Sunday, May 31, 2009

Emotional Wellness Health Assessment

Emotional wellness is a key dimension in the journey to wellbeing, because feelings generally influence how people react to events in their lives and, as mentioned in a previous post, they directly affect the health of cells in the body. Emotional healing is essential in physical healing.

The good news is that managing emotions, by paying attention to what you are feeling and not instantly reacting to uncomfortable emotions, leads to emotional healing and enhanced wellness.

These emotional wellness health assessment questions are an initial assessment of where you currently stand in this dimension. They will also indicate where you need to focus on any needed emotional healing. When answering the questions, look at what you do most often.

  1. Do you recognize when you are feeling an emotion?
  2. Do you stay with the emotion and allow yourself to feel it without blaming (yourself or others), or instantly reacting?
  3. Do you experience pleasant emotions (e.g., love, gratitude, peace, joy) more frequently than uncomfortable emotions (e.g., depression, anxiety, fear, unworthiness, anger, hurt, resentment)?
  4. Do you identify what others may be feeling and allow them to have to have those feelings without trying to change them?
  5. Do you talk about your own feelings and those of others without judgment?

Again, score the number of yes answers in this emotional wellness health assessment as a percentage of the number of questions, and draw a line at that level in the emotional wellness segment on your wellness health assessment wheel. Knowing where you are is the first step to emotional healing and wellness.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Spiritual Wellness Health Assessment

What does it mean to be spiritual? The spiritual journey is somewhat different for everyone – for some it is linked to religion, but atheists can also be spiritual. The wellness health assessment questions below touch on some of the commonalities in spirituality, but are by no means comprehensive..

The commonalities are that the spiritual journey is an inner voyage of seeking to know and love the self, and finding purpose and meaning in life. It also involves openness to new ideas, and coming to understand the true nature of consciousness – and that life is more than we see on the surface. Connecting with others and coming to realize that individual differences are not important, that we are all more alike than we are different, is also part of being spiritual.

Spiritual, mental and emotional wellness are closely related, because thinking habits and skill in managing emotions will affect the ability to take the spiritual journey.

Some questions to ask when doing your spiritual wellness health assessment are:
1. Can you identify a meaning or purpose in your life?
2. Are your goals and actions congruent with your life’s meaning/purpose?
3. Do you take time each day to still the mind either through meditation, prayer, or another focused practice?
4. Are you willing to consider new ideas, even those that initially don’t make sense to you?
5. Can you accept yourself even when others do not?
6. Do you make generally allowances for others, or do you tend to judge them for their actions or their qualities?
7. Have you forgiven everyone you need to, including yourself?
8. Have you sought forgiveness from those you may have wronged?

Again, give yourself one point for all the questions to which your answer was yes. Then estimate this score as a percentage of the number of questions, and draw a line to represent this in the spiritual section of the spiritual wellness health assessment sheet - see how to do a wellness health assessment for an example.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Wellness Health Assessment of the Mind

A wellness health assessment can start with any of the seven wellness dimensions, but it makes sense to start with the mind, because the major factor affecting your physical health, and all other wellness dimensions, is your thoughts. Thinking positively affects wellness more than diet, exercise, supplements or health care.

Thoughts have positive or negative effects on all wellness dimensions. Thinking positive thoughts to affect wellness involves letting go of fear and of your inner and outer critic. It may also mean changing beliefs and attitudes.

In this assessment of wellness and health of the mind, look truthfully at how you are most of the time.

  1. Do you usually see the glass as half-full rather than half-empty?
  2. Do you tend to focus on the things you or others did well rather than those done badly?
  3. Do you usually expect the best to happen rather than the worst?
  4. Do you see things in shades of gray (neither bad nor good) rather than black or white, bad or good?
  5. Overall, do you believe that people are kindly disposed towards you?
  6. Do you see your self, rather than outside circumstances, as determining your happiness at any give moment?

Scoring your test: Take the percentage of questions where you answered yes, and put a line at that level on your wellness health assessment wheel – see how to do a wellness health assessment for an example.

How did you do?

However you did is fine – it’s just showing you where you are now. See if you can see a link between your thoughts and your wellness. Is your level of thinking positively affecting your wellness in dimensions other than the mind? What could you do in the next few days that might make a difference to your score?

