What is wellness?
Wellness seems to be a word that has gained popularity in the last 5-10 years. We have wellness centers and wellness retreats and wellness this and that, which is a good thing. But what constitutes wellness? The simple explanation would be to state that wellness is being well. But again, what does that mean? Without disease, daily aches and pains, or medication? The list for a description of wellness is nearly endless.
At The Massage Space, we believe that true wellness is accomplished when one is of sound mind, body, and spirit. This doesn’t mean that the grind of life doesn’t affect you, that would make you a robot. But it does mean that you are able to find balance physically, emotionally, and spiritually regardless of what life brings.
It’s all about balance.
One thing you’ll hear us speak of often is balance. Most of the time we are referring to the physical balance of the body, particularly in regards to posture. Muscular and structural balance play a vital part in physical wellness. When imbalance arises, pain is not far behind. A chiropractor I used to work with talked about the “triangle of health.” Physical wellness is a balance of strength, stability, and flexibility. I like that and it stuck with me, so I’m sharing it here in hopes that it resonates with you as well.
Many people don’t realize that when your structure is out of balance, meaning your posture has collapsed and the body begins compensating, you’re actually throwing off your whole system. Everything from respiration to digestion and brain function. Seriously! What tends to happen to your posture looks something like this:
The Posture Problem…
Your head moves forward, your shoulders round and also move forward, your scapula separate, and this is all just in the upper body. For the body to balance itself out your hips rotate forward and your legs rotate out. Essentially, you begin slouching…all of the time. When this happens your organs are also affected.
Lung capacity alone can be reduced by up to 30%. Thirty percent! That’s almost half of your lung capacity! If you are a competitive athlete or even just someone who participates in the local 5k or annual half marathon, imagine how your performance is affected if you aren’t using 30% of your lungs. Aside from how this postural adaptation affects your organ function by squishing and compressing tissues, it also disrupts your nervous system, which affects the function of everything in your body.
Consistency is key…
But there is hope! Assuming this posture has not reshaped your bones, it can be corrected. Step one is assessing your current postural situation. Check out our video Performing a Posture Check for a simple way to know where you’re starting from. Once you’ve analyzed your current condition, step 2 is setting a goal. In order to develop a plan you need to know what you’re planning for, so set an achievable, yet challenging goal. Be sure to write it down and for even more motivation, place it somewhere you’ll see it everyday like on your bathroom mirror or the dashboard of your car. The best part about correcting posture is that it can be done with a series of simple exercises that only take a few minutes each, but consistency is key.
Remember the triangle of health: strength, stability, and flexibility. Focus on these three things and ask yourself if what you’re doing is contributing to one of these three areas. And remember to keep it balanced. If all you do is strength training, though this may help with stability, your flexibility will likely diminish and vice versa. Be sure to use variety that touches on all three parts of the triangle. Check out our resources on posture correction for more tips and ideas.
What is ‘sound mind’?
Getting back to our personal wellness philosophy…sound body we’ve covered, so on to sound mind. When we speak of the mind I want to be clear that we are talking about the capacity to think, understand, and reason. There are loads of things that can affect our minds and the power of thought may be the greatest super power any of us will ever possess. So being of sound mind is an essential part of wellness. But what constitutes a sound mind versus an unsound mind? Is there actually a way to measure this?
Of course there are different tests that can be done to measure brain activity and functionality, however it is our belief that the mind constitutes more than the brain. Thus, determining if one is of sound mind becomes much more personal and unique to the individual. Being of sound mind may look and feel different for each and every person, so defining it becomes rather difficult. However, there are two things that without doubt affect your wellness in relation to being of sound mind: sleep and stress.
Sleep & Stress
Sleep and stress are two major players when we speak of wellness in regards to the mind. A lack of sleep and excessive stress will greatly affect your mind, and the two are so interrelated that by improving one you’ll improve both. So where should you begin? Unfortunately, it’s unlikely that you can directly improve your sleep on it’s own. Sleep is typically disrupted by other life factors, including, but not limited to stress. So by decompressing, de-stressing, and developing practices that help reduce your stress level, you will improve your sleep. And again, because stress and sleep are so closely connected you’ll notice that they work together and rely on one another to make positive changes.
Lowering your stress level can be done in a variety of ways and it’s really a matter of what you prefer. Our first suggestion would be to look at your nutrition. Are you giving your body the vitamins and nutrients it needs to function properly? If the body is lacking nourishment then stress is inevitable. It’s like asking your car to run efficiently without putting clean fuel in the tank. It just doesn’t work and eventually things break down. When your body has the necessary fuel for your cells and organs to do their jobs and do them well, your stress level is naturally lower. Even if you aren’t aware of the excess stress your causing with poor eating habits, it plays a part in your mental health. So step one: Eat real food.
Check out our post You Are What You Eat if you need any help knowing what you should/shouldn’t eat.
Probably the simplest way you can lower your stress is by learning to breathe. Believe it or not most people don’t know how to breathe. Sure, you know how to respire, but when we say the word breathe we’re talking about much more than respiration. When you take the time to truly breathe you are essentially hitting the pause button on anything going on around you. Even mere seconds of focused breath work can cause major changes both internally and externally. When you take 30-60 seconds and make a point to breathe, your heart rate slows, your blood pressure drops, and when you try it you’ll notice that most of the time you feel better because your stress level goes down. Check out our video Learn To Breathe for tips on the best way to breathe.
Two other great ways that we love to help reduce stress and improve sleep are exercise and meditation. Even a 15-minute walk or a 5-minute meditation will make a difference in your stress levels. Remember, by reducing your stress, you improve your sleep, which in turn helps maintain a sound mind allowing you to better navigate the daily highs and lows of life. And in all that do you, whether physical or mental try to keep the idea of balance in mind.
Feed your soul
This brings us to the third pillar of our wellness philosophy: Spirit. This final aspect of wellness tends to be the most controversial and uncomfortable for a lot of people because people generally associate spirituality with religion, however when we talk about wellness of spirit we are not talking religion.
Regardless of the religious beliefs you may or may not hold, spirit is simply an undeniable aspect of your existence as a being and because of this, we believe that true wellness includes care of spirit. For some this care is found through prayer and meditation. For others it comes through nature or music or painting or dancing or any number of things. There are loads of ways to care for your spirit and only you know what feeds your soul, so keep it full! And don’t be afraid to try new soul food! You’ll never know if something nourishes your spirit if you never give it a try. But again, remember to always seek balance.
Are you well?