Posted By NWI,
Monday, May 21, 2018
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Originally Posted By NWI, Monday, May 8, 2017
To access the current and 60 plus members only archived International Wellness Connection articles, become a member HERE >>
Dr. Halima Goss, PhD
Doctor and wellness advocate
As a small town medical doctor (with a Wellness framework in mind), I am challenged daily to balance treatment models and wellness goals. In the crafting of patient care, my intention is to patiently combine modern medicine and Wellness based ideals with compassion and kindness. I work with nurses, physiotherapists, podiatrists, optometrists and a host of other allied health professionals. It is unfortunate in Australia that our public medical funds purse has yet to embrace Wellness coaches as allied health professionals. The upshot is that we are unable to include Wellness coaches as part of “team care plans” for eligible patients. If a person wishes to use a Wellness coach, they must fund 100% of the fees. This is in contrast to other professional groups like for example psychologists, exercise physiologists, and dietitians whose fees are recoverable through our Medicare system. With time, and greater attention to refining effective paradigms and practices in both medicine and other professions, Wellness constructs as guiding principles may flow more freely. For now, those who adopt and practice Wellness in treating and helping patients with Illness are those individuals who strive to empathize and educate in transformative ways.
In authoring this article, I hope to share some ideas that are inspiring and helping me develop in my role. Whilst these ideas may not come from the Wellness literature, I am convinced that they should be essential reading for those wanting to pursue Wellness based practice.
Recently, I learned about a concept called “presence” from the field of existential analysis in psychiatry. Author, Kirk Schneider (2015) offers this definition: “a complex mix of appreciative openness, concerted engagement, support, and expressiveness, and it both holds and illuminates that which is palpably significant within the client and between client and therapist.”
Schneider (2015) further notes that presence “ embraces a much fuller and richer range of elements that may include a degree of discord and discomfort with another person.”
In contrast to mindfulness, presence is a mutual currency which we spend freely to grow honest and respectful curiosity within relationships. Schneider (2015) states that “unlike conventional mindfulness, presence does not concertedly aim to dissolve the identity of self (if that is even achievable), but to expand, deepen, and redefine the identity of self. Finally, unlike conventional conceptions of mindfulness, presence aims to coexist with and integrate not necessarily detach from suffering”.
I began to reflect on how this idea fitted with those from Wellness coaching paradigms. Wolever et al (2013) defined Health and Wellness coaching as:
A patient-centered approach wherein patients at least partially determine their goals, use self-discovery or active learning processes together with content education to work toward their goals, and self-monitor behaviors to increase accountability, all within the context of an interpersonal relationship with a coach. The coach is a health care professional trained in behavior change theory, motivational strategies, and communication techniques, which are used to assist patients to develop intrinsic motivation and obtain skills to create sustainable change for improved health and well-being.
This definition is heavily technocentric and is perhaps more closely aligned to traditional medical approaches than humanistic approaches. Transformative learning is the hoped for outcome, but without a shared journey of transformation, is the process likely to be effective?
Schneider strongly encourages that psychotherapy training must incorporate humanistic and relational qualities to help trainees become well-rounded (engaging-empathic) people, not just competent technicians. He (2015) concludes:
” the optimization of presence is neither “performed” nor “enacted.” It is lived.
Wellness based practice must also consider these urging. Perhaps a good starting point may be found in the work of Geller and Green berg (2012) who describe four dimensions that are key to therapeutic presence—
-the sense of being grounded, which includes feeling centered, steady, and integrated inside one’s own body and self;”
-the sense of being immersed “in the moment with the client;”
-the sense of “spaciousness or an expansion of awareness and sensation while being tuned into the many nuances that exist at any given moment with the client;” and
-the sense of “intention for presence to be with and for the client’s healing process” (p.109).
Knowing oneself first would seem to be the aim. Could the spiritual dimension hold a key to unlocking personal qualities that blend to help one practice presence? Unfortunately, the spiritual dimension of wellness whilst recognized by many pioneers of wellness and certainly celebrated as integral by ancient scholars of wellness seems too often to be confused with orthodox belief systems, rituals and structures. It behooves us to consider re- elevating this dimension in the ranks of our training, work, research and promotion efforts. Within it, alongside “encouragement” and “imagination” sit so many values which hold the essence of human endeavour in the quest for optimum social, environmental and physical harmony. Perhaps it holds a key to humanistic, relational transformative education for Wellness coaching training. Could it be a pivot point as Eberst (1984) suggested many decades ago?
