I’ve been doing a bit of research around wellness and illness. How they are linked and how they are essentially one state of homeostasis.
The term has been defined by the Wisconsin-based National Wellness Institute as an active process of becoming aware of and making choices toward a more successful existence.
Or Dicitionary.reference.com says this:
1. The quality or state of being healthy in body and mind, especially as the result of deliberate effort.
2. An approach to healthcare that emphasizes preventing illness and prolonging life, as opposed to emphasising treating diseases*
*I personally like this best
When was the last time you thought about the word health as something isolated from having an illness? The phrase ‘at least you have your health’ is referring directly to just-not-being-sick. Awesome.
So are you content with ‘just not being sick’. When you’re sick you stop doing stuff that you think is making you sick – drinking, over working/exercising, late nights and bad food choices. Then you sit still in often whinge reluctantancy and wait for sickness to go. Then you go back to your old routine without a thought to its hand in helping you get sick in the first place.
But what happens when you want to just ‘not’ be sick. Have you thought about what it might feel like to be well, overwhelming well…. In a state of total wellness?
What would it take for you to look at your state of health and focus on optimum vs. just not sick? I bet you’ve never even considered it that way hey? And how the hell do you even start.
We all get the exercise more and eat less health message. So is wellness only about weight? And if that’s our measuring stick; is super skinny the holy grail of wellness? Do our overweight citizens flunk wellness school and have to boot-camp it until they qualify for a better wellness grade?
I’m not so sure it’s that simple.
This post isn’t about 5 steps to ultimate wellness (although that’d bump me up the SEO’s) I just want to challenge your ideals around what wellness or being ‘well’ means to you. Is it just the absence of disease? Is it being able to get through your day without a physical or mental breakdown? Is it the ability to run a marathon? It is total zen; spiritual, mind and body connection?
The jury is out for me on the actual definition, but I do know there is a balance – a scale perhaps, at one end has illness and the other has total wellness with a pivot point in the middle, called the Wellness-Continuum. No one is static in this, we move up and down the line closing in on one end or another. The true trick (or skill) is know when you’re heading in a particular direction and act accordingly. Are you heading towards illness by burning the candles at both ends – and what does that mean for you? Are you the ‘best you’ve ever been’ fittest, strongest, brightest etc and what are the contributing factors around this? What are your telling signs because there is no one-size-fits-all on this. For example I have a friend who can stay up all night, party hard, drink and eat less than ideal foods and then get up the next morning for a 6am PT session. Me – I’m not so lucky. I know that I’ll pay for that late night over the next two – or three – days. But if I choose to do that, its ok, I manage it. Which is essentially what wellness means for me. Where are my limits and what are my signs for pushing the pendulum too far in the wrong direction. You can apply this to foods, diets and exercise – once you start knowing what works for you, what you react to, what makes you feel awesome, you can investigate it more. Feel like crap and all ‘puffy’ after a carb-blow out, take note. Feel awesome after a yoga class or do you get all buzzed up after a HIIT session or spin class? Perhaps you need a bit of both to rock your world.
You can’t flick a switch on this either, it’s a slow burn. But that’s totally ok cos we’ve got time, the body is very forgiving and excellent at healing. Lucky.
So run fast, do your downward dogs, drink your green smoothie or eat steak for breakfast, its all ok. See how you feel after each. Maybe the thought of green liquid make’s you want to gag? Does a paleo fry-up for breaky go against your beliefs? For me a early yoga class makes me cranky – so I do a evening session. Long distance running makes me hate myself – so I do interval training at the gym. Its all the freakn same to our body, it registers it all as movement or nutrients. Then its up to you to interpret how you feel after it. And trust me – a big night fueled with alcohol and greasy food actually makes everyone feel like crap, so why do we keep doing it?
We all have a inbuilt sensory mechanism that supplies us with feedback of our actions. I suggest have a inquisitive listen, it won’t lead you down the wrong path. It wants you to feel good, your best even.
So my #1 tip to get started on wellness is to listen. Shut up, sit down and listen to your body. What is it trying to tell you?
Let me know what makes you rock.
Your brain is to blame.
Well the truth is this: your brain is the reason your lazy. What I mean by this is that you can’t actually blame your body for being out of shape. It’s all in your head.
Good intentions translation: is your brain being so smart at allowing you to be lazy.
Good habits translation: is knowing that you’d rather sit on a couch when you get home but you put your exercise kit on and like Nike says ‘just do it’, even though you’d rather poke one, or two? eyes out.
