August is National Wellness Month which encourages people to focus on self care, managing stress and promoting healthy routines. But what does the buzzword wellness really mean and how can I live a healthier, happier life?
In this blog post we explore the concept of wellness and how you can incorporate simple life enhancing practices into your life as well as some supplements, like CBD and raw hemp that can boost your mood and lower stress levels, naturally.
What is Wellness?
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) defines wellness as:
“not as the absence of disease, illness, and stress, but as the presence of a positive purpose in life, satisfying work and play, joyful relationships, a healthy body and living environment, and happiness, in accordance with Halbert Dunn's seminal wellness concepts” (Dunn, 1961).
SAMHSA launched The Wellness Initiative to address the importance of wellness in our daily lives. They identify eight dimensions of wellness, along with basic needs related to each one. The dimensions influence one another and affect a person's overall health and quality of life. The dimensions are:
- Emotional - Coping effectively with life and creating satisfying relationships
- Environmental - Enjoying good health by occupying pleasant, stimulating environments that support well-being
- Financial - Satisfaction with current and future financial situations
- Intellectual - Recognizing creative abilities and finding ways to expand knowledge and skills
- Occupational - Personal satisfaction and enrichment from one's work
- Physical - Recognizing the need for physical activity, healthy foods, and sleep
- Social - Developing a sense of connection and belonging; and having a [good] support system
- Spiritual - Expanding one's sense of purpose and meaning in life. [Swarbrick, 2014, p. 13; adapted from Swarbrick, 2006, p. 311]
The 8 dimensions of wellness as defined by SAMHSA
Why is Wellness Important?
Wellness is so important, especially in today’s world because it gives us the freedom to live our best life and show up for ourselves, our families and our careers in a way that honors our true selves and place in society. Having a solid understanding of wellness and how to incorporate it into your life is especially important for those with serious mental health and substance abuse disorders, who according to Dr. Swarbrick of the SAMHSA Wellness Initiative die decades earlier than the general population and mostly from entirely preventable chronic health conditions.
Factors contributing to premature mortality include:
- Higher rates of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, respiratory disease, and HIV and other infectious diseases.
- High rates of smoking, substance misuse, obesity, and unsafe sexual practices.
- Increased vulnerability owing to poverty, social isolation, trauma and violence, and incarceration.
- Lack of coordination between mental and primary healthcare providers.
- Prejudice and discrimination; side effects of psychotropic medication.
- Overall lack of access to health care, particularly preventive care. [https://www.samhsa.gov/wellness-initiative, last updated 09/05/2017]
Chronic stress is the silent killer according to the United Brain Association
How to be More Well
In order to live a life that reaches your full potential and stretches you into new areas of mental, physical and even spiritual heights you don’t have to become a Yogi or Monk (unless you want to), but there are some simple things you can do to increase your overall happiness and live a fuller, healthier life.
Wellness can look very different for different people. Some people may enjoy swimming while others are terrified of the water, but may enjoy a long walk through the woods. In order to define what wellness means to you, let's look at a few examples of simpel, easy and cost effective ways you can incorporate wellness into your life today.
- Be present - This may sound simple, but staying present can help you escape the circular cycle of worry and anxiety about whatever happened yesterday or what might happen tomorrow. By staying present we can allow our bodies and minds to attune to our surroundings. A simple trick is to identify five things you can see, hear, taste and feel right now. Go ahead, give it a try.
- Create a routine - Having a steady routine, like a morning and evening routine can help reduce stress and increase happiness. For example your morning routine could include going for a walk or run, or just sitting quietly on your porch listening to music or reading the newspaper. Whatever it is, consistency is key to maximizing the benefits that healthy routines can have on our overall wellness.
- Eat well - We’ve all heard the saying, ‘you are what you eat’, so if we choose to put greasy, fatty, sugary and salty foods into our bodies regularly, not only will our bodies decline, but so will our mental health and overall wellness. By eating healthy, natural foods like fresh fruits and vegetables and hearty whole grains we are feeding our bodies, minds and spirits the best fuel available and when we do this consistently we find that our view of self and of the world is improved dramatically because, well, you know how the saying goes.
- Go outside - Our mental space is shaped by our physical spaces. In her new novel, “The Extended Mind” researcher Annie Murphy Paul notes that neuroscience is slowly coming to the conclusion that the brain actually exists not only outside the physical organ we call the brain, but extends into the outside world and in fact is shaped by the outside world. Thus, if we spend all our time in crammed, dimly lit spaces, our mental space will begin to reflect this atmosphere. If instead we go outside into large expansive and brightly lit environments like the woods, beach, mountains or even a city park our mental space in turn begins to lighten up, our world view becomes more expansive, our thinking much lighter and our thoughts begin to soar like birds on the horizon. Sounds a little hippy dippy we know, but science is really beginning to support this theory and if you need proof for yourself then do your own experiment by just going outside and see how it changes your head space.
