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Exploring facets of physical wellness

Physical Wellness

Bringing physical wellness full circle.

The human physical body is a phenomenal piece of machinery. Consider what it does during a 24-hour cycle from regulating body temperature, blood pressure, hormones, digestion, sleep, healing, and cell renewal, to name a few. It’s quite impressive, but we can take it for granted. While the physical body is self-regulating in many ways, it does appreciate support from us to operate at its optimum.

Physical wellness can be cultivated through many aspects of self-care, including healthy nutrition, a positive body image, health screenings, recreational exercise, healthy home and work environment, sleep, and managing our response to life in general. As you can see, self-care for our physical well-being can be multi-faceted. With this in mind, think about the following article as a menu to scroll through and choose from, exploring the facets you perceive having potential to enhance your physical wellness for 2018 and beyond.

Healthy Nutrition and Bio-Individuality

One of the frustrations many of us experience is defining what foods and drink are truly healthy for our bodies to consume. The topic of food itself can bring on passionate arguments between omnivores, vegetarians, vegans, and more, each vehemently defending their choices, sometimes resulting in a full-on food fight.

How do we find our way among the oppositions and trends? A simple viable option can be listening to our body. The concept of biochemical individuality presented in the 1950s by Roger J. Williams, a professor and researcher, was applied to nutrition and a host of other functions of the human body. Over time, the term “bio-individuality” has been applied to nutritional modalities, such as, blood typing, metabolism typing, and Ayurvedic. More recent research continues to lend validity to bio-individuality.

What does this mean regarding nutrition? If humans are bio-individuals, certain foods can either strengthen, be neutral, or weaken our physical wellness. Or, as Hippocrates once said, “One man’s food is another man’s poison.” Taking Roger J. Williams and Hippocrates wisdom into consideration, here is a way to begin learning how your body is responding to foods and drinks:

  • Take notice of how you feel after eating meals or snacks, or drinking coffee, soda, juices, tea, water, etc.
  • Keep a food diary noting your body’s responses to what you eat and drink for a week or two.
  • Notice when you are tired, experiencing bloating and/or gas, blood sugar crash, brain fog or a lack of clarity, moody, skin issues, headache, etc.
  • Notice when you feel more energized, clear, happy, even, and hunger is satiated for at least three to four hours.
  • Look for patterns in your food diary as to what foods and drinks appear to diminish your wellbeing and those that enhance it.

Staying hydrated and sticking to whole foods, such as fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, and other healthy sources of protein are sound guidelines. However, even within these guidelines there is room to explore and ask what of these nutritional sources optimize your bio-individual physical wellness?

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Body Image

How we think and relate to our body impacts our physical wellbeing at a core emotional level. Ultimately, this can play out in our physical wellness on varying levels, from lack of confidence to eating disorders. The media bombards us with airbrushed and photo-shopped bodies. Friends, family, and doctors can make potentially well-meaning, but hurtful comments. Any of these scenarios can leave us with a sting, further diminishing how we feel about our body.

Returning to the concept of bio-individuality, our bodies come in different frames, shapes, and sizes. There are some aspects we can change and others we likely cannot. Reframing how we think about our body is key. How can you do this?

  • Recognize while you might not like what you see in the mirror, it does not define who you are.
  • Be honest with yourself. If you know there are things you could change to create a healthier body, such as better nutrition, exercising, and getting sleep, then try to make those changes in small steps.
  • Meet yourself where you are, and remember, it’s about being healthy not the person on the cover of a magazine.
  • Notice what you enjoy and like about yourself physically, intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually. Write them down and look and remind yourself of them often.
  • Cancel out negative thoughts about yourself, and replace it with positive and/or encouraging thoughts.
  • Be mindful of your thoughts. How you think, so you are.
  • If you still find yourself struggling with body image , or are experiencing eating disorders, please seek out resources that can support you.

Investing in forming a positive body image can be of significant value to your physical wellness. Our physical bodies can respond according to our emotional thoughts. Deepak Chopra notes in his book Ageless Body, Timeless Mind, “The revolution we call mind-body medicine was based on this simple discovery: wherever thought goes, a chemical goes with it.”

