Personal wellness is complex. It influences our relationships, habits, quality of work, physical and mental health and more. So how can you be the best version of you?

Emily Mire

Emily Mire, PhD

When I tell people what I do for a living, one of the first questions I typically hear is, “What exactly does someone need to do to ‘become well’?” (And yes, air quotes are often included.) Merriam-Webster defines wellness as, “the quality or state of being in good health especially as an actively sought goal.”

If you do a quick search on Google Images for wellness you’ll see two primary concepts: variations of personal wellness models, and people in nature with outstretched arms. These images paint a vague picture of wellness and don’t provide much direction. Personal wellness is more than that, it’s a commitment to yourself, to be the best you can be. What that means for you, and how you go about it are outlined here.

Set your intention.

Personal wellness is what allows us to be the best version of ourselves, but it doesn’t just happen. There has to be intentionality in not only our environment, but also how we choose to engage with our environment. This may look like waking up 30 minutes early to meditate or writing down goals to track progress. Setting intention makes wellness a conscious choice and a deliberate part of each day.

Be adaptable.

Personal wellness isn’t always going to (and it shouldn’t) look the same throughout our lifetime. Adaptabilityis what allows us to be well when work is stressful, when finances are tight, when you are caring for a sick parent, or when life just simply happens. As stress levels rise, priorities may change. And that’s okay! If we try to keep things right as they are, even as stress levels increase, this may actually contribute to more stress. There’s freedom in finding balance in allowing your priorities to shift while still keeping your long-term focus on your goals.

Dig deep.

Understanding wellness is a commitment to dig deep, to learn about what’s important, to understand who you are holistically, and to courageously acknowledge what is, right in this very moment. Digging deep means to be all in and to acknowledge that growth isn’t always comfortable. This may look like committing to unpack an emotional experience that has been neatly stored away but has kept you from moving forward, or maybe digging deep looks like being able to face a mountain (literally or figuratively) in front of you with the determination to conquer any obstacle that may come your way.

As you begin or continue to define wellness from your own unique point of view, get clarity from your own experiences, recognize and tap into your strengths to ensure that wellness becomes something sustainable, and acknowledge that you (right where you are today) deserve to be well.

Reflect and innovate.

Innovation,doesn’t always have to be some brand new, completely outside-the-box idea. Sometimes it may look that way, but many times innovationis actually a re-constructing of things that have worked in the past.

Think back to when you were in a place that you felt well or were actively doing things to contribute to your overall wellness and then consider:

  • What was happening around you?
  • How did you respond?
  • What were you doing?
  • Think about other times you felt well, what similarities exist?

The answers to these questions provide insight into things that have worked in the past and can provide a clear starting point for working your way back towards a place of personal wellness. When I wrote my dissertation, I was also working full-time and was a new parent. What I was experiencing was a different kind of stress compared to anything I ever felt. I almost felt like I lost myself in this process.

When I spent time going back to the stress management strategies that worked for me in the past (to-do lists, prioritizing exercise, and intentionally unplugging), I found that I was able to regain control in the midst of chaos. I was able to write more effectively. I was more present with my family. My situation and the actual stressors hadn’t changed at all. Instead, I chose a different response based on success from the past, and the dividends were huge.

Know your non-negotiables.

The patterns and themes that consistently appear in the answers above are what I call non-negotiables. They are critical in making us whole. As an example, my non-negotiables are exercise, meditation, and writing.

When I think back to the times I felt whole and well, I had a consistent routine of waking up early to exercise most days of the week, building in time to meditate throughout the day (particularly midday when my energy levels take a hit), and building in protected time to write.

My non-negotiables are the things that ground me, help me focus, and give me clarity, regardless of the stressors present. They are also the things I’m most comfortable with. What happens when my stress reaches maximum levels, and I’m not being intentional about managing it? My non-negotiables are the things that are the first to go.

Life is stressful

Comfort level with non-negotiable often times lends to a natural thinking process of: Life is stressful, and I’m short on time.

If I can provide you with any words of encouragement, these moments are when you can lean on your non-negotiables the most. If you have a big report due at work, or you are overwhelmed with a project, or [fill in your stressor here], the 30 minutes you spend exercising, or 5 minutes you spend meditating, or [enter your non-negotiable here], will more than likely buy you time in productivity and contribute to a sense of well-being that will allow you to fully be present, even in the midst of stress.

Recharge— your way.

The concept of being able to recharge requires you to know yourself. This may come from a true understanding of your non-negotiables or a holistic understanding of your personality and how you show up with others/life. It’s important that how you choose to recharge is authentic to who you are. This isn’t about what others may want from us, or what society tells us about the new, trendy way to recharge. This is about you- who you are, and what’s best for you.

I’m a strong introvert. I’m highly maxed out on the “I,” and I know that building time to recharge is critical to me being able to thrive professionally and personally. Notice how the non-negotiables I listed above are primarily solo activities. The time I take to recharge is so valuable, because it let’s me show up and engage with others in a way that allows me to be authentic and genuine. Being an introvert in today’s ever-connected world can be hard. An article recently resurfaced on Twitter, and it hit home on the importance of living and recharging in a way that is congruent with who I am/you are.

Recommit to wellness.

Recommitmentto wellness looks different for each individual person. Depending on what life looks like for you at any given moment, recommitment may happen monthly or weekly. Sometimes it happens hourly. Recommitment is a conscious choice to be well and experience wellness. Sometimes, that means being well in spite of the curveballs life may throw your way.

As you consider recommitting to being well, consider what you need (think long-term and short-term) and what’s working well. For me, goals become tangible when I write them down, and I feel empowered to know that I can revise them at any point.

One of my favorite questions to consider is, “How is [fill in the blank with your behavior of choice] working for me right now?”If I choose, my answer can shorten the gap between what I’m doing and where I want to go. The best part? At the heart of recommitment is the concept that you can be well and can make the choice to come back to being well at any given moment.

The concept of wellness doesn’t need to be complicated. Wellness is specific to you and may ebb and flow. What’s important is that wellness is authentic and a tailored from your experiences and towards your goals.

What do you do to achieve or maintain personal wellness?