While most people would agree that good health is important, the level of time and attention that we devote to cultivating our well-being varies widely. Perhaps this is because our definitions of "good health" can be quite different. For some of us, good health means operating at the peak of our physical conditioning. For others, it is about being able to fulfill our daily responsibilities without difficulty. I have found that, despite their variety, personal definitions of health often revolve around having the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual freedom to participate in our lives in ways that affirm our core values.
People may choose to increase their investment in their well-being for any number of reasons. They may be inspired to tackle a challenge that requires more fitness or stamina. Perhaps they have a vague sense that their level of health is slipping, or maybe life has delivered some kind of "wake-up call". They could have received unwelcome news at a health appointment. They might have accompanied a friend or family member through a difficult health challenge.
Whatever the motivation for the investment, each health-seeker must eventually face the question: Where do I want or need to grow to increase my well-being? While there may be more than one answer to that question, answering it clearly is important. Honing in on the answer will clarify your best next steps in a journey to better health. Here are four helpful ways you can answer the question for yourself:
- Pick a Model. The idea of well-being is quite broad and it is helpful to have a way of breaking it into more manageable pieces. I use the Wheel of Health from Duke Integrative Medicine to help health-seekers focus on specific domains of well-being. Another model that is popular in many workplaces is the WellBeing Finder designed by Gallup. Whatever model resonates with you, spending some time reflecting on it and considering how it applies to your situation can provide useful insight and direction.
- Gather Information. As you hone in on the areas of well-being where you'd like to grow, gathering additional information can help you choose specific goals that match your vision. Find a way to measure what you would like to change. If you are upgrading your eating habits, try keeping a food journal for 3 - 7 days. If you're committed to being more active, a wearable device can help you track what you're already doing. If you want to be better rested, try keeping a sleep diary. Before choosing where you want to go, it's helpful to know where you are.
- Cultivate Mindful Awareness. Mindfulness may seem like an esoteric term, but it serves a very practical purpose for health-seekers: it provides a rich source of internal data. Mindful awareness is simply the ability to observe the present moment in a particular way. As we become observers of our experience - cultivating patience, curiosity, non-attachment, and acceptance and setting aside judgement and striving - we learn to distinguish the thoughts and emotions that drive our behavior. This awareness gives us more freedom in our lives. We are no longer slaves to our automatic reactions, but have opportunities to make more conscious choices. Mindfulness can be cultivated informally or through a formal practice. The Mindful Awareness Resource Center at UCLA has free podcasts of several simple mindfulness practices that you can do on your own.
- Leverage Your Team. - Ultimately, we each make our own decisions about our health behaviors. Nevertheless, other people can be rich sources for inspiration, information, support and feedback. Check out this blog to explore ways you can leverage the support of others to reach your goals.
What has helped you hone in on the next steps in your wellness journey? Please share your experiences in the comments below!