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Pursuing Authentic Wellness Despite Societal Expectations

  blog post author icon blog post published date icon   08/22/22

Each year provides a $500 scholarship award to one deserving post-secondary (university or community college) student who provides the winning essay promoting a healthier living lifestyle. We are proud to announce our Fall 2022 Health & Wellness scholarship recipient Cari Clements from University of New Brunswick who is pursuing a career in nursing.

Editor's Note  2022 Health & Wellness Scholarship essay winner.

Wellness is a journey, not a destination; a state of mind, not a physical attribute; a lifestyle, not a fleeting trend. Wellness is not the trophy or the end result, contrary to what's implied by common terminology used in its association.

We work to attain wellness, to be well, but it's a constant uphill battle and it needs consistent maintenance. To be well isn't to be in the best shape possible, or to have no mental illness. It isn't to be making the most money, or to have a lot of friends. Wellness has many different faces, is different for each individual, and may differ greatly within an individual throughout their life.

An important lesson I've learned is that wellness has many dimensions. It doesn't only consist of the physical component, as many people now know, but it also isn't exhausted at the mental component. Wellness is an interconnection of a variety of aspects, including spiritual, intellectual, emotional, financial, social, environmental, occupational, sexual, nutritional, and any number of others. My south western Ontarian culture has conditioned me to value the superficial. It's taught me that my value is determined by the way I look, the number of friends I have, and how smart I am. I was aware of the wellness wheel, but I thought overall wellness would be reached by conforming to societal norms in each aspect. I allowed my self worth to be dictated by societal standards for a number of years, before I realized it was impeding my ability to seek true wellness.

I later realized that wellness is not about having more, or being better than anyone else. The moment I started comparing my "wellness" to societal norms was the moment I forwent my personal journey. Overall wellness is about the relationship an individual has with each aspect of wellness, as well as the balance between each.

I realized that having more money wouldn't make me financially well; it's the ability I have to feel comfortable with the amount of money I have, or to compose a practical and realistic plan to get to where I want to be that takes care of my wellness in this area. In the same way, mental wellness isn't about doing away with all mental illness, it's about finding a way to cope with the mental state I'm currently in; emotional wellness isn't about only ever feeling positive emotions, it's about acknowledging, understanding, and interacting non-judgmentally with any emotion I have.

My current wellness practices are divided both by dimension, and by current practices and future coping strategies. I keep a journal in which I write about my current wellness practices, including my intentions for progressions and next steps.

For my intellectual wellness, I'm currently reading a chapter from an informative, non-fiction book on a topic I know little about each day. I plan to progress this to eventually having intentional conversations with people who are more informed on specific topics than I am. This progression will give me a different way of expanding my intellectual avenues, while also expanding the nature of my social relationships

Similarly, I exercise daily, which I consider to be a practice of physical, mental, spiritual, emotional, and occupational wellness. The type of exercise I do varies by the day, with the only regulating principle being that it must consist of movement. When I'm exercising, I feel the most in tune with my body. It has similar effects on me as meditation does on others. Movement also acts as my "safe space" to explore emotions, thoughts, and the relationship between the two. Since becoming a personal trainer, my exercise has helped me to excel and feel both capable and intentional in my job as well.

Future coping strategies are something that I also call resilience practices. These are the "just in case" tools and skills that I provide for myself, should something unexpected happen. These strategies include creating a community of support for myself in many areas of my life, as well as developing alternative practices to my current ones. The best resilience tool I have is the ability to simultaneously differentiate and connect each aspect of wellness. I understand that each area is intertwined with the next, but I am also able to come up with and use strategies that relate directly to one. This allows me to work on multiple areas of wellness in one practice, but also to continue practicing in all other areas if one should go into crisis.

Wellness is unique to each individual. It consists of a different balance of each component for everyone, with the balance often being fluid. I've realized that there is no one way to achieve wellness and that different people are more natural in certain areas. I do my best to address each aspect of my own wellness with the strategies outlined above, and many more. My wellness journal helps me notice any imbalances in my wellness and any aspects I may be neglecting.

Wellness is one thing that is truly distinctive to each individual; once societal expectations are put aside, one can develop their own sense of self, and decide what wellness looks like for them.

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    comment posted by icon Guest  comment posted timestamp icon 10/27/22 01:58 PM CDT  ban post icon 

    Great essay!

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