Holistic Wellness: More than white girls in yoga pants and green smoothies
Growing up, I didn’t know much about wellness. I put zero thought into what I put on my body (ahem ahem, creamy crack). I didn’t read food labels. I thought exercise was merely a way to help you get/stay thin. Wellness was not unheard of back then, but it definitely wasn’t the norm in the black community.
Nowadays, I’m a lot more aware. This awareness can be lonely; I hardly see us in the spaces where wellness is cultivated. We are the minority in yoga classes, at the spa, and at the therapist’s office. Like with most of our online searches, images of “holistic wellness” are predominantly white. If we want to see ourselves in anything online, we typically have to add “black” to it. Black wellness. Black love. Black wealth. Guess what google, holistic wellness is far more than white girls in yoga pants and green smoothies.
When promoting holistic wellness, the media has a way of feeding our preoccupation with nutrition and exercise, but that’s not the whole story. Holistic wellness is an intentional approach to life that encompasses the whole person and how they interact with their environment. Research has shown that stress diminishes our body’s ability to fend off viruses and cancer, in addition to delaying wound healing. The mind-body connection is real and we should all learn more about it.
The notorious mind, body, and spirit trio doesn’t close the loop on holistic wellness. There are actually 8 dimensions. Here they are!
Physical Wellness. We either promote or diminish our physical wellness with alcohol use, smoking, sleep hygiene, exercise habits, diet and nutrition, and lifestyle factors such as extreme stress or lack of work-life balance. If you found yourself thinking back to that entire bottle of wine you chugged after working 20 straight hours straight and eating junk food to stay up, don’t worry, we’re all human. I too am guilty royally screwing up in many of these areas. But we can always come back from it.
Emotional Wellness. Emotional wellness involves the ability to engage in emotional self-regulation and compartmentalization. Emotional self-regulation allows us to recognize, identify, and define our emotions and triggers. Skills such as emotional self-awareness, anger management, and self-soothing restrain us from throwing tantrums and snapping back at the slightest trigger. Compartmentalization, on the other hand, is a psychological mechanism that allows us to maintain emotional detachment from the corresponding emotional consequences. My background is in mental health counseling and crisis intervention. Compartmentalizing is an integral part of my work, it allows me to leave my clients’ problems at work so that I can function at home. There are a number of breathing techniques, mantras, and anger management tools that can aid us in practicing emotional wellness.
Social Wellness. When discussing a “social network”, it typically comes with the negative connotation of online profiles, fake models, and superficial connections that often exacerbate anxiety, depression, and dissatisfaction with one’s own life rather than making a meaningful contribution to it. Social wellness is about your real life interactions and friendships. This also explains why toxic relationships are hazardous to our health, and why individuals with stronger friendships and social networks live longer, happier lives. One toxic friendship does more damage than having no friends at all. Be selective by considering how the people you’re hanging out with align with your goals and values instead of not passively collecting friends like tokens.
Spiritual Wellness. Spiritual wellness means something different to everyone. It involves seeking and having a meaning and purpose in life, as well as participating in activities that are consistent with one’s beliefs and values. A spiritually well person expresses compassion towards others, and practices gratitude and self-reflection. I’ve heard people say that they aren’t religious, they’re spiritual. It’s all one in the same. Spirituality can be expressed through religion and prayer in the same way it can be expressed through meditation and yoga. If you take the time to identify your spiritual beliefs, you can get one step closer to living in a way that’s more aligned with your values.
Occupational Wellness. Occupational wellness describes job satisfaction and fulfillment. This has strong ties to our intellectual wellness. Factors like work-life balance and job satisfaction are crucial. Long-term job dissatisfaction is a trigger for stress, anxiety, and depression. Here are some questions to ask yourself when evaluating your occupational wellness: Am I happy with my job? Do I feel like I have a purpose? Do I have a safe, comfortable work environment with supportive colleagues and a boss who respects me? Does my work give me a sense of accomplishment and pride? Does my job offer opportunities for professional growth and personal development? Does it challenge me? You're never as stuck as you think you are. Make changes where necessary, even if it means taking a pay cut. Which brings me to our next dimension of wellness…
Financial Wellness. Financial wellness includes our relationship with money, skills to manage resources, living within our means, setting realistic goals, and learning to prepare for short and long-term needs or emergencies. Through being financially well, we can afford basic living expenses like food, water, housing, transportation, medical care, and Beyonce tickets. Finances are the most common source of stress among men and women. Managing that stress can provide major benefits for your health. Another essential aspect of this dimension includes the awareness that everyone’s financial values, needs, and circumstances are unique. For example, my unique values compelled me to add Beyonce tickets to the list of basic expenses because...it’s Beyonce. While I tend to use a simple spreadsheet for budgeting, there are so many free budgeting apps at our disposal. Do your research and find one that will help you.
Environmental Wellness. Our environment and the way we feel about the environment can play a major role in how we live and feel. Examples of our environment include our social environment (i.e. bullying, body shaming, and racism), our natural environment (i.e. air, nature, and climate), and our built environment (i.e. proximity to resources and living conditions). I currently live in NYC, but I am NOT a city girl. When I need to decompress and center myself, I take a trip for a change of scenery. This could mean if driving a few hours away for a day trip. Getting away from the buildings and people can help an introvert like myself recharge.
Intellectual Wellness. Reading books, learning new skills, exploring new environments, and asking questions are all means of nurturing our intellectual wellness — yet interest in these activities varies greatly. Some people think reading is life while others are bored to tears with books. Our minds are as diverse as our bodies. For many, having thought-provoking dialogue is as crucial to intellectual wellness. Without it, they feel unfulfilled. Improving your intellectual wellness can help you enhance your problem solving and coping skills, sense of self-worth, and your ability to express your thoughts and creativity.
While all dimensions of wellness deserve our attention, there doesn’t have to be perfection in each one in order to flourish. Instead, the goal is to find a personal harmony with the dimensions that are most authentic for you. You can’t reach your wellness potential passively, it requires active awareness, acceptance, and commitment through choices you make every day. You have to love and accept where you are now and be excited for who you choose to become.
A large part of my motivation behind starting Welstand Boutique was getting to my own personal breaking point, saying “enough is enough”, and taking my wellness more seriously. Instead of waiting until you’re sick and tired of being sick and tired, start chipping away at these dimensions little by little right away. Maybe you have a dimension in mind that you want to start with? Maybe you’ll write them all down on scraps of paper, throw them in a hat, and pick one! The choice is yours. After you select one, evaluate where you are now, accept your strengths and weaknesses, and get ready to do the real work by coming up with at least 2 things you can do to improve in that dimension.
Be sure to set goals that are realistic and measurable. For example, if you decide to improve your physical wellness, you don’t need to jump straight into veganism and bodybuilding...instead, you could cut back on how many cans of soda you drink in a week and take the stairs to work instead of the elevator once a day. It’s ok to start small!
Share this post with a friend for accountability! Leave a comment to share your plan with us and give everyone else great ideas so that they can grow too.
By: Shannon Green
Founder & CEO of Welstand Boutique