In my doctoral thesis, I had a unique opportunity to offer a synthesized description of the Wellness paradigm. In writing this article, I decided to revisit that description (copied below for your reference)
The Wellness paradigm is concerned with the optimum functioning of individuals in society. A Well person’s awareness, understanding and active decision-making capacity align with their values and aspirations. A Wellness lifestyle is the commitment and approach adopted by an individual aiming to reach their highest potential for purposes greater than themselves. The outcome of a Wellness lifestyle is a capacity to contribute in positive and meaningful ways to one’s community, society and the welfare of the earth. An individual who adopts a Wellness lifestyle aims to seek and use knowledge to live with balance across the multiple dimensions of their health and wellbeing in concert with others and their environment. On a continuum between low-level Wellness and high-level Wellness, individuals continually move between various states of physical, psychological and spiritual harmony and vary in their capacity to reach aspirations and goals. Appropriate learning strategies, tools and techniques are necessary for one to achieve higher levels of Wellness. (Goss, 2015)
On reflection, I would probably add one more sentence which I recently heard uttered by a respected Australian (our former Governor General Ms Quentin Bryce): The greatest journey we must make is the journey to the center of our self.
I have realized that often times the seemingly simple act of being present with my patients is the key to open the door to the healing process for them. Whilst many of my colleagues in medicine may feel a little uncomfortable with quotations from complementary and alternative medicine or therapy, I believe the collective wisdom is far too valuable to ignore. I share the following quote as an acknowledgment and a reminder to those who wish to be transformed by their practice and to support others in their journeys to Wellness and Health.
Samuel Hahnemann, the founder of homeopathy, gave a magnificent description of health, when he wrote, ‘In the healthy condition of man, the spiritual vital force, the dynamics that animates the material body, rules with unbounded sway, and retains all the parts of the organism in admirable, harmonious, vital operation … so that our indwelling, reason-gifted mind can freely employ this living, healthy instrument for the higher purpose of our existence.’ [Aphorism 9, The Organon].
As an international wellness community, we have a unique opportunity to encourage the scholars of the future from all over the world to continue to seek integrative paradigms, methods and practices that serve to unlock the secrets to curing every disease that exists. May your journeys be fruitful.
Eberst, R. (1984). Defining Health: A Multidimensional Model. Journal of School Health,54. 99-104.
Geller, S.M. & Greenberg, L.S. (2012). Therapeutic presence: A mindful approach to effective psychotherapy. Washington, DC: APA Press.
Goss, H.B. (2011). Wellness education: An integrated theoretical framework for fostering Transformative Learning. PhD Dissertation, School of Human Movement Studies, Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation, Queensland University of Technology.
Schneider, K. (2015). Presence: the core contextual factor of effective psychotherapy. Existential Analysis, 26(2), 304-313.
Wolever RQ, Simmons LA, Sforzo GA, Dill D, Kaye M, Bechard EM, Southard ME, Kennedy M, Vosloo J, Yang N. A systematic review of the literature on health and wellness coaching: Defining a key behavioral intervention in healthcare. Global Adv Health Med. 2013;2(4):34–53.
Dr Halima Goss (PhD, MBBS, B App Sci, Grad Cert Mgt, Dip Teach) is a medical doctor and wellness advocate in Far North Queensland, Australia. Her career has spanned a number of fields including science, education, technology, health and wellness, psychiatry and family medicine.
A founding member of the National Wellness Institute of Australia (NWIA) she has presented Wellness topics to wide and varied professional groups from the corporate, government, industrial, medical and education sectors. She retains a heartfelt hope and enthusiasm for the coalescence of ideas and ideals born of cultural values which seek a kinder, more caring world with love as the most valued commodity. She can be contacted via email at email@example.com.
Posted By Ferroudja Meghenem,
Sunday, May 13, 2018
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Facilitated by Ferroudja Meghenem (CEO Wellness Values)
This workshop had two main objectives: learn some keys to enable participants to better know themselves through the wellness path and be able to identify their individual areas of improvement in order to increase personal well-being.
At the beginning, I shared wisdom from the famous Chinese philosopher Confucius, which resonates with me and was I felt a good way to introduce the topic of Wellness: “The plant which grows very easily will never flourish when exposed one day to sun and ten days to cold. To be able to grow, the plant needs to be exposed regularly to sun.”
