01 Sep A Sense of Well-Being
The notion of wellness or well-being has become like a fantasy, a business of over 3 trillions, like selling spa packages, sport equipment, sport clothes, pricey organic food, all types of beauty products and more. After WWII, the World Health Organization began embracing the idea of health not just as an absence of disease but as the complex relationship between physical, mental and social well-being. In today’s world, technology, life burden, social issues, economic hardship, all contribute to increase our stress, moving us away from staying connected to our friends and families and busier with the internet and the media. One could say that just about anything that relieves us from stress of everyday life can lead closer to well-being. Wellness is a dynamic state of well-being, it is about the meaning and purpose to achieve a better state of health, it is about developing or enhancing resilience, making time for healthy or healthier habits.
Doctor’s offices do not have wellness and/or well-being program as it is hard to define, beyond the hard data such as a cholesterol or a glucose , an EKG or simply as weighing you in the office. It seems sometimes as simple as: “Are you feeling well or not?” The well-being includes six types of components: physical, emotional, social, spiritual, intellectual and environmental. They ultimately create what one could call “the path to longevity, to stay alive longer”. These components feed from each other to our own benefit or detriment.
Physical health is all about life style, such as good diet, reducing stress, exercising, avoid obesity, sleeping and family connections. Only 10% of adults are physically active every week. Over 70% of the North American population over 20 years old is overweight and it is now around 20% of our children. With increased weight comes risk of Type 2 Diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer. To say: “ Why bother now?” some people say. The reality is the damage is never really done fully as there is always potential for some degree of reversal and/or protection. Without exercise, there is a real risk for worsening of obesity, high cholesterol and blood pressure, and chronic inflammation potentially leading to cancer. Exercise increases endorphins and serotonin in the brain, which provides a sense of satisfaction, happiness and well-being.
Emotional well-being is important as mental illness of any types is on the rise. The rate of mental problems is 15 to 20% in the North American population and anxiety disorder is the most common affecting 18% while depression is second with 6% of the population. Addiction and bipolar disorder affects 2 to 3%. Any mental problems may lead to physical problems, as it is all inter-related. More over, the immune system is influenced by emotional stressors driving down resistance to colds, flu and infections, including potential development of cancer because of mutation in cells caused by chronic inflammation.
Most people will say they are not stressed and yet they are overworked, cannot sleep well, have pain in different areas of their body, headache and so on. We refuse to listen to our body. Most of us think that we are too busy, too many competing life issues, kids, and more. Perhaps some think it will cost money to get membership and so on. But the reality is much simpler: walking after dinner or on the weekend, practicing a little meditation, even when driving which I was doing every Wednesday driving to Los Angeles from Palm Spring, practicing empathy and thankfulness toward family, friends and co-workers. Make an effort at no being mad, arguing or screaming. Any of these small steps will decrease the stress, consequently medical ailments and improve well-being
What is social well-being? It is a little vague but mainly it is our relation with the society such as connectiveness, communications, relationship but the opposite, loneliness, is also true. According to a meta-analysis by Dr. Julianne Holt-Lunstad, of Brigham Young University, adults who fell socially isolated have a 50% greater risk of dying from any cause given a time frame than those who are socially connected. Social connections, interestingly enough, are part in the myriad of indicators of health. Loneliness has been recognized as an emotional stressor that takes a physical toll on the endocrine, cardiovascular and immune system.
Turning things around is easier than it seems. You may be lonely because you have a chronic ailment preventing you from being active or social, you may be depressed from losing your partner, from losing your job, you may be lonely because where you live, and more. But stimulating or pushing yourself to become social is not an easy task. Participating in social group, volunteering in any types of organizations, associations, groups, hospitals, can all help in improving your loneliness or sense of loneliness, and meet people developing new friends. It may be easier to stay at home because you think you do not know where to start, but after the early anxiety of approaching people, the benefits in happiness, energy and well-being feelings will easily exceed the early discomfort.
There is a spiritual dimension in all of us, and it is not necessarily associated with being religious. Prayers and attending church are part of being spiritual, but meditation, yoga, mindfulness and other reflective practices, can help the body maintain a level of homeostasis that contributes to decrease the manifestations of stress. The religious worship works in helping family and friends connections, in providing support to people in need or just reflecting but it does have a significant link with reducing depression and maintaining an overall sense of gratitude.
Meditation, Yoga, Mindfullness are practices to train the brain to calm down, to control anger, reactivity and stress. Ultimately, it allows our body and mind to be in a better place. These practices increase our spirituality, our sense of self, and help decreasing stress, focusing attention, fighting disease, and increasing our well-being. When our body is constantly flooded with stress hormones, it not surprising that it creates a host of chronic diseases, including auto-immune disease and cancer.
Staying healthy is not only physical, but intellectual. The brain as well as the body needs to work. The point is how much as far too many of us would we are too busy, and too busy creates stress. The digital world is certainly increasing our mind business: teens and teenagers spend up to 6 hours a day on internet, TV, games and other media but the adults still spend an average of 3 to 4 hours, not a whole lot better. So many hours of entertainment are the equivalent of empty calories for the brain. It seems on the surface to keep our brain busy, but it crowds our brain with an overwhelming amount of information that really is not easy to decipher. As we age, research shows that our brain needs intellectual stimulation to protect against memory loss, cognitive decline and dementia. Studies of older people show that keeping our brain busy with stimulating activities, such as playing cards, crafting, reading, writing, learning a new language, volunteering, helping others, all help lowering the risk of cognitive impairment by as much as 22-25%. Although not for everybody, Dr. Ipsit Vahia, of Harvard University, said that any kind of structured class in an academic setting can boost overall brain well-being.
As long as the brain is working, is being stimulated, it is in small ways an improving path to well-being.
Climate change is in a lot of people’s mind, in the news and in the political agenda of many countries in the world. We need to protect the planet and clean it up too. The key is knowing which environment dangers are within our control in our small life and environment and what action should we be taking to minimize them. It will be a concerted effort across the planet. But where to start? We are consuming so much: fossil fuel, electricity, pollutants in all kind of products, generating garbage, eating processed food, discarding inordinate amount of food and more. A simple rule of thumb is to start small. Let’s have a car that does not burn large amount of fossil fuel and spew less CO2, let’s buy organic food decreasing use of pesticides and preservatives, let’s stop as much as possible consumption of processed food, let’s build energy efficient house, decrease consumption of electricity and energy altogether. Tap water is much safer than people thinks, except for Flint, Michigan, but we can decrease the amount of plastic from buying water bottle. We can even decrease the use of our cell-phone that produce magnetic wave radiation. It may be unavoidable, it may be a small amount of radiation, but at least we do not need with our cell phone under our pillow.
If we all team up together, and do our small part, the cumulative sum would be astronomical in protecting our planet.
The world we live in is complex. Understanding the requirement of wellness and the factors that influence this state, whether as an individual, community or nation, helps us to work together to improve the quality of our lifestyles.
Feelings of wellbeing are fundamental to our overall health, enabling us to successfully overcome difficulties and achieve what we want out of our life. Past experiences, attitudes and outlook can all impact wellbeing as can physical or emotional trauma following specific incidents. A positive well-being is a state where a person is living their life with happiness, engagement, and meaning. In other words, you feel good about what’s happening in your life, you feel a sense of connection to others around you and your life has meaning to you. Ultimately, our goal is to change our mindset and behaviours, and make positive lifestyle choices to improve our overall health and wellness.