Fall is definitely in the air here in Colorado – the aspen are turning gold, and the night air is chilly. I love fall. It has always felt like a fresh start to me – the school year starts, everyone’s back to business after summer vacation, and the air is crisp and energizing. I’ve been hearing the whole “September is the new January” thing for a while and I got to thinking it’s a perfect time for a refresher on what it means to live a truly “well” life – one that takes into account body, mind and spirit.
To that end, here’s a formula for well-being I really like. I think it covers all the wellness bases, and I’m hoping you can find some inspiration in it for yourself this season.
What is wellness? Just what exactly does living a ‘well’ life really mean? The answer is highly individual but for sure it’s going to lie in how we take care of ourselves – all aspects of ourselves.
Only by answering these questions for yourself can you know where to aim, what you are reaching for and how to measure your progress.
I ask these questions a lot, both for myself and my clients. One of my favorite resources comes from a paper written by Michael Arloski, Ph.D., first published in 1994 – the Ten Tenets of Wellness. He later expanded on these tenets in his book Wellness Coaching for Lasting Lifestyle Change. [Your Amazon link here] These ten tenets or principles have withstood the test of time and are valuable and powerful guidelines to living a ‘well’ life that is full of meaning and not focused solely on physical health.
The Ten Tenets
Dr.Arloski says that wellness is always asking this question: Why don’t people do what they know they need to do for themselves? For me, this goes beyond wellness and into every area of our lives. It’s an ancient question and has confounded human beings (as well as philosophers and scientists!) for centuries.
And it’s so true today, with our lives literally overflowing in information, that we already know what to do to improve our wellbeing. With the Internet, we have at our fingertips the latest research findings on nutrition, exercise, stress relief, heart health, relationships and more. So the question isn’t ‘What do I need to do’ so much as how do we motivate ourselves to implement solutions and real behavior change.
I like the Ten Tenets not only for the useful insights into what living a ‘well’ life looks like, but also because they serve as guideposts in how to get there. Let’s look briefly at all ten. In subsequent articles, I’ll delve more deeply into each one. (I’m grateful that Dr. Arloski has encouraged other coaches to use and expand on his material so I can introduce you to these principles through my own lens.)
One – Wellness Is Holistic
It’s easy to pick out the wellness area we think we need to work on and just concentrate on that alone. Maybe it’s the area we think is easiest, or the problem that stands out most to us, or perhaps, it’s the area our spouse or a close friend has told us in no uncertain terms we need to correct.
Wellness, though, has to be understood holistically through looking at the whole person – body, mind, spirit and environment – and designing a program through that lens.
Two – Self-Esteem Is Critical
If you don’t have a sense of self-worth, you won’t care enough about yourself to make a change. Perhaps your sense of self-worth comes from always caring for others, putting everyone else before yourself. Or you have a negative sense of self-worth that stems from growing up in a particular community with your own experiences with parents, siblings, and other relationships. Exploring this (as uncomfortable as it can sometimes be!) may be necessary in order to gain the insight needed to make changes.
Three – Supportive Relationships Are a Must
We all need supportive relationships. Sometimes trying to make changes in your life can threaten those close to you, and they may withdraw their support or actively try to sabotage you. Finding one or more supportive people who will truly be a cheerleader and sounding board for you is essential.
Four – Wake Up!
Many people go through their lives on auto-pilot, never thinking about their choices, such as how a heavy meal is going to make them feel or how certain foods or behaviors may impact their health. Making the choice to wake up and live a conscious life can be one of the most important moments in your life and start you on the journey to wellness.
Five – Connectedness Works
I’ve already spoken about the importance of supportive relationships and this tenet goes beyond our human relationships into loving and grounding relationships with other species and our environment – animals, plants and the earth itself.
Six – YOU Are Responsible
Yes, genetics and environment play a big role here, but ultimately for most of us, our health is under our control through choices we make every day.
Seven – From Self-sufficiency Comes Confidence
Anything that you can do to become more competent, in your career, in a sport or a skill, has the result of increasing self-sufficiency. Facing your fears (large or small) increase feelings of self-sufficiency. When you become more self-sufficient, you naturally become more confident. And a healthy self- confidence can be invaluable in navigating every day life.
Eight – Solo Time Is Essential
We live in such a “24-7” world these days, quiet time sometimes feels almost unthinkable. But time to oneself, quiet space, especially in nature, is essential for really getting to know who you are and where you are going.
Nine – Perfectionism Is Not Required
It’s tempting to adopt an all or nothing attitude when first beginning a wellness program. That can be a set up for failure if the new plan goes out the window the first time you slip up. Accepting and acknowledging that you will make mistakes – and that you can keep going in spite of them – is more realistic and will serve you better over the long haul.
Ten – Go Play!
When was the last time you really played? Often, as adults, we wait for ‘permission’ to lighten up and really play. But guess what? That permission comes from within you! Even at work, it’s possible to make a conscious effort (Tenet No. Four) to bring humor and lightness into your day.
These are the Ten Tenets of Wellness. In future articles, I’ll be going more deeply into each of these with examples of how you can use them to expand your own sense of what a ‘well-lived’ life can be!
Enjoy the changes of the season!