The Positivity of wellness

3 things – Proud, Feeling Great, Being a Doer

Wellness, by its very nature, is an extensive-term.  It’s not uncommon for many people to think of wellness only in the context of how we look or feel.  That’s unfortunate since it is much more about a holistic (whole body and mind) approach to being your best. In an earlier post, the “four steps to wellness,” I mentioned exercise, nutrition, rest, and the emotional component. To be clear, those four are not the only areas related to a wellness continuum. Experts will often write and speak about spiritual, financial, environment, intellectual, etc. 

My focus, mainly because of my profession as an educator and trainer, is solely on exercise, nutrition, rest, and emotional wellness.  Training, food, and rest will usually be under the umbrella of “physical” wellness.  I see them as unique parts of that umbrella, not just one single component.  You’ll understand why, after reading my short personal exercise story.  

Because of how exercise influenced some of my younger years, I’m going to cover “the positivity of wellness,” which often falls under the emotional classification.

People can have high levels of physical (exercise) wellness but not be well!  I know this because I’ve lived it and watched many others do the same.  When I was younger, in my 20’s, I became hooked on bodybuilding.  I wouldn’t say it completely overwhelmed my life, but by easily spending 5-6 hours a day in the gym training, it seems clear now that it wasn’t healthy for my emotional and even physical state.   While I saw gains in my physique, they came at the expense of other parts of my life.  More specifically, how much time I spent with others, being stressed when gains didn’t come as quickly as I would have liked, and usually comparing myself to others, which is rarely a good thing.  Even with the benefits I saw, I wasn’t satisfied, so I’d always be changing diets, training plans, and rest schedules.  Anything to get better!  While a few worked, I learned some valuable lessons on how to see wellness in a different light.

In my opinion, being positive about our emotional wellness is the most critical step in developing a holistic approach to how we look, feel, act, and live our lives.  Yes, that seems like a stretch!  But after covering some key points, hopefully, you’ll see how meaningful it is to create that positivity in your life.  Here is also a quick read on “How to Improve Your Mindset For Wellness”

👍 We all have moments that make us proud.  The issue is our willingness and comfort level in admitting it.  Whether speaking with teens or adults, I’ve often heard,  “Shap, there aren’t many things that I’m proud of!”  Of course, after a brief chat, just about all of them realize that’s not true. Honestly, I’ve never met a person who doesn’t have at least one part of their life that hasn’t given them some sense of positive well being. Unfortunately, it’s normal to look at moments that don’t go well and dwell on them.  Maybe it’s because those events are unusual compared to the sense of normalcy that we generally have.  What’s important, though, is realizing that it’s a much better solution to focus on those happy times that inspire us, give us joy, connect us with others than to let negativity fester.  My experience has taught me that the easiest way to make this happen is simply by taking a few seconds to think about each situation and where we want to place our energy.  The best example is flipping out when somebody cuts you off in traffic!  A few weeks ago, I had that happen and was about to say something but then realized, what’s the point of getting upset?  They are driving away, and I’d be throwing a temper tantrum! Instead, I took a breath and remembered it’s a “little thing” that I can’t turn into a big thing.

👍 The second part of wellness relates to how you feel about yourself.  I do an activity where students have to rank their self-esteem and self-worth on a scale of 1-10.  It’s anonymous, but the results are always alarming.  Most students are in the 3-6 range.  You might think that it would be different for adults.  It’s not in my experience.  When I spent significant amounts of time training others, those same results would often come to the forefront.  Just as in finding that proud moment, a great way to start feeling good about who we are is to find time to build strong relationships, hobbies, exercise, or anything that makes us feel better.  The beautiful thing about doing this exercise is you can then carry it over into other things that you may not have thought of before.  Let’s face it; we have times where we feel doubt.  That’s human nature.  But we also have many experiences that we should cherish and realize how special we are.  Another personal example; I never really started to write until about five years ago.  Now I can’t imagine not doing it!  I’m still not where I want to be, but at least I’m writing!

👍Be a doer, not a dreamer!  So often people mention how they want to improve their mind or body.  A few days or weeks later, we will follow-up and reflect on what’s happened.  I’ll often hear, “Craig, I was going to get started, but something came up!” That usually brings a chuckle, followed by a frown.  Very simply, emotional wellness or any wellness for that matter has to start with you doing something to make you feel better about you!  It’s finding a new hobby, making new friends, getting rid of so-called friends, or any other positive inducing ideas.  For example, the simple act of going for a walk can be an incredible physical and emotional wellness booster.  

