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OPINION: What is “wellness,” anyway?



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Emily Isaacman leads a yoga class for the Movement Cooperative on Sept. 26 in the Arboretum. Courtesy Photo Buy Photos

Writing a column about wellness terrifies me. 

It terrifies me because, although I spent my summer in yoga teacher training learning how to care for myself and others, although my Instagram feed is filled with positive quotes, although my room is covered with pictures of people and places that make me smile, I’ll never be an expert. I’ll never have all the answers for every person on what will make them feel whole. 

So here’s what I’m doing to combat this wellness-provoked anxiety: I’m reminding myself that trying is better than doing nothing at all. I’m making a cup of coffee. I’m listening to music and dancing around my kitchen. Later, I’ll likely journal and roll out my yoga mat.

I’m doing this because I’ve learned that this makes me feel good, and I think that’s what this “wellness” concept is really about. 

We’re halfway through October, also known as spooky season, also known as peak midterms and projects and internship applications season. We seem to be past the “still feels like it could be summer weather” and into the “oh no winter is coming and school is here to stay” vibe. 

The way I see it, now is the perfect time to take extra care to look out for yourself.  

Incorporating this vague and perhaps unattainably trendy “wellness” concept into your daily life can feel daunting. There’s only so much time in the day for classes and work and friends and food, so it’s easy to prioritize ourselves last on the to-do list. It’s even easier to compare ourselves to the images of self-care floating around social media as paragons of healthy lifestyles and think we’ll never fit that mold.

But it doesn’t have to be so hard.

Wellness is an ancient idea, but the modern wellness movement is viewed as starting in the 1950s. The National Wellness Conference began in 1977.

The Global Wellness Institute defines wellness as “the active pursuit of activities, choices and lifestyles that lead to a state of holistic health.” Feeling good doesn’t just happen to you but is a mindful decision.

The substance of the decision doesn’t much matter, though, as long as it leads you to feel better than you did before.

Whenever I have an idea for a new habit that might fall into the wellness bucket, I make a plan. I write it down in my planner to accomplish at a specific time and might set a reminder or two on my phone.

I schedule exercise classes into my Google Calendar and block off time on Sundays to cook. I set goals for the week ahead, such as writing a daily gratitude list or journaling every morning. I usually create some way to physically check off a task to hold myself accountable. 

Perhaps most importantly, I try not to worry about how wellness manifests in other peoples’ lives. I’ve never been one for face masks or bubble baths, and I recognize that many people don’t enjoy yoga or candles. That’s OK. 

In the coming weeks, I plan to share some ways you can take care of yourself amid a crazy college schedule. I don’t expect every idea to resonate with every reader, but I hope to at least inspire more thought about how conscious choices can affect the way you move through the world. 

Experiment without judgment, and notice what works for you.

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