What is Wellness Anyways?
Wellness is a lifestyle of self-responsibility that you choose and manage. It is a mindset that seeks change and growth. It is a dynamic, multi-dimensional process that includes not only the absence of disease by prevention, but also increased wellbeing, health and happiness.
The Un-Retirement GuideTM supports that the following 3 components of Health can be enhanced by choosing and practicing a Wellness Lifestyle:
- Disease Prevention
The incidence or effects of disease and or illness may be reduced.
- Complete, Optimal Health
We are dynamic, multi-dimensional beings and symptoms of disease or illness are the result of an imbalance in these aspects of who we are. Optimal health is related to the integration of mind, body and environment.
- Positive Wellness
By cultivating positive emotional-mental states (also known as happiness) we can improve our quality of life and promote longevity.
Happiness is not an unrealistic, fluffy concept. It has been pondered, and attempts to define it go back millennia. When the forefathers of the USA were drafting the Declaration of Independence in 1776 it was included as an inalienable right in Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.
A spiritual system to achieve Happiness is a central theme in Buddhist teachings.
Wikipedia explains that: Several humanistic psychologists—such as Abraham Maslow, Carl Rogers, and Erich Fromm—developed theories and practices pertaining to human happiness and flourishing. More recently, “positive psychologists have found empirical support for the humanistic theories of flourishing. In addition, positive psychology has moved ahead in a variety of new directions.”
Disease prevention, optimal health and positive wellness (happiness) are all potential benefits of practicing a Wellness Lifestyle. But, how do we live this way? What is involved?
Dimensions, Needs and a Wellness Lifestyle
At the beginning of this chapter, I described Wellness as a lifestyle you choose and manage. This is an important concept that implies we’re responsible for the actions we do or don’t take as our lives unfold. The intent is not to strive for perfection but a steady, committed effort and growth towards optimal health and wellbeing. This doesn’t mean that we live with our head in the sand or are unaware that living is risky business and undesirable events can happen that we have no control over.
We are multi-dimensional beings where each dimension overlaps and can work together, to create an integrated (the state of being whole and undivided) system. I should add that the dimensions can also work against each other as in the case of a chronic stress response.
As we are: “In the process of achieving or striving for holistic wellness (a journey, not an end-state), people come closer to satisfying their system of basic human needs.” (McGregor 2010)
I have developed A Complete Life Wellness Plan™ for the purpose of managing our needs. It has a framework of seven dimensions that consist of the:
Adjustments are made to each dimension as required, to create greater degrees of balance and wellbeing and are included in your plan. More on this later.
The Indian God Shiva, at the ancient Khmer ruins Prasat Pueai Noi, in northeast Thailand
Yoga has been around for millennia; “the development of yoga can be traced back over 5,000 years ago, but some researchers think that yoga may be up to 10,000 years old.”
It is believed that yoga started in the ancient Samskrithi culture of Bharata, (India).
The origin of; “the word Yoga is derived from the Sanskrit ‘Yuj’ which essentially means to join or unite. The union referred to is that of the individual or the self-uniting with Cosmic Consciousness or the Universal Spirit.”
If you’re interested, check out the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, one of the ancient Indian texts that is often cited as the basis of the philosophy behind yoga. There are eight limbs of yoga, made up of 195 sutras that focus on gaining mastery over the mind and emotions in order to grow spiritually.
There is mounting medical evidence (MRI’s and other)) confirming what was known long ago, that practicing yoga has numerous health benefits. This includes but is not limited to; increased strength, balance and circulation, better immunity, breathing and posture and reduced stress, anxiety, improved mood and greater self-awareness.
The remainder of this post takes an abbreviated look at that part of the mind known as ego. If you have a curious “mind” and want to know more about the ego and self-realization, there is an abundance of information about this subject online.
An article on Psychcentral.com advises that: “though the term ‘ego’ is commonly used to describe one who boasts, is arrogant, treats others with scorn, lacks empathy, and the like, the concept of ego is neutral in itself.
The word ‘ego’ is a Greek word for “I”, meaning the core sense of self, a distinct and unique expression of personhood, albeit one that paradoxically exists in connection or in relation to life and others.”
Our ego by this definition then, is necessary and when at rest, neutral. It’s also capable of misbehaving though, as described in the following paragraph!
Doing Yoga or Ego?
