YOU Are Responsible -The Sixth Tenet

Dr. Michael Arloski, the originator of the Ten Tenets of Wellness was, in a way, ahead of his time with the Sixth Tenet: You Are Responsible.  It’s true that genetics and environment play a big role in our wellbeing but ultimately, for most of us, our health is under our control through the choices we make every day.

Taking responsibility for your life, including your health, is not a new idea. Everyone from the ancient Stoics, to the Dalai Lama to Tony Robbins, advocates the concept that everything in our lives is, in some way, the product of our own decisions. Your health and wellness is no exception. In 1994, when the Ten Tenets were first published, no one had an inkling that our daily choices, which play such a big part in our health, could actually be affecting our DNA!

Up until just a few years ago, everyone believed the genes you received from your parents at birth were  a done deal. In other words, you were stuck with what you’ve got. But now scientists are doing a double take. There’s even a whole new name to describe the study of how external factors can actually affect your genetic programming, the field of epigenetics. Turns out that your genes just don’t work blindly, but need instructions to carry out their programming. These instructions come, in part, from external factors such as your nutrition choices, the quality of your sleep, exercise and other factors which all affect your genes and can work to switch them on or off.

The knowledge that our lifestyle choices can influence and even override our genetics brings the concept of self-responsibility to a whole new level.

I’ve occasionally heard stories of individuals who decide someone who has just been diagnosed with cancer are somehow at fault because the person has been ‘stuffing their feelings’ or didn’t follow a vegan diet, etc. (This actually happened to my mother when she was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer – it was not helpful!)  That’s not what I’m talking about here. What I’m referring to is just wanting you to become highly aware that your daily choices, even though they may seem totally insignificant at the time, add up over time to profoundly affect your health and wellness.

That doesn’t you have to police yourself rigidly and never indulge in dessert or miss a day of exercise. It does mean understanding and accepting responsibility for those choices, and their effect on your overall wellbeing over time.

Many things in this complicated world are out of our control. We always, however, have control over ourselves – our thoughts and our actions. At the end of the day, adopting a wellness lifestyle is a choice  we can make that has immediate and long-term benefits!

Here are some of my favorite quotes about self-responsibility. I hope they inspire you to embrace the Sixth Tenet:

“In the long run, we shape our lives and we shape ourselves. The process never ends until we die. And the choices we make are our own responsibility.” ~ Eleanor Roosevelt

“You may believe you are responsible for what you do but not for what you think.The truth is you are responsible for what you think, because it is only at this level that you can exercise choice. What you do comes from what you think.” ~ Marianne Williamson

“You must take personal responsibility. You cannot change the circumstances, the seasons or the wind, but you can change yourself.” ~ Jim Rohn

“The willingness to accept responsibility for one’s own life is the source from which self-respect springs.” ~ Joan Didion

“Whatever happens, take responsibility.” ~ Tony Robbins

Enjoy this beautiful autumn!

Connectedness Works – The Fifth Tenet

We’re halfway through our deep dive into Michael Arloski’s Ten Tenets of Wellness.  Last time, we looked at the Fourth Tenet, Wake Up! and today we’re going to look at the Fifth Tenet, Connectedness Works.

This is a really interesting principle, because it goes beyond supportive human relationships and emphasizes loving and grounding relationships with other species; animals, plants, and the earth itself. With everything that’s been happening on the planet lately – Category Five hurricanes in the Atlantic, earthquakes in Mexico and Japan, wildfires in the West – this tenet couldn’t be more timely.

Depending on where you live, it can be easy to become disconnected from the natural world, especially if you are in an urban area.  There’s increasing evidence that time spent in nature has a direct positive effect on our health, so finding ways to get more connected can benefit us both emotionally and physically.

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.’ Getting to a place where we can really identify with where we live, being able to know the local plants, animals, rock formations, the weather patterns of our region; all are important for reconnecting with the earth, our home.

Poet and author Gary Snyder wrote a beautiful Pulitzer Prize-winning book published in 1974, called Turtle Island, filled with a mythical, mystical, collection of poems and prose designed to call us to rediscover the land on which we live, and realize our place as natives of our place on earth.  (Turtle Island is the name given to North America according to some Indigenous groups.)

For All ~ Gary Snyder

Ah to be alive
on a mid-September morn
fording a stream
barefoot, pants rolled up,
holding boots, pack on,
sunshine, ice in the shallows,
northern Rockies.

Rustle and shimmer of icy creek waters
stones turn underfoot, small and hard as toes
cold nose dripping
singing inside
creek music, heart music,
smell of sun on gravel.

I pledge allegiance to the soil
of Turtle Island,
and to the beings who thereon dwell
one ecosystem
in diversity
under the sun
With joyful interpenetration for all.

