Embarking on the Journey

Holistic Wellness. It’s all the rage these days. Google it and 5 gazillion matches will pop up: blogs, foodies, centers, products, podcasts, logos… and the list goes on. Our society loves the idea of it, talking about it, dancing around it, and Googling it, but there is a disconnect. If we are so wellness-obsessed, why are we still hearing the abysmal statistics about the continuing health decline of the people living in our country? Why the disconnect? Why are we hovering around the intrigue of wellness and not diving right in? Ask any physician, drug company, or health insurance company and they will tell you: real Holistic Wellness is a hard sell. It’s abstract, somewhat undefined, and highly individualized. Deep down, we all know we desperately need it, we’re just not sure how to go about getting it and there is no quick fix or simple answer. Our children need to be taught, which takes time, persistence, connection to a larger purpose, and nitty gritty hard work. For wellness educators like me, to see the change one child, one student, one individual at a time is not about money. It’s a labor of love.

In addition to teaching my own children, I teach Holistic Wellness to high school kids in Memphis, TN. The curriculum I have designed is built on pillars of wellness that my students learn to incorporate during their high school years. The concepts of wellness they learn reach far beyond the walls of the school, and my overarching goal is to infuse the facets of wellness into the future success of my students.  Once they reach graduation prepared to pursue (or figure out) their passions, they understand that wellness cannot be extrapolated from the success equation. To have long-term success and happiness, wellness must be practiced. There simply is no other way.

The beginning of Holistic Wellness Education begins with the deep understanding that it is not a means to an end. It is the foundation upon which life-long, sustainable success is built. I would confidently wager a bet that you know someone who fits this description: A brilliant and wildly successful, driven workaholic who is sedentary, lives on fast or processed food, stressed to the max, and makes no time in her schedule for leisure or hobbies. Of course, you do; and I know you are well-aware of what happens next in the story. We just all hope that what happens next is not the end of the story. Building success in life without a strong foundation in wellness is living life in a house of cards.

So, what is this holistic stuff about, anyway? Am I urging students to buy organic herbs from Whole Foods? Hardly. My holistic approach simply means that I consider all the parts of wellness that kids—that people – need to learn to fully thrive. The whole is much more than the sum of its parts. All elements of wellness work together to strengthen each other, and one part is no more or less important than the other. My approach in teaching Holistic Wellness goes something like this:

We must pay attention to how our lives are balanced, or we may inappropriately allocate our focus and time, and could become bored or burned-out. If our time is not managed well, stress sets in and sleep suffers. When we are tired, or feeling stressed, we often make poor nutrition choices attempting to find quick energy or comfort. If we are not fueling our bodies properly with healthy foods, we are more likely to become sick. And exercise is the glue that holds it all together- adding strength to all aspects of wellness.

We practice, then we talk about it, then we practice some more. For four years my students weave the truths of wellness into their lives so that by the time they move on, it is beautifully engrained. They know no other way. I care about these kids. I care about the future health of our community and our nation. To make real change happen, I know no other way.

I have taken on this crusade. I hope other schools, parents, businesses, local governments join me in teaching Holistic Wellness Education. When my students have families of their own, I anticipate hearing new health statistics, but I can’t do it alone. Help me be the change.

Yesterday, I watched students walk across the stage at graduation, knowing that they are more than academically equipped to excel at their college of choice, and that they have the strong foundation of wellness to build a life of health, success, and happiness. They will come to forks in the road and hit some inevitable bumps, as we all have. The difference is that the walls of their houses are made of iron, not cards, and they will continue their journeys upward. They are going to be fine. No… they are going to be well. Whether watching as an educator, parent, friend, or mentor, there is no greater feeling.

In the next post, I will begin diving into how you can teach life-long wellness to your children, your students, maybe even yourself.

Go forth and be WELL!

Heather

You’ll Either Love Me… or Run the Other Way

My mother has said that when I was a little girl, I loved hearing adults tell me about their lives. I remember being fascinated by these stories because, for me, they served to the connect the dots to help me understand who they became. I asked about what they did for fun, what made them mad, who they dated, how they got in trouble, who their best friend was, their favorite subject in school, what their grandparents were like, how they spent their summer, the meals their mother cooked, their neighborhood… on and on and on. You get the idea. Any information about who they were, I craved.

I was doing my own version of Oprah’s Master Class when she was still an anchor on the local news.

Fast forward to high school- I asked everyone what they thought their major would be in college. In college, I wanted to know how everyone thought they would use their degree. After graduation, I would listen to whoever would tell me about their 5-year plan. Friend or stranger, it didn’t matter. I was all ears.

I never memorized my multiplication tables. Please don’t ask me what seven times four is. I can’t tell you. But by golly, if you ever told me anything about who you are, it is etched in stone in my mind forever. I drive some people crazy. Heck, I drive myself crazy sometimes. If I meet you for the first time, at the very least I’ll need to know where you grew up before the conversation can go much further, but I try not to let my questions get out of hand. More on this quirk of mine in a minute…

In case you’re wondering (and how could you possibly not be?), my favorite subject in high school was anatomy and physiology. It answered my questions about how the human body worked, much like the conversations I had with people answered my questions about how their minds worked. My major in college (are you on the edge of your seat?) was Exercise Science, and (just so you know) I put my degree to good use for about 20 years teaching group exercise classes and personal training. My approach as a trainer was definitely different. If you watched me training my clients, you would see them sucking air and dripping sweat as they answered my questions about things like the church they attended growing up and how it shaped their current belief system. My tactics didn’t work for everyone, however. It seemed like there was always a soon-to-be bride in my client rotation who I helped to look amazing in her wedding gown. There’s certainly nothing wrong with her wanting to look great on her wedding day, but with no connection to a higher purpose, I knew her reason for taking up exercise would likely end the day of the rehearsal dinner. I began to see that while exercise is an important piece of wellness, exercise alone will not make someone fully well. During these years I became increasingly interested in the connection between wellness and its importance in supporting the essence of the individual. Wellness is an intricate web made of many components that are woven together to uphold the being that sits at its center. If some spindles are broken, the precious life in the core of the web struggles and falls. I knew these connections I was helping to make for my clients were meaningful and also gave me a greater sense of purpose for my own life.

Over the years, I have come to realize why I ask all these questions. Every single person I meet I see as someone who fills a vital role on this earth, and whose unique qualities we cannot do without. If you are here, you have a purpose, and I have an innate desperation to know what your “earthly job” is. If you don’t already know, I have to help you figure it out, or else I can’t sleep at night. I wish this was an exaggeration. I’ll wake up in the middle of the night with a new question or idea for someone that may turn a stone to bring them one step closer to figuring it out.

From my work with countless clients, it became clear to me:

People who are well have a clearer knowledge of their purpose, and people who know their purpose have a stronger yearning to be well.

My job? I help people make the purpose-wellness connection.

My children are the only humans who have walked this earth to whom I don’t ask a thousand questions. I don’t have to. I get to see their childhood unfold and watch with wonder as their interests and talents emerge. Jack is 14, Caroline is 12, and Jules is 7. Only they truly know what their purpose is. All I know is that they have one and that it’s important. My obligation is to love them, support their unique talents and interests, show them right from wrong, and teach them how to be WELL. My hope for this blog is to offer ideas and suggestions for other parents to also teach their children wellness. It’s not easy, and you’ll either love me or run the other way, but I so hope you join me.

And… if I have the pleasure of meeting you one day, when you tell me your name, go ahead and tell me the city where you were born. It’ll just make things easier on both of us.

Go forth and be WELL!

Heather