Medically reviewed by Shahzadi Devje, Registered Dietitian (RD) & Certified Diabetes Educator (CDE)
Setting big goals on January 1st does not work out in the long run. I’d like to propose we reframe wellness as a set of seven categories. Doing ‘something’ in each of these categories will help you to build your wellness and both physical and mental health.
It’s been quite a year, hasn’t it? In just 12 months, we continue to face a global health crisis, worldwide racial injustices, stock market crashes, political unrest, Seema Taparia from Mumbai, and so much more! Needless to say, all of this has taken a huge toll on our collective mental health and wellness.
Aside from this mammoth toll, it also coerced us into opting for techniques and approaches that further promote wellness checks.
According to research, there has been a sharp rise in mental health issues, where more and more people search for tips and tools on how to combat panic attacks, anxiety and depression. They’ve also been asking; what is wellness?
What are wellness dimensions?
I consider wellness as the capacity to care for one's entire self. This is influenced by our culture, socio-economic factors, and our environment. Each of us has a different definition of what it means to be ‘well’ and what is necessary for our personal balance to live our best life.
For some people, wellness might be how much money is in their bank account or what job they have — key dimensions contributing to food insecurity.
Similarly, for some individuals, physical health and mental well-being are only part of their overall health and wellness equation. Other elements, such as connections with friends and family, also have an impact.
To put it another way, an individual's wellness encompasses many dimensions: physical health, mental health; spiritual health; social connections; financial stability and environmental stewardship--to name a few.
Of course, there are no one-size-fits-all definitions but rather an amalgamation of different aspects that make up what you need to lead a happy, healthy life.
Having the appropriate balance of all of the wellness dimensions allows you to genuinely flourish.
And the goal isn't to compete with others; it's to figure out what works best for you. Since the dimensions are interconnected, you may see that many dimensions (e.g. stress, finances, healthy relationships, and so on) influence multiple dimensions.
Let's reframe the definition of wellness in 2022
So, now that we’re in the first week of January after another emotionally taxing year, how do we reframe wellness for 2022? How do we take a step back from the resolution-making, new year new me bandwagon for a lifestyle that advocates for sustainable wellness and not a trend?
I believe the first thing is to reframe resolutions as expeditions and understand: what is wellness. These expeditions are meant to take us on a journey of how to incorporate wellness into our everyday life through small but steady steps instead of big and sweeping generalizations that aren’t easy to sustain.
Wellness and health are active processes
Health and wellness are an ongoing effort that we must invest ourselves in – it is not something that can be automatically achieved.
You can restore health and wellness by seeking out and discovering new ways to improve your lives, as well as of those around you. We don’t always know how we can improve until we learn new information to help us, which is why it’s a process consisting of relevant steps.
These intentions and ambitions are divided into seven categories and will slowly unfold over the whole year - with a deeper meaning and a greater reward.
1) Pursue physical fitness:
Physical wellness is the ability to maintain a healthy quality of life that allows us to get the most out of our daily activities without fatigue or physical stress. It involves regular physical activity, a whole foods plant-based diet (WFPB), adequate sleep and timely medical care.
It’s important to keep in mind that physical fitness is not the equivalent of size-zero training or showing off killer abs on Instagram. Neither is it a specific number on the weight scale or bidding farewell to our favourite desi (South Asian) cuisine. It simply means to incorporate a little more movement into our day-to-day lives.
2) Devote time to emotional self care:
Good emotional health is crucial to your overall well-being. Being emotionally well doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re happy all the time. It means you’re self-aware enough to sift through emotions to feel better.
One example of emotional self care is to notice upsetting feelings when they arise. For example, instead of lashing out at somebody who has angered you, you can choose to confront with compassion.
3) Tune into your intellectual side:
This is the capacity to open our minds and hearts to new knowledge, ideas, experiences and to accept that things are ever-changing. Learning, observing and seeking different skills improves our life for the better. A simple way to engage in intellectual wellness is to listen to and question new things which may intimidate you. Talking to people from different walks of life is usually a great start.
4) Nurture your spiritual health:
Spiritual wellness does not have a one-size-fits-all definition. Some people turn to faith for spiritual healing; some find solace in volunteer work or travel. So, whether you nurture your spiritual health from religion, meditation, a holiday, social work, yoga, a spa retreat or mentoring – know that the fundamental principle remains the same. All these flourishing practices provide us with healthy beliefs, values, ethics, principles and morals.
5) Social well being is important:
This one is fundamental to human existence. Social wellness is a strong relationship with ourselves and others. This requires us to actively participate as a compatible piece of humankind. So, while taking care of our personal relationships is essential to individual existence, caring about the greater good of society is just as important.
As once said by the late legend Robin Williams, “And that (the human spirit) is what needs to be nourished; with work, play, friendship, family. These are the things that matter. This is what we'd forgotten. Simple things."
6) Participate in environmental wellness activities:
Environmental wellness is an awareness of the unstable state of the earth — the climate crisis and the impacts of our daily habits on its physical environment. It is maintaining a way of life that maximizes harmony with our planet and minimizes harm to the environment.
Some of my favourite activities for sustainable living include using natural cleaning products, recycling, and less plastic use!
7) Secure financial stability and occupational wellness:
Some people may confuse this as being greedy or wanting more; however, this isn’t what financial wellness is about. Simply put, it is the ability to have a healthy financial life. This means your credit rating isn’t below average, the bills are paid, there are no debts, and there’s less monetary pressure. Financial wellness also involves having savings for rainy days – so you’re always well-prepped for an unforeseen financial crisis.
There is nothing wrong with trying a different cuisine or embarking upon a dissimilar exercise regime in the new year. However, oftentimes, we’re indulging in these experiences to satiate a deeper craving—a craving which is frequently based upon the aforementioned wellness checks. So, make 2022 the year you embark upon a sustainable wellness journey.
Check-in with yourself every day and see how you feel. Is your life filled with events, people and things that add long-term value?
Make a conscious effort to pack your calendar with activities that nourish your soul and help you lead a healthy and fulfilling life. That nourishment needs to sweep into your life just how other priorities are scheduled. And next time Netflix asks you if you’re still watching Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham with ice cream even after binge-watching the film for the last 17 years, recognize this as a sign of your soul needing a different level of strengthening, sustainability and nurturing.
It’s time to get well!
What defines wellness for you? And how have recent events affected the way you approach health and wellness? Let me know in the comments below!
Want a FREE Delicious Offer?
Shahzadi is an award-winning registered dietitian (RD) regulated by the College of Dietitians of Ontario and certified diabetes educator (CDE), approved by the Canadian Diabetes Educator Certification Board. A YouTuber and notorious foodie, she's dedicated to helping you end your cooking wars, transform your health, and be the best version of yourself! Shahzadi is an on-air nutrition expert for CTV Your Morning and a regular contributor for Global News and other national media outlets.