A post in the Elephant Journal comments: “when ego mind is the performer of postures, our mind is actively engaged in self-criticism, comparing our performance with others, and judging ourself and others. Our mind is agitated and engaged in internal conflict even as our body is engaged in performing postures. As a result of constant internal conflict, our mind is restless. Whenever we are mentally agitated, restless, emotionally reactive to whatever we are facing at any given moment, we are engaged in the posture of ego.”
Learning how to transcend or calm a “restless mind” is an invaluable life skill that is transferable outside the yoga studio.
I’m open to the possibility of “self-uniting with Cosmic Consciousness or the Universal Spirit” but also pleased to be doing yoga and not ego on a more consistent basis.
It does however require showing up, practice and some sweat!
What comes to your mind when you see or hear the word “spiritual”? A common answer is that it refers to religion or religious beliefs.
Everyone has a spiritual component, but not everyone is religious. A comparison of the two is provided by the Merck Manual: “Religion and spirituality are similar but not identical concepts. Religion is often viewed as more institutionally based, more structured, and more traditional and may be associated with organized, well-established beliefs. Spirituality refers to the intangible and immaterial and thus may be considered a more general term, not associated with a particular group or organization. It can refer to feelings, thoughts, experiences, and behaviors related to the soul or to a search for the sacred (e.g., a Divine Being, Ultimate Reality, Ultimate Truth).” 1
The spiritual need for connection with the divine may be fulfilled in a community church, temple, mosque or other gathering place or a personal relationship with a higher power and may involve prayer, singing, meditation, chanting, fellowship, being alone or other. The main stipulation is that however you accomplish this; it does not harm yourself or others.
The next sections will look closer at connection and meaning, the two parts that make up spiritual wellness.
A definition of Spirituality provided by the University of Minnesota website states: “Spirituality is a broad concept with room for many perspectives. In general, it includes a sense of connection to something bigger than ourselves, and typically involves a search for meaning in life. As such, it is a universal human experience—something that touches us all. People may describe a spiritual experience as sacred or transcendent or simply a deep sense of aliveness and interconnectedness.” 2
Spiritual wellness then relates to: developing a personal sense of connection to God and/or a power greater than ourselves and creating meaning in our lives.
Positive inner states of peace, gratitude and hope are indicators that your efforts to find connection and meaning are succeeding.
The second part of spiritual wellness is how we seek and express meaning in our lives. This will differ for each person and change over time as our circumstances do.
Examples of how meaning can be experienced include but are not limited to:
- Religious or personal beliefs and practices that aim at connecting us to God or a higher power.
- Meaningful connection may also be found by spending time in nature, listening to music, artistic pursuits or other activities.
- Relationships with others can give our lives meaning.
- Meaning and direction may be experienced when our individual purpose is clarified and our daily intention, choices and actions are based upon this. Living on purpose will help develop integrity and fulfill our spiritual needs.
“What is your purpose?” is a new age question that is often asked these days and with it comes the notion that it is difficult to define and might require changing the world! For some, changing the lives of others on a large scale may be their life purpose, but for many it will be closer to home and this does take away from its importance or the spiritual benefit.
Our individual purposes will vary. My mother’s revolved around her family, for others it may be their work, or how they practice their faith or a combination of things. What matters is that our purpose is realized and acted upon in whatever form it takes. This gives our life meaning and direction.
Since ancient times the: “Native Americans follow their ancestors’ two purposes of life: to know the self and be of help to others. They vest many of their beliefs and spiritual powers in nature, the land, and animals.” 3 This provided the connection to something larger and is very different from the beliefs of Christianity or other forms of religion. These differences if accepted, are an example of diversity and inclusion within free societies.
The two purposes mentioned above; know the self and be of help to others, combine to underline what authentic purpose is. To move from a self-centered purpose to one that is focused on service to others places us on the spiritual path. What we are talking about in essence, is loving ourselves and others.
Purpose, like wellness, exists on a continuum and is something we grow into where the ultimate goal is to know the self (live with integrity) and be of service to others.
A good place to start, and come back to as our lives change, is reflecting on the big picture questions. Examples of a few questions that I have pondered are listed below. I provided a sample of my answers to illustrate.
Why am I alive?
- Learn to accept myself unconditionally
- Have fun and laugh often
- Cherish each moment and not squander my time while alive
- Grow into my potential and create along the way
- Do the best I can each day
- Practice building bridges to others and helping out if needed
What do I find fulfilling in my life?
- Spending time with family and friends
- Living a wellness lifestyle
- Belonging to a spiritual community that provides connection
- Travelling and experiencing, embracing diversity
Where do I fit in?
