Usually, when we talk about health, it’s in terms of yes or no—we are either healthy, or we’re not. But what about wellness? Is it the same as health or a combination of factors? We believe that wellness is the latter. Your wellness journey is a spectrum that is influenced by many factors. And as luck would have it, most of these factors are in your control.
What we do, what and how we think, and how we feel all impact our overall sense of wellness. Wellness is a state of being that encompasses our quality of life, enhanced by personal practices geared to bring a sense of connection and vitality. Two key practices that have a profound effect on our wellness are meditation and physical activity. Regularly participating in these activities can have a hugely positive impact on our feeling of wellness. Not prioritizing them, however, or avoiding them altogether, has an equally negative effect.
Incorporating both of these practices into your routine can help boost weight loss, alleviate stress and inflammation, improve sleep, and reduce blood pressure. Best of all, they cost absolutely nothing and can be done anywhere, anytime.
Developing Connection Through Meditation
Meditation allows us to develop a sense of connection with ourselves, the world, and the people around us. Meditation opens the door to our ability to connect with our hearts and minds. It has been shown to reduce stress, lower anxiety, improve depression, help you sleep better, promote normal blood pressure, and even make us more compassionate and kind.
As we develop and strengthen our practice, we are able to expand these connections outward to our friends, family, and the world. Keeping these connections strong can help keep us focused and on track with our wellness journey. Without them, we are like a balloon being pushed about by the wind, entirely without a tether.
Walking meditation combines the benefits of meditation with physical activity. It is being mindful of the act of walking. And before you think it’s too easy, I encourage you to try it. Walking while only focusing solely on the act of walking is much more difficult than you think.
The first step in walking meditation is to be aware of the act of stepping forward. It can be helpful to silently repeat “one, two” or “left, right” while walking slow and mindfully. As you take each step, move slowly and focus on the shift of your weight and the feel of your foot as each section of it touches the ground. Concentrate on how your whole body feels as you maintain balance, swing your arms, and engage your core.
Attempt to match your breath with your steps – inhale with the right, exhale with the left. Breath slowly and remember, when doing walking meditation, the main focus is on the meditation, not the exercise. The key is to be slow, steady, and deliberate in your movements.
(How To Walk by Buddhist Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh is an excellent guidebook on walking meditation!)
You can level up your walking meditation when the weather permits by removing your shoes and walking barefoot. Connecting your bare feet to natural surfaces such as dirt, grass, or sand puts you in direct contact with the electrons on the Earth’s surface—a connection most of us are severely lacking. Research has shown that this connection, known as earthing or grounding, has a wide variety of health benefits, including improving sleep, reducing chronic pain, relieving stress, boosting heart rate variability, and even shielding your body from harmful electromagnetic fields. And the best part? You’ll experience a number of these benefits as soon as your bare feet touch the ground.
Physical Activity for Enhanced Wellness
Enjoyable physical activity promotes vitality, boosts energy, and improves your sleep, which positively impacts your overall well-being. Regularly participating in physical activity helps cultivate a vigorous and vibrant physical condition that increases strength and endurance while enhancing our overall wellness. Unlike other journeys that start with a single step, your wellness journey needs to consist of many steps (preferably at least 8,000 each day!)
The key is choosing an activity that’s enjoyable to you, one that you will stick with long-term. If the idea of slogging away for hours on a treadmill doesn’t excite you, don’t do it. Don’t want to hit the gym regularly like an extra out of Pumping Iron? You don’t have to. Find that activity (or better yet, activities) that you truly enjoy doing, and stick with it.
Choosing a physical activity and getting started shouldn’t be complicated or daunting. If you’ve been sedentary or haven’t been exercising in a while, it may be a good idea to start by regularly going for walks in your neighborhood. Walking is free and only requires a pair of sneakers and perhaps a jacket depending on the weather. You can even multi-task when walking by listening to music or a podcast, or you can add a social element and walk with your significant other, children, or friends. It’s also an excellent opportunity to get some sun and fresh air – not to mention enjoying the sights and sounds around you.
The number of potential enjoyable physical activities you can choose from is almost endless. Here are some ideas to get you started.
- Working out with an app like Keelo
If you prefer a group setting, there are many classes and activities available such as:
- Group fitness classes at your local gym
- Getting some friends together and be a kid again with kickball, capture the flag, or good old tag!
- Chasing your kids around the playground
Any of these activities will increase your physical vitality and can even put you on the path to creating new relationships. The key is to stick to it. So before beginning, be sure to ask yourself: Is this something that excites me enough to do it every day if I could? Once you have selected an activity or two to enjoy, make a plan to engage in it regularly.
A wellness journey is a beautiful, ongoing path of self-discovery. Regular meditation and participating in exciting or pleasurable activities empower us to strive for connection and gives us the energy and drive to move forward. Because we all have unique interests, abilities, and goals, we need to recognize that wellness is a spectrum that looks different for each of us. Yes, we are all on individual journeys, but isn’t it wonderful that we are not alone on that path!