Despite the hype, improving your wellbeing isn’t just a fad – it’s a worthwhile goal for all of us. But what does it really mean to be ‘well’? And how do we prioritise it?
If you search #wellness on Instagram, you’ll get more than 50 million hits. A quick scroll shows a collection of green bowls, tanned muscles, and blonde beauties with glowing white teeth.
We’re told to strengthen our willpower – but indulge ourselves. Exercise – but not too much. Go vegetarian – but eat more protein. Develop our social network – but indulge in more “me time”. Keep our minds active – but empty our minds and meditate. Volunteer; forgive; be grateful…the list goes on.
With so much conflicting information (and a multi-trillion pound industry incentivising us to buy, buy, buy), how can we cut through the noise and find a version of wellness that works for us?
The Global Wellness Institute defines wellness as “the active pursuit of activities, choices and lifestyles that lead to a state of holistic health.” It’s a simple definition – because wellness is a simple state.
Here are our four down-to-earth pillars for wellness:
It’s easy to overcomplicate food. And eating well can be tricky, because our hormones, emotional state, past habits, finances, and the amount of time we have to commit to food prep all play a part.
Our simple take: eat well 90% of the time. Don’t cut out whole food groups or go on extreme diets. Eat enough protein (one gram for every pound of your lean body mass). Eat lots of vegetables, of all different colours (you want your plate to be a rainbow of veg). Eat things that make you feel good – avoid stuff that makes you feel bloated or lethargic. And most importantly, eat in a way that feels sustainable, and that fits in with your lifestyle. Remember, ‘stickability’ is the single biggest factor in making permanent changes to your eating habits.
Our bodies aren’t meant to sit all day – and they let us know it, through back pain, muscular imbalances, and carrying extra weight. Again, there’s sophistication in simplicity. We recommend weight or resistance training two or three times per week (this sort of training strengthens your bones, protects your joints from injury, maintains flexibility and balance as your body ages, and helps you burn more calories at rest). Add in three or four sessions that get your heart-rate up – cardiovascular exercise – and you have the recipe for a strong, fit, body.
When it comes to movement (just like with food), any changes in your routine need to be ‘baked in’ to make them stick. Building habits that make movement the baseline is the best way to increase your wellness – think a long walk on Sunday to earn your pub lunch, a family bike ride instead of the cinema with sweets, and choosing a physical activity for a Friday night with friends instead of vegetating at a bar.
Mental wellness is gaining more and more visibility as a key foundation for wellbeing – and for good reason. But it doesn’t have to involve hours sitting cross-legged, ‘ohming’ our way to inner peace. It can be as simple as having a full day at the weekend without doom scrolling on social media; getting to sleep early; going for a walk outside in nature; and taking small steps to decrease stress.
Often overlooked, our fourth pillar of wellbeing is belonging. Humans have an innate need to connect with other humans in a meaningful way; to find purpose in life, and to make sense of where we ‘fit’ in the world around us. The rise in remote working, coupled with our fast pace of living and the craze for digital connection (which doesn’t tick the same boxes for us as in-person connection) mean that a sense of belonging can sometimes be lacking.
Our steer: take time to engage with people. Put down your phone in the evening and spend proper time with your nearest and dearest; and find a group of people that share the same interests as you. If you can focus this around your physical and mental wellbeing, even better. At Foundry, we’re great believers that belonging is essential for wellness, which is why we coach our members in small groups, and host socials and events to bring people together to create a community.
Laid out like this, achieving wellness seems a manageable task – and it is. But it’s also not something that can be reduced to a simple formula. In practice, wellness is about paying attention to the little things, day-in, day-out. It’s about building small habits that aggregate to something bigger than the sum of their parts, and about making the right micro-decisions enough times to reach the ‘big hairy goal’. Simple, maybe – but not easy.
Looking for structured support in your search for wellness that sticks?
Try our 21-Day Challenge and get a taste of the welcoming Foundry community, small group personal training that works, and down-to-earth nutrition advice to suit your lifestyle.
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