There are so many aspects to wellness and many ways to get there. No ones’ journey is the same. As a Coach I am often asked what the “secrets to health and wellness are”. There are simple things we can do each day to bring us closer to wellness and further away from illness.
We now know that even though we may have certain genes in our make up that pre-dispose us to certain diseases, it doesn’t mean we will develop them. Our lifestyle and nutrition is the trigger that sets things in motion, and we can give ourselves the best chance by learning just how to put the best in to our bodies and to be able to quieten our busy minds. Every time we put food in our mouth we either feed disease or fight it. Every time we choose to move, go for a walk, a swim in the ocean, we give our bodies life giving energy. But Consistency in anything is the key.
I have seen how taking on adventures in the wilderness, with a team of like minded adventurers, gives people a new zest for life. With it comes renewed energy, strength, a sense of belonging, vitality and RESILIENCE. All of which are important ingredients for us to feel like we are living a fulfilling life. And most importantly, for us to be able to take on challenges, especially threats to our health, and to face the challenges both physical and mental that come with having an illness or being there for someone close who is fighting it.
I have coached people from all over the world, many of whom have survived life threatening illnesses themselves. It has been amazing to see the common threads in their lives and in themselves that have helped them, by their own recognition, to get through the journey of treatment, and despair, and agony for their families and the changes they make to their lifestyle to give themselves the best chance.
The common threads are very closely related to the PATHS TO WELLNESS:
1. Being part of a healthy, happy community.
2. Building and preserving resilience.
3. Getting out in nature for adventure.
The first path to Wellness: COMMUNITY/ENVIRONMENT
Become an active part of a Community of strong, supportive people. Join a team to take on a common goal or project. Spend your time with people who have healthy habits that you want to integrate in to your life. People who help you feel uplifted, not drained! Energy givers, not takers.
Many of us set goals and never reach them. We have great intentions to eat healthier food, exercise each day or walk with a friend once a week. But despite us believing that willpower is enough to help us reach these goals, it is not!!
Will power comes and goes. Environment always wins. Most people don’t have access to the energy required to sustain continued willpower. According to research, your willpower is like a muscle that tires easily with overuse or strain. It becomes depleted if you rely on it too much. As a result, by the end of your strenuous days, your willpower muscles are exhausted and you’re likely to give in to what you’ve been resisting most. If you are truly committed to change, a new routine or way of living, you will need to put in place the right conditions (environment). This will give you back up when your willpower fails.
Every time I have set a goal to train to climb a mountain, I have done it as part of a team, with a plan. With like minded people around me, the training planned for months before, the extra resources put in place for family and work and a long To Do List ticked off, I do my damndest to create the right conditions to help me reach my goal. Of course, no plan is perfect and not everything falls in to place, but that’s when the next trait really comes in to play…
The 2nd path to Wellness: RESILIENCE: the ability to adapt, rebound, redirect, channel your inner strength and courage. It is a combination of mental, emotional and physical strength that is often called upon when you may feel like you have little to give. Taking on challenges outside of your comfort zone, getting out in to the wilderness, with its constantly changing terrain and weather conditions, gives you opportunities to build resilience in both mind and body.
But just like willpower, resilience can come and go and there’s another vital component: REST. Without sufficient rest you are unlikely to have a great level of resilience. All of the cancer survivors I have spoken with have emphasised the importance of REST in their daily lives as an ongoing practice to ensure they give their bodies and minds time to rejuvenate each day.
The 3rd path to wellness: ADVENTURES IN NATURE: Moving in nature is vital to our ongoing mental and physical health. It’s like a reset button, where you connect with quiet, escape the rush and the noise and the screens of life. Like an anti ageing balm. In fact doctors in the UK are now prescribing time in nature as a balm for many of the physical and mental ailments brought on by the typical modern lifestyle of too much stress, too little movement, poor diet and way too much screen time away, taking us further and further away from nature.
Taking on adventure challenges outside your comfort zone gives you resilience and also boosts your happiness. You continue to draw on the physical and mental grit developed when out in the wilderness, when faced with life challenges.
This is a message of HOPE. If you take the time to integrate healthy nutrition, moving in nature, ADVENTURE and being an active member of a COMMUNITY, you will give yourself a whole toolbox of skills and resources you never thought possible, not the least being that of RESILIENCE.
It’s never too late to adventure: several years ago now, I waited in the dark, just before sunrise at 5.30am in the morning, at over 5700m, shivering in minus 15 degrees, at altitude on top of Africa’s highest mountain. I was almost holding my breath, as I was waiting for my Mum to appear over the ridge line at Stella Point, so that we could make our way to the summit of Kilimanjaro. At the age of 69 she summitted Kilimanjaro with me, having never slept in a tent or climbed any big mountains before. This was a gift I gave her for her 70th birthday!
That trek redefined her belief in herself, at a time when many people start to worry about getting older, and about what it possible, or not possible. It gave her a wonderful story to tell everyone she meets and it filled her with such a great sense of satisfaction, that the many many years she had dedicated to her health and well-being, always choosing to eat real, healthy foods and move every day, had given her the opportunity to be able to take on this challenging adventure to celebrate her 70th birthday! But if you ask her how she did it, she’ll always tell you, it was the amazing team of supportive people around her who believed in her, that got her to the top of Kilimanjaro.
A wise person once told me: “Don’t let perfectionism get in the way of progress.”
Just get out there. Move every day. Engage with your community. Eat Real food from nature. It’s never too late to adventure, and its never too early to put your health first.