You are here: Home > Blog > Wellness Is Our True Nature

Wellness Is Our True Nature

pillars of heath

Wellness — it’s definitely a current buzzword that’s been packaged, commercialized, and medicalized. So what should we make of it? 

Taking my 25+ years in health and wellness into account, I thought I’d explore this topic further. 

Typically, we measure wellness by weight, cardiovascular fitness, and blood tests. But what happens when all these measurements come back “normal” and we still feel awful? We still feel anxious, depressed, tired, lonely, or sore. 

While there are no hacks, there is a simple solution. Well, not simple as in easy, but simple as in it doesn’t involve complicated diets, expensive pills, treatments, or monitoring devices. Ultimately, torturing ourselves with difficult workouts is a thing of the past. 

Wellness is a process, not a goal. 

Wellness happens when eating whole foods, moving throughout the day, generally following circadian rhythms with our sleeping pattern and eating schedule, and regularly connecting with friends.

It’s not about perfection and rigidity. Instead, it’s about awareness and balance. One of my favourite quotes is from Oscar Wilde; “Everything in moderation, including moderation.”

As for wellness and health literature, it’s generally agreed that there are pillars or determinants of health and wellbeing, which include the following:

Stress Management
Food 
Movement 
Sleep
Community or Relationships

I like the Pillars’ analogy because I think of the balance between the Pillars as necessary to support the structure (the structure being us). As with any structure, it requires a good foundation, and I think the foundation is awareness (another buzzword). 

Awareness will have many assume I mean meditation. However, I’m not talking about formal meditation, but rather paying attention. When we genuinely pay attention to how we feel in different circumstances, we can start to find our way. The body lets us know when something isn’t right, and we must listen.

A little more on meditation: Meditation is the formal practice of paying attention. There is a lot of research now validating the benefits of meditation practice, including lower blood pressure and heart rate, hormonal regulation, and changes in our brain. The last benefit is the most exciting to me. We can actually change our brain, increasing our ability to focus and prevent dementia. It also helps us to be able to pause and respond rather than react automatically. So our “practice” can help to change our behaviour in real life. 

The Pillars explained. 

Without going into great detail, I want to talk briefly about each of the pillars and key points that have made a difference in my life. I’m not claiming to have it all figured out, but I am definitely a very interested work in progress. 

Stress

The World Health Organization has identified stress as the health epidemic of the 21st century. It is literally making us sick. Acute stress is normal; however, chronic stress is harmful because it changes our nervous system and metabolism. Many of us feel that we are under constant threat because of the world we live in — social media, doomsday news, jam packed schedules, career burnout, and the list goes on. 

The good news is that stress relief doesn’t have to involve escape. To manage it effectively, it needs to be something we do every day. It could start with a meditation practice, but it doesn’t even need to be that formal. Just stop periodically and tune in. 

A simple practice that you can do anywhere, anytime, is to stop

Notice your connection to the ground. Can you settle more deeply into it? You might feel corresponding upward energy. 

Notice your breath. You don’t need to try to change it. Follow the air in and out. Feel the movement of your body with the breath. 

Notice your internal space. Are you holding or constricting anywhere? Think of a softening rather than “stretching”. As you do this you will likely experience yourself settling into the ground. 

I love this practice because it is a good reset that takes just seconds. You’ll gradually find that these things are just in the background all the time and that you’re more in control of your responses and behaviours.

Food 

Admittedly, food is not my area of expertise. Nevertheless, here are some experts I would recommend referencing, including Dr. Mark Hyman, Dr. William Li, Evelyn Tribole, and Michael Pollan. 

The evidence seems to support eating a variety of whole foods. As Michael Pollan puts it, “Eat whole foods, mostly vegetables.” Meanwhile, Dr. Rangan Chattergee also summarizes it well regarding vegetables and fruits and advises us to eat the colours of the rainbow. I think all would agree that calorie counting is not the way to go about it. This restrictive way of eating takes the joy out of it and causes its own problems, including mental health issues.

Movement

Notice I’m calling it movement and not exercise. Exercise is just a small, formalized subset of movement. As such, we approach it in a very effortful way. However, movement doesn’t need to be forceful to be beneficial. When our effort exceeds the demand, it places increased stress on our bodies and can have negative consequences. On the other hand, we want to meet any demand that we may face in our day. Setting the bar is something a professional can help you with.

Since many of us are forced to be more sedentary than we would like, there may be a need to restore and supplement movement, which is why we “exercise.” Bringing conscious attention to ourselves as we exercise will yield more benefits and help us avoid placing unnecessary wear and tear on our bodies. This body awareness will allow us to participate more effortlessly and freely in the activity of our choice. 

My online movement practice group intends to prepare you for this.

Sleep

I tend to think of sleep as being very connected to the other pillars. For example, suppose there is a stressful situation in my life that I’m not addressing, or my diet or alcohol intake has been a little out of whack. In that case, it will interfere with my sleep. 

Dr. Matthew Walker is an expert in this field and I would highly recommend his podcasts and books. 

Dr. Satchin Panda has also extensively researched and written about our circadian rhythms. He has found that if we eat, move, and sleep in accordance with our circadian rhythms, we tend to be healthier and live longer.

Community or Relationships

Due to reasons out of our control, many of us feel disconnected from one another. As the world begins to reopen, it’s essential to reach out to friends and family and maybe join a group. 

Johann Hari, British author and journalist, has studied social connection and its benefits extensively. I would highly recommend his books and podcasts

You’ll find a good summary of the Pillars of Health in Dr. Rangan Chattergee’s book, “How to Make Disease Disappear.” He also has written several other books which are more specific to stress and eating. I would highly recommend his podcast “Feel better, Live More,” which explores these topics along with very knowledgeable guests. 

I hope you can see that we all can have control over our own health and wellbeing. Guidance from experts in these fields can be beneficial but think of it as a tool rather than a fix. It is a process. If we can focus on small changes rather than the ultimate goal, we tend to be more successful. 

I would love to be a part of your wellness journey. Please feel free to contact me with any questions about how to get involved.

Adara Movement is a proud member of