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Health Screenings

Health screenings are a preventative measure for your physical well-being. Most of us bring our car into be serviced, diagnosed, check fluid levels, and look for wear and tear. While the human body is an amazing machine, sometimes it needs a check-up to confirm you are giving it the best fuel for optimal performance, that electrical systems are working, and early warning flashing lights aren’t going unnoticed. Through a yearly exam, blood panels, and other helpful diagnostics, much of this can be accomplished.

If you haven’t gone for a yearly exam, consider making an appointment to do so. Some people don’t like going to a doctor. With this, it’s important to find a doctor you can partner with, so you can feel more comfortable. There are also physician assistants, nurse practitioners, and functional medicine doctors.

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Recreational Exercise

There are people who would say they’re allergic to exercise, but most would it agree it has its redeeming qualities. The human body is designed to move, reaping benefits to our physical wellbeing. Some of the appreciative recipients of exercise include our heart, bones, muscles, blood, immunity, and hormones. In general, we feel better on many levels, and it shows. Exercise is an activity we can do on our own, or it can also provide social connection with others. The exercise opportunities to choose from are plentiful. However, bio-individuality can again play a role, some of us are built for speed, others are long distance runners. Some can train at one level and others may negatively impact their adrenals by overtraining. Just as with food, exploring recreational exercise from the basis of how your body resonates with specific types of exercise can go a long way toward exercise sustainability, as well as its benefits. The following questions can help you start thinking about what types of exercise might be for you:

  • What forms of recreational exercise are you attracted to? What types of exercise were you naturally drawn to growing up?
  • Do you prefer to exercise alone, with others, or both?
  • What’s realistic for your current situation? What can you start with? What can you work toward?
  • What types of exercise seem to leave you feeling tired, worn out, or excessively sore?
  • What types of exercise in the past seem to leave you feeling energized, clear, or revitalized?
  • What amount of time can and are you willing to allocate to exercise?
  • What time of day does your body prefer to exercise?

Your answers to these questions can guide you toward more fulfilling forms of exercise. Variety can be the spice of life, so varying your exercise can reduce monotony, and work different body parts.

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Healthy Home and Work Environment

A healthy home environment can represent different things to different people. The same follows true regarding our professional life. Both home and work can impact our physical wellness. It’s not necessarily realistic to always have an ideal environment due to resources and the involvement of other bio-individual humans, however, we do have some choices in what we create and how we respond. We can look at an environment from two perspectives, our surroundings, and the people we interact with. Below are some questions and avenues to consider in creating a healthier environment at home and work.

Healthy Surroundings for Home and Work:

  • What do you need to feel comfortable in your surroundings? What welcomes you? What makes others feel welcomed?
  • Is your air healthy? Or, does it feel stale and make you tired? Consider exploring options to purifying your indoor air.
  • Are you around and using many electronic devices? How can you make healthy choices with technology?
  • Is your keyboard, screen, and chair ergonomically optimal for your musculoskeletal wellness?
  • Do you like the sound of water? Consider a small indoor fountain, which also brings negative ions into the air making you feel more refreshed, just as the ocean does.
  • Do you respond well to background music to motivate, balance, or calm you when needed?
  • Are you interested in essential oils that can be used to diffuse into the air or used topically? Different oils have different properties from revitalizing, anti-viral, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, and more.
  • Are you using cleaners you negatively react to and/or aren’t good for the environment? If so, consider exploring non-toxic and environmentally friendly cleaners available on the market. There are also many effective cleaners you can make yourself.

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Healthy Relationships for Home and Work

  • Do you know what represents a healthy relationship?
  • Do you know the signs of an unhealthy relationship?
  • Are there family or co-workers you are having challenges with? Can you look at their side objectively, perhaps gaining more perspective?
  • Is it possible you play a role in these challenges? How can you change your approach or response for a better outcome?
  • Have you explored books, websites, workshops, seminars, etc. that could be of help for your specific situation?
  • Have you identified chronic unhealthy aspects in your relational home or work environment? If so, consider bringing in a neutral party (counselor, clergy, organizational training and development) and/or resources that can help address the situation at home or work.