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

How to Do a Wellness Health Assessment

The first step to wellness is to take a wellness health assessment to determine where you are now in each of the holistic wellness dimensions. Once you know where you are and where you need to be, you can make a plan to close the gap.

The next seven posts will examine what your wellness health assessment needs to cover in each of the seven holistic wellness dimensions – body, mind, emotions, relationships/social, spirit, vocational and environmental.

Record Your Findings
When doing your a wellness health assessment, it is helpful to record it in the form of a wheel with seven sections, each named for one holistic wellness dimension. Let the hub at the centre of the wheel represent zero and the rim of the wheel represent 10, the highest level possible in that dimension. Put a dotted line between these two extremes to represent how you are currently doing in that dimension.

As you assess each dimension, it may be helpful to make a few notes beside each section on the wellness health assessment sheet to identify where you are now regarding behaviours your need to change in order to become a 10.

Look for Balance
Once you have completed all the sections, look to see how balanced the wheel is. If it was a bicycle wheel, how smooth a ride would you have? Can you connect the balance, or lack of it, in your wellness health assessment wheel with the smoothness and balance in your life right now?

Take Action
Does one area leap out as requiring urgent attention? What one thing could you do to raise the score in that holistic wellness dimension by one point? Can you commit to doing that this week? Make that commitment and plan how and when you will do it?

For example, your physical wellness health assessment may show that you are not getting enough daily exercise. You realize that if you walk for another 15 minutes a day you will meet the minimum criterion of 30 minutes a day. You decide that before or after work you will get off the bus a few stops earlier and walk the rest of the way to work or home.

Realize Balance is Not Static
Holistic wellness is a journey, not a destination. We strive to achieve balance in life, but there will never be perfect balance. The demands of life are never equal. Sometimes you will have to focus on one or two holistic wellness dimensions for a while to the detriment of others. That’s O.K. – just don’t get stuck there.

Prepare Your Wellness Health Assessment Wheel
Go ahead and make your wellness health assessment wheel now. Draw a circle, divide it into seven equal sections and write the name of each wellness dimension along the rim of each section.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Ten Tips to Holistic Wellness - Part 2

  1. Eat Real Food
  2. Keep Moving
  3. Spend time in nature
  4. Get Up with Down Time
  5. Take Precautions

Eat Real Food
The use of food as a holistic treatment is not commonly recognized. Food affects body, mind, emotions, and spirit and can promote holistic wellness, or can contribute to physical or mental illness.

Processing foods changes them to substances that lack the form and variety of nutrients the body needs, while sugar, excess salt and other substances harmful to health are generally added.

A holistic diet is based on the natural foods humans ate over 100,000 years of evolution. A diet high in fruits and a variety of green leafy and root vegetables in season with smaller amounts of protein, whole grains and good fats provides holistic nutrition. Organic meat and wild fish are antibiotic-free and their natural diet and living-conditions produce nutrients that are better for us than those in raised in factory-like conditions.

Keep Moving
Regular daily exercise is another holistic treatment that contributes to many dimensions of holistic wellness. Among other things exercise helps the body:

  • absorb nutrients
  • get rid of wastes and toxins,
  • burn calories,
  • strengthen bones, joints and muscles
  • control blood pressure
  • strengthen the immune system, and
  • improve mood.

The increase in heart rate and breathing caused by exercise strengthens the heart and lungs and delivers more oxygen to every cell in the body.

Brisk walking for 30 minutes a day (together or in 10 minute segments) will improve heart health, and an hour a day will also decrease obesity, the risk of diabetes and certain cancers.

Spend Time in Nature
We are part of nature and spending time outside in the elements in a natural setting brings us home to ourselves and is holistic treatment for the spirit.

Live in a city? Walk in a park or find a tree, a garden with flowers, or a patch of grass to connect with. Indoor plants, window boxes and a natural view from a window can connect the house-bound to nature.

Get Up with Down Time
Sleep is an important holistic treatment for healing or disease prevention. Adults need eight to nine hours sleep a night, though most people sleep for less than seven hours.

Recent studies show that lack of sleep is linked to major health problems including heart disease, obesity and type II diabetes.

Regular use of day-time active relaxation techniques also foster holistic wellness by:

  • decreasing stress
  • strengthening the immune system
  • lowering blood pressure and cholesterol levels
  • increasing resistance to tumours and viruses, and
  • reducing chronic pain.

Some techniques that achieve these results are meditation, yoga, the relaxation response, and mental imagery.

