Over a few months we’ve looked at Dr. Michael Arloski’s seminal work, The Ten Tenets of Wellness. You can see in my previous intro article how he developed these concepts, and why his work is one of my favorite wellness resources.
In closing out this series on the Ten Tenets, I thought it would be useful to summarize what I learned over these last months as I delved into each tenet more deeply. If you haven’t already, I encourage you to go back to each individual article (linked below) one through ten, and really familiarize yourself with the wellness principles embodied in each one.
Dr. Arloski frames the first tenet this way: “Wellness is a choice…a decision you make to move toward optimal health.” This means it’s our choice, your choice, not what someone else wants you to do or thinks you should be. The key here is recognizing that the concept of wellness itself has to be understood holistically.
You have to look at your whole self in considering a wellness program. Keep in mind that all human beings are composed of complex and totally interrelated systems. What you put in place in one area is absolutely going to have an effect, negative or positive, on every other system; mind, body, spirit, even your environment.
What does self-esteem have to do with wellness? Simple. You have to care enough about yourself to want to make a change, and then be able to plan and successfully carry it out. In 1995, psychotherapist Dr. Nathaniel Branden, author of Six Pillars of Self-Esteem, took a close look at self-esteem and broke it down into six component parts or ‘practices’ which he defines as: the practice of living consciously, the practice of self-acceptance, the practice of self-assertiveness, the practice of living purposefully and the practice of personal integrity.
Thinking of healthy self-esteem, not as a solid, monolithic concept, but as a collection of individual strengths which can be cultivated, helps to bring the sometimes fuzzy notion of “increasing our self-esteem” into the realm of the possible for all of us.
When you are trying to make changes, especially in the wellness arena, who you surround yourself with is critically important. People are generally going to fall into one of two camps. They are either going to try to discourage you from following through on your goals and disparage your attempts, or they are going to be supportive and encouraging.
What you need now are people who won’t be threatened by your journey and who support your growth and development, not those who want to sabotage it. For some, this may mean finding a few friends who understand and can support you on your path. Family can be more of a challenge. I think just being quietly consistent in your efforts without trying to change their minds or challenge them is the best route to go.
How many of us go through our lives on auto-pilot, never thinking about our choices, or their long term effects on our lives or 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 your wellness journey.
As Dr. Arloski puts it, “Conscious living means becoming aware of all the choices we have and acting on them.” It’s when you start to live with intenton that you start to really live.
This tenet goes beyond human relationships and emphasizes loving and grounding relationships with other species; animals, plants and the earth itself. Not only are we alienated from each other even in our own communities, we are even further alienated from the natural world. Dr. Arloski writes that it’s not only our connectedness to other people, but to other species and the earth that truly ‘grounds’ us in our lives and lets us discover at a deep level that we truly are ‘all of one heart.’
Being able to really identify with where we live, knowing local foliage, the animals, the weather patterns of our region; these are all supremely important for reconnecting with the earth, our home. When you re-establish your connection to the earth, you’ll likely find you’ve re-established a sense of profound beauty, peace and harmony that is to be found nowhere else.
The idea of assuming responsibility for your life, which includes your health, is not a new idea. Everyone from the ancient Stoics, to the Dalai Lama advocates the concept that everything in our lives is, in some way, the product of our own decisions. Your sense of wellbeing is no exception. Many things in our complicated, often chaotic world are out of our control. Our decisions, though, are ours and ours alone. You get to choose how you will live.
Michael Arloski’s Seventh Tenet tells us that when we cultivate increased self-sufficiency we gain confidence and power that overshadow fears.
He points out that choosing to cultivate life skills, such as learning to grow some of your own food, baking bread from scratch, going hiking into a wilderness area or even learning to do mechanical tasks like changing the oil in your car or fixing a flat tire on your bike…that mastering these or similar skills, will give you confidence and power that translates over other areas of your life.
Some time alone, especially in nature, is essential for really getting to know who you are and where you are going. But what is it about solitude in nature that would let us look more deeply into ourselves than solitude spent indoors or in a city environment? There is ample scientific evidence that being in nature is good for you, both physically and mentally. Richard Louv, a journalist and author who coined the term ‘nature-deficit disorder,’ puts it this way: “The future will belong to the nature-smart—those individuals, families, businesses, and political leaders who develop a deeper understanding of the transformative power of the natural world and who balance the virtual with the real. The more high-tech we become, the more nature we need.”
There are good sides and bad sides to perfectionism. All of us want our work and most other things we do to be the best it can be. There is absolutely nothing wrong with having high standards. But constantly striving for perfection, in any endeavor, is a set-up for failure. Perfection in anything you do is nearly impossible to obtain. So, when you attempt something and don’t get ‘perfect’ results or do it “100 percent,” you have no choice but to see those results as a failure, no matter the outcome.
Change your mindset when it comes to so-called “failure” or mistakes. Some of our best opportunities and learning come from what we might first view as failure. If you look it as an opportunity to learn and grow, it only becomes a detour on your road to success.
You may be asking yourself, as an adult, what does play mean? Actually, the definition of play is the same whether you are nine or ninety: play is an activity that you do for enjoyment and for recreation, rather than for a serious or practical purpose. So it’s not really the activity that defines play but why you are doing it.
Ask yourself this: When was the last time you really played? If you’re like a lot of adults, you may be waiting for someone to give you ‘permission’ to lighten up or a time when you are “not so busy.” The truth is that you are the only one who can give yourself that permission. Even when you are working, you can make a conscious effort to bring humor and fun into the mix.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this series on the Ten Tenets of Wellness and that you take this wisdom to heart and begin to incorporate some of these ideas into your own life!
And – I love to hear from you so please share your thoughts or comment below.