Reading the Signs of Well-Being
Taking the scenic road to well-being means that I use therapies and practices which take time, some of which are short-term, and some of which are long-term; some methods bring immediate results, while other methods work like a snowball effect, with noticeable changes occurring much later in time. Some methods work synergistically with each other; other methods overlap and thus some become superfluous. And as with anything we do, some methods are more effective than others.
When I relied solely on medical science for my well-being, things were simple: take the pill, watch the effect. End of story. It helped or it didn’t. The holistic approach is a complex world view with complex choices and outcomes. Looking at all the subjective, objective, individual and collective factors at play in health and well-being demands taking actions that cover all the bases, according to priorities and the available resources. The holistic methods are not institutionalized - how can they - even if more organizations and disciplines are becoming integrative. The ultimate responsibility befalls on you: you decide what methods, practitioners and practices to engage, and you monitor your health and well-being to see what works and what doesn’t.
Part of being less than well is a dissociation from the body. Some jargon calls this being “ungrounded”, others describe a feeling of being spaced-out. A disembodied lifestyle, living from the neck up, as well as unresolved trauma, cause disassociation - a lack of awareness of one’s own body and feelings. When you are unaware, you don’t know that you don’t know how you are doing - it’s very much like being drunk. So you need sign-posts to point towards your current state of being - like the time when I threw away the kitchen sink strainer together with the garbage immediately after an accident that gave a blow to my head.
Here are some of my sign posts that I look at on my own personal journey to well-being. The list is not a set of instructions to adopt and follow; nor is it a complete list of possibilities. It is what has been guiding me, according to my personal subjective preferences and sensitivities, and objective circumstances and resources. I hope this gives you an idea where to look as you navigate your own scenic road to well-being.
How often do you laugh? How do you wake up in the morning? I know that I am doing well when I wake up with a reflexive stretch and a smile on my face. How is the quality of your dreams - pleasant or unpleasant? When I laugh in my dreams, I know that I am doing very well!
- Stamina and endurance
How much of your “to do” list are you able to accomplish on a daily basis? Do you workout or practice some kind of embodied practice? And if you do, do you force yourself do it because you should, or do you look forward moving because you have all this energy that prompts you to? How long can you be active before you rest - take a nap, or even sit down? For me this last question is quite relevant to my current levels of stamina.
- Balance, Coordination and Agility
What I can and cannot do on the yoga mat is highly illustrative of the state of well-being: can I balance myself on one foot and stay relaxed, without wobbling? There are days when I can, and days when I can’t.
- Sexual drive
It’s as simple as that: your libido is your vitality. An unusually low sex drive compared to what you know your normal to be indicates a decline in well-being. Your drive is high, and the juices flow? You’re doing pretty well!
- The mirror
Bad hair days are in fact “unwell” days. Look at your face in the mirror, and watch for the shine and shape of your hair - is it dull and frizzy, or shiny and smooth? Are your eyes dull or bright? Is your skin pale, or is there colour indicating good blood flow? Are your lips dry and chapped or moist?
- Spaciousness and mobility
Chronic contraction of the body leaves the joints stiff and painful, the movements clunky and rigid, and the breath shallow and confined. I find my own breathing to be speaking clearly about how well or unwell I am: if it’s rapid and shallow while at rest, I am not so well. If my breathing is full, slow and soft on the top of the inhale and the bottom of the exhale, I am doing well!
- Creativity and Intuition
I like doing things with my hands: painting, drawing, cooking, doing crafts. And I like writing. When I sit in front of my computer screen and nothing comes out of my fingertips resting on the keyboards, or when I sit in front of a canvas or paper, and nothing shapes up that I like, I know I am off balance, off centre, and doing not so well. Creativity comes spontaneously and compels expression - when you’re well, you write, dance, cook, paint, create and innovate new ideas and things because a compelling creative drive from within you.
Intuition is “knowing things without knowing how you know them” - it’s the gut feeling that steers you towards what’s nourishing and sustaining for you and that which you love. Both intuition and creativity require clarity of the nervous system.
- Relationships with people and pets
There is a saying in Romanian, my native language: “When two people tell you that you’re drunk, go take a nap!”. Your interpersonal interactions will mirror your state of well-being to you: is there a flow of harmony between you and others, or conflict? Pets reflect this even more truthfully: my dog was an easy, sweet-tempered girl, with just a touch of stubbornness. It didn’t take much for me to lead her, but I had to be balanced. If I called her and she didn’t respond, I knew I something was not quite right with me. In my good days, she’d happily come to me and follow.
This is an easy sign post to observe first thing in the morning, when you decide what to wear! My difficult days would find me standing in front of my wardrobe, doors open, clueless about what I wanted to wear that day. I find decisiveness to go hand-on-hand with creativity and intuition: easily accessed when balanced, centred and well, and blocked when unwell.
Can you think of times when bad things seem to come all at once? That’s when you are not centred or well, and that series of mishaps are telling you about it.
Can you think of times when everything seems to flow for you, and one good thing leads to another, and another? Everything that you do seems to go easily and naturally, sometimes synchronistically - and when that happens, you know that you are “in a good place” - you are well.
Whenever I adopt a new practice or engage in a new therapeutic method for my well-being, I look for the changes that follow the practice of therapy sessions. Sometimes there is a worsening of symptoms, like the homeopathic aggravation or a healing crisis. A healing crisis is usually intense and short-lived. If it lasts long, it points towards a worsening of the state of well-being and flashes the alarm towards something going wrong.
I know that whatever I am doing for well-being is effective and useful when I can easily name a noticeable change in my mood, stamina, balance, libido, aesthetics, mobility, clarity, decisiveness, relationships and flow.