Before presenting the wellness concept, I first asked each participant their own definition of Wellness in one word spontaneously. I was not really surprised about the answers. The main words that emerged are the following: “balance”; “harmony”; “well-being”.
In France, the term ‘Wellness’ is applied in many ways. In particular, it has long been used by the SPA and thalassotherapy industry. If we search for a brief definition on the internet, it is usually translated by “well-being”/“bien-être”.
This workshop was a great opportunity for me to share, with people in France, another definition of Wellness. That used by the National Wellness Institute in the United States. This is the definition that I personally use and that I support as part of my professional activity: “Wellness is, above all, an active process through which people become aware of, and make choices toward, a more successful existence”.
The word ‘active’ is important since it suggests the responsibility of each of us for our individual growth.
I presented to the group the six dimensions of Wellness developed in 1976 by Dr. Bill Hettler, co-founder of the National Wellness Institute (NWI):
- Occupational: Our personal satisfaction through work and the ability to establish balance between work and leisure time.
- Intellectual: Our desire to open ourselves to new experiences in order to continue growing.
- Emotional: Our capacity to understand our feelings and manage behaviours related to our emotional states.
- Social: Our behaviour towards each other, our contribution in our environment.
- Spiritual: Our capacity to discover meaning and purpose in life.
- Physical: Our capacity to take charge of our health by making conscious decisions to be healthy.
Based on this interpretation, we can state that our flourishing on earth or our sense of well-being is a combination of each of these dimensions with our own ratios of each. Even if we all have common needs, everyone is unique, so ratios may not be the same from one human to another. It depends on multiple things, such as our identity, our personal interests, our culture etc. Nobody on earth can achieve 100% on each dimension. The most important thing is be aware that we can improve some things in our life in order to better appreciate it.
Once the six dimensions of wellness had been presented and explained at the level of the individual, it was interesting to show how they also can be applied in the corporate environment. Indeed, as individuals should be aware of their own areas of improvement, so to companies should make the move to incorporate wellness as a core company value in the interest of both their employees and their bottom line.
The second part of the workshop consisted of presenting successful corporate case studies of organisations which have integrated wellness as part of their being - such as SAS Institute (US) or Brocade (US).
The last part of the workshop was intended to engage participants in an enjoyable experience. Participants were first asked to complete a questionnaire in order to assess their whole-person wellness. A discussion of their results in small groups followed. A spokes person from each group then presented a brief summary of their deliberations to the entire group.
The exchange was very rich in each group. I really appreciated the whole hearted participation and enthusiasm of each participant. Everyone was able to identify their areas of improvement. Some participants were positively surprised by their results and this has encouraged them to pursue their wellness journey.
Wellness is a delightful engaging topic and in the future we will have a lot more to say about it, at both the individual and corporate level in France!
Ferroudja Meghenem (Committee Member NWI International Standing Committee) is the CEO of WELLNESS VALUES, a strategic consulting firm specialized in Wellness. Ferroudja started her career in audit and strategy & organizational consulting. For several years, she advised important and medium size groups. Ferroudja Meghenem is also a passionate Woman who actively supports the values related to health and beauty of body and mind. As part of WELLNESS VALUES mission statement, Ferroudja helps companies and brands integrate a Wellness strategy within their organization and rethink their customers and employee experience.
Posted By Charles Spring,
Wednesday, April 25, 2018
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World Championship Martial Artist and lecturer Charles Spring discusses the benefits of older people taking up martial arts.
Martial arts have been established across the world for many thousands of years. Initially they were to prepare individuals for combat, and still are, however there is an aspect that in the modern era they are as much about, fitness, mental training and long term wellbeing, as well as being able to fight or protect oneself. Indeed the act of feeling confident and being able to protect oneself is possibly as much a part of wellness and wellbeing as is the mindfulness aspect of doing martial arts. Many of the modern Japanese martial arts have developed, especially since the beginning of the 20th century to include an aspect of Zen Buddhism, it is about developing the person as much as the art. This has featured in much of the material that has been written about them as well as in movies such as the Karate Kid, also from a Chinese perspective in TV series such as Kung Fu. Elderly masters in these shows are the arbiters of exclusive knowledge and life skills that transcend the physicality of martial arts, however the ones usually doing the actual fighting are often younger and this is something that when I first undertook martial arts was the norm. Young, usually males, taking part in the weekly classes. This has started to change, but is something that could be far more frequent. What follows below is how I feel the martial arts can help the more mature practitioner or potential practitioner. Being 55 myself and still very active in martial arts I feel I can help inform, I do have a 70 year old student whose brain I also used in putting this together. He started training with me when he reached 65 for something new to do in his retirement, by the end of this year he will be striving to gain his black belt.