- Connection - Humans are social creatures and we need human contact to live well. Try going to a public event and meet some new people that share common interests or if you can't do that, call up an old friend or family member that you haven't spoken to in awhile. Even a warm smile to a stranger can have a positive impact on your wellness and sense of belonging. Mask you say, an eyebrow raise may do the trick, the point is to make an effort to connect and expand your social network.
- Stop thinking - As humans we tend to think we are pretty smart, and sometimes we are, however our brains were not designed to be “on” all the time like modern society demands. Meditation is a great tool to increase your mental and physical health and overall wellness. But if sitting cross legged on the floor saying “OM” doesn’t call to you, try paying attention to your thoughts and just let them drift on by. Don’t try to hold onto them. You can do this while you're doing dishes, on a walk, riding your bike etc. Just turn off your brain for a few minutes a day and see how much more space you have for things you truly care about like family, friends and activities that bring personal enjoyment.
Mindfulness meditation reduces stress & anxiety.
There are oodles of so-called ‘wellness’ supplements on the market today, ranging from stress relieving products to cognitive enhancing pills, tonics and tinctures, but how much of this is just marketing and do I really need to take supplements to be well?
First off, full disclosure, we sell CBDa and CBD products designed for wellness, so we might be a little biased on this one, but we think there are a few tried and true concepts to pay attention to when deciding if you need to incorporate a wellness product into your life or not.
First, has the product or ingredient been around for a long time or is it relatively new on the market. This may not be 100% right all the time, but we like to think that certain products like chamomile tea or lavender that have been used by humans for hundreds of years for stress relief have a pretty good track record and no reported injuries. The same can be said of cannabis and hemp derived products, but if you go online you are bound to see a wide variety of “nootropics” made popular by Silicon Valley CEOs looking for any leg up on the competition, however most of these products are new on the market and when studied don’t seem to offer the promises of the marketing hype. Furthermore many of these “smart pills' ' are VERY expensive and without solid scientific evidence we suggest people stay clear of these for now and rely on tried and true natural herbs and botanicals with a long history of human consumption for stress relief, cognitive support and overall health and wellness.
How CBDa and CBD affect your wellbeing
CBDa and CBD both have documented anti-anxiety properties that help the body restore a natural state of homeostasis. Because hemp derived CBDa and CBD are non-intoxicating, products containing whole plant and full spectrum hemp may offer relief from stress and anxiety as well as promote a feeling of happiness and wellbeing.
Both CBDa and CBD are serotonin antagonists suggesting the use of these compounds may be beneficial for mental health, but because CBDa is greatly more potent than CBD on its own, products that contain both CBDa and CBD may offer greater benefits than products made from CBD isolate.
Resources on Wellness
Many free resources for individuals, families, communities, organizations, and clinicians are available. SAMHSA's Wellness Initiative website and the SAMHSA–Health Resources and Services Administration's Center for Integrated Health Solutions website offer a wealth of information.
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Dunn, H. L. (1961). High-Level Wellness. Arlington, Va.: Beatty Press.
SAMHSA/Center for Mental Health Services (CMHS). (n.d.). What are recovery-oriented practices? Rockville, Md.: Author.
SAMHSA/CMHS. (2010). Information for general health care providers: What is wellness? [10 X 10 Wellness Campaign Brochure]. Rockville, Md.: Author.
Swarbrick, M. (1997). A wellness model for clients. Mental Health Special Interest Section Quarterly, 20, 1–4.
Swarbrick, M. (2006). A wellness approach. Psychiatric Rehabilitation Journal, 29(4), 311–314.
Swarbrick, M. (2014). A wellness approach. [Seminar]. New York Association of Psychiatric Rehabilitation Services, Inc.: Albany, N.Y.
Swarbrick, M., & Moosvi, K. V. (2010). Wellness: A practice for our lives and work. [Guest editorial]. Journal of Psychosocial Nursing, 48(7).
Swarbrick, M., Murphy, A., Zechner, M., Spagnolo, A., & Gill, K. (2011). Wellness coaching: A new role for peers. Psychiatric Rehabilitation Journal, 34(4), 328–331.
Torres–González, F., Ibanez–Casas, I., Saldivia, S. Ballester, D., Grandón, P., Moreno–Küstner, B., . . . Gómez–Beneyto, M. (2014). Unmet needs in the management of schizophrenia. Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment, 10, 97–110. doi: 10.2147/NDT.S41063