When we think about health and wellness, we usually think of physical well-being. For some of us, it means dropping those excess pounds and eating more fruits and vegetables. For others, it could mean finally taking the step to quit smoking or drinking. There are other aspects of wellness that are just as profound and important as diet and exercise.

We need more than nourishment and movement. To achieve ultimate health we must have emotional, physical, financial, and environmental wellness. We can’t be completely healthy when one or more of these aspects are off kilter. Of course, it can seem overwhelming to keep all of these things in alignment at one time. However, if we just take small steps we can slowly ascend into a healthier and happier lifestyle.
We all know what we need to do for physical fitness. We need to exercise, eat a healthier diet and stay away from processed, fatty, and sugary foods. For some people, it can be too much of a shock to attempt to change overnight. Instead, try making one change a week. Replace your soda with water one week. Next week add a salad or a piece of fruit to every meal. The following week walk outside or on a treadmill for half an hour. Buy an exercise DVD and use it on a daily basis. The next week resolve to quit buying fast food. Research the various options available for quitting smoking. Set a date for quitting and find a support system. Slowly but surely you can make the shift. As you notice how much better you feel, that you’re finally losing weight and have more energy you will be even more motivated. Instead of overwhelming it will seem as if a new world is opening up for you.

Emotional fitness is more difficult but not impossible. Again it’s probably one of the most difficult things for humans to achieve, in essence, because “we’re only human.” We all have issues and personal relationships that need work. Although we all experience similar emotions and scenarios we are all different in how we react and process them. Realizing that you want to improve your mental health is the first step towards doing this. Stress is one of the biggest emotional drains on so many people in this country. Exercise and eating well work to help manage stress. Many people feel that they have too much to do, too many people to take care of and no time to care for themselves. It is important to realize that it’s just as vital to care for yourself as others. You matter just as much as anyone else. Once you realize that you can sort out what it is you need. Do you need a period to yourself once a day? Perhaps you hate your job, and every morning it is sheer torture to drag yourself to it. Resolve to change that. Ask for help. Write down your goals and look at them every day. Change them according to what you’ve accomplished and how your perspective has changed. It will help you stay aware that you are accomplishing things, even if it’s not as quickly as you wanted. Take time for yourself to recharge and ruminate about your inner self. Nobody else can do that for you.

Financial fitness is another important aspect of our total well-being. If our finances are jumbled, in debt, or painfully stretched from month to month, then we become stressed out and unfocused. All we can think about is how to pull ourselves out of the pit. The numerous “re-fi” and credit card offers are not helping matters either. Desperate people find themselves plunging deeper and deeper into debt and despair. There are ways out. Again take things one step at a time. First, you have to step back and take a hard look at your finances, what you spend and what is coming in. You might need some professional help to do this. There are numerous qualified people out there who can help. Just make sure you do some research and choose a certified professional with a good reputation. After you have assessed all of your income and spendings take a good look at your lifestyle. Are you living way beyond your means? Do you buy clothes and other things because you need them or because you want them? That is the question to ask yourself from now on. Want, or need? Do you really need the riding lawn mower for your tiny yard? Do you need that pair of shoes when you have ten others in the same color? Do your children need to wear name brand clothes when they grow out of them in a matter of months? Does your small family live in a home built for 8? These are the kinds of questions you have to answer if you want to pull yourself out of debt. You will find more satisfaction from paying off bills, saving some money every month, and easing your financial stress than you will from buying a thing you will probably throw in the closet and forget about.

Successful personEnvironmental wellness is the final piece of total health. We’re working on better health habits, stress reduction, paying off bills, but we’re spraying our homes with chemicals to make them “clean.” Did you know that many common household cleaners and detergents have deadly chemicals in them, such as chlorine, chloroform, phosphates and other poisonous and environmentally unsound ingredients? We spray these things in our home to kill bacteria and other organisms and keep our families healthy and clean. We are exposing ourselves to harmful toxins that can build up over time in our bodies and the environment. Green cleaners and detergents are just as effective at cleaning and destroying bacteria without the poisons. They are not any more expensive and are usually sold in concentrated form so you can save plastic too. Every time you run out of one of your chemical cleaners replace it with a green product. Pretty soon you will have a chemical free home this is still clean and healthy. It’s a small step towards environmental health that will have a large impact in the long run. Resolve to make a change each week to be a “greener” person. Each time a light bulb burns out to replace it with an energy-efficient one. If you drive your children to school, turn off your car in the waiting line instead of idling. Take shorter showers. Encourage your children to research online and have them pick a change to make. They don’t have to be big dramatic gestures, like buying a hybrid car, to help. Every little bit counts and you, your family, and the environment will enjoy better health in the long run.

Life can seem overwhelming at times, and we can all despair that there is nothing we can do. There are many small steps we can each make to help ourselves and each other. It’s my “tortoise and the harephilosophy. The rabbit may be the first through the finish line, but the tortoise makes it there too by placing one foot in front of the other. He probably enjoys the view more than the rabbit did. So be kind to yourself and others, value your worth, and keep moving forward.