The overwhelming world of wellness
In the last three weeks, I’ve attended two conferences focused on wellness and I have to say, I am feeling a little, no a lot, overwhelmed. This feeling caught me off guard as this is the field in which I work – helping to create wellness in the workplace is how I make my living. So why did I leave feeling inadequate, ill-informed, and slightly perturbed – because there is so much that factors into wellness and well-being that it’s almost impossible to be doing everything and to do it right.
I realized I spend too much time on the computer, iPad, phone, and TV (I knew this already, but I became more aware of the negative consequences). I learned the ill-effects of too much screen time on children (I always knew it was an issue, but I wasn’t aware of the negative consequences on cognitive and language development). I realized in order to be a model for my future children, I need to start changing my habits now (so you may be hearing from me even less in the next few months or so…).
Yet, what struck me was not my screen time usage and its dangerous consequences; it was the wellness industry’s reliance and absolute obsession with personal choice – that we have have the power to make choices to improve our health or not. Some of you may be wondering where I’m going with this, especially as my blog focuses considerably on making such personal choices for health. Let me try to explain; however, I’m not sure it will be so eloquent as my blogging brain has been on vacation for a while.
We all have the power to make choices. Of course we do. Yet, the environment in which we are raised in, the family we have, and the friends we encircle ourselves with influence the choices we are able to make. Thus, our choices can become more limited or more expansive. For some, the sky truly is the limit. For others, the choice to take care of themselves is going to be overridden by the need to feed their children or because they were not brought up to understand the benefits of exercise or choosing greens over packaged foods.
For those of us in the health industry, myself included, we tend to assume that everyone knows what’s best and that they simply choose not to do it. I have fallen victim to this line of thinking because in some cases, it’s true. I mean, come on, we’ve all sometimes selected the bag of chips over an apple or taken the alcoholic beverage over a glass of water. Yet, for some, depending on the life they have lived, the schools they have been to, the parents they have had, the friends they fell into, and the job they now work, their choices may be more limited relative to someone else with a different experience. The choice to exercise or eat better or walk to work is impacted by not merely their own personal will-power, but their life experience and environment.
I’m not saying this to give people another excuse – to blame their bad choices on their upbringing. What I’m trying to do is broaden the health industries perspective to realize it is more than personal choice. That if we want to truly make a difference in the lives of the people we live with and close to, we need to approach with a new lens. A lens that is less critical and judgmental. A lens that takes into account the big picture, the history, the availability of choice.
As a trainer, as a workplace mental health educator, as a person, I too need to broaden my lens and genuinely adopt the philosophy that there are so many other variables to one’s health than personal choice. It’s about the communities we build, the schools and teachers we support, it’s about the cars and scooters we develop, it’s about the technology we tout, it’s about the layout of the grocery store and the atmosphere of the community and exercise facilities we go to.
I’m not sure if this rambling hit home with anyone, but it has helped me to solidify my stance on this topic and will help me as I move forward in both my personal and professional life.