So, how can martial arts help with wellness?
1. Physical wellness
Martial arts really is all-round exercise; it helps with flexibility, core strength, dependent on style of martial art, it is also works on stamina. It assists the elder student with balance as well as all who take part with hand, foot and eye co-ordination. Some would argue, alongside swimming, it is a complete physical training system.
2. Spiritual wellness
Some martial arts do have connection with Shintoism (the ethnic religion of Japan), Confucianism (some see this as a philosophy rather than a religion, but it built on ancient religious foundations to create social values and institutions for modern Chinese society)and Buddhism. However, most practised in the United Kingdom very likely only have some practices that indicate this, such as bowing in and meditation before or after practice. Through rigorous practice, an individual can move away from external problems and life issues and get away from day to day stresses. This helps get my mind into a better place, it allows me to really focus in on the act of what I am involved in, and it helps develop mindfulness. There is also beauty in the physical and developing an appreciation of the martial art enables you to see this.
3. Emotional wellness
Through both of the above, a more settled and peaceful emotional state can be forged. By allowing yourself to be expressed in what can be a physically challenging martial art, creates a more disciplined mind. It also allows you to get out some of the pent up emotions through the practice in the Dojo, the Dojo is the practice hall and seen as a place to focus on training and leave all the day to day baggage outside, however it is also a place where you can clear and cleanse your mind. You can focus all kinds of emotions into your practice. By establishing a daily practice, it is also possible to help balance your emotions into a more mindful self. Every day I run through several of my forms/katas, it is a kind of meditation for me, it clears my mind of clutter and enables me to be more balanced (forms/katas are prescribed sets of moves that you can run through on your own. When I do them I imagine the fight I am doing through the movements, I use imagery to really get focussed in on each movement, trying to make them as precise and effective as possible).
4. Occupational wellness
Martial arts keeps you fit and can often make you realise a bigger potential in yourself. This can really help in your work as it helps keep you healthy. It also often makes you more determined in achieving goals and targets which can translate well into your working life. However, if you do not work anymore, martial arts can encompass aspects of having a new career. My eldest student started martial arts when he was 65, now into his 70’s he uses the physical nature of martial arts to keep fit and have a focus. He uses the forms/katas to help keep his mind dexterous.
5. Intellectual wellness
Martial arts is a study for life; it is not just about getting the next grade or achieving a black belt. I have studied martial arts for 44 years now and still feel like I am only part way through the journey. I love to learn from others and share my experiences, these are both aspects of a student. Martial arts allow you to challenge your mind and body; through use of your physicality you learn what you can do, what is hard to do and, as you get older, what is not so easy anymore. Then you have to let your mind determine how this not-so-easy stuff can be done. Martial arts makes you use your brain. You learn patterns through forms and combinations of moves that for some come easier than others. However, whichever of these types of learners you are, martial arts helps you develop skills that enables your mind to keep active.
6. Social wellness
Though martial arts can be practised alone, there is a very large social aspect. In martial arts you usually train in a group. This group, for the vast majority, becomes like a family. My clubs have a very important social aspect, a friendly sociable atmosphere creates better bonds in the club. You begin to gain trust and friendship with those you practise with. The teacher, often for junior and younger students, is like a role model or father figure, and will often become a mentor. Elder students are given respect by others, as should be expected. Often there are annual events, such as prize givings and parties, and there are also the regular events, such as gradings or competitions where bonds can be forged. You can find a new social group through the practice of martial arts. Mine is worldwide, I have friends in around 75 different countries through martial arts.
7. Community wellness
How does martial arts help the community around us? Well, through the practice of martial arts students of it develop a better mind, body and spirit linkage. This helps forge, respect, appreciation of their surroundings through opening of their mind to what is possible for themselves and recognising potential in others. It also makes them less likely to be involved in generally bad behaviour. It keeps the individual fitter and healthier and enables them to be less of a burden on others and the NHS. Wellness interventions using martial arts have shown benefits in terms of social awareness and decreases in depression, this all feeds into a healthier community generally.