Tenet Five invites you to reconnect with your place on this planet, wherever you find yourself. Get out in the natural world. Get to know the local plants, not just the ones in your flower garden. What might have been seen as a mere ‘weed’ now becomes a plant with a life story and history of its own. Maybe it’s a valuable medicinal herb!

Pick up a copy of Snyder’s Turtle Island and let his words speak to you. Or read the poetry of Robinson Jeffers, who was deeply connected to the land where he lived in Carmel, California. Or Pulitzer-prize winning poet Mary Oliver, who has touched so many with her words evocative of the natural world, especially with her well known poem, Wild Geese.

I will leave you with a couple of questions: What is special and precious about the area in which you live?  Do you have any favorite native animals, birds, flowers, trees?  When you allow yourself to 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.

Wake Up! – The Fourth Tenet

WDr. Michael Arloski’s Ten Tenets of Wellness. Last time we looked at Tenet Three – Supportive Relationships Are a Must. Today we’re going to look at a principle that may at first glance seem a bit unusual: Tenet Four – Wake Up!

What does Dr. Arloski mean when he encourages us to Wake Up? Don’t worry, he’s not asking us to try to reach sudden enlightenment, although if you take what he says to heart, you’ll start to live your life in a more enlightened way. What he’s talking about here is becoming more conscious…living a more conscious and aware life.  

 

How many of us go through our day on auto-pilot, never thinking about our choices, or their long-term effect on our sense of well-being? Making the choice to wake up and live a more conscious life can be one of the most important moments to start you on your journey to true wellness.

Having the ability to operate unconsciously is an essential part of who we are.  Having your autonomic nervous system, which operates for the most part outside of conscious awareness, in charge of the functions of your major organs is a good thing. I, for one, don’t want to have to remember to keep my heart pumping!

The ability to operate unconsciously is also good for those tasks that you have done so often you could almost do them with your eyes closed. For example, unlike when you were five or six and struggled with tangled laces to tie your shoes, as an adult you can likely carry on a conversation and tie your shoes at the same time.

It’s when we slip into living life unconsciously that we can end up not really living at all. As Dr. Arloski puts it, “Conscious living means becoming aware of all the choices we have and acting on them.” But like mindfulness meditation, living this way all the time is not easy.   An easy way to start? Pick just one thing at a time and practice being conscious of it for a few days.  

Some examples:  At mealtime, really notice how your food tastes.  Truly experience how good a hot shower feels after a long day. Take a few moments to really appreciate the turn of the leaves and riot of fall colors. Things like that.   Gradually, you’ll start to notice that you can act based on this noticing. Maybe you’ll slow down a little (or a lot!) when you are eating, taking time to really savor your food. Maybe you’ll not be so quick to jump out of the shower and just luxuriate in your clean skin with the soapy water running down for a few minutes longer than you normally would. I think you get the idea.

I’ve heard it said that life is really made up of moments.  That’s what we’re really talking about.  Experiencing the moments as we live them, being present for them.

It’s when you start to live consciously that you start to really live. And that means bringing conscious awareness to all your choices.  How fully present you are as you converse with a loved one, even when you’re feeling preoccupied or out of sorts.  One of my favorite parts of the day is waking up to my dogs, Charlie and Princeton, and their happy, expectant faces.

Try picking out that one thing this week to really notice, and experience, and start on the path to Waking Up!

Supportive Relationships Are a Must- The Third Tenet

ODr. Michael Arloski’s Ten Tenets of Wellness. Last time, we explored Tenet Two – Self-Esteem Is Critical, and now, we’re going to explore Tenet Three – Supportive Relationships Are a Must.

When you are trying to make changes in the area of wellness, who you surround yourself with is critically important, because these 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, or they are going to be fully supportive and encouraging of your efforts.

An Attitude of Compassion

When you first embark on a personal wellness journey, you may be quite surprised to find that the people you thought you could count on to be your staunchest allies, such as good friends and even close family members (maybe even your spouse!) may be the very individuals who try to sabotage your efforts.

Although this reaction from friends and loved ones may hurt, I truly believe that this type of behavior doesn’t reflect their friendship or love for you, but is often done out of a mostly unconscious response to a threat they are feeling, perhaps to their own self-worth. I encourage my clients not to take these responses from others too personally in order to avoid getting dragged into a downward spiral.  It’s best to simply recognize what may be happening and then try to adopt an attitude of compassion as much as possible.

Friends Keep Friends Well

What you need at this juncture is to surround yourself with people who are not threatened by your journey and can support your personal growth and development, not those who want to sabotage it. For some, this may mean finding some supportive new friends who understand and likely embrace the same set of goals for themselves in terms of wellness.

Family members may be a bit 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. Once they see your determination and the results from your efforts, they may well come around. Your actions will speak for themselves.

Joining a local group that walks every morning or meets at the gym are ways to embrace a new culture of change and be around people who value wellness. Facebook also offers an array of groups where you can connect online with like-minded people as well.  Some of these online groups may be local to your area.