- With others who are adventurous and into exploring their potential
- In the helping professions
- As part of the wellness community
Each person may have different answers depending on their spiritual perspective; there are no right or wrong responses. Answers to these or other life purpose questions can ground us and provide a spiritual foundation to build connection, meaning, and purpose upon.
A purpose in life is a feeling of wellbeing that comes from having meaning and direction and knowing that what you do is needed and matters. This is turn will provide guidance and strength along the way.
Work can provide purpose and meaning, and this is especially true if your strengths, interests and values are aligned to how you earn money.
Developing spiritual wellness involves setting our intention and making choices and actions that fulfill our need for connection and meaning.
Health, Longevity and Spiritual Wellness
There are many studies that correlate connection and meaning with health and longevity, an example of these findings follow.
“Medicine has begun to recognize the strong influence of spirituality on health and illness. Studies of cancer patients have shown that those who continuously pursue goals related to living a meaningful life boost the natural killer cell activity in their immune systems.” 4
“Gerontology professionals agree that spirituality is important to older adults towards effective psycho social function and successful aging.” 5
To summarize then, the Spiritual dimension is another aspect of our health that influences our quality of life.
1 Religion and Spirituality in the Elderly
Retrieved from: http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/geriatrics/social_issues_in_the_elderly/religion_and_spirituality_in_the_elderly.html
2 TAKING CHARGE OF YOUR HEALTH AND WELLBEING
Created by the Center for Spirituality & Healing and Charlson Meadows. What Is Spirituality?
Retrieved from: http://www.takingcharge.csh.umn.edu/enhance-your- wellbeing/purpose/spirituality/what-spirituality
A collaboration between University of Minnesota-Center for Spirituality & Healing and Charlson Meadows renewal center
3 Spirituality and Aging
4 Understanding Wellness
Chapter 1, page number 10 A Wellness Way of Life, 9/edition Gwen Robbins, Ball State University Debbie Powers, Ball State University Sharon Burgess, Ball State University ISBN: 0073523836 Copyright year: 2011
5 Mauk, K. (2006). Gerontological Nursing: Competencies for Care. Sudbury, MA. Jones & Bartlett Publishers.
Employers in Canada and the U.S.A. have largely abolished mandatory retirement and opened the gates for unretired Boomers to keep working. What lingers is possible age discrimination which will vary in degree, depending on the work setting.
For those un-retired workers who need or chose to keep working up to and past 65, ageism is a force that can work against your success in doing so.
Not only is age discrimination painful, it is unfair and can pose a barrier to finding or maintaining a job. It can also be experienced in settings other than the workplace.
Work related ageism is due to long-held cultural beliefs and policies that we stop working at or before 65, because at this age we are too old to work.To be accurate, older workers who have attitude, skill and/or health issues, may no longer be competitively employable.
Human Rights and Discrimination
The Ontario Human Rights Commission describes age discrimination in employment as: “Assumptions and stereo-types about older workers are unfortunately all too prevalent in our workplaces. Older workers are often unfairly perceived as less productive, less committed to their jobs, not dynamic or innovative, un-receptive to change, unable to be trained or costly to the organization due to health problems and higher salaries. These ideas about older workers are simply myths that are not borne out by evidence. In fact, there is significant evidence that older workers:are highly-productive, offering considerable on the job experience;
- do as well or better than younger workers on creativity, flexibility, information processing, accident rates, absenteeism and turnover;
- can learn as well as younger workers with appropriate training methods and environments;
- and do not fear change but rather discrimination.
In the United States, employment-related age discrimination charges can be filed through the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. In Canada the governing body is the Canadian Human Rights Commission.
Effects of Ageism and its Practice in the Workforce
Jen Laskey (2008) provides the following definition of Ageism and the psychological effects. “Ageism refers to a basic denial of older people’s human rights. The term was coined in 1968 by Robert N. Butler, M.D., a gerontologist, psychiatrist, and Pulitzer Prize–winning author. Like racism or sexism, ageism has a myriad of negative effects on emotional well-being. Age-based discrimination can decrease one’s self-esteem; it can cause feelings of stress, anxiety, guilt, shame, or helplessness. Others may also be quick to accept stereotypes about aging, thus compounding these effects.”
Alison Doyle, a job search expert advises that “Employment discrimination happens when a job seeker or an employee is treated unfavorably because of his or her race, skin color, national origin, gender, disability, religion, or age.”
