"Do not seek to follow in the footsteps of the wise ones; seek what they sought." -Matsuo Basho
This pearl of wisdom is today's "Chill" thought of the day (if you aren't aware of the Chill app, I highly recommend it; Simple bits of mindfulness & buddhism delivered daily to your inbox), and it resonated strongly with me. I interpret this tidbit to mean that we should all strive for enlightenment and well-being, but that our individual paths will not look the same as our neighbor's. So too is the case with wellness.
I have a big confession: I steer clear of most of the fitness/wellness/diet blogs & magazines. Why? Because the vast majority of the articles and advice out there are interpretations of science, or the articles are too trend-driven & written with the intent to get you to buy some new product, or the "advice" comes from an individual for whom the proposed diet plan/workout schedule/supplement proved effective, with little regard to how said diet plan/workout schedule/supplement would generalize to the masses (i.e. without scientific data). Now, don't get me wrong: there are several health & wellness publications I trust and read on the daily, but the pool of information out there seems to grow deeper by the minute, and the bulk of it is, in my opinion, watered-down, unproven, financially-driven fallacy.
An individual's ideal wellness plan is just that: individual. Sure, there are certain basic things we know we all need: water, oxygen, sleep, exercise, vitamins & minerals, etc, etc. But there are many other sub-factors to consider when devising a wellness plan that will work, longterm, for you. Factors such as your career, cultural background, geographic location, family dynamics, economic situation, spiritual beliefs, mental health, and individual preferences need all be taken into account when figuring out what works FOR YOU and is sustainable. And I don't know about you, but I know that a lot of the information on health-related things I should or shouldn't be doing will simply not work for me. But, my aim is to continue tweaking my wellness habits towards the direction of optimal health (da, da, DA!), because I like living and want to do so with as much vigor for as long as the universe will allow.
In short, I want to feel as good as possible in as many ways as possible (physically, mentally, spiritually) for a very long time.
But, if I were to read and attempt to follow all the advice out there, not only would I find myself constantly confused by the contradictory info, but I would probably be incapable of doing and maintaining a lot of it.
For example, as most of you reading this blog know, I am an individual in longterm recovery from alcoholism. I recently celebrated four years of sobriety; a feat I could never have imagined back when I regularly self-medicated my anxiety with vodka. For me, stopping drinking was without a doubt the most beneficial thing I have done (and continue to do) for my overall health. Physically, I transformed from an emaciated, perpetually nauseous and inexplicably bruised young woman to the strong, energetic being I am today. I stopped having regular panic attacks. And my spiritual life, once just a seed that seemed as though it would never sprout, has grown both solid roots and beautiful healthy branches.
So, what does this have to do with finding your own path in wellness? Allow me to elaborate on addiction & my beliefs and understanding of the disease, having studied it both empirically & whilst in grad school: addiction transfer is, I believe, inevitable. Meaning, once an addict, always an addict, but the object of the addiction changes. For me, once I was able to stop drinking, the object of desire became, as is typical of most people in early recovery, s-u-g-a-r. I ate so much sugar, it's a miracle I didn't develop diabetes or gain 30 lbs. I experienced headaches when my blood sugar crashed, and dealt with bloating and irritability. But, at the time, these symptoms were massively preferable to the ones that had accompanied my alcoholism. I knew that eating that much sugar wasn't sustainable, and I also knew, instinctively, that at some point, I would just stop eating so much of it. And I did. Somewhere around the one year mark, I just sort of naturally started changing my habits and my sugar consumption dropped drastically. I do, however, as most people close to me know, eat ice cream at least three times a week. I don't eat a massive amount of it at one sitting, and I don't load it up with extra sugar-containing toppings (my preferred toppings are oats, cacao nibs, and fruit), but I definitely do eat it more than the average person. And I am completely and totally fine with this. Most people have a few drinks each week; I have a few bowls of ice cream. The rest of my diet is mostly clean. I work out regularly. And, I enjoy eating ice cream. So, the ice cream stays in the picture because that's what works for me. Spiritually, mentally, and physically. It's part of MY wellness plan.
Am I advising YOU to eat ice cream several times a week? No. (But also, maybe?) I don't know what the rest of your food choices look like. I don't know what your workout habits are. I don't know if you are lactose intolerant, vegan, or otherwise ethically opposed to ice cream. Heck, I don't even know if you LIKE ice cream (but, if you don't, you're just a monster). I am simply giving you an example of something that would never pass mainstream media standards that is an important part of my wellness plan.
There are other very individual things that I either do or don't incorporate into my wellness-lifestyle (Wellstyle? Lifeness?) that wouldn't work for most people but that's totally cool, because they work for me. Even determining the meaning of "working for you" can be subjective, but for me it means things that make me feel good, are sustainable, and do no harm to myself or others. My path towards optimal health includes ice cream. What unique wellness habits do YOU have? Drop me a note or reply in the comments!
In Good (individual) Health,
I'm busy working on my blog posts. Watch this space!