Personal wellness, despite being fundamental to our happiness, success and prosperity, is one of the first things that gets ditched when the going gets tough.
Part of the reason is that wellness is hard to define. It's more than health, and more than happiness: something that falls in between the two states to include your holistic self. It's a difficult concept to grasp, and no pill you buy or self-help book you read is going to magically get you personal wellness. It's called "personal" wellness, not purchasable wellness, after all.
Personal wellness has to come from you. Its difficulty in defining means it's easy to neglect — instead, we find ourselves getting swept away by the whirlwinds of our fast-paced lives. We train ourselves to ignore our own inclinations to take care of ourselves, instead learning to prioritize money and careers over personal wellness.
However, there are roadmaps for how to reprogram yourself to find your personal wellness again. By introducing these four daily habits, you can start finding your way to regaining your personal wellness in a way that works for you.
1. Consume Social Media Mindfully
You'll notice I said "consume mindfully," and not "reduce." Social media is here to stay, whether we like it or not, and a total detox would be difficult to implement. Some of us are miles away from friends and family, and Instagram updates are what let us stay in the loop. Many of my clients depend on social media for their business.
"The major tech platforms have become the social fabric by which we live and think."—Tristan Harris, President & Co-Founder, Center for Humane Technology via the Milken Institute
Tristan Harris, the president and cofounder of the Center for Humane Technology, talks about how social media platforms were literally built to capture your attention, any way they can. He points out that for better or worse, we rely on these platforms for our news, for connections, for our businesses. This is why we have to be extra cautious when it comes to implementing this habit — it's necessary to use social media, but it's easy to misuse it, too.
Rather than try (and then inevitably fail) to implement a habit, I suggest instead simply being more mindful about it. In some ways it's harder, because it's not a black-or-white answer. You really have to think about your feelings before, during, and after and determine how much time, who you follow, and what you accomplish during your social media sessions is beneficial to your long-term wellness.
Just as you'd be mindful of what you eat when you're trying to achieve a healthier lifestyle, you should become more mindful of what you consume through social media, too.
One way to do this is to simply download one of the many time-tracking apps and combine it with a bullet journal. Every time you sink 15 minutes into an Instagram scroll, document how you felt during and after the session. As you notice what makes you feel good and bad, you can start to trim certain people from your feed, or add new voices that inspire you.
2. Mindfully Cultivate Your Working Environment
If you're like me or many of my clients, you've found yourself suddenly working from home — at least for the foreseeable future. This can be rough, especially if you weren't expecting it, because you've had to drastically change your habits.
But at the same time, you've probably never had more control over where and how you work. Research from the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine shows that negative working conditions are directly tied to depressive symptoms.It proves something a lot of us have known to be true for a long time: where you work affects how you feel, and hence, your wellness. Now we have the unprecedented ability to cultivate working environments that suit us.
How can you do this? Again, it's something you'll have to determine for yourself. But a few places to begin could be by adding some greenery. Plants have been demonstrated to make you more creative, productive and happy. If you have any art, posters, or photos, add them for small reminders of happiness.
Ask yourself — can you make yourself more active, for example with a standing desk or walking treadmill? And finally, don't forget to tidy up at the end of each day. Research shows that a clutter-free workspace not only makes you more productive, but also less stressed out.
3. Create Something Every Day
Daily creativity has been demonstrated to create an "upward spiral" of wellbeing. If you've never considered yourself a "creative" type, let me stop you right there. Humans have been creative since literally before the Stone Age. How we create has made us what we are today.
The problem is what we typically consider to be "creative." You don't have to paint the Sistine Chapel or compose a grand symphony to get all the benefits of being creative. Just five minutes of doodling, singing, journaling, or even dancing is creative.
One roadblock some efficiency-lovers can run into is the thought that they can multitask: create something they can then go on to sell, or create something they would have anyway for work.
I am giving you permission right now to create something just for yourself. Not for a customer, not for a boss, not to make a sale. Give yourself (and your personal wellbeing) just five minutes of your own day to create something for you.
The key here is not to force yourself to paint if you hate wielding a paintbrush. Find something you actually enjoy doing, so you'll be more likely to keep it up. The main point is just to express yourself. You can surely find five minutes a day to do that — and then build up from there if you choose.
4. Contact a Loved One
Every Sunday since the pandemic started, I make a call to a friend. Sometimes before the call, I'm dreading it — maybe I'm in the middle of something, or I just want to veg out and watch Netflix. But whenever I manage to make the call, I never regret it. It is rejuvenating to reconnect with a friend.
The science behind what I experience is clear: human brains are hardwired for friendship & empathy. While we're more digitally connected than ever, we're still experiencing a loneliness epidemic. Actual connection is hard to find, even though you may feel connected through social media updates.
It's certainly better than nothing, but instead of relying on solely those shallow, thin links, pick up the phone or a pencil and actually make a solid effort to connect with someone you care about. Go beyond a status update with just one person a day and find out what's happening in their life.
You can call a friend during your lunch break; you can write a letter to a family member (my grandma, for example, loves getting my letters). You can even just send a text or instant message to someone to let them know you thought of them. It is difficult to muster up the strength, as odd as that sounds, but it's worth it for your relationships. Your personal wellness is mostly you, it's true, but you are made up of many parts — and one of those is your relationship to the people you care about.
Personal wellness is something too many people view as a luxury, which is why it's one of the first things to go when things get a little tougher (like in a pandemic). That's understandable, of course, but it's the foundation of your life. It's what keeps you grounded when everything else is in free-fall.
It's tempting to buy a face mask and call it a day, but personal wellness is more vital — and therefore a little trickier to get — than that. It's worth it to cultivate habits that work for you and your personal wellness. These for small daily habits can easily be evolved into a routine that works for you.
Take the time to work through some of these, or any others you learn about, and incorporate them into your life to experience a drastically improved sense of personal wellness.