Take Precautions
Holistic treatment includes prevention. Bodily health is an important part of holistic wellness and is more likely if sensible precautions are taken to prevent injury or illness.

Avoid toxic substances. If you smoke - stop! Shun garden pesticides or herbicides, and wash bought fruit and vegetables under running water, or soak for up to an hour.

Use green non-toxic biodegradable cleaning products, and non-toxic paint. Read lables on cosmetics. They may contain toxic ingredients.

Dispose of toxins and unneeded medications where they will not enter the ground water.

Seat belts in cars, and helmets on bikes and in and sports prevent avoidable head injuries, and the use of condoms can prevent sexually-transmitted infections, including HIV.

Frequent hand-washing is an easy, inexpensive holistic treatment that lowers the chance of infections spread by viruses (colds and flu) or bacteria.

Flossing teeth prevents gum disease, an inflammatory process that increases the risk of heart disease.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Ten Tips to Holistic Wellness - Part 1

Holistic therapy for disease prevention or healing is essentially self treatment focused on all the holistic wellness dimensions. The first five tips below focus on internal actions that people can take to achieve wellness through attention to the emotions and spirit.

  1. Decrease Stress by Managing Emotions
  2. Get Rid of Addictions
  3. Reach Out for Support
  4. Become Your Own Best Friend
  5. Find Meaning in Your Life

Decrease Stress by Managing Emotions
Stress is not caused by an event itself, but by the emotional response to the event. All emotions produce chemical messengers that affect body cells. Love and gratitude produce a chemical that is good for the cells, but chemicals produced by stress-producing emotions like anger, resentment, or fear can be harmful in excess. In chronic stress, the constant production of these substances can lead to illness.

Too often an emotion triggers an automatic habitual stress-producing response, which may cause you to either alienate others or abandon yourself. Managing an emotion means becoming aware of what the emotion is, paying attention to what it is saying, and deciding on the best response. Learning to manage emotions is an important step in preventing or healing chronic degenerative disease and achieving the wellbeing that comes from holistic wellness.

Get Rid of Addictions
An addiction is any repeated behaviour that people feel compelled to carry out despite its negative impact on their lives or the lives of others. The addiction is not to the substance or behaviour but to the chemical released in the brain when compulsively taking alcohol or drugs, spending, exercising, or engaging in other addictive behaviour.

Holistic wellness requires a commitment to conscious awareness. Addicts are not acting consciously, but are generally responding to subconscious feelings that arise from a belief that they are flawed. Addictive behaviour can change in response to conscious mental effort and new behaviours. The addict must want to change and must pay attention to changing the beliefs, thoughts, and emotions that help maintain the addiction. A holistic practitioner or a 12-step group can provide support and guidance.

Reach Out for Support
Support systems can help you through difficult times in life. Support may be formal, such as that from support groups or a holistic practitioner, or informal from friends and family, colleagues, clubs or other groups.

Sharing fears and feelings can be helpful and reassuring. Knowing you are not alone is in itself very comforting, and others who have been through a similar experience may help by modeling the process of holistic wellness..

Become Your Own Best Friend
Good friends listen calmly and try to understand without judging or blaming. Like good parents they are tolerant and kind and provide unfailing love and support. Everyone needs to be loved and nurtured, and learning how to do this for yourself should be part of your commitment to holistic wellness.

Become aware of how you treat yourself. Do you berate or put yourself down when you do something you don’t like? Frequent negative thoughts about yourself can lead to low self-esteem, while positive regard builds self-esteem. Learn to control negative self-talk by immediately switching to a more supportive loving statement. A holistic practitioner may be helpful in this process.

Find Meaning in Your Life
There is likely no overall meaning to life – each person must find their own. Victor Frankl, holocaust survivor and author of Man's Search for Meaning believed that every person is a being in search of meaning, a being that is transcending himself, a being capable of acting in love for others. Finding meaning that goes beyond the exterior trappings of life will enable you to feel whole and transcend suffering if these are taken away, and is an important step to holistic wellness.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Staying Healthy Through Holistic Wellness

Although health care is a major industry in most developed countries, overall health in these countries has worsened rather than improved because of the increase in those with a degenerative disorder. Most developed countries are facing epidemics of heart disease, hypertension, diabetes and obesity, and the developing countries are beginning to follow this trend. It is clear that, except in case of traumatic injury and some infections, the health care system does little to keep people healthy.

