5 Ways To Practice True Wellness, From A Functional Medicine Expert
Wellness encompasses everything that plays a role in your physical, mental, and emotional health. The mind-body connection is real, and what affects one absolutely affects the other. In fact, I spend just as much time consulting my patients in my telehealth functional medicine clinic on the emotional side of wellness as I do on food and supplements. While those are important, they aren't the end-all-be-all of your health journey.
So, what does wellness really look like? Here's a second installment of all the ways I think wellness can show up in your life. (If you missed part one, head here!)
Sometimes wellness looks like replacing complaints with true gratitude.
A lot of us talk a big game about the importance of gratitude but still battle with fear, anxiety, stress, anger, and bitterness on a daily basis. It might be that we are treating gratitude as one more thing to cross off of our wellness "to-do" list instead of really feeling and practicing it.
If you find yourself in complaint mode, pay attention to what triggers you and set up healthy boundaries so that you can distance yourself from things that aren't serving your physical and mental health. That way, you'll have more room for the things that make the cut on your gratitude list.
Sometimes wellness looks like changing the foods you eat.
There's no such thing as "bad" food. But there are no doubt foods that are bad for you! We each have a unique biochemistry that plays a role in how our bodies respond to everything from stress to toxins to the foods we eat.
Swapping out inflammatory food and drinks that don't love you back with nutrient-dense foods that do isn't "toxic diet culture"; it's another form of healthy boundaries. It's also respecting your body enough to fuel it with the things it loves.
Sometimes wellness looks like doing good for others.
In the wellness world, we talk a lot about setting up boundaries and cutting activities and people out that don't align with our goals and vision for our lives. However, if we aren't careful, this can lead to a self-serving mentality that doesn't leave room for compassion, empathy, and sacrifice for others.
Studies have shown that helping others1 can give you a sense of purpose, improve your mental health, and bring about a sense of connection. Choose a cause you love, and carve out time in your life to volunteer or donate. Remember, helping others doesn't always have to be at the expense of your time and values. Healthy boundaries are vital to your health, but they shouldn't stop you from participating in helping the greater good—whatever that looks like for you.
Sometimes wellness looks like taking responsibility and facing conflict head-on.
It's hard to admit when you are wrong. It's a lot easier to create distance, blame others, and sweep problems under the rug. I've found that any time there has been conflict in my life, it's only gotten worse when it's not addressed. But if I own up to my mistakes, apologize, and enter a conversation with grace, truly wanting to hear the other person's perspective, more often than not I'm met with equal parts apology and true reconciliation. The other times? Well, it only revealed the healthy boundaries that needed to be set up or the people that needed to be removed from my life.
Sometimes wellness looks like letting yourself feel every emotion.
Anger, sadness, excitement, fear, and anxiety are all emotions that meet us on a daily basis—but society doesn't always give us room to feel them. The problem with that is it leaves a lot of us walking through life with unresolved emotions that we've had to bury deep inside ourselves. Years of unprocessed feelings contribute to shame and trauma.
So, next time you feel anything, give yourself room to really feel it. Journaling, crying, and even screaming, can all be ways to let out your emotions so that you can move on to the next stage of healing: resolution. Chances are, facing conflicts head-on as we talked about earlier will be a lot easier once you've identified your emotions and had time to explore them with yourself (and a trusted counselor)!
Wellness is going to mean something different to you than to someone else. You may be great at feeling your emotions already but not so great at facing conflict. Health is a journey and it continues to evolve over time. Take these and apply them in a way that is the most beneficial to you, and prepare to take your health to the next level—physically, mentally, and emotionally.
Will Cole, IFMCP, DNM, D.C., is a leading functional medicine expert who consults people around the globe, starting one of the first functional medicine telehealth centers in the world. Named one of the top 50 functional and integrative doctors in the nation, Dr. Will Cole provides a functional medicine approach for thyroid issues, autoimmune conditions, hormonal imbalances, digestive disorders, and brain problems. He is the host of the popular The Art Of Being Well podcast and the New York Times bestselling author of Intuitive Fasting, Ketotarian,The Inflammation Spectrum, and the brand new book Gut Feelings: Healing the Shame-Fueled Relationship Between What You Eat and How You Feel.