What does it mean to be well? “Wellness” is a buzzword these days. We hear it everywhere from health magazines to advertisements. Because we are a visually-oriented culture, physical stereotypes of wellness reign supreme. First, let’s discuss what “wellness” really means. Wellness can simply be defined as the quality or state of being in good health. We often consider wellness to be a holistic pursuit. There are many dimensions of wellness, including financial, environmental, physical, emotional, social, spiritual, occupational, and intellectual. As you can see, wellness is a lifelong pursuit and there is no one way to be healthy. It’s important to remember that wellness is about your whole being: mind, body, and spirit. We can get caught up in the visual stimuli of health, which stems from media portrayals of ultra-muscular men, endurance athletes, and sleek summer bodies. The problem with this ideal of wellness is that it’s one-dimensional. It’s impossible to say whether or not the person in the impressive image is actually mentally, physically, and emotionally well.
Someone can have a stereotypically incredible body and exhibit deep emotional stress. Likewise, it’s possible to have an active and interesting mental life while ignoring the health of the physical body. Mental, physical, and emotional health is a lifelong process and not a visual goal. Wellness can take many forms and there is no goal weight or body fat percentage that can be an accurate measure of true health. Check-in with your emotions, mental health, and physical cues on a daily basis. Listen to your body and develop healthy coping strategies for your mental and emotional hardships. Don’t be discouraged by the perfect image of a supposedly healthy person on a magazine cover, as we are ever-changing and multi-dimensional beings.
In order to become more aware of the ways in which these wellness stereotypes have impacted your view of yourself and the world, try writing down some of your ideas of what constitutes health and wellness. Ask yourself if you embody these qualities, if they are sustainable, and if they’ve been influenced by the media. From there, you can cultivate the necessary tools for expanding your ideas of wellness.
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