Charles Spring is a Senior Lecturer in spa and wellness management programmes at the University of Derby at the University’s Buxton campus. His research has recently been focussed in the area of wellness around the area of physical activity and especially using interventions with people with varying degrees of ability. Current lecturing duties in spa and wellness management, include specialisms in management areas around business development and entrepreneurship and contemporary issues within the discipline area. He is a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.
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Posted By NWI,
Wednesday, April 25, 2018
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Originally Posted By NWI, Tuesday, April 4, 2017
To access the current and 60 plus members only archived International Wellness Connection articles, become a member HERE >>
By Jana Stara
Doctoral student at the Masaryk University in Brno, Czech Republic
It is mid-December, a dark and cold winter evening. A group of 30 youth workers from all across Europe gather in an educational center in the middle of a Czech forest. They sit on chairs in a circle, silently they are thinking: What do I need to fully arrive here? What do I want to carry with me when I leave? What is this Well-ness? Where is the nearest restroom? They are at the beginning of The Game of Wellness, a 7-days Erasmus+ training for trainers. In this article, I will share with you how our training team introduced them to the essence of wellness through experiential training that combined the best of wellness, principles of gamification and non-formal teaching methods - inspiring them to do things like – adopting dogs, building their own standing desks or designing their own trainings. In short - some magic happened there.
What do you envision when you imagine the worst-case youth worker? When designing the Game of Wellness, we imagined a burnt-out person who works with great passion at the start of their career, but slowly loses the energy one day after another. Common issues being: Work-life non-balance (because when you work with passion, you don’t/shouldn’t care about long working hours, right?); low social and financial recognition (because nobody truly knows what you work on and you can never show a tangible product of your work - you are just playing with kids): a work task that can possibly never be accomplished (when can you be done with making this world a better place, making youth better humans?). Then again, I guess these few examples could apply to more helping professionals than just youth workers.
So, what was the aim of the Game of Wellness? To inspire youth workers to be good living examples of what they promote – an engaged and creative human being who is joyful and satisfied with their life, is engaged in their community, and makes active steps toward “bettering it." We have combined the core ideas of the two big trends that have spanned the world in last couple of years – wellness and gamification.
But what do those two trends have in common? It is the feeling of joy and sense of meaning and accomplishment you get when you are playing a game as well as when you are living a life full of wellness.
Think with me: What makes a good game?
It has a clear goal and set of rules – a game is no fun if you break the rules, they allow you to win and experience the reward. You usually play with other people. Sometimes you don’t even have to win to experience the joy of the play…. There are many more words that describe a game, but the idea is that gamification as such, is about adding the principles of games into daily mundane tasks that by themselves make no sense at all. In the context of a wellness lifestyle, a game is then the antidote for a tedious set of health recommendations, and too often, hard to achieve behavior change action steps.
In the context of our burnt-out youthworker – it doesn’t help to advise: “Live healthier, move more, eat less, work better.” It would just add to a ‘plate’ that is already ‘too full’. In the Game of Wellness we employed wellness oriented games to inspire them to have more joy and satisfaction in their work and in their life, which will allow them to live and work better and be more inspiring and valuable to their organizations, communities, youth, families and … everybody. (A bit simplistic explanation, but I hope you follow the red line!)
To be more specific, we set the following objectives:
- to promote and explore concepts of “wellness”, work-life balance and healthy lifestyle in the context of youth work; and the dissemination of these concepts and principles among young people
- to empower and motivate youth workers to develop and organize activities that support wellbeing and healthy lifestyle of youngsters in their communities
- to introduce practical tools (such as the wellness inventory) as a framework for promoting holistic health and personal development of young people and youth workers (including experiential methods and practical principles, inspired by concepts of gamification)
- to explore strategies/methods how to make personal and professional practice of a youth worker healthier, focusing also on prevention of burnout
- add inspiration, creative tools and approaches to their practice with emphasis on the uplifting aspects of youth work and to develop specific action plan of its implementation
like a great deal of work, right? So how did we do it? First of all, we had support from the Erasmus+ program that allowed us to gather a participant group of highly motivated individuals from 9 European countries - Czech Republic, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Poland, Romania, Spain, United Kingdom. The team of trainers consisted of Carmine Rodi Falanga (who covered the topic of games), Bara Rodi (medical doctor and expert in trainer’s skills and youth work) and myself (Introduction to wellness).
And we just locked these people together in one house, deep in a forest, for one week and the magic of learning happened by itself?
