“If mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.” Same could be said for papa, too. As we celebrate Mother’s Day and Father’s Day and the start of summer this time of year, let’s reflect on what it takes to raise happy, healthy children.
First, it takes happy, healthy moms and dads!
How can parents maintain a happy, healthy lifestyle in the midst of their crazy busy lives?
The key is to take seriously the idea of taking care of yourself first. This is not optional or whimsical or some far off ideal. It’s for real. We can’t give what we don’t have. And if we aren’t well, we can’t foster wellness in our kids.
Remember, children learn what they live. So, here’s a reminder of the seven dimensions of living well that you may want to foster in your home.
- Physical Wellness. It’s about understanding your “heredity and habits” – your biological vulnerabilities and risk factors, along with your lifestyle choices, that will help you minimize illness and maximize wellness in your life. Be proactive with your body, not reactive – getting regular medical care that includes wellness visits. And more often than not, practice the “Big 3” – SLEEP enough, EAT smart, EXERCISE regularly.
- Intellectual Wellness. It’s about maintaining an open mind and curiosity about the world. It’s being eager to learn new ideas, skills, and customs. Stay young and vibrant by being a “life-long learner” – exploring new experiences and developing new skills. Read, listen, and discuss with others (including those who are not like-minded!). Challenge yourself to think critically not just blindly. Give yourself some creative outlet – make time for a hobby that engages your brain and your heart.
- Emotional Wellness. It’s about being aware of your full range of emotions, accepting them, and regulating your expression of them. Gently acknowledge that it’s okay to feel sad, mad, scared, etc.; it’s what we do with it that counts. Practice self-regulation (from self-awareness and self-acceptance to self-control). Develop relaxation strategies. Cultivate an attitude of gratitude, forgiveness, and generosity (towards yourself as well as others), and you’ll find your way to more hope and happiness.
- Spiritual Wellness. It’s about having a set of guiding principles and values that give your life meaning and purpose. Often it may include a faith in a higher power, a Universal life energy, a living God, and a shared religious community or practice. Always it includes a belief in the power of love, of hope, of goodness surrounding us, and the practice of compassion for one another.
- Social Wellness. It’s about your roles and relationships – how much you experience and maintain a sense of connection with others. Do you feel loved and loving towards family and friends? Do you feel committed to the well-being of your communities – both local and global? Seek companionship with positive, supportive people. Practice constructive communication and conflict resolution skills. Listen attentively, speak respectfully, play joyfully with those close to you. Connect and offer service to those in need, near or far from you. Be a part of something bigger.
- Vocational Wellness. It’s about career satisfaction. Seek a job where your gifts, talents, and skills are applied in ways that are meaningful and fulfilling. This can happen anywhere and in any task or responsibility – no matter how seemingly big or small. Love what you do! Surround yourself with positive, encouraging, and supportive co-workers. Be one yourself. Find strength in teamwork. And maintain a healthy work/life balance. Be fully present at your work, for a limited time only. Then be fully present to the rest of your life as well. That’s how you’ll be most productive in both realms.
- Environmental Wellness. It’s about being appreciative of mother nature and aware of our interdependence with all things on this living earth. It’s about maximizing harmony and minimizing harm to the planet. Yes, it’s about thinking globally and acting locally. Maintain a safe, clean, and beautiful home and work environment. Practice the “3-Rs” of healthy consumerism – reduce, reuse, and recycle.
There you have it – The 7 Ways of Well-Being. This isn’t another to-do list for you to be burdened by. This is a list of values and priorities to set your compass by. It’s a way-of-being list.
How do you want to be in this world? “Be well, then do well.” With a wellness-centered view of your life – pausing periodically to reflect on these 7 dimensions of wellness – you can then choose daily to-do items that enhance your energy and your joi de vivre.
Life is too short to do otherwise. Carpe diem!
Peter Montminy, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist, mindfulness teacher, loving husband and dad. He invites you to join in an ongoing conversation that seeks to restore sanity to humanity – one child at a time. Join us at www.AMindfulVillage.com.