Happy National Wellness Month! In August, we recognize all things wellness – and stop to think about how we’re doing in terms of our overall well-being. Are you feeling well – truly well? Do you know what you need to be well?
Many of us know what we need to change in our lives to achieve wellness, but actually implementing these habits is easier said than done.
Here’s how to use the 31 days of August to start building strong habits for your wellness that you’ll actually stick to.
What is “wellness” all about?
You’ve probably heard the term “wellness” floating around, but what exactly is it, and how does it differ from health or fitness?
Wellness and health are tied in many ways, and can even overlap. When you’re healthy, you feel well, and vice versa. But experts say there’s a subtle but important difference between health and wellness, which is this: “Health” refers to a state of being, while “wellness” describes the dynamic process of getting to that state of being.
Or, to put it even more simply, “health” is a state of being while “wellness” is doing.
Furthermore, wellness encompasses more than physical health – and even more than just mental health. Wellness is about every area of your life, including work, relationships, physical and mental health, daily habits, finances, stress management, and more.
According to the National Wellness Institute, complete wellness has 6 dimensions:
For each of these dimensions, there are habits and behaviors that can help you achieve optimal well-being.
What are you doing when you feel truly well – when you are your best self? The answer to this question is probably unique to each person. True wellness is about “functioning optimally within your current environment,” and strengthening your resilience against life’s challenges (National Wellness Institute). To reach optimal wellness, we must build positive and healthy habits that change the way we live our lives.
How to create healthy habits for wellness
The specific habits that will help you achieve wellness are unique to you. There are some overall habits that have been scientifically proven to be good for physical and mental health – things like getting enough sleep, exercising, and finding ways to manage stress. But there are also lots of things that could help you be well that may not work for other people.
Think about the activities that make you feel like you’re functioning optimally within your current environment. What could your life look like if you did those things on a daily basis – if they became habits?
Although there’s a popular myth that habits are formed in 21 days, the truth is a lot more complex. How quickly you build a habit depends on who you are, how motivated you feel, what the habit is (and how difficult it is), the consequences of not forming the habit, and so on.
But you can certainly start to build habits for your wellness during August, and do it in a way that sticks for years to come.
Here are some tips.
Start small and slow
The habits you choose to implement have a lot to do with how easily you’ll be able to stick to them. And obviously, habits that are more enjoyable – or at least less straining – will be easier to do. That’s why it’s so much easier to get into the habit of watching TV every night than it is to go to the gym every day.
Don’t overwhelm yourself when you’re starting to build habits for wellness. Small changes can make a big difference. And it’s much more effective for you to actually practice smaller habits on a regular basis than to have high hopes of changing all of your habits at once but never actually follow through with any of them.
What are some habits that you naturally find more enjoyable? Remember that wellness encompasses every area of your life; it isn’t just about physical health. For example, maybe you enjoy connecting with your friends. It might be relatively easy (and enjoyable) for you to build a habit of having coffee with a friend every week.
Habits for wellness don’t have to be torturous and difficult. Some healthy habits may be challenging to build, but you don’t need to start with those if they feel overwhelming. Just start somewhere.
Be aware of current habits
Sometimes, we need to adopt new habits to achieve wellness. Other times, we need to stop unhealthy habits. Some examples might be smoking, self-isolating, self-harming, drinking excessively, doom scrolling on social media, and more.
Any behavior can become a habit when we do them over and over again. Habits are just behaviors that are automatic; you no longer even think about them. If you check your email the moment you wake up in the morning, that’s a habit. If you shop online every time you feel stressed, that’s a habit. The question is: Are these habits contributing to or taking away from your wellness?
Take 3 to 5 days to observe how you spend your time. Note down every action you take during the day. Do you notice any patterns? These are your daily habits. Take a look at these behaviors and decide which habits, if any, you want to change.
Don’t be too hard on yourself
Sometimes, we give up on changing our habits because we let perfectionism get in the way. We slip up, and we become so frustrated with ourselves that we give up on the habit altogether. For example, you might miss a day at the gym and think, “Forget it. My streak has been ruined. I’m not even going to do this anymore.”
Be gentle and patient with yourself when you’re building new habits. Don’t expect yourself to get it 100% right 100% of the time. You will make mistakes. You will forget things or simply not meet your goals on some days – and that’s okay! The key to habit-building is consistency, not perfection.
Ask for support
Sometimes, we can’t change our habits on our own. We need support, and that’s nothing to be ashamed of.
Friends, family, and other loved ones can help you with accountability. But in some situations, their support may not be enough. A professional mental health counselor can help you examine what habits you want to build, why you want to build them and keep you moving forward toward your goals.
Counseling could also be the missing component to your overall wellness. Counseling isn’t just about preventing mental health problems. Just like you’d see a fitness trainer to maintain your physical health, seeing a counselor regularly can help you keep up with your mental health.
If you have an Employee Assistance Program, this can be an easy and free way to get started with counseling. MINES & Associates provides free and confidential counseling, 24/7, to all of our clients. Don’t hesitate to reach out. With our support, you can start making sustainable changes that help you achieve true wellness in your life.
To Your Wellbeing,
The MINES Team