Whether it is school, news, friends, and even social media, someone is always trying to tell us what being well means but what is wellness to us personally? Wellbeing is defined as a state of physical, mental, emotional, social, and spiritual wellness. “Wholistic” Wellness is a full state of existence that merges the quality of nutrition, community, and spirituality. How can one achieve this optimal state?
One of the most immediate choices you can make in life is to pay more attention to what you are eating. Many of us view food solely as energy, yet food is so much more. Nutrients contain vital information needed for our body to function properly and create more than just energy. Our body interacts with the external environment through food more than we know. Viewing food intimately in this way causes more intention with what is consumed. We consume what our body desires to learn and develop.
How is food processed? Let us go on a visual journey of digestion. The physical portion of digestion begins in the mouth.
1. Food is chewed and saliva begins to break down nutrients to be absorbed.
2. As you swallow the food it travels to our stomach, if the right bacteria are present, we can break that food down even further to be absorbed by our cells.
3. Nutrients move down our intestines they are absorbed mostly in the small intestines. With the help of enzymes and phytonutrients and if the food was nutrient-dense, they are able to reach our cells.
Without proper nutrients, the body does not have the tools to function properly, and this is where most disease begins. Nutrition acts as an intermediary between our physical and mental worlds. Meaning these deficiencies will not only affect our physical health but our mental health as well. Nutrition can play a key role in
· the onset as well as severity and duration of depression
· As well as a compromised immune system
Those who are depressed generally display irregular neurotransmitter deficiencies. Certain foods we eat are precursors to these neurotransmitters. Like tryptophan which can be converted into serotonin internally on a mostly empty stomach. It is hard to feel well when your body cannot produce the chemicals needed to do so. Currently, the world has been thrown into disarray by the Covid-19 virus. Imagine if everyone had a healthy immune system to combat the dangers of this virus. Poor diet and malnutrition can severely impact immune function. What exactly your immune system? Well, it is the defense systems animals have to combat pathogens.
· First, is the innate immune system which includes your skin, and mucus.
· Second is the adaptive immune system which includes internal cells and organs like your spleen, and lymph nodes (Nutrition Source, 2021).
Thankfully, we live in a time where individual nutrition is becoming popular. With current testing procedures, one can learn exactly what they may be deficient in. Through genetic testing, we can also learn what we may be sensitive to or have a hard time metabolizing. This era of individual nutrition enables us to discover a diet that is perfectly suitable for our body. Learning more about food sensitives, coupled with eating fresh, organic, and most importantly nutrient-dense foods will allow you to achieve optimal nutrition. Some reading that may benefit anyone who wishes to learn more can be found in Our Journey with Food by Tamera Karr, or Food What the Heck is it and What Should I Eat by Mark Hyman.
Do you know the difference between communal living and community? Humans are social creatures and loneliness is associated with a variety of health complications that begin in adolescence. The insidious nature of loneliness is that it causes physiological symptoms but is not a physiological factor. Loneliness has been shown to affect
· cognitive function,
· cardiovascular health
· immune function
Participating and involving oneself with the community could be a simple cure to many symptoms that affect overall wellness. When you participate in your community, not only can you alleviate loneliness but gain new experiences. Participants can create an impact for which they receive recognition, make new friends, and learn new skills. The positive feedback received from members of the community can have an outstanding effect on your physical, emotional, and mental wellbeing. This is because positive feedback effects self-efficacy which can indirectly promote healthier performance quantity and quality.
One of the ways I find it best to participate in your community is through community gardens. A simple google search will point you in the direction of your closest community or urban garden. From there you can sign up for volunteering and partake in your community. Gardening can improve physical, psychological, and social health, which can, from a long-term perspective, alleviate and prevent various health issues. Matthew 4:19 says “If you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day. If you teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime.”
Through gardening, you directly impact the lives of those around you through something we all must eat, food! Food has been bringing people together since the dawn of civilization. Community gardens have a direct impact on nutrition, food security, social environment, community cohesion, pride, physical activity, and much more. These benefits can be grouped into factors influencing the nutritional health environment and the social environment (Egli Et Al, 2016).
Spirituality means the quality of being concerned with the human spirit or soul. Spirituality and consistent spiritual practice are integral to optimal wellness. We are spiritual beings having a visceral experience in physical bodies. Despite how we perceive the 3D world our spirit, although not tangible has an interconnectedness to our physical experience and wellness.
Many spiritual practices such as mediation have been adopted by new-age influencers as a marketing format. A mediative practice is much more than an Instagram video. Meditation is used to treat stress and stress-related conditions utilizing techniques of mindfulness, concentration, and breathwork. Although the body needs a certain amount of stress to grow and develop, we currently experience a near-permanent state of stress. Prolonged stress can lead to mental and physical disease in vulnerable individuals. Research to date has shown that mindfulness and mantra mediation techniques can provide moderate relief to emotional and physical stress symptoms. With a clear mind, we can make decisions that will have a prolonged positive effect such as participating in our community or eating healthy rather than eating junk food and playing video games
A simple way to integrate meditation into a curriculum is by involving it in an everyday routine. Upon waking up set aside 10-20 minutes for a silent or guided meditation. An excellent and convenient app for a cellphone to use is Headspace. It can be downloaded on iPhone and Android systems and is an easy way to start the practice. If sitting still does not seem beneficial one can perform meditative yoga. Roseman’s Remedies has an excellent chakra yoga series available on their website for beginners.
The human experience is not an autonomous state facilitated by a single action. Wellness is an interconnected web of nutrition, community interaction, and devout spiritual practice. We are all divinely connected and so is our entire body. In order to have optimal wellness, we must look at the whole picture as well as the individual factors.
Carolyn Denton, 2016, Taking Charge of Your Wellbeing, University of Minnesota, https://www.takingcharge.csh.umn.edu/how-does-food-impact-health
Childs, C. E., Calder, P. C., & Miles, E. A. (2019). Diet and Immune Function. Nutrients, 11(8), 1933. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu11081933
Egli, V., Oliver, M., & Tautolo, e. (2016). The development of a model of community garden benefits to wellbeing. Preventive medicine reports, 3, 348–352. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pmedr.2016.04.005
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Hawkley, L. C., & Cacioppo, J. T. (2010). Loneliness matters: a theoretical and empirical review of consequences and mechanisms. Annals of behavioral medicine : a publication of the Society of Behavioral Medicine, 40(2), 218–227. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12160-010-9210-8
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No author or date. Nutirion Source. Havard EDU.