Wellness Defined – An Addendum

Wellness is about how you show up, about how you allow yourself to be.

I’d like to revisit this concept I first brought up in my 3 part series on Wellness (Part 1, part 2, part 3)

In those posts, I started with a dictionary definition of Wellness, this time I want to take a ramble down a parallel path, looking for an answer to that nagging question, “what is wellness?”

Wellness is what YOU make it.

That may sound like a cop-out to some of you, please remember that there are no concrete metrics for wellness. There is no test your doctor can run, no results page with a list of numbers. I’ve said all along that wellness will be defined differently by different people, or even by the same person at different stages of life. Wellness is dependent on the totality of what makes you YOU at any given point in time.

Wellness is NOT about how you look, or how much you can lift.

Those are legitimate aspects of Wellness to be sure, there are just so many other aspects that to focus on those two is to shortchange yourself and to lose track of the goal – whole body well-being. From these two points, how can we hope to come to a concrete definition? Let’s try reframing the question – why do we feel the need to have a concrete definition of such a fluid concept after all? We might as well be asking, “How can we come to one concrete definition of wellness that will work for everyone?” We can’t. Great, now that we’ve ruled out that possibility, we ought to be able to get somewhere.

Reframed question – How can we define wellness in a way that each person seeing that definition will know how to interpret it, FOR THEMSELVES?*

Here we go, now we’ve arrived at where I think the paraphrase that started this whole chain of thought comes into play and why it resonated so strongly with me. Look at wellness as a state of mind. If you look at yourself in the mirror in the morning and your first thought starts with “why can’t you…” or “why aren’t you…” your state of mind that day won’t be brimming with wellness, will it? You’re going into the day feeling shame for some aspect of your appearance, or by chastising yourself for a perceived flaw. That’s going to color everything you do, all day.

What if when you looked in the mirror, you thought of 3 things you appreciate about your life? Or 3 things you’re looking forward to that day? Now you’re starting off with positive thoughts, no shame in sight, and no dwelling on that perceived flaw (that in all likelihood isn’t a flaw at all). Doesn’t that sound more likely to engender a good state of mind?

And that better state of mind will in turn influence how you show up in the world – and according to this new definition we’re looking at, your wellness. Your interactions with coworkers will be more pleasant because you aren’t seeing everything through either the filter of body shame or the “what if” filter. This is what creates the sense that all of your interactions are with people who are judging you, while in reality, this is just your negative self-talk being projected onto others.

Eliminating these filters allows you to just Be with the other person, free from assumptions and self-conscious self-talk. To NOT project your insecurities onto them, to simply Be there with the other person, in that moment.

Now that we’re seeing wellness as a state of mind rather than a set of metrics we can have diagnosed by our doctor, trainer, etc…what now? It’s time to combine this point of view with the outcome of my previous post series – Wellness is a moving target, and those with a good SOC (Sense Of Coherence) are more likely to be able to make the changes necessary to overcome the hurdles and find their way to Wellness.

One of the key aspects of a healthy SOC (no pun intended), is an individual’s ability to adapt to ever-changing situations. This includes overall health, acute disease diagnoses, even things as seemingly mundane as a cold. This ability to adjust is key because, without it, people can end up wallowing in the ‘what-if’s’ of a situation, and that tends to lead to a downward spiral that it can be difficult to pull out of.

When you combine this idea of adaptability, a high SOC, and wellness as a moving target – you begin to understand that it’s going to take some experimentation, some trial and error even, before you find the path to wellness that’s right…for YOU. Understanding this is the first step to that high SOC, and therefore more adaptability and willingness to experiment and to not let one path being a wrong turn keep you from trying another.

In turn, all of this makes it all the more likely that you’ll find your path, and your ideal wellness.

*I have a post on cognitive reframing from a previous blog, I’ll get it touched up and posted early in the new year.

Narrative (Fallacy) in Everyday Life

The narrative fallacy addresses our limited ability to look at sequences of facts without weaving an explanation into them, or, equivalently, forcing a logical link, an arrow of relationship upon them. Explanations bind facts together. They make them all the more easily remembered; they help them make more sense. Where this propensity can go wrong is when it increases our impression of understanding.

—Nassim Nicholas Taleb, Black Swan

Narrative Fallacy as a concept relates to our innate tendency as humans to construct a story to fit the facts we’re confronted with. It’s how we concoct a backstory for a situation, without knowing the actual backstory. We do this all the time, watching the news we want to know why that guy did what he did. We want to know how that middle-aged dude ended up working as a barista at our local coffee spot. Or why our coworker is particularly grumpy today.

We want to know the WHY.

Did that barista get laid off recently from a high paying executive job and now he’s just looking for health care coverage? Or has he been a barista for 20 years? Did your co-worker’s wife leave him last night? Or did he just miss his morning jog/coffee/have a bad commute? What would our day look like if we didn’t construct all these backstories? If we just took what we saw in the present as all there was?

Might we see people for who they are now, in this moment, and might that be all we really need to know?

Being in the moment. Might this simple idea be a solution to lessen the hold Narrative Fallacy has on our daily lives? It’s an idea that comes up often as I delve further into the world of Coaching. It’s also a way of being that has interested me for years. It’s why and how I started meditating. It’s how I got through years of uncertain work situations. It’s how I’m dealing with once again being jobless – thinking in the present helps me construct enough story for interviews that the questioner doesn’t fall back on Narrative (Fallacy) to fill in the blanks. It’s also how I keep from dwelling on the past.

I can’t change what happened that led me to where I am. What I can do is address my present moment.

Will knowing the ‘why’ of that middle-aged barista change how you interact with him? Probably not, and if so that should tell you something about yourself rather than about him. And as for your co-worker, treat them with kindness and respect and you may alter the course of their day – whatever the cause or backstory.