Lets create a new concept to Promote healthier, more enjoyable Lifestyles

by Donald B. Ardell, Ph. D.

Wellness in the Headlines

(Don’s Report to the World)

Let’s Create A New Concept To Promote Healthier, More Enjoyable Lifestyles

Saturday December 12, 2009

The terms health, prevention and even wellness are all used in varied ways to mean different things, but it is rare that these and other health-related terms address all the key qualities needed for the highest forms of human functioning. What lifestyle embodies and advances our best physical and mental capacities? Let’s consider adopting a term that means quite specific qualities. Most of the time, important elements of effective living get too little or no attention at all.

But, before picking a term to describe a great lifestyle, let’s identify the qualities we value. What should the highest imaginable lifestyle encompass? Besides the obvious virtues of exercise, good diet and the absence of behaviors or attitudes that compromise or diminish health status (e.g., alcohol abuse, smoking and that sort of thing), what should we include?

I’ll offer a partial list—I’m sure you can add to it—and I encourage you to do so. After I complete my own short list, below, I’ll offer a term for this concept. If you like it, maybe we can use the term to promote genuine well-being with all the key parts.

To begin, let’s identify the vital qualities to develop, practice and experience. Then, when we want to describe living in a way to enjoy life to the greatest degree possible that advances well-being, we’ll be describing the same lifestyle.

Whatever we call it, a terrific lifestyle, in my view, should be guided by reason, exuberance and liberty. This means the nature of the lifestyle is shaped in accordance with effective thinking processes, the purpose of it all is happiness and joy and the framework is freedom. An acronym that captures these three qualities of lifestyle functioning is REAL—for reason, exuberance and liberty. The opposites of these states are irrationality, sadness and no options or choices.

A lifestyle is not a service, remedy or product. It is a composite of the way you choose to live—it can’t be packaged and sold by a company or vendor. You have to create it—so keep it REAL—that is, rational, fun and your own doing.

Besides reason, exuberance and liberty, what shall we mean when we use the special term of an optimal lifestyle?

How about a knowledge of and passion for happiness, ethical living, a respect for the environment (global awareness) and ample meaning and purpose?

What shall we call a deliberate mindset or philosophy inspired by reason, exuberance and liberty with these additional qualities, the conscious purpose of which is to achieve, maintain and fine-tune a high quality of life?

I have a term. Before I mention it, consider this: What has just been described is so much more than “health” or non-illness as most think of health. Don’t you agree? And it’s more than prevention—which basically means avoidance of an unpleasant situation. What I’m describing is something to work for, to seek—a life quest that is never ending while life remains. It is a process, not an outcome.

These qualities set our special lifestyle apart from terms associated with vitamins, medical treatments (e.g., chiropractic) or anything done to or for you—instead, it is how your life is being described.

The word I propose is part of the entire idea of living this way—to embrace reason, exuberance and liberty in service of a better quality of life.

I offer the term or phrase REAL wellness.

REAL wellness education, materials or programs need never dwell on risk reduction strategies or ways to manage illness and/or disease, though these are important aspects of broader health promotion. The key areas of REAL wellness living will be to think about and act upon global awareness/environmental sensitivity (a green consciousness), the quest for added meaning and purpose, ethical awareness and fine-tuning, understanding the dynamics of happiness (and experiencing more of it) and thinking critically using reason, skepticism and doubt. Of course, much more is involved, such as the foundation lifestyle areas (exercise and fitness, management of stress and sound dietary habits, among other positive skill areas)

If we are going to promote wellness, let’s ensure everyone knows that we mean the real thing or, in this case, REAL wellness.

Your thoughts on this matter would be appreciated. What do you think?

(Note: This essay will be filed in the archives in the MENTAL DOMAIN under the skill area of effective decisions. Additional articles related to this theme may be found there.)

(Ed. Note: Views expressed in this and other columns are those of the author and not necessarily those of the SeekWellness Editorial Board.)