Suffering in comfort

UnboundedLife is my exploration of personal freedom, and a key aspect of this is wellness. I like to think about it as freedom to consciously choose and be accountable for the quality of our life. There is so much confusion about wellness in modern society, because it has become a huge industry, and there are so many corporations, trade groups and special interests, bombarding us with false choices, all trying to sell us wellness.

Got milk? (Art: heldstudios)

Got milk? (art:Heldstudios)

All around us are a cacophony of conflicting messages about how to live well. Most of these are empty promises, because they don’t require us to take responsibility for creating positive change; someone or something else will do the work for us. Others are empty threats; alarming new risk factors that require screening, follow-up tests and treatments. Big pharma, insurance companies and the medical industry will have us believe that drugs, premiums and regular visits to our health care professional are the answer.

The fact that we put our health care in the hands of doctors should tell us something; we have delegated taking care of ourselves to other people. In fact, you are the ultimate health care provider for yourself. If you commit to educating yourself and a lifestyle that promotes wellness, you’ll rarely need doctors. Except for required foreign residence visa physicals, I haven’t needed a doctor since having my appendix out in 1979.

The illusion of “health” insurance further lets us off the hook for being responsible for our own wellness. As wellness educator, Dr. Donald B. Ardell reminds us, “Money payments to doctors and insurance companies can not insure health — only a steady effort to live healthfully can do that. Health insurance is actually a system for arranging payments for medical services. The latter can not make you well, only help you deal with illness.”

Wellness is much more than diet, exercise and avoiding disease. It is the integration of the physical, occupational, emotional, intellectual, spiritual, social and environmental aspects of our lives (see Creating a System). When we passionately engage all these essential parts of our system, we resonate wellness; we make choices that benefit the whole and maintain balance in a virtuous circle.

Another great quote from Dr. Ardell: “Wellness is an alternative to dependency on doctors and drugs, to complacency, to mediocrity and to self-pity, boredom and slothfulness.”

While I take quite a few common supplements, I do so with an orientation toward meeting fitness goals, not staving off disease. Medicine is our consolation prize for failing to recognize opportunities to help ourselves. Herbal remedies may be good for various maladies, but I’ve found that nothing gets me well faster than vigorous exercise, enjoying time with friends and being engaged in some purposeful pursuit. Take away these things, and I feel unwell. While I’m no Christian Scientist, (because I think it’s an oxymoron), in all but extreme cases, the body can heal itself, but wellness begins foremost in the realm of the mind.

Wellness is all about conscious choice. This means self-awareness and clarity of values. When we know what’s most important to us, we can create meaning through our commitment to an envisioned positive future. We can make choices based on that future, rather than continue the destructive habits of our past. We can be free from addicting behaviors and enjoy the process of caring for ourselves and others. We can expand our capacity for greatness.

There’s a lot of data to suggest that people who have stronger social networks are happier, healthier and live longer. Choosing to be in the places we love, doing what we love to do with the people we love to be with, we create an environment of wellness. Being of service through the expression of our talents and pursuit of our ideals, engages others and builds support toward meaningful goals. Wellness can’t be left to doctors, drugs or the latest diet fad. Rather it’s our reward for fulfillment in every area of our life.