Find Your Personal Paths to Wellness
Path to Wellness
What Exactly Does Wellness Mean?
If you spend any time of social media these days you’re bound to come across articles, advertisements or advice on achieving wellness. But what exactly does wellness mean? The Oxford Dictionary defines it as
“The state of being in good health, especially as an actively pursued goal.” 
While The World Health Organization (WHO) defines health as:
“a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity” 
So being healthy does not just mean being free of illness, it also means being physically, mentally and socially balanced, and wellness is the continued active maintenance of that balance.
Everywhere we look, there are people telling us that their particular therapy, meditation course, yoga class, Pilates class, book, video or webinar is the path to wellness. And they may very well be correct. However, every one of us is an individual with different tastes, lifestyles and abilities. We all have different bodies too, so it is unlikely that we will all find the same path to wellness.
So, in no particular order, let’s take a look at some of the most popular paths to wellness:
Yoga as a Path to Wellness
Having said in no particular order, I admit that yoga is possibly the most well known and perhaps oldest of the self-care and wellness practices out there. It’s been around for a very long time, since 2700 B.C. according to some sources. That’s almost 4720 years! These days, most yoga classes consist of one teacher and a class of anything between 10 and 30 students. The teacher demonstrates a posture or asana, and all the class follow. Then the teacher may go around her students and correct or improve their posture as needed. In a group situation like this, egos inevitably come into play. For example, few people want to be the only one who can’t touch their toes, so they push themselves further than is good for their body. But there is an argument that yoga was originally based on the concept that each student has individual need and so each asana needs to be chosen and tailored for each individual.
Krishnamacharya, the Father of Modern Yoga
Krishnamacharya (1888-1989) was a yoga teacher and healer from India, who began learning yoga from his father at the age of five. He is credited by some as “The father of modern yoga”, and he believed it was important to “teach what is appropriate to the individual.” His son T. K. V. Desikachar, not surprisingly, is also a yoga teacher and has written several books on the subject. In his book The Heart of Yoga: Developing a Personal Practice, Desikachar shows the reader how to develop their own tailored practice with step-by-step instructions. This takes into account each individual’s body, lifestyle, age and of course their state of health.
On a personal note, I found this book particularly helpful when I first began to learn yoga. I was lucky enough to find a yoga teacher who was willing to work with me for just 15 minutes a week before her group class began. This was all I needed to ensure my posture was correct for each asana, so I was confident that I was getting it right. I then carried on alone with my practice for the rest of the week.
The Heart of Yoga - Developing a Personal Practice
Meditation and Mindfulness
Meditation is of course an essential part of yoga, but there are many other different forms of meditation. There is active, dynamic meditation such as Qigong  (pronounced Chee Gung) or Tai Chi  (pronounced Tie Chee), there is mantra based or chanting meditation, Christian prayerful meditation and other Buddhist, Hindu or Chinese techniques. In fact all cultures and religions all over the world have developed some form of meditation technique. 
Having practiced some of the techniques mentioned above, I found my own personal favorite to be mindfulness meditation. There are several reasons for this, the first being anyone can practice mindfulness without interfering with or contradicting their own spiritual/religious beliefs or values. Another reason I embraced mindfulness is because it is much more than a meditation, it’s a way of life. It’s a practice I use several times a day, every day.
Mindful or Mind Full?
Mindfulness Keeps Us In the Present Moment
To bring our mind back to what we are doing right here, right now is an incredible way to reset our thinking, lower our stress and heighten our awareness of reality. How is that helpful? Well, most of the time we are either thinking about the past or the future, and more often than not, we get very caught up in what I call the “Should's and Should Not's”. We fret over the past and worry over the future. And even if we’re not fretting, we’re still thinking about what happened and what might happen most of the time.
Mindfulness helps us to get out of that cycle. It helps us to accept that the past is gone, and at the same time accept and perhaps learn from whatever feelings are associated with it. It also helps us to plan for the future with a clearer mind, so that we are responding rather than reacting.
Now, this is a very brief explanation of what mindfulness is. For a better understanding, I would recommend the book Real World Mindfulness for Beginners: Navigate Daily Life One Practice at a Time by Brenda Salgado. I teach mindfulness and recommend this book to my students all the time. In fact, I often read aloud short snatches from it during a class because so much of the information is targeted at beginners.
Real World Mindfulness for Beginners: Navigate Daily Life One Practice at a Time
We humans are social creatures. We need other people in order to have a happy and fulfilled life. In fact, solitary confinement, which is used as a punishment in many countries, is known to have a detrimental effect on mental health. This doesn’t mean we should all be married, or have a partner for life. But it does mean that it is best for our mental health and overall wellness to have close ties and regular social interaction with other people. 
Best Options for Meeting New People
So, what is your best option if you want to meet new people?