The next paragraph is of particular interest to unretired Boomers:
How ageism is practiced is summarized by Kacey Stapleton (2009) in the following excerpt: “Ageism in the workplace is usually seen as a prejudice against anyone nearing or passing the standard age of retirement. Discrimination can either be systematic or incidental denial of employment, advancement or fair treatment. Systematic discrimination means an employer deliberately instructs management either against hiring individuals of a certain age or to force out workers as they near the age of retirement.”
Age discrimination can occur not only from a younger person towards an older one, but also in the other direction. Members of the older generation may view younger workers as inexperienced, or not reliable to name a few additional stereotypes, and values can clash. These types of discrimination issues can be found in the increasing number of inter-generational workplaces.
Beliefs Underlying Ageism
A post retrieved from the Older Adults-Aging in Canada website (2012) indicates that: “Older adults in the workplace are often perceived to be lower in productivity, slower in decision making, resistant to change, and slow to learn. Evidence suggests that this is not the case. Even with radical changes in technology and the expectations of faster and more intensified work, older workers are as productive as their younger counterparts with the appropriate training.
The central issue is not necessarily what your age is, but one of attitude of those perpetuating ageism. Read the list of six common stereotypes below and determine if they hold true for you. If so then it will become your homework to address them as need be.
- Have Reduced Learning Capacity
- Possess Outdated Skills
- Are Resistant to Change
- Demand Higher Wages
- Demonstrate Slower Decision- Making
- Have Lower Productivity
In the next post I will provide strategies to encounter the 6 common stereotypes above that can act as barriers to staying employed. By confronting ageism in the labour market, un-retired Boomers may defuse this form of discrimination not only for themselves, but also the younger generations that follow.
If so, you have joined the Un-Retired club which has many members!
“Un-Retirement” is the growing trend away from earlier retirement, by choice or economic necessity, towards continuing to work past the age of 65. This post will focus on those un-retired persons who need to keep working longer out of economic necessity.
It doesn’t matter whether your collar is blue, pink, green or white, Un-Retired Boomers come from all occupations and income levels.
White collar workers (those that perform professional, managerial, or administrative work) may have more formal education, and a higher working income, but they are not excluded from un-retirement. These workers can find themselves impacted by global market changes, forced layoff, or job loss for other causes with their retirement savings interrupted. The news media is filled with numerous stories:
- offshoring of white collar jobs and in some cases moving entire companies overseas;
- corporate downsizing and the resulting reduction of management positions; and
- automation through digital technologies with job redundancy or loss.
A large number of Un-Retired Boomers in North America never fit into the financial industry’s “freedom 50 Plus” model. This is due to the many personal and market events and circumstances that can prevent this from happening by or before, what was once the mandatory age of retirement at 65.
Zoomer Media Limited (2012) informs us “Data from Statistics Canada and the US Bureau of Labor Statistics confirms that a growing number of people are not retiring at age 65. In Canada, the percentage of participation in the labor force by people age 55 and up is at an all-time high. Experts believe the trend will continue, permanently wiping out the idea that 65 is a magic number signifying the end of the income-earning years. In both Canada and the USA, about 30% of people aged 65-69 are still working, either full time or part time. That age break captures only a tiny percentage of Baby Boomers, the oldest of whom just entered retirement age. The rest of the wave – now aged 47 to 64 – are still outside that traditional retirement benchmark. What will they do when they hit the number? The research is clear: they’ll keep right on working.”
Born between 1946 and 1964, there are approximately 76 million Baby Boomers in the USA and 10 million in Canada.
For the older worker who hasn’t accumulated enough assets to have the choice whether they want to keep working or not, the options are limited. Working longer (Un-Retired) and consuming less, saving more from any income derived is the primary strategy, ideally at a job you like and one that provides adequate compensation. This work could be in the form of part time, casual, seasonal, full time or self-employment, depending on the individual needs and employment situation.
Staying gainfully employed for an Un-Retired worker can be challenging enough if you are in good health. If a disabling health event occurs before a sufficient nest egg is established, then the strategy described above might not be available. This would depend on the severity of the disability and what level of recovery occurs. Working longer may not be possible and barring a windfall or other injection of funds, these folks essentially become unemployed and un-retired at whatever level their savings after the fact, allow. This may require downsizing and/or consolidation to reduce expenses or if there is debt with a decrease in standard of living.
There are Un-Retired individuals though, who work longer and achieve whatever their definition of financial freedom is, so all is not gloom and doom!
It appears true the well worn cliché that health is wealth and for un-retired Boomers, being pro-active with our health and wellness is key to increase the potential of reaching financial and other life goals.