It’s the time of year where people are setting new goals. Resolutions, if you will. And while some are opting to keep it simple and jump on the gym bandwagon with a heaving sigh of relief, others may be wondering if that’s enough. After all, what about sleep? Nutrition? Stress-reduction? What about all those other things that make up overall wellness?
The truth is, these things matter too — sometimes more than going to the gym. So how can you build your wellness into a lifestyle? To help you reach your goals, here’s a guide to the various facets of wellness.
1. Takeaway: The big picture. What are your primary health priorities and what goals do those priorities address? If it’s sleep you want to work on, perhaps it would make the most sense to strengthen other pillars of wellness first before putting in the hours at the gym.
2. Nutrition: Eat food, not too much and mostly plants. If you’re working on your fitness, nutrition is the cornerstone of your efforts. For that reason, it may be the smartest place to start if you want to achieve overall wellness. Eating a removable-lens camera sensible diet (think healthy fats, lean protein and complex carbohydrates) can help reduce inflammation and thus decrease pain or injuries you might experience in exercise like running or crossfit. The right foods can also help improve how well your body burns fat during your workouts — making it that much easier to achieve your goals.
3. Sleep: Think of sleep as an investment in wellness. Proper sleep is when your brain, muscles and body work in concert (an interdependent system) to help you maintain a healthy weight, so that you can continue to live a long, healthy life. Getting plenty of quality sleep helps keep your body looking young — and it makes exercising more enjoyable.
Taking good care of your sleep also includes getting the right amount of physical exercise and plenty of fresh air throughout the day. While this may seem unnecessary in some circumstances, there are plenty of studies that show what happens to those who don’t get enough rest. Some will die prematurely due to heart troubles or cancer, while others will display slower-moving reflexes or have trouble concentrating or remembering things like names and faces.
Furthermore, sleep not only makes you feel more energetic, it’s also when your body goes to work repairing tissues and muscles. It’s where your body releases human growth hormone (HGH), which stimulates the immune system and speeds up cell division. To top it off, the National Sleep Foundation says that sleeping too little or too much can lead to weight gain and obesity.
4. Stress: Many people want to get in better shape so they can handle stress better. If you’re one of these people, taking care of your stress levels could be just what you need. There is a wide range of factors that can contribute to stress, which makes it something that really needs to be measured and understood. Stress can affect almost every part of our body, from the brain to the muscles and liver. As a result, dealing with stress can have an effect on any aspect of your life; so if you want to live healthier you need to understand what causes it and what it does.
The best way to deal with chronic stress is to take control — meaning taking steps toward reducing or eliminating its causes in your life. For example, exercise plays a big part in physically reducing stress. Stress can also be a function of sleep deprivation, which in turn can exacerbate other stressors.
One thing that many people do to reduce their stress is meditate. And while you may think it’s just sitting cross-legged and spewing oms, the truth is that meditation has been proved to deactivate the part of your brain associated with worry and bodily sensation. It literally changes the way you feel about things and what you think about them. If you’re looking for somewhere to start, Harvard Medical School offers online courses in mindfulness . Or try this guided meditation from Dr. Oz .
5. Mental strength: Everyone needs a little helping hand from time to time. In regards to wellness, mental peace is something you can’t put a price on — and certainly not in the form of a gym membership. It takes practice, but it’s one of the most important aspects of reaching your goals because it comes with the potential for great rewards. People without mental strength don’t reach their potential because they lack the ability to push themselves beyond what they think they can physically do, because their minds are always there screaming 'no.’
You can’t get started if you’re always stopping yourself before you even know you can. So how do we get over this? The first step is to realize that our limitations are in our heads and not something we were born with. Whatever your goals, if they’re important enough to you, they will motivate you to act. Anything is possible with motivation — including making the impossible seem possible.
Remember that the only person who limits your potential is yourself — and the only way to achieve what appears to be impossible is by believing in yourself first and foremost. Try setting goals, making a plan and then focusing on one thing at a time. These things can help you persevere.
6. Exercise: Ah yes, exercise — the part that everyone seems to hate so much! Most people think about it as something they have to do for themselves to keep their bodies healthy, but the truth is that exercise is also an integral component of wellness because it helps us to see ourselves as separate from our hardships and tribulations — because they’re not all we are. Exercise teaches us to cope with stress better and in turn reduces our mental pain. It gives us a place to channel our internal energy while simultaneously improving balance and coordination (and even your mood).
A healthy exercise routine also serves as a way to get social. If you’re an introvert, running or jogging through a park is not only a great way to get your heart pumping, but it’s also an opportunity to meet people who share similar interests. And while you may be in it just for the exercise, being surrounded by others can help you make new friends and open yourself up to a more satisfying life outside of the gym.
It’s never too late to start exercising and sticking to a healthy diet. These things really do make a difference in your life. Taking ownership of your health is important and setting goals for yourself is the easiest way to do it without stressing about not reaching them.
In order to get back on track, you need to make sure you understand what your body needs from you and then how to give it what it needs. Once you get started, remember that there are plenty of people who can help you along the way — whether it’s with knowing what type of exercise works best for certain ailments or by talking through your fears about eating better so that you can lead a healthier lifestyle (because we all need help sometimes).
The important thing is to make something happen for yourself. You deserve it.