- Join a club: This is one of the oldest methods of finding friendship and perhaps even love, and it still works. Being a member of a club is known to have a positive effect on wellness.  Whatever your interest, there’s bound to be a club out there somewhere for it. And if there isn’t, then form a club yourself.
- Take a Class: Learning a new skill or just gaining knowledge is always fun and you can make friends with your fellow students.
- Volunteer: You can volunteer to help out with a charitable organization, a club, a local school (although you will need Police clearance before working with children). You are likely to meet people from all walks of life here.
The important thing to remember is to be yourself and don’t be afraid to make the first move. Many of us are afraid to be the first one to speak, but once you approach someone in a friendly way, 99.9% of people will respond.
Massage has been around since ancient times as a healing, comforting and restorative treatment.  Our muscles get knotted and adhered with use, and massage prevents that build-up from becoming painful and restrictive. Regular massage is an important part of self-care. More specialized massage is beneficial for the treatment of such complaints as sports and other muscular injuries and conditions, for lymph drainage before and after surgery, and for cancer patients to help with the side effects of chemotherapy and radiation treatment. 
Massage is not for everyone. Some people do not like the idea of a stranger touching them so intimately, and that’s understandable. But massage therapists are trained professionals who only have their clients’ health and wellness in mind. If you’ve never had a massage, I would recommend giving it a try. Perhaps you could begin with a foot massage.
Finding Meaning and Purpose
Do you get out of bed most mornings looking forward to the day? Or would you rather pull the duvet over your head and stay where you are? Most of us feel like having a “duvet day” occasionally, but if that’s how you feel most days then maybe you need to find something that is more fulfilling in your life.It’s lovely if we can find a job that is fulfilling and enjoyable, but it is an unfortunate reality for many that a job is only good for paying the bills. However, there are other ways of finding meaning and purpose in our life, such as taking up a hobby, getting a pet  or volunteering to work with a charity. (And these are great ways to make new friends too – see the paragraph on Social Interaction above).
We know from studies that having a purpose in life really improves our mental health  and our physical function  But I believe nothing illustrates this better than Victor Frankl’s brilliant book “Man’s Search for Meaning” In it, Frankl describes how, half way through his internment in a Nazi Concentration Camp, he had learned to tell the people who were likely to survive, and those who were not. And it was the people who had something to survive for, that were more likely to make it. In Frankl’s case, it was his work.
Man's Search for Meaning
There Can Be More Than One Path to Wellness
These are just some of the ways we can maintain wellness. Each of us needs to find our own path or paths. There is no one way, and there is no right or wrong way. For example, Yoga may fulfill all of our needs because it helps to maintain physical and mental health through stretching, exercise and meditation. We can also make new friends through our Yoga class, and for some, Yoga becomes a passion, or even their job, giving them real meaning in their life. On the other hand, you might like to find several paths to wellness, such as regular massage and regular exercise, taking care of a beloved pet, volunteering with your local soup kitchen and meditating every day.
Whatever way you do it, I wish you nothing but wellness and happiness.
Finding Your Personal Path
What Wellness Path Have You Found?
What is your favorite path to wellness?
Links and References
- Kapoor, R. (2014), Taking the Solitary Confinement Debate Out of Isolation. Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law Online 42 (1) 2-6; Available at http://jaapl.org/content/42/1/2
- Venaglia, R.B & Lemay, E.P. Jr. (2017) Hedonic Benefits of Close and Distant Interaction Partners: The Mediating Roles of Social Approval and Authenticity.Personality & Social Psychology Bulletin 43(9). Abstract available at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28903681
- Foubert, J.D., & Grainger, L.U., (2006), Effects of Involvement in Clubs and Organizations on the Psychosocial Development of First-Year and Senior College Students. NASPA Journal.( 43)1. Available at : https://www.albany.edu/involvement/documents/effects_of_involvement.pdf
- KMS Publishing.com (Author) (2010) The Healing Power Of Massage Therapy: Enjoy The Healing Benefits Of Massage Treatment As Medicine, As Relaxation, And As Physical Rehabilitation. KMS Publishing
- Kshitiha, S., Shailendra, K. Sharma, & Pragyend3 (2016)., Role of Dogs in Life Satisfaction and Stress Reduction: A Comparative Study. IOSR Journal of Humanities and Social Sciences (21) 2. Available at http://www.iosrjournals.org/iosr-jhss/papers/Vol.%2021%20Issue2/Version-3/E021233539.pdf
- Kim, E.S., Chiro, K., Chen, Y., (2017) Association Between Purpose in Life and Objective Measures of Physical Function in Older Adults. JAMA Psychiatry 74(10):1039-1045. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2017.2145. Available at https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamapsychiatry/fullarticle/2648692
- Kim, E.S., Kawachi, I., Chen, Y., & Jubzansky, L.D. (2017) 15. Association Between Purpose in Life and Objective Measures of Physical Function in Older Adults. JAMA Psychiatry.74(10):1039-1045. doi: 10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2017.2145. Available at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28813554