You've heard all the old tips and tricks about why you should have a wellness plan and how to have healthy habits for diet and exercise. However, there's no one-size-fits-all when it comes to your personal wellness.
Rather than following the latest tips and tricks from celebrity weight-loss coaches and ripped fitness gurus, take a step back from all the "do this, do that" and create your own wellness plan.
There are five core pillars of health and wellness:
- Stress Management
While fad wellness plans will tell you that you must get 8 hours of sleep per night or that you're only healthy if you can run a marathon at 6,000-foot altitude without slowing for a gulp of water, we believe that wellness is a very personal, individualized concept that you should be able to customize to suit your own goals.
Start by thinking about what an ideal wellness plan would look like for you in each of these core areas.
Ron Friedman, Ph.D., is an award-winning social psychologist. In his program, The Peak Performance Formula, Friedman teaches top performers to be even better – to be more productive, to be happier, to be healthier, and to experience greater life fulfillment.
The very first thing he teaches in his program is how to optimize your sleep habits. From making your bedroom a no-device zone to optimizing the temperature and lighting of your ideal sleep cave, Friedman says that all the other techniques you'll learn in his program are useless if you're not building on a solid foundation of healthy, restful sleep.
Rather than listening to "experts" tell you what the magic number is in terms of hours of sleep, listen to your body. Experiment with various amounts of time and take note of when you feel the most refreshed. Consider the fact that our brains go through sleep cycles of 100 – 120 minutes and experiment with various sleep durations that give you 4, 5, or 6 sleep cycles throughout the night.
Once you've found the sleep duration that fits into your ideal wellness plan, experiment with other factors such as:
- Different alarm sounds
- Using a sunrise simulator alarm
- Waking up to a vibrating wrist alarm rather than a sound alarm
- Sleeping under a weighted blanket
- Turning down the temperature in your room
- Banning devices in your room
- Reading before bed
After a while, you'll have a clear set of factors that prime you for the best sleep to recharge you for a wonderful day ahead.
Think of what you eat as fueling your body for what you want to do. If you want to be able to focus on taxing mental tasks throughout the day, consider a diet that allows you to maintain a steady blood sugar level rather than plummeting you into a post-meal energy crash.
If you're a physically active person, reframing your mindset around food to be one of "fuel" rather than one of "reward" or "pleasure" can help you stick to a healthier diet that will allow you to maintain your demanding activities.
Nutrition is a puzzle that fits together differently for each body. Thanks to the advancements in food sensitivity testing, you can find out if your body is actually averse to gluten, dairy, or specific types of protein before going all-in on the latest diet trend.
Talk to a registered dietician about your nutrition concerns and experiences to figure out what the nutrition pillar of your wellness plan should look like.
Many people think of Arnold Schwarzenegger and other Mr. Universe contestants when they think of "strength." But strength training isn't just for the CrossFit athletes and the young 'uns.
In fact, "strength" is what allows us to stand up from our beds in the morning, to open that stubborn jar of peanut butter, to lift our kids or our grandkids into a loving embrace, and to hike up stairs or hills to see incredible sights.
Even if getting "swoll" isn't on your list of goals, everyone needs to maintain a certain level of strength to enjoy a long, happy, functional life.
In the fitness world, this is referred to as functional training. Functional training, according to the Mayo Clinic, is the process of "train[ing] your muscles to help you do everyday activities safely and efficiently."
Your personal wellness plan should include some form of strength training, whether it's as practical as functional training or as vigorous as CrossFit.
Endurance is another commonly misunderstood fitness-related measurement. While some people prefer to measure their endurance in terms of miles they can run, you can conceptualize endurance in your personal wellness plan based on things you love to do.
For example, a common desire is to want to be able to keep up with the kids when you're playing in the back yard. Or to be able to walk all the way up three flights of stairs without having to stop for five minutes at the top to catch your breath.
The big question is: Do you have the endurance to enjoy the parts of your life that mean the most to you?
If your answer is "no," you may need to make a few tweaks to the endurance pillar of your personal wellness plan.
Begin by figuring out where your threshold is. When do you notice yourself tiring out or getting out of breath before you'd like to? Take note of that point and then begin building a wellness plan to expand your endurance.
Managing stress is easier said than done. Stress is not a choice; it's a physiological and psychological response to both internal and external factors – making it one complicated beast to deal with.
Just as there are countless ways to encounter stress, there are equally as many ways to cope with stress.
Reframe Negative Experiences
Too often we get hung up on the mistakes we have made in the past. We can get caught up in the "shoulda, coulda, woulda" mentality, which makes us feel inert and unmotivated.
Some of the greatest leaders, athletes, and entrepreneurs in the world failed a thousand times before they succeeded – and their one major success is what everyone still admires them for, not their failures.
Michael Jordan is famously quoted as saying, "I've failed over and over and over again in my life and that is why I succeed."
Redefine "failure" in your mind as a learning experience that has immense value. Only by figuring out what doesn't work will you discover what does.
Gratitude: The Shield Against Stress
Throughout your day, little things may nag at you. You hit all the red lights on your way to work. Someone takes your clearly labeled sandwich from the break room fridge. Your kid's school calls and says your little one is sick and needs to be picked up.
Life's great at lobbing curve balls at us at every turn. Rather than cursing your bad luck, protect yourself against stress at the very start of your day by practicing gratitude.
Simply reflect on the good in your life and take a moment to acknowledge your gratitude for those gifts. Research from UC Berkeley shows that even a quick (think: 5 minutes!) gratitude practice in the morning can set your brain into a positive mindset that serves as a buffer against stress throughout your day.
Find a Physical Outlet
Our bodies are miraculous things. When we do certain things – like run, swim, practice yoga, or hug a loved one – our brains are flooded with little things called endorphins. Like a natural form of mood elevators, endorphins relax you, melt away stress, and make you feel simultaneously exhilarated and calm.
Find what triggers the release of endorphins for you – or, better yet, a short list of endorphin-producing activities. Then use those as your default de-stressing techniques after a long, challenging day.
Make Your Wellness Plan a Priority
It's never too late to focus on your wellness.
Take the time to build your own plan for what health and wellness looks like to you based on these five pillars. Then, start small with one new habit per month in a single category. Start at the foundation of all good health: sleep. How can you improve your sleep routine right now? What's one thing you could change?
Focus on adopting that health shift completely for one month. Once it becomes a rock-solid habit, move on to the next thing – your nutrition. Sure, it will take some time – possibly years – to mold and shape your habits, but doing so one step at a time will ensure your success, keep you focused on the end goal, and give you many small wins to celebrate along the way.
What does your wellness plan look like? What one thing do you want to start by changing in each category? We'd love to hear your goals! Post them in the comments below for accountability, then share this post with a friend who might need some inspiration, too.