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Your Environmental Health Matters

Mental Health Association SAMHSA describes wellness as being in both good physical and mental health:  “Because mental health and physical health are linked, problems in one area can impact the other. At the same time, improving your physical health can also benefit your mental health, and vice versa. It is important to make healthy choices for both your physical and mental well-being.”  SAMHSA breaks down overall health & wellbeing into Eight Dimensions Of Wellness:

  1. Emotional—Coping effectively with life and creating satisfying relationships
  2. Environmental—Good health by occupying pleasant, stimulating environments that support well-being
  3. Financial—Satisfaction with current and future financial situations
  4. Intellectual—Recognizing creative abilities and finding ways to expand knowledge and skills
  5. Occupational—Personal satisfaction and enrichment from one’s work
  6. Physical—Recognizing the need for physical activity, healthy foods, and sleep
  7. Social—Developing a sense of connection, belonging, and a well-developed support system
  8. Spiritual—Expanding a sense of purpose and meaning in life

As a counselor who has been helping people strengthen their life wellness for 20 years, I regularly talk with my clients about the importance of fostering each & every one of those different aspects of their lives.  The one area of focus I would like to highlight here today is your environmental health – your personal & professional environment.

Where we live, work & play greatly influences our health & wellbeing.  High-stress, toxic, dangerous, unsupportive & uninspiring personal & professional environments can take a toll on our mental, physical, emotional, social & occupational health.  It can overwhelm & bring us down, make us chronically unhappy, keep our lives stuck & unfulfilled & can even make us physically sick.

Dan Buettner, National Geographic Explorer & best-selling author of The Blue Zones of Happiness, has studied the longevity of people living around the globe & has collected myriad data regarding common factors that help cultivate long-term health & happiness in life.  In a recent National Geographic article by George Stone regarding The Happiest Cities In The United States some of Buettner’s research is discussed:  “ for scientists studying the roots & fruits of happiness, location-specific qualities of place, community, and opportunity powerfully inform the way we feel about our lives”.  The article goes on to say that social scientists have come up with 15 metrics “from eating healthy and learning something new every day to civic engagement, financial security, vacation time, and even dental checkups – that signal happiness.

So if where you are living or working or going to school or spending your spare time is not a healthy environment that supports good health & overall well being, then it’s important to consider what you can do to make changes.  No doubt, easier said than done sometimes to make life changes… and also doable with hard work, strong motivation, determination, a can do attitude, a growth mindset & a realistic & time-framed plan.

In the late 1990’s when I was a newbie to the helping profession I attended a motivational seminar where the speaker asked her audience two very profound & life impacting questions…she asked us what we would you do if we knew we only had a short period of time (1 month, 6 months, 1 year) to live.  She wanted to know exactly how we would change our lives to do what we could to ensure our final days on this planet would be the best they could be.

Hands went up all over the room with people begging to say what they would do if they knew their time was short.  I would quit my job, I would go on vacation with my family, I would move to a warmer climate…so many people verbalized with great excitement what they were willing to do to make their final time on this planet the best it could be.

After people responded loudly & clearly to the speakers thought-provoking question she then asked one final question that has stuck with me ever since & continues to impact me every single day…she asked us how did we know we didn’t have only a short period of time to live.  She went on to say what all of us likely know but may not acknowledge in daily life…none of us know how much time we have to live our lives.  None of us know when our life as we know it in this current shape & form will come to an end.  Today is all we truly have & tomorrow is promised to no one.  We can’t change the past, all we can do is do the best we can today & hope that we are granted the opportunity to move forward & live another day tomorrow.

If you are living in a difficult, challenging, unhealthy, unsupported, unfulfilling, dangerous environment & you believe your life is worth making the effort to change then put a plan in place to make those changes that will make you healthier, happier, more fulfilled & safe.  Anything is possible with the right mindset & there is support out there in the form of counselors, life coaches & mentors if you need it.

Strength, hope, peace & light to all.  Believe!