Wellness always seems to be working at answering one critical question: Why don't people do what they know they need to do for themselves? Providing people with good information about physical fitness, stress management, nutrition, etc., is important, but insufficient. It is not a matter of lacking information. With the amount of media attention given to health and well-being, it is hard to believe that most people don't already know more than enough to live very well lives. Articles on cholesterol, healthy relationships, exercise and smoking cessation abound. Where is the motivation to change, and what is blocking it?
Whether we are looking at our individual health or wellness programming for a small or large organization, there seem to be certain factors that have emerged from the last twenty years or so, that the wellness movement could call itself a field of study. Let me share some informal suggestions or tenets that, after eighteen years in the "wellness biz," it all comes down to for me.
1. Wellness is a holistic concept. Anything short of that is incomplete and ultimately ineffective. We need to look at the whole person and program for the mind, body, spirit, and environment. Just picking the dimension of wellness that you like and minimizing the others doesn't work in the long run.
* Imagine each dimension of wellness in your life like a spoke on a wheel. Draw a picture of your wellness wheel, extending your physical fitness spoke, your spiritual development spoke, nutrition spoke, etc. out as far as you feel you have developed it, and practice what you preach. Do you have a wheel that rolls reasonably well? Where do you need to put your energy into learning more and practicing more?
2. Self-esteem is the critical factor in change. Wellness is caring enough about yourself to take stock of your life, make the necessary changes and find the support to maintain your motivation. Heal the wounds. Find what is holding you back from feeling good about yourself and work through the blocks, not around them.
As Gerry Jampolsky says, everything we do comes either from love or from fear. Where do your wellness lifestyle efforts come from? For many of us, change requires the hard, roll up the sleeves, work of facing our fears and healing old wounds from our experience growing up in our families of origin and our peer group and community. Positive affirmations, or self-statements, are excellent, but need to be coupled with this type of life-long self-reflective work.
* Identify one negative message you frequently say to yourself ("You're so stupid!" "You'll never amount to anything.", etc.). Relax for a minute or two with your eyes closed. Think of the negative message, and say out loud in a shout "Who says?" Notice who flashes into your mind, a parent, teacher, one-time peer? See with whom you have some unfinished business to deal with.
3. Who we surround ourselves with either helps us stretch our wings and soar, or clips them again and again. Positive peer health norms encourage wellness lifestyle changes. Mutually beneficial relationships with friends, lovers, family and colleagues who care about us as people are what we need to seek and create in our lives. Rather than being threatened by our personal growth, they support it. Do your friends (partners, etc.) bring our your OK or NOT OK feelings? Giving and receiving strokes are what it's all about. Friends keep friends well.