April Blog: Happiness. Wellness. Balance.

Happiness. Wellness. Balance.

I always thought I could be a writer but getting started sure is difficult. Thinking through the points that I would like to make and how to cohesively put them into an informative and interesting story, that makes sense to someone.. other than myself, of course.. has always been a relative weakness of mine.

So, I ask that you bear with me.

Piecing thoughts together, I find, is quite like piecing our moments, and all they encompass, into seamless, productive, happy and healthy days, months and years. The idea of having a “happy life” is one that many idolize and strive for as though it is an attainable goal or end point. In reality, happiness is a journey (cliché, I know) that is made up of many different components that point to wellness, as opposed to outright happiness, in light of emotional, physical, financial, spiritual, environmental, intellectual, sexual, social, and occupational (or some combination of these) parts.

What that lengthy, run-on sentence amounts to is balance. In all aspects of life, however you categorize the pieces.

When we are unbalanced, we open ourselves up to the potential for negative emotion, stress, frustration, relapse of mental illness, and physical illness. A colleague of mine recently introduced me to the work of Gabor Maté, M.D., who addresses the connection between our negative emotion and physical ailments-not the “imagined” ones but real and devastating diagnoses like autoimmune disease or cancer. Dr. Maté’s perspective of the two aspects highlights the reality that even though mental health and physical health are often studied and treated as separate functions, they may not be so separate after all.

Poor physical health may leave us feeling depressed, impact our ability to have a strong social network, limit our ability to gain satisfaction within our occupation or to be successful in the career that we prefer. Excessive dedication of our time to one aspect of wellness compromises the others and leads to poor overall wellness. We must learn to balance each aspect, on a daily basis, to build lives that are happier and less stressful.

Though we cannot govern every single aspect of our lives, we can increase our level of happiness by mindfully managing that which we can control and accepting that which we cannot. There is value in balance, mindfulness, and kindness. We receive, in return, what we put out into the world and though no one is perfect, we all have the capacity to improve ourselves and others by association.

Much like Dr. Nielsen discussed in February’s blog post, mindfulness helps to manage stress, and can include the practices of acceptance, and focusing on that which helps us to relax in little ways. Simple and unshakable principles practiced over and over again, pave the way for balance and wellness.

My favorite reminders can be found in the poem titled, Desiderata:

“Go placidly amid the noise and the haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible, without surrender, be on good terms with all persons.

Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even to the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story. Avoid loud and aggressive persons; they are vexatious to the spirit.

If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter, for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.

Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time. Exercise caution in your business affairs, for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals, and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself. Especially do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth. Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore, be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be.

And whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul. With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world.

 Be cheerful. Strive to be happy. -Max Ehrmann, 1948

For further information:

Gabor Maté, When The Body Says No: Mind/Body Unity and the Stress- Disease Connection Video

Wired For Wellness: 8 Wellness Dimensions Video

Carly Snodgrass, MS, ISO Program Coordinator

NINH