The answer to staying healthy is not to rely on others to keep you fit and well, but in making a commitment to do so yourself. Wellness is not just about physical health but is multidimensional, promoting wellbeing through attention to all areas of life. The truth is that your thoughts, beliefs, values, attitudes, relationships with self and others, and your lifestyle choices will have more impact on your health and happiness than any health practitioner or the health care system can.

Embracing holistic wellness through holistic living is the proactive solution to staying healthy by avoiding degenerative disorder and the effects of aging. The alternative to reliance on doctors and drugs, holistic wellness increases resiliency to anxiety, stress and illness, and builds self-esteem.

Holistic Wellness leads to Holistic Healing.
If you already have a disease or health condition then a commitment to holistic wellness can help you heal. The words health, healthy, healing and holy are all derived from the same Germanic word meaning wholeness. To be whole is to be healthy. To be healed is to become whole. Consequently, to be healed is not necessarily the same as being cured of a condition, although it can mean being cured.

People become whole by developing all parts of themselves. Through a focus on becoming and staying healthy in all the dimensions of life - mind, body, spirit, emotions, environment, vocation, and social/relationship - holistic wellness leads to holistic healing. Because wholism means that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, it is possible to be whole and healthy even with a degenerative disorder or other health condition.

Becoming whole transcends suffering. Suffering arises when a person no longer feels whole and has difficulty finding meaning in their life. Victor Frankel, author of Man’s Search for Meaning, wrote “Suffering ceases to be suffering in some way at the moment it finds a meaning.” Finding meaning in all of life, even the parts that appear to be negative, explains why people can experience great losses, have a degenerative disorder causing chronic physical pain, or live in extreme poverty and not suffer.

Those who are not suffering in any area of their life experience wellbeing – a feeling of contentment and that all is well with their life no matter what the external circumstances. Following a path of holistic wellness and holistic healing calls for fortitude at first, but the prize of wellbeing will make it more than worthwhile.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

What is Holistic Wellness?

Holistic wellness is a combination of two models of health, holistic health and wellness, that have been around for more than fifty years. These are not treatments but philosophies of what health is. Both wellness and holistic health emphasize that each person must take conscious responsibility for becoming and staying healthy. Health becomes a way of being, rather than a destination. Both of them also see achieving and maintaining health as more than caring for just the body, but including other dimensions of life as well. Holistic health sees health as encompassing the body, mind and spirit, while wellness also includes the emotional, social, environmental and vocational dimensions of life.

The word holistic comes from wholism, the idea that the whole is greater than the sum of its component parts. The seven dimensions of holistic wellness together become something more. They impart meaning and purpose to life and collectively provide a feeling of wellbeing. Wellbeing transcends bodily health. Someone who has an acute or chronic health condition, or who is dying can have wellbeing, though few health practitioners would call them healthy.

To achieve the wellbeing that comes from holistic wellness requires holistic living – living in harmony with nature and the universe and with yourself as part of these.. This requires conscious awareness. First an awareness that everything in life is important, and then awareness of what is required and what you are actually doing or not doing. For example, when looking at how you care for your body you would need to know what foods are necessary for good nutrition and which foods you need to eat more or less of. Then when planning meals or grabbing a snack you would need to stay aware of how they fit these criteria.

Holistic living and holistic wellness may sound like a lot of work, but the trick is not to aim for perfection. Start small. Start gradually. It does not have to be all or nothing. Set the intention to change one thing that that you believe will increase your wellness (giving up sugar, for example) plan what you will do and then pay attention. You might start to notice what triggers your craving for something sweet, or what happens if you add only half the amount of sugar to your coffee than you usually do. With intention and attention your sugar consumption will start to decrease. Celebrate your successes and be gentle with your failures. Noticing how you react to these is also raising your awareness in the emotional and spiritual dimensions of your life.

The muscle for both holistic living and for holistic wellness comes from setting an intention or a resolve to do something, putting the intention into action or failing to do so, noticing what led up to that action or resulted from it; then again taking action. There is no failure unless you give up.

The awareness that is part of holistic living allows not succeeding to show you what you need to change in order to succeed. You may need to change your beliefs about yourself or others, the way you treat yourself, your habitual emotional reactions, or many other things that you may not previously have realized were holding you back. Remember that holistic wellness is not a destination, but a way of being - one that involves commitment and awareness.