I have written previously about stress and theres a lot that is known about what causes it, how we sense it in our bodies and that chronic stress can lead to downstream chronic disease and poor health. However, how do we shift the paradigm from managing stress, to optimizing wellbeing – so that we can be healthier, live longer more fulfilling lives, perform at our best, have wholesome family and social relationships, make a difference in the world, and in this way – become true leaders – of ourselves, our families, and our communities.
Perhaps lets start by looking at what wellbeing is? Wellbeing, in my view, is a self directed and conscious way of being
of living into our full potential
of mind, body, spirit alignment and congruence
within relationships and communities that support this.
When we are well – we are truly at our best, and this is not just a mental or emotional shift. Our bodies and minds are intricately woven and we can use the body to change the mind, and the mind to change the body. I would love to explore this further in the near future.
For now, here are some quick bytes to take away, that looks at integrating the visible and not so visible parts of wellbeing.
What you eat, is crucial to how you feel, and to your physical energy levels. As an example high sugar, high fat processed food leads to sugar highs and then lows. Over the long term such a diet can lead to an increase in body fat, insulin resistance, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, muscle and joint problems, and changes in the brain, hormones and immunity.
What can you do:
- Use a food diary to track what you eat
- Audit your shopping list and cupboards
- Consult a nutritionist to create the best way of eating for you and your family, that would nourish you.
Exercise is one of the most underutilized and profoundly impactful things you can do for yourself. It changes your biochemistry so your body feels better. It can have a profound impact on the brain and on your emotions. Not to mention that if exercise outside, you are gaining the connection with nature – and there’s so much that can be said about the impact of that on our health too.
What can you do
- Guidelines say that you need at least 150min/week
- Mix it up – cardio, strength and flexibility
- Do something you enjoy and that fuels something inside you.
- Try make it social by asking a friend or child or partner to join. This way, you can connect with each other actively, and have an accountability partner.
Sleep, is of course the other big magic pill, that is sadly not recognized. Most sleep research indicates that we need 8 hours of sleep a day. Its restorative on both your mind and your body.
So some quick tips:
- Watch your intake of caffeine – the half life of caffeine can be between 5 – 7 hours (before it is cleared from your system).
- Having good sleep hygiene and create optimal conditions by looking at lighting and making sure that your bedroom is cooler
- Keeping technology out of the bedroom and if possible avoiding the blue light of screens 1-2 hours before
- Watching the meals that you eat before bed.
Mentally and emotionally
Mental and emotional energy can be drained significantly by high demand work environments, managing uncertainty as we are now doing in the pandemic and not having the available resources to help reset and remain at cause rather than in effect to situations.
I could write volumes about this one, and here are the quick hacks
- During the day
- Find a few minutes between meetings or activities to check in on how you are? Ask the question: How am I? What do I need? What emotions are present. Use a journal or your phone to note and notice whats happening in your inner landscape rather than judge it or become swept away by the mental chatter and inner voice.
- Use conscious breathing techniques to help you regulate your nervous system. An example of this is :
Square Breathing in for the count of 4, holding for 4, breathing out for 4, and holding for 4. There are many more techniques that you can research, and find one that works best for you.
- Find a way of grounding yourself. Perhaps go outside for a few minutes and tap into your sensations – a popular one is find 5 things you can see, four things you can hear, 3 things you can smell, 2 things you can feel and one thing you can taste. This can shift the looping of thoughts in the brain and bring you back into the present moment
- To build emotional and mental fitness try out meditation and mindfulness exercises. There are apps available and many online resources that are free. Consistent practice can help you build awareness of your thoughts and emotions so you can observe them rather than becoming enmeshed in them. There are also many other benefits that I have written about in the past.
- Explore activities that are engaging for your brain. Reading, writing, painting, and other creative interests – are only just some of the things that are stimulating and restorative. Use a journal to reflect and write, and “get out of your head”
Humans are wired to be social. Studies have shown that meaningful connection can change our health and wellbeing in a significant way. One of our core needs (in my view) is to be seen and heard!
- So finding support and a way of having deeply nourishing conversations can really help us physically, mentally and emotionally.
- Social media is really not this. Sadly, social media has almost made us “incompetent” at having real social interaction. Put your phone away, and find a way to be with yourself and others – in a way that matters.
Purpose and transcendence
Over the long term finding meaning in what you are doing, and the “WHY” is the fuel for a life well lived. This can also help build resilience for the tough times, and times of uncertainty. How can you show up, to make a difference to the world. In whatever, small or large, what YOU DO matters!!
- Perhaps do a values exercise so you can understand what your internal motivators are. “What makes me tick? (Dr John Demartini has a free exercise on his website)
- Start a coaching program with someone that can partner with you on this
- Read and learn more about this topic with curiosity so you can understand yourself better
- Ask questions about yourself and your life. It was Albert Einstein who said: “Never stop questioning”. It is through asking questions and remaining curious, you may open up to possibilities and potential that you never thought previously possible. It is in the field of “not knowing” that so much learning and richness exists.
So, your capacity to flourish, to live fully into possibility is really in your hands. Your don’t need anything fancy and expensive – other than intent and conscious intention. Are you ready? Only YOU can answer this.