wellness is not:
Wellness is not a fad. There are no quick fixes to overall wellness*. Wellness is not just about pretty people in pretty photos. It is also not having to commit to expensive nuanced products on blogs that promise life-changing results. And most importantly, wellness is not conspiracy theories.
As you work towards optimizing your overall wellness, below are a few tips to improve your mental wellness which is tied to all of the wellness identities discussed above.
Step to improve your mental wellness:
- Make time for self-care each week.
- Develop a mindfulness practice to reduce stress and increase gratitude.
- Allow yourself to be okay with not always being okay.
- Identify sources of anxiety and depression and how you can reduce the symptoms.
- Assess how you are caring for your physical body.
- Seek help when needed – whether it is counseling with a holistic psychotherapist, other health care professionals, your friends and family, and your community.
*Here is a brief example of social media wellness fads and supposed quick fixes: The next time you see a “diet tea” know that the tea isn’t making you magically lose weight or cancel out bad eating habits. More than likely such a tea contains senna, an herb that is used to treat constipation. While used in small doses it can be okay, but long-term use can lead to kidney inflammation, electrolyte abnormalities, and disordered eating.