When you think about “getting healthy,” what comes to mind? If you’re like most people, you probably picture some kind of gym, a workout, and a vegetable-laden meal. Maybe a printout from doctor with “acceptable” numbers.
We see this vision because we’re conditioned to think that health and wellness occur in certain locations in our lives — the gym, the salad bar, the doctor’s office. These are the places in space and time where our health is handled. We designate the rest of the world for other things, the “in-between” time where health and fitness aren’t our primary concerns. The places where we actually get to live our lives.
You know, the place where the Whole Life Challenge ends or your marathon training is complete, but before it’s time to commit to the next weight-loss or self-improvement plan. Those times where we get to be “us.”
At least, that’s the story we’ve told ourselves, but it’s a costly story that we’ve bought into.
The Fallacy of the In-Between Times
In truth, it’s in those in-betweens where we suffer the most from the slings and arrows of our poor choices — limited sleep, mindless eating, unchecked stress — all with the accompanying promise that we’ll take care of our health tomorrow, or Monday, or once the kids go back to school and life returns to “normal.”
While in some way we look forward to these in-betweens and “off” times from making healthy choices, these times are luxuries we can’t afford. They’re not even a luxury at all. They’re more like fool’s gold.
The gym, the salad bar, the doctor’s office — these are merely single stars in a constellation, a small gathering in a whole universe of well-being. While they can deliver improved health and fitness, these points aren’t the whole story.
What if health and wellness were available to each of us everywhere we go and every day of the year?
What if health and wellness were ours for the taking, if we just looked at them both in a new context?
The Context of Well-Being
Unlike our blood markers, body weight, or one-mile run time, “well-being” is not a number. You won’t find it on a scale, and your doctor can’t give it to you during a checkup. Well-being is what you create in the spaces in between. It’s how you interact with your health and your life when nobody else is looking.
Well-being is not about perfection (and, really, neither is the Whole Life Challenge), but about living in the in-between as if it’s the whole thing, not the interim. It’s not about periods of “better” or “worse” choices.
The in-between is the thing.
Well-being comes from slowing down, from learning to appreciate what you have, from finding value in the connections in your life, from loving and living where you are right now, and knowing that it’s enough (even if and maybe even because you have goals and dreams for yourself).
There’s no amount of putting the “practices” of health and fitness into your life — the gym, the salad bar, the doctor’s office — that will give you the experience of well-being. Even two hours a day at the gym doesn’t change the fact that each day is 24 hours long. Well-being is what happens in those other 22, in the space between this Challenge and the next, between weddings and family affairs, between breakfast and lunch.
To thrive in the “in betweens,” to live in a state of well-being, you need to first put your life in context. Ask the important questions about your daily activities and put additional value on choices that improve both your health metrics (blood pressure, lipids, body fat) as well your intangibles (happiness, connectedness, peace of mind). Allow yourself to discover, moment by moment, the opportunities to do health and to be well — the opportunity to pursue both simultaneously.
And yes, sometimes that means you take a nap instead of go for a run. Sometimes that means you eat a piece of cake because it’s your niece’s birthday and she means the world to you. That’s health, too. Because these are choices done in honor of your well-being, not in spite of it.
Well-Being Is Your Entire Life
Well-being is the universe that exists in the in-betweens. It is an experience you can have daily. It’s the people you connect with, your goals, your efforts, and the meaning you give your life. It is whole foods, regular exercise, mindfulness, reflection, and so much more. Well-being is you, living in honor of you.
Concentrate on well-being, and discover how the journey nourishes your entire life. When you do, you’ll understand the real context of health and fitness. You’ll realize you have the opportunity to make healthy choices no matter if it’s the first week of the Whole Life Challenge, the last week of your training plan, or the middle of summer.
And you’ll understand that the gym, the salad bar, and the doctor don’t even begin to cover it, because well-being is a universe.