Even though developing wellness habits will vary significantly from person to person, there isn’t a magic formula.  Every tip, idea, book, or video will give guidance that can be helpful.  This writing is no different.  But for a positive wellness habit to grow, YOU need to start building it.  I encourage each person to begin with a simple goal and allow it to flourish.  Remember to ask for help, be patient, be persistent, look for the positives, and be kind to yourself.  Doing that will make a massive difference in your wellness gains.  I hope you enjoy this and other posts.  The next writing will deal with exercise!  Have a beautiful day!

three months of reflection

Craig Shapiro – @Shapiro_WTHS –

Many of us in the field of education look at the end of the year as a way to reflect upon the many outstanding things that happened in our school and classes. It’s rewarding and fulfilling to know we’ve made a difference in the lives of students and their families. This year feels completely different; at last for me! During the last three months COVID-19 has thrown us through a tenuous loop of stress, anxiety and feelings of hopelessness. I’ll be the first to admit that initially it was new, challenging, and even I dare say, “fun” doing lessons online. But that was short lived. I quickly realized how much I missed being with colleagues and most importantly students. I’m guessing that I’m far from alone in these feelings. Think about this; most of us went from teaching in a classroom one day, to not seeing that class again for the rest of the year! The emotional turmoil that places on students and their families is not something we should take lightly. I believe, even all that’s gone on recently that we can always find at least a few positives. All of us, whether in the education field or not, need to find a little bit of sunshine. We need that for ourselves, our friends, families and our students. Before we know it, the Fall school year will be starting again. We have a choice to solely focus on everything thing that’s gone wrong, or to make the choice of finding those few bright spots.

I recall about ten or so years ago, there was a huge push about introducing technology into education. For many of us it’s transformed our field in outstanding ways. One thing always struck me though. People would say, “we don’t need teachers anymore! We can have online learning and use computer programs instead.” How wrong they were! Rarely do we want to use absolutes in education. It rarely works, and it usually ends up causing more harm than good. In this instance though, I feel comfortable writing that a large majority of people who thought technology was the sole answer for educating kids, now realize the true importance of having a teacher in a classroom. From building collaborative lessons, to greeting students at the door, playing music in class, having conversations about life, and most importantly building those incredibly positive relationships, it seems clear that the IN-PERSON teacher/student connection should never be doubted in the future. Certainly technology is amazing in many ways. But because of Covid-19, we now realize that anyone who spends their time in school, is much better off being there, than being totally dependent on remote learning. To me that’s a huge POSITIVE!

Okay, I’ll admit it! I’m biased towards the field of Health and Wellness. It’s been a huge part of my life since I was 13 years old, and still today shapes who I am and what I believe with respect to being healthy in mind and body. Covid has forced us to address our own wellness. The very nature of being confined to one space isn’t healthy for any person. Students, more specifically thrive on moving and activity. In the past there have been many states and districts that have cut wellness programs, along with other speciality areas. It stands to reason that hopefully they now see the power and necessity of getting our students active, eating healthy, building connections and using reflection as a tool for personal growth. The numbers of teens who mentioned to me that they have really learned to appreciate exercise, meditation, reading, and “finding out who they are” was astonishing! Even better, many of the responses were not done with a prompt. Students would just write for the sake of expressing their feelings. More than just students, I’ve spoken with parents who’ve gotten on the wellness train. Maybe it’s because their children are required to move. Whatever the reason, it’s caused a huge uptick in wanting to be healthy. Being home has created huge gaps of “nothing time” as I call it. It means sitting around and doing “nothing!” Luckily, people have gotten outside when possible, instead of being bogged down. When school does go back to normal (whatever normal might be) at least we know that wellness is on the radar for students and their families.

Before our graduating seniors were done for the year, I was fortunate enough to speak virtually to a large portion of them. It seemed important to talk about connecting with friends and family. As a parent of two older teens, there have always been a million reasons (excuses) why we couldn’t spend quality time together. While some are reasonable (my daughter being away at school) others are simply about not making things a priority when they should be. As an example, I know that the conversations with my son and daughter during the day are something like, “what did you do today?” The outstanding response of “school, it was boring” would usually follow. Now things are different. Last week, the four of us actually went on a walk together! Sure, during the walk there were moments where I wanted to pull every last piece of hair out of my head. Buy hey, at least we were together! After those energetic walks, it was usually a choice of about 100 board games that had collected inches of dust from the last use about 15 years ago. Of course my family learned that I can’t draw a stick figure, and having me as a teammate meant conceding defeat before the game started. But again, at least the time was fun and engaging. You see; the moments we spend together as family and friends can easily be taken for granted. Now we can reflect on the true value of those amazing connections that shape our lives.

While all of us are unique in many ways, Covid-19 has forced us to be grateful for those things that we rarely think about. Like friends, family, kindness and just being together! Even with so much anxiety and pain in our country, seeing how resilent people are is nothing to take for granted. In the normal haze of society, so much hope and positivity gets lost for a million reasons. Actually, it’s just easy to keep going without truly seeing all that life has to offer. For some perspective, about 25 years ago I lost both of my parents at a relatively young age. Up until that point, I rarely took time to understand the power of being grateful and also showing others gratitude for all they do. Now many of us are looking for those moments where being grateful and showing gratitude matter. Sure, there are huge inequities in society. I’m not so naive to think otherwise. But before the last four months, it seemed like we would just go on about our daily lives without really thinking about how we can make a difference for our friends, family and others we might not even know. It feels and looks like our world is finally starting to see the power in respect, empathy, kindness and loving each other for who they are, not for who they are not.

Not everyone will see things as I do. That’s okay! We don’t all need to see the world in the same lens. But if we can at least look for those small positives, it can and will help us to be a little happier, healthier and even make positive change for society. Let’s DREAM BIG together!