Good understanding aka ‘nice try’ translation: is being 100% aware when your brain is saying ‘lets just press snooze’ and you know thats a slippery slope to an hour later and you’re still in bed. So you just get the freak up and go.
Knowing your ‘brain tricks’ is the key to changing behaviors. Whether they are relating to exercise, food, wellness, work, relationships, (drugs/alcohol?)
It happened to me last night (not the drugs or alcohol bit). I had every intention when I got home to get changed and go to the gym. The entire drive home I was psyching myself up with energizing music. As I was walking into my building I was mentally finding where I had left my runners from the day before and wondering if I can get one more wear out of my exercise pants before they really really need a wash. But as soon as I walked in the door my brain said this:
‘Wwwooohhhooo – you are home.
It’s a Friday.
You are home.
You made it though another week.
You are home….. (brain winning)
…..We are staying home.
I don’t know where your shoes are.
Take off your work shoes and put warm socks on.
You are home!!
Then I promptly turned on the TV and heater, txt my housemate about what we might like to order from the local Chinese joint. Found cheese and crackers…
Brain 1: Body 0
My brain is so smart at being lazy it’s scary. I swear it would like nothing more than for me to just sit on my arse all day. It basically does everything it can ‘think’ of to ensure that this is what happens. However, when I realized that my body was actually the most efficient and amazing instrument, EVER, I began to look at it all a bit differently. Which means I can no longer play the ‘hating on my body for how it looks’ card anymore. My brain has tricked me into thinking that its my body’s responsibility to get up off the couch and go to the gym, but in (biology) reality, my brain is the master control center that essential runs that show, its just cleverly hiding behind my physical self.
It’s my brain that tells my body to get into a room that has equipment so I can ‘workout’. And when I’m in this room, its my brain that tells my body which part of it needs to push, pull and lift. My body is following orders. Sure it can signal physical fatigue, pain and other sensory information, but it’s my brain that reads this and then chooses the next action.
The body just cannot compete with the tricky spin your brain can come up with. Your brain is S.M.A.R.T. at letting your body be L.A.Z.Y!
From this I have come to the conclusion that there is no way to actually out-smart my brains drive for me to be lazy. After all it doesn’t want us to be lazy to shame us, its version of lazy is there for preservation. Preservation of our fuel resource’s. Again it comes right back to cave man days of saving up our energy in case we have to chase our meal down, or run so we don’t become something else’s meal. Makes perfect sense to me. Our body will respond on demand to our brain. But if your brain is running the ‘lazy-boy show’ then you’ll never actually win.
However all is not lost. You can work with your brain. Re-program if you like. But this takes some work and talking out loud to, well, often just yourself. First step in this is to know when exercising works for you. Are you an early morning exerciser, midday, afterwork or after dinner? It doesn’t matter when you do it. You body works best and thus gets better results when you know what time works for you.
I’ll give you an example of what works for me:
I love to get up early and walk, before anything in my day starts. I like to walk and watch the sun come up. So I do it. Because my brain thinks this is fun, i.e. I get loads of enjoyment out of it = not-exercise-to-brain. But I also like to go to the gym for weights. I have no strength in the morning for weights, my body is still waking up and I find that I can’t really ‘resist’ (aka weight training) in the morning. So I don’t do that kind of exercise then, because then I would then it and never do it. I realize that I’m strongest just after work around 5pm. So I go then. But I also know that after-work time for me is dangerous because its when my ‘want to go home and sit on the couch’ mantra is the strongest. So here is where you need to play the mind games a bit. You need to find the joy factor in exercising, which sounds wanky i know. But for me it’s a feeling of being strong both physically and mentally, followed closely by the results I see in my physical body from this type of activity (vanity? who cares). It’s this double barrel approach that makes it happen. It takes some mental muscle to keep working towards achieving this internal motivation. Which is vastly different from other exercise goals like fitting into a size X dress or upcoming holiday where a bikin is your main get up. You need to see it like a maintenance project. Same as you would putting petrol in your car or buying groceries so you can eat. You just need to find the outcome that will drive you to keep wanting to do it. And to be skinny isn’t enough. For some it could be relaxation, stress release, health reason, wanting to be healthy for your family, mental health, managing illness. Whatever it is it needs to be strong enough to keep you wanting to do it. There will be changes in level of frequency and type, but just keep doing it. Your brain will ask less questions if it’s a regular thing.
So find out what it is that makes you happy when you’re moving. Then just keep doing that. Make time or find time. You are accountable for how you look, not your DNA, genetics, blah blah blah BS. Your brain chooses how and when you move, what you eat and when you do it. Outcome is yours.
Your body will work for you whenever you’re ready to use it.