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I am whatever YOU think I am until YOU get to KNOW me. This is true for everyone else too, of course.. so don't make assumptions about anyone or pass judgment; ask questions. You might just make a new friend.

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Tuesday, September 23, 2008

WELCOME TO WELLNESS












Wellness—as
opposed to fitness—is making a comeback among gay men, and with good reason.
Where a previous generation thought of wellness as just the absence of illness,
these days wellness programs acknowledge that there's a lot more to being well
than just not getting sick. And, at different moments of your life, how you
assess your wellness, and what you need to do to maintain it, will
substantially change. To stay well, you need to be able to gauge your wellness,
and take steps to correct imbalances in your life. In this and subsequent
pieces, I'll point some potential challenges to wellness at different ages, and
direct you to some resources that can help keep you on track. Whether you're in
your twenties, thirties, forties, fifties or sixties, there are actions you can
undertake to keep well. Today we'll start with some introductory wellness tips
for guys in their twenties—but if you've already left that decade behind, stay
tuned. In the coming weeks, I'll have tips for the more…mature population as well.
GETTING STARTED: WHAT IS WELLNESS? If wellness isn't just avoiding
getting sick, then what is it? Wellness experts identify six major areas of
wellness. Take a look at them and think about the form they take in your
life—bearing in mind that there may be overlap between categories. 













  • PHYSICAL: Your physical wellness includes all the things
    you would expect, like your cardiovascular fitness, your strength, and your
    endurance; but it also includes preventive measures, such as regular testing
    for diseases, and maintaining a healthy diet, even if you're not overweight. In
    a traditional wellness program, the physical would be the entire
    emphasis—notice here that it's only one of six elements. That is because the
    body's wellness does not exist in a vacuum; it is part of an overall goal of
    health for the entire individual.













  • SOCIAL: Social wellness is not just about having fun. It's also a way of
    addressing your interdependence with the people around you. You will have a
    better, healthier life (and body) if you have strong relationships and a sense
    of community. In fact, studies show that people who have strong social networks
    tend to live longer. But you will have to actively promote and maintain those
    relationships, rather than just rely on them to be there when you really need
    them. 







  • SPIRITUAL: We often think of spirituality as necessarily
    meaning religion. And, for some people, religion will certainly be a key part
    of a spiritual life. But from a wellness point of view, spiritual fulfillment
    will more generally mean feeling that there is a purpose to your life. This can
    range from practicing meditation, to taking up volunteer activities in your
    community. Anything you do that lets you feel that you are here for a reason,
    and that you have a connection beyond the purely physical (even in a mind/body
    sense) will form part of your spiritual life.














  • INTELLECTUAL:
    Your intellectual development doesn't stop after school ends. Later in life you
    can, of course, pursue another degree—but you can also find other ways of
    maintaining your intellectual wellness. Creativity can do this, for instance,
    by stimulating new areas of your mind. Take up a new art, or some writing. Try
    to find mentally stimulating activities. The idea is to expand your sphere of
    interest beyond what you already find comfortable. 








  • OCCUPATIONAL: You probably spend eight to 10 of your waking
    hours in a workplace that you hope will be fulfilling, where you are setting
    and meeting goals, and where you feel a sense of achievement. To get to this
    state, you want to stay on top of your occupational wellness. Do you do work
    that you enjoy, and is it satisfying? Do you like both your work and your job,
    or only one? Does what you do match what you want from life, and how you see
    yourself? Note that this is not necessarily about financial gain; this is about
    fulfillment in your job and your profession. 













  • PSYCHOLOGICAL: Your psychological wellness may be heavily dependent on
    other areas of your life. Problems elsewhere—in your relationships, or your
    career—will take a toll on your psychology. That's why you need to be able to
    assess where you stand emotionally, and have strategies for improving your
    feelings. What would you need to change in your life to feel better about
    yourself? Are there habits of mind that are keeping you back in life? Is there
    a form of therapy that you want to think about taking on to work on your
    psychological wellness, whether traditional psychotherapy, or hypnosis or other
    more alternative methods?















I hope that EVERY glance at this
list will leave you wondering where to put the various elements of your life.
After all, your friendships are part of your social wellness, but if they are
work friends they may be part of your occupational situation, and will, sooner
or later, cross into your psychological wellness. Most of the elements of your
life will not fall sharply into one single category. That's OK—instead of thinking of these as
hard-and-fast categories, you want to assess how the elements of your life are
interconnected, and how changes in one area bring changes elsewhere. Your goal
isn't to separate the pieces of your life into categories, but to try to
restore balance when something in your life brings one category out of kilter
with the others. Only you know your own life—and so it's up to you to develop a
thorough portrait of what things in your life impact which areas of your
wellness.

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