Just over a year ago I went camping with my husband and daughter. While they went hiking I sat by the campfire, looking up at the sky through the dense branches of 80-foot fir trees, wondering if I’d ever be back.
Most nights, I was up stumbling around outside of the tent, because of the pain of my arthritis made it hard to lie still. I was so tired during the day, I could barely focus long enough to have a conversation or read by the fire. I lurched around the campsite with a muddy-tipped cane, struggling not to fall over tree roots. My patience level with the family? Zilch.
This had been going on for months. I was grouchy, uncomfortable and unwell.
But, I love to camp. To think that I wouldn’t want or be able to do it anymore made me feel worse. Sicker. If that’s even possible.
That morning as I sat by the fire alone I made the decision to recover my wellness so that I could at least come camping again.
Wellness is a result of our ability to do the things we want to do. While there are varying degrees of wellness there are things we can all do to live closer to the things that are meaningful and satisfying to us. This takes some work and we may have to make modifications – for example, I needed a higher air mattress instead of one so low to the ground, so that I could stand up easier – but when we are able to participate in the things we find satisfying, we feel better and actually create better health.
The process of wellness, then, starts by recognizing what makes you feel good and well.
Right now, pause and think about that. What are you doing when you feel alive and vibrant? Who are you with? What matters to you enough to want to keep doing it?
Now, get specific.
What are the things you want to achieve in the next 30 days?
And, what do you physically need to do to achieve it?
One of my early goals was to sleep through the night more often then I didn’t. I needed to look at my diet, my medical care, and my habits to figure out how I could improve my sleep patterns.
I started with acupuncture and the first night after treatment, I slept nine hours straight. Goal achieved. A little of my wellness regained. I went into physical therapy starting with two or three days a week and daily exercises on my own, until I began to get stronger and no longer needed a cane to get out of bed. Another goal achieved.
Once you know what you want to achieve in that 30-day period, you can take baby steps every day toward that little goal. Then, next month set a new one.
Often my wellness goals are spiritual, emotional, mental. Gratitude makes me feel good, so one month my goal was to have a designated gratitude practice every day. I needed to schedule the time to do that.
Even if you are in great health, this is an important exercise to do because it keeps us focused on what matters to us as a whole person and keeps us moving toward that. Wellness is to be cherished and cultivated, not just when you are ill, but throughout the phases and stages of our lives.
In August, I was back by a campfire again, looking up through the branches of those same trees, the ones that had weathered 200 years of storms. I’d been through a storm too.
But this time, as I sat by the fire in the quiet, I gave thanks. Then, I got up and easily walked to the picnic table where I grabbed a cup of coffee and a book to read by the fire. Wellness regained.