New beginnings, new openings, new ventures and new hopes. And amidst all the revelry and celebrations, many of us will start making resolutions. As I look around and see all the social media updates, I see this hugely increased interest in fitness, and I know many of us would be making resolutions around fitness. Some will want to lose weight and others will want to gain it, some will want better skin/hair and still others will want better legs. Some will want to run more while others will want to run faster. Some will want less illness and others will want more fitness.
While we think about and make resolutions on fitness, we need to understand fitness is not just losing weight, building muscles, running more or eating less. ‘Being fit’ is not something we can measure in kilos or inches. Fitness is wellness and so ‘being fit’ means being ‘well’, in all aspects of our lives. Wellness is something we can measure in terms of the state of our body and our mind. And when we start understanding that wellness is not just about the body but also about the mind and all surrounding factors around our body, we understand the meaning of holistic wellness.
Holistic wellness is something I have been very passionate about for the last few years, even though at the time I did not know that is what it was called. In my late thirties I had a baby and my priorities shifted from being financially independent to being healthy and fit enough to take care of my daughter. When the sleepless nights, erratic schedules and unhealthy snacking led to a continuous stress migraine, I realized if I wanted to retain my sanity I needed to think about something beyond just the gym. I hired a personal fitness trainer who luckily turned out to be my savior for he was not your average all brawns no brains gym trainer. He introduced me to the concept of eating right, sleeping right, staying happy and making friends.
A few weeks of following his advice and I realized I was on to a winner. Eating right led to higher energy. Staying happy, making friends and exercising meant I slept better. Making friends also meant I took more interest in things and people outside my family. And staying happy, though it did not come easy, made me way calmer when I had to feed my baby at 2 AM. A new friend I made at the time gave me a few books by Dr. Brian Weiss and that was a mind-altering experience as I started understanding that my life was not just my own, it also belonged to and belonged for others. Being an internet buff, I started reading more on the wellness approaches my trainer suggested and that’s when I first read about the Six Dimensions of Wellness, a model developed by Dr. Bill Hettler of National Wellness Institute (NWI).
The six dimensions this model talks about are occupational, physical, social, intellectual, spiritual and emotional. Together, the six dimensions comprise the essence of our lives. If we want complete holistic wellness, we need to look at and take care of all the six dimensions and maintain a healthy balance in all these. Imbalance in any one of the dimensions gradually affects the others and leads to disturbances in our physical or mental health, thus negatively impacting our lives and the lives of those around us.
In the olden days when our parents and grandparents were growing up, from their childhood they were clear about where they wanted to be, what they wanted to do. Along with that they also understood the importance of following the value system laid down by their elders, eating home-made food, doing their own chores, taking care of their family and leading a balanced life that gave equal importance to work, family, self and society. Any time they wanted to do something they also thought about how their actions impacted their family, people around them and whether it was morally/ethically right. And we learnt to do the same, when we were children. However as we grew up and started reaching unimaginable heights and solving complex puzzles, we lost the essence of life that helped us stay sane. We lost the art of balancing our varied needs. We focused so much on one or two aspects of our lives that we ignored the rest. And that resulted in chaos in our body and mind. That’s where Dr. Hettler’s model comes into use. While consciously applying the model, we become aware of the way all the dimensions of our life are connected and how a good balance of all six contributes to healthy living.
The model explains how in addition to meeting our professional and personal obligations we need to understand our relationship with ourselves as well as the rest of the world.
So when we talk about occupational wellness we need to understand it is better to choose a career that is consistent with what we want from our lives. For physical wellness we need to think about what enhances good health and what takes the goodness away. For social wellness we need to maintain a balance between our needs and that of the society and our environment. For intellectual and emotional wellness we need to be present in the moment and find solutions to existing problems rather than worry about them or allow them to fester. For spiritual wellness we need to live each day in a way that is consistent with our values and beliefs than to do otherwise and feel untrue to ourselves.
The benefits of understanding the holistic wellness model and applying it to our daily lives are manifold. Top among these is our own physical and mental well-being. I left my fitness trainer long back, when I moved to a new house. But I have not left this model. The inner calm the holistic approach has brought me is no less than my own personal ‘nirvana’. At 45, I am at my best physical and mental health ever. I handle stress much better than I ever did; I consciously evaluate the impact of every action of mine and weigh my words before speaking. I am calm, happy and sane amidst chaos in a bustling city.
So this year, while you are busy with your own thoughts and resolutions, I would love for you to make this your resolution. Kill the killer of bad health this year. Understand and apply the methods of holistic wellness to your lives. Stay healthy, stay fit, and stay well. Stay blessed.