Expanding comfort zones

July 15, 2008

What is it about leaving our comfortable cocoon that makes us so resistant to trying new things, even when we know we’ll ultimately benefit from or enjoy the experience?  Even for temporary change or changes that are relatively small, it can be difficult to find the motivation and discipline to go out and pursue them. This week I’m volunteering with a friend’s organization that introduces youth to urban gardening. I could list out all the advantages – a chance to work with youth again, a week in the garden, time with a good friend before I leave for the East Coast (she’s one of the staff in charge of the program).

And yet this past weekend as I was packing and preparing, all I could think about was how much I just wanted to laze about in my comfortable lifestyle. No new youth to meet and cajole and tease and prod into gardening, no energetic week of crafting and cooking and chatting with my friend, no long hours in the garden in sun and wind. So much energy required for new and fun experiences … I don’t want to! It takes too much effort to have fun, don’t make me (even though I’ll be so glad I did)!

Of course, now that I’m here I absolutely love it. When else could I watch middle school students milk a goat for the first time, and go from “Ew! No way!” to slowly inching their way closer and closer to the udder, eventually sitting down and squeezing out great streams of milk with pleased hands and delighted eyes.

Something in their reactions struck a chord. I recognize that pattern. The same reluctance eventually overcome, in their case by curiosity and in mine partly because of personal obligations to my friend (it’s horrible but true! Establishing that personal relationship is a great way to push people into action) And ultimately novelty is good for us. It stimulates. It expands our comfort zone and challenges us to acquire new skills and experiences. Of course, the difficulty is overcoming the initial inertia caused by fear, uncertainty and yes, sheer laziness as well, but it is a skill well worth learning. I hope to explore some ways to overcome inertia in the weeks to come, particularly as they relate to wellness activities but also for life in general.  After all, wouldn’t it be a shame to miss out on so many wonderful opportunities?

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Why Wellness?

July 7, 2008

When you think “Wellness,” what comes to mind?  For better or worse, that phrase gets dragged into all sorts of ventures nowadays, ranging from alternative medicine to spas to corporate programs designed to cut rising employer health care costs.  Wellness is a hot new field, and everybody wants a piece of the pie.

Which runs the risk of diluting the meaning of the word into nothing but jargon and buzzword, a way of co-opting the latest hot phrase into myriad causes that results only in the complete butchering of the intended meaning of the word “wellness” and rendering it meaningless.  Don’t get me wrong.  I’m all for increasing the well-being of humans all over the world, and for moving beyond the idea that if we just bandaid over individual and societal ills, we’re somehow living in a good place.  I just think we need to be sure we’re all talking about the same thing, and to not stretch words until they no longer hold any meaning whatsoever.

Health is not just the absence of disease.  For me, health is more than that.  It means achieving a basic standard of living, expressed through physical, mental, emotional and often spiritual means.  The concept of wellness helps pull the idea of health beyond the concept of deficit of pathology, and into the arena of enhancing the positive forces that strengthen and enrich our lives.

Thus wellness might be contentment.  The ability to pursue passion and knowledge, to be inspired and to be creative.  A sense of communion with family.  Friends.  Community.  Your environment.  Wellness as peace of mind.  Wellness as an intentional way of life.

So for me, wellness spans all aspects of life.  The physical: nutrition, exercise.  The mental: stress management, financial management, personal development and personal productivity.  The emotional: developing and strengthening important relationships in your life, increasing a sense of community, taking care of the environment, seeking and following through on inspiration, creativity as a means of self-expression.  The ways these are interrelated and their subtle [and not so subtle] effects on our lives.

The idea is to both create a solid foundation on which to ensure a basic level of health and well being, and then to grow and develop from that foundation into the best possible version of ourselves.  Think of wellness as a springboard to inspire improvements in all aspects of life, and through multiple venues as well.  We live in an age of overwhelming volume of information that it’s hard to sort fact from fiction, plan priorities and pack it all into the 24 hours we are given in each day.  But wellness doesn’t have to be difficult to fit into daily life, and I hope to explore these themes in the coming posts.  Not to neglect any of the areas mentioned above, this blog covers a wide range of topics. Feel free to pick and choose the ones that are relevant to you. Of course, as you start down the road towards a well you, you may develop a budding interest in an increased number of interests, and that is what this blog is here for as well.

As a former health coach, I have a lot of experience with a lot of these topics, particularly nutrition, exercise, weight management, and stress management.  On a personal level, I have a longstanding interest in food, creativity and making things, being outdoors, the environment, personal finance and personal productivity.  I’ll be starting grad school in the Fall to learn more about the systems and institutions that affect and serve our health and wellness needs, the latest research and methods to proactively deal with them.  I hope for this blog to be a meeting point between all these areas, and an ongoing conversation with the world at large.

Wellness as honoring yourself: honoring your basic needs, and honoring your fullest potential.