 

If you’re more introverted by nature, a ‘group’ may be too much to handle. If that’s true for you, then seek out one or two people who value you, and will support you in reaching for your goals and dreams. In any case, even for the most introverted among us, supportive relationships are a must. As Dr. Arloski says, ‘Friends keep friends well!’

Next time around, we’ll look at Tenet Four: Wake Up. See you then!

Self-Esteem Is Critical – The Second Tenet

We are continuing our journey into Dr. Michael Arloski’s Ten Tenets of Wellness with this series, taking a closer look at each.  Last time, we explored Tenet One – Wellness Is Holistic. Today, we’ll look at Tenet Two – Self-Esteem Is Critical.

Tenet Two – Self-Esteem Is Critical

Self-Esteem is your sense of self-worth. What does self-esteem have to do with wellness? It’s pretty simple. You have to care enough about yourself to even want to make a change, much less plan for it  and successfully carry it out.

It’s not necessary to spend hours in therapy to effectively work on self-esteem.  Seeing a therapist may indeed be indicated if you are suffering from a deep rooted trauma, such as sexual abuse, physical abuse, the trauma of a war experience, or other serious psychological shock. In these cases, a talented and patient therapist is your greatest ally and I encourage you to seek this person out to help you.

For others, though, assuming they don’t have that sort of serious difficulty in their past, working with a coach who is trained in, and effectively uses the techniques of positive psychology, can be a very powerful way to improve self-esteem.  Many of us have been negatively affected, at some point in our lives, by the influence of a powerful authority figure – a teacher, parent, older sibling or others – and that influence has affected our sense of self-worth.

The Parts Are Greater Than The Whole

Dr. Martin Seligman, the ‘father’ of positive psychology, cautions that self-esteem is not an “…end to itself…but is just a meter that reads the state of the system.” 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 made up of a collection of individual strengths which can be cultivated, helps to bring the sometimes fuzzy, theoretical notion of “increasing our self-esteem” into the realm of the possible.  Another way to look at it comes from Francine Ward, author of Esteemable Acts, who says:  “Self-esteem comes from doing esteemable acts.”

A competent coach can work with you, without engaging in therapy, by staying in the present and leveraging the techniques of positive psychology to help you increase your confidence, resilience and hopefulness, as well as helping you identify and utilize your strengths to live a beautiful, purposeful and meaningful life.

Next time, we’ll take a look at Tenet Three: Supportive Relationships Are a Must.

Tenet One – Wellness Is Holistic

In a previous article, I introduced you to wellness coaching pioneer Dr. Michael Arloski’s Ten Tenets of Wellness. Because I believe these concepts are so important, I’d like to go beyond that introduction with a deeper dive into each of the ten. Over the next several articles, we’ll look at each tenet, explore it a bit further and hopefully find some practical but powerful things you can do to make that tenet a part of your life.

The First Tenet – Wellness Is Holistic

With our busy lives, it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking we can just pick one area on which to concentrate and let everything else go. Please don’t misunderstand me. I’m not naive enough to think we can all live completely ‘balanced’ lives. Depending on your circumstances and what stage of life you are in, you will likely have to choose where to direct most of your resources in time, energy and even money, for the most return.

As I said before, most people choose a wellness area they think they need to work on and concentrate on that because they believe it’s easiest, or it’s the area that’s bothering them the most or, perhaps, a spouse or friend has given us some ‘friendly’ advice and told us there’s something we need to change.  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 your choice, not what someone else wants for you.

It’s key to recognize that the concept of wellness has to be understood holistically. You have to look at your whole self, as well as whatever approach you are considering. I could compare this to the experience of taking your car into the shop and having the mechanic tell you that you need a new tire. In addition to replacing the tire, the mechanic, because he or she is (hopefully!) looking at your vehicle holistically and as a system, is going to recommend a schedule of regular tire rotations so your tires will wear evenly and last longer.

Embrace A Systems Approach

As an example, if you are going to start a weight loss program, it’s important to look at how the program you are considering is going to affect the rest of your life. Are you going to be getting enough calories for your activity level? Is the diet going to cause you needless stress because it’s complicated and you are constantly having to plan and/or make time consuming meals? How will that affect the rest of your family? Is it going to affect your sleep because you wake up at 2 AM with hunger pangs? Do you have any medical conditions which would make this diet an unwise choice for you? I think you get the picture.

I’m not picking on diets and weight loss programs; the point is to keep in mind that all of us, as human beings, are composed of complex and 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 and yes, even your environment.

So remember the first tenet, wellness is holistic! Next time, we’ll take a closer look at Tenet Two: Self-Esteem Is Critical.

Living The ‘Well’ Life – Dr. Michael Arloski’s Ten Tenets Of Wellness

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.

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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!