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Sleep

Sleep is sacred. We often don’t realize how sacred it is until we aren’t getting enough of it. We start to feel compromised in our clarity, energy, blood sugar levels, moods, and judgement. It’s a similar effect of having too much alcohol in our bodies. Our bodies rely on sleep to restore and heal. If you want to focus on getting more quality sleep into your night for physical wellness, here are a few suggestions to get you started.

  • Consuming foods rich in minerals helps our adrenals do their job in regulating our sleep cycle.
  • Keep sugar at bay, as it depletes the body of minerals.
  • Alcohol can impact a restorative night of sleep, due to its impact on our sleep cycle. If you choose to have a glass of wine with dinner or are out having a drink, limiting alcohol consumption to know more than two drinks typically has minimal impact on restorative sleep.
  • Exercising regularly, but not close to bedtime. If bedtime is at 9:30 p.m., better to get the exercise in by 3:30 – 4:30 p.m. time range.
  • In to bed no later than 10:00 p.m. for optimal restoration, unless you are biologically wired nocturnally. Then, figure out the optimal sleeping hours for you.
  • Avoid the blue light and stimulation. Put the TV, phone, and computer to sleep two hours before you go to sleep.
  • Prime yourself for sleep and turn the lights low and do yoga stretches, meditation, take a warm bath, have a cup of non-caffeinated tea, listen to calming music, write in a journal, have some gratitude time, go out and star gaze, or any activity that provides a winding down time for the body.
  • Explore essential oils that can help in promoting a restful sleep.
  • Fill the bedroom with calming colors creating a sanctuary to retreat and restore in.
  • Keep the bedroom cool and dark for sleep and free of light emitting electronic devices if possible. Clocks that play calming music or sounds and/or provide a wake-up call by emulating the natural stages of sunrise light in your bedroom are great time-keeper alternatives.

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 Managing Responses to Life

Life is comprised of ebb and flow. When life flows, most of us can stay the steady course, focusing on the next task to be done. When life is ebbing, that’s the real test to our character, especially when the ebbing starts to feel or look like it might be a long haul. Things can get muddy, frustrating, uncertain, and exhausting. How we emotionally respond to the ebbing can have a significant impact on how our physical body responds. Taking time to explore and invest in what can be an anchor, a beacon, sanctuary, or provides a steadfastness feeding your inner strength and resilience during the ebb of life can be invaluable in weathering life’s challenges. The following are some potential avenues to explore.

  • Starting a journal to write down your thoughts. It’s inexpensive therapy and provides a vehicle to acknowledge the happy moments, gratitude, observations, and dump negative thoughts that are weighing you down.
  • Find other ways to express yourself, such as drawing, writing songs, playing an instrument, painting, and any other forms of creation that can serve as an outlet.
  • Nature can provide tranquility through observing, walking, hiking, biking, kayaking, etc.
  • Integrate prayer and meditation time on a regular basis.
  • Consider a characteristic about yourself you’d like to improve through practice.
  • Explore spiritual books, workshops, services, etc.
  • Try out a yoga or T’ai Chi class that can strengthen the mind-body-spirit connection.
  • Enroll in a mindfulness class helping you become more conscious and aware of yourself and how you respond to people and situations.
  • Cultivate healthy relationships and support systems that stand with you through the ebb and flow of life.

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Full Circle

As bio-individuals we can have different changes, needs, and challenges at different times of life, just as some of the physical wellness topics discussed in this article may or may not apply to you right now. Additionally, the body’s emotional, intellectual, social, spiritual, and vocational experiences can come full circle in impacting the body’s physical wellbeing. With this, being mindful in listening and responding to your body can be one of the most rewarding investments you make this year and years to come!

Where do you stand in your physical wellness? Find out by taking the physical assessment.

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Challenge yourself to make YOU a priority! Seven is a free program from Health Promotion and Wellness for students, faculty, and staff that focuses on the importance of the seven dimensions of wellness: emotionalenvironmentalintellectualphysicalsocialspiritual, and vocational. Seven runs from September to the end of April, and you can join at any time. Participants log wellness activities to earn points toward monthly prize drawings and compete toward end of the year overall point totals. Participants also receive the Seven e-newsletter and information on campus wellness events.

For additional details and to sign up, visit Wellness.IllinoisState.edu/Seven

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