Have you ever wondered why some people eat healthily, organic, balanced and yet don’t manage to shed the few kilos they want gone? How come that some of us are active, practice sports, hit the gym regularly and yet still sport a belly and see very little change in their body shape or energy levels? Why do others systematically practice techniques of relaxation, meditation, yoga etc. and they continue to be anxious and to struggle with a high amount of stress?
The reason why many of us continue to fail in these and so many other wellbeing pursuits is that we’re missing a link. Not the same link, of course – Mother Nature isn’t boring! There simply isn’t ‘one size fits all’ when it comes to wellbeing.
Let’s look at this in more detail.
Bespoke Wellbeing: one step at a time.
Walking on a true path of wellbeing starts with a sustained effort to identify your own, personal aspects to work on -and we are all different. That is why general equations, programmes or pre-made solutions have very little chance of working for everyone.
There are some general guidelines to follow, of course, but each of one of us in search of their own, true wellbeing is obliged to walk their own way, to fight their own demons and to do so at their own pace.
Wellbeing isn’t something one finds in a hurry, to implement after reading a short article (this one included!), or to implement over a few weeks. Small changes can bring results rather quickly, but it is the perseverance and discipline that will bring about long term, life-changing results. Sometimes it takes a while to find what works for you, and you have to allow yourself some space for trial and error. The pursuit of wellbeing is a lifetime adventure, a journey to savour every day -and patience is key.
But, where to start from? How do you identify your own path and start walking it?
5 wellbeing essentials and some questions to ask yourself:
Food is the foremost wellbeing essential. As the old adage goes “you are what you eat”, so this won’t come as a surprise. Yes, most of us find themselves in front of their plate every day without the habit of asking questions: is this fuel really working for me, today? Is this fuel appropriate for the work I need to get done today? Did I make a good choice for my body and mind, or just for my gustative papilla? Will this fuel assist me well throughout my day, give me enough energy and support my brain chemistry, mood and health?
In short, do I know how to choose the right food for myself, each day, based on what I have to do and how I feel?
Training your Body
Physical exercise has the potential of shifting your mood, decreasing pain and inflammation, supporting your heart, reinforcing discipline, making you stronger, helping you get lean, decreasing stress, increasing your confidence and also bringing you pure joy. And this is far from being an exhaustive list of benefits!
But how much training is enough? What kind of training is actually good for me? And more importantly, is it adapted to what my day looks like? Should I keep the same training routine every week? Should I participate in the same group classes at the gym? When is it right to go easier and when should I push my limits? How much cardio is right, and how much resistance training? What training flow do I need today to help balancing off my hormones? Should women and men train in the same way?
In short, do I know how to choose the right training for myself, each day?
Relaxation on a daily basis is often ignored and many think only of a day at a spa when they hear the word. Yet, relaxation encompasses so many different everyday aspects: from stretching to (self)massage, from maintaining the correct posture to breathing properly and finding a quiet moment for ourselves, every day.
Relaxing effectively has countless benefits. It decreases your cortisol levels, it relaxes your muscles, calms your mind and, yes, it does iron out those unwanted wrinkles! But do you find the time to relax often enough, with so many things on your agenda? And how can you make sure to relax effectively, no matter the surprises that each day brings?
In short, do I integrate relaxation into my lifestyle?
Training your Mind
Your mind-flows are subtle and powerful. They conduct you through each moment of the day and have a very direct impact on your wellbeing. Our minds are strong and delicate at the same time, easily effected by everything around us, whether it is bad dreams, not enough good fats in our diet, hormone imbalances or micronutrient deficiencies. Adjusting your mental patterns, working on the roots of all the issues, is priceless and essential work.
Here are some questions to ask oneself on this issue: do I concentrate easily? Is my mind agitated? Am I invaded by thoughts all the time? How can I quiet them down? Shall I ignore them or shall I observe them? What would help me find peace? Is it easy to implement the changes I want? Do I have the tools to work, at ease, on implementing changes? What techniques will increase my mental discipline, balance, awareness and consciousness, in a smooth, incremental way, every day? And If I’ve practiced some techniques for a while, what results have I seen, over the time?
In short, how aware am I of my state of mind and its effect on my daily life?
Life Skills: Awareness of cause and effect
We have so much power over our reactions and yet we do not realise that random stress, bad food, too much or not enough food intake, fatigue, multitasking and so on, can change a day’s flow in just a few minutes. A driver who ignores a red light and puts you in danger for one moment in the morning may simply change your mood, your hormonal balance and brain chemistry for the rest of the day. Only attention and awareness about how you actually feel and react from that moment on can lead to equanimity and make the day better, for you and for the ones around you.
Every day we are all exposed to countless irritable or dangerous things; events that so many times we just can’t change, and that don’t depend on us. The reaction, however, is entirely in our hands. It is good to ask oneself… Am I patient enough? How tolerant am I? Do I judge quickly? How well do I communicate with others at work, in my family, with friends? How do I react in a conflict situation? Am I emphatic enough? Do I plan, structure and anticipate well how I spend my time? Do I feel good about these aspects?
In short, how do I react to the environment around me?
Turning the cogs each day
Each of these 5 life essentials is like a tiny cog wheel in a bigger machine that helps you advance daily towards your own version of wellbeing and personal contentment.. Each area requires time for introspection and openness to change: time we sometimes feel we don’t have, and openness that often comes hard.
What is most important to understand is that these 5 cogs interact at all times. They ‘talk’ to and influence each other, every day and hour, continuously looking for balance.
Your fuel changes your brain chemistry, and so does your training; your hormones influence your mood and drives; micronutrients deficiencies can trigger anxiety, restlessness, mind fog; your patience and empathy influence your level of stress, which in turn reflects on the connections with the others around you, and which in its own turn influences your energy, mood and cravings; your state of mind changes your breathing and that can change your mind focus, as well as your hormonal balance; and it goes on and on…
Ignoring just one wheel takes the entire system out of balance, because something, somewhere, is stuck. If it has happened already, the least we can do is to accept that it happened, to remain present and solution-oriented. Like this, we can anticipate better the potential consequences we may face and do “damage control” first, while keeping in mind the changes we need to implement to achieve long-term balance.
Every day is different and will bring us different aspects to consider. Taking the time to check-in on ourselves daily on each of the 5 wellbeing essentials will be way less expensive in terms of time and energy than the consequences we may have to face in long run if we do nothing: consequences on our health, emotions, relationships, concentration, shape, looks and even wallets.
In this post I have just given an overview of the 5 essentials of wellbeing. In the next article I will start looking at them more in detail, one by one. The first will be food. Where to start in order to turn food into a good friend, every single day, for life? So stay tuned!
Photo credits: Pixabay
Mihaela Ostafe is an active coach, personal trainer and nutritionist (general nutrition, healing approaches and sports nutrition). She also has a background in communication and team training strategy. She is a passionate mountain hiker and cyclist, always happy to spend as much of her time as possible outdoor.
Let’s start a journey together!
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