Health and wellbeing are words we use often, but all too often superfluously, to describe our goals, values or ideal lifestyle. A necessary first step, but insufficient if we stop there. Of course we all want to be healthy, but just saying it doesn’t make it happen.
For example, if you want to eat healthier…what does that look like in practice? More fruits and vegetables, right? Do they need to be seasonal, organic and local? Raw, cooked, peeled? Green and leafy or berries with seeds? And what about protein? If I want to be healthy, do I need to be a vegetarian? A vegan? But I like meat and I like eggs. Maybe just free range and from the farm, right? Yogurt is healthy…but why are there 100 different varieties? And carbs…are carbs good or bad? Does carbs mean gluten? And what’s GMO anyway? Do I have to avoid anything and everything processed?
There are so many different diet recommendations out there, sometimes it can feel overwhelming. And I know for me, I often have more questions than answers. This is a common place for false starts on the road to wellbecoming, and a good illustration that understanding what wellbeing entails and how to live in healthier ways is a longer learning process. This same example would be true with activity or fitness regimes? Should I go to the gym? Get a trainer? Spin class, Pilates, Yoga or Tai chi? Cross fit, Taebo or Barre? All the latest trends promise to be the best! (I think you get the idea…)
The word health is synonymous with wellbeing, but to me, this can be misleading. Wellbeing represents a static state, and can lead us on a wild goose chase for that moment of arrival at perfect health. Then I’ll be happy, right? Probably not.
To me wellbecoming is a more accurate and helpful approach. It means that our health, like our existence, is a dynamic process, not a product or a state of arrival. In reality, our health is only as good as its ability to manage the next challenge, be it illness, injury or disease. And there are ways to develop more resiliency and adaptability in our body’s systems. Our immune system is a great case example of this active process of constant renewals and upgrades, fending off new pathogens and developing new antibodies.
Feeling well or unwell at any given point is a result of how we have lived up until that point. A young body can be all too forgiving, where the effects of chronic drinking or repetitive overhead shoulder work for example, whose impact won’t be seen for another 20 years. But that can be good news too! Feeling healthy (or not) 20 years from now, will depend on the choices we start making and living from this day forward.
A note on habits. A good friend of mine always says, “we are what we habitually do.” And what we habitually do, become our habits. And as human beings, we are incredibly habitual creatures. Our health at any given point is a snapshot of our accumulated habits. What would your picture reveal? Someone who is consistently well rested, adequately nourished, happily hydrated, calm in demeanor, comfortable with their place in this world, confident in their work, who takes full breaths regularly and who moves with ease and grace? OR, someone who is chronically overtired, overworked, dehydrated, under-nourished, recovering from the night or week before, already in need of another vacation, late and rushing, catching your breath, and stiff and sore from the ache of the day or the stress of your life? Chances are you are neither extreme, but I find this can be a pretty powerful wake-up call if I am honest with myself.
Of course, not everything is in our control. Accidents happen and people get injured. Disease sometimes happens that are not at all related to lifestyle. And stress is an inevitable part of life (and in some cases, even good for us!). But in the case of health, it is surprising how much is in our control. We choose our diets, we choose our activities, we create our habits, and we can work to manage our stress levels. All of these things can be in our control for making healthier choices. That’s the exciting part!
As you can probably already tell, this blog post is not supposed to be a list about what is or isn’t healthy. (I don’t even think that would be possible! There are certainly patterns we can and should learn, but at the same time, every individual must take into account what works for them). Instead this blog is about a more broad and in-depth approach to how we consider health, and how we keep learning and discovering healthier ways of wellbecoming.
However, there are a few things concrete things I will say about health:
Health and wellbeing is multidimensional. It is easy to think of health in terms of physical and mental, but health also includes social, intellectual, psycho-emotional and spiritual dimensions when assessing our overall journey towards wellbecoming. All of these dimensions are inextricably linked and affect one another in complex ways.
Wellbecoming is an ongoing process, which is why I refer to it as a journey! Learn, integrate, repeat. And in my experience, the more I learn, the more I integrate!
I am certainly not the perfect specimen of health, but I am working towards being an example of a human striving to live in healthier ways, navigating the challenges and trying to integrate what I learn every step of the way. I have had injuries and illnesses and great moments of fitness and vitality, and many things in between. I continue to explore everyday, trying to understand more about health and how I can help guide others on their own journey.
My hope is that this blog dives into these questions of wellbecoming. And I hope to be able to share and learn with everyone that is interested in following along.