I hope you know I’m kidding! Instead, we designed a dramaturgy line that guided participants on their inside-out wellness journey that started with initial days of letting go of the burdens and re-discovering their personal wellness (wellness for me – what can I do for myself to feel and be better), to the second part of the training that was focused on community wellness (wellness for others –how to create more well-functioning workplace settings, youth programs, family spaces… how to bring wellness back home).
The training was built on non-formal teaching methods (because we know that just speaking about wellness doesn’t work) and that aspect was enhanced by the fact that our educational center was in a nature protected area. This allowed us to utilize outdoor activities– for example, introducing the 12 wellness dimensions in a nature walk was totally fun. We smelled the forest, ate leaves, searched for meaning in a nearby dark cave. Somehow automatically, nature steps in as an important factor or source of inspiration when you let people do what is good and natural to them.
On the other hand, when you tackle the topic of games, once the game starts, a great deal of chance is involved. We invited our participants to share their “wellness practices and activities” and we received so many proposals that we adjusted the training program plan. That is the magic of non-formal methods that allow for more creativity and employ the participants more than just as passive receivers of elaborate content. We were working with a resourceful group of professionals – from experienced directors of ecological centers, personal coaches, university professors, enthusiastic founders of new NGOs, artists, poets, student mentors and many others – and they came and put their skills on the table.
Our highest goal was to facilitate a “wellness experience” for the participants, so they would have physical proof that wellness is possible, that they could feel “like that”, and realize that they already had many resources in their hands. I think it is a common experience, when you start explaining wellness (or games or other theoretical concepts), speaking and thinking gets easily overwhelming. That’s why we had invited our participants to bring their own activities, and together we connected the practice of wellness and games with the theoretical context. It made them feel they were already on track, heading towards a “weller” tomorrow. More importantly, now that they knew the holistic context and had evaluated possible wellness gaps, left feeling capable and inspired to fill those gaps after going back home.
And when I say “wellness experience” you must bear in mind that we were still in Europe where wellness is at first thought related to spa and sauna. To address this topic, we visited the biggest wellness center in the Czech Republic. This we arranged in the middle of the training, as a segue from the wellness-for-me to the wellness-for-others training. It worked very well to bring deep physical relaxation and space for reflection.
Another, and from my point of view, a more important wellness experience, was the fact that for this one week, the group of 30 individuals lived in a community that was built on mutual respect, recognition, open and honest communication, support and friendship. Across the globe, these are topics that seem to have vanished from the ‘everyday’, especially in Europe in the times of Brexit and the refugee crisis. One needs to recharge one’s belief in humanity, even if it is just for a glimpse of time.
All-in-in, was this training successful? I guess I am not the one to judge, but, the feedback from our participants indicate “Yes, it was!!” But did their enthusiasm and excitement for wellness last longer than the week of training? A couple weeks after they returned home, we asked them ‘How is it going?’ Here are a few of the wellness promoting activities they reported engaging in:
- Conducting a workshop about conscious presence (Polish participant)
- Giving a talk show on TV (Irish participant)
- Developing a workshop about healthy sleep (Czech participant)
- Organizing Christmas family council (Polish participant)
- Remodeling and deepening previous workshop about watercolors (Romanian participant)
- Starting a project preparation about climbing and wellness (Romanian and Czech partnership)
- Implementing wellness ideas into therapeutic work with clients (Romanian participant)
- Promoting healthier workplace through group fitness activities and standing desks (Irish participants)
- Taking care of a homeless dog and providing her with medical treatment (Greek participant)
- Partnering a training course about employability (Czech - Hungarian partnership)
- Taking a year off to take full care of a spouse (British participant)
Conclusion: What they did back home – they did it themselves. In wellness coaching we believe that our clients are already whole, creative and resourceful and the same principle has proven itself in our training. We just held the space for them and the magic happened.
Jana Stara is a speaker, trainer and doctoral student at the Masaryk University in Brno, Czech Republic. She dedicated her research and lecturing practice to promoting the concept of wellness in her country with respect to different cultural environment and traditions in Europe. She teaches at the university, empowers individuals, consults companies and believes that better times for European wellness are yet to come.
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Posted By NWI,
Wednesday, April 25, 2018
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Originally Posted By NWI, Tuesday, March 7, 2017
To access the current and 60 plus members only archived International Wellness Connection articles, become a member HERE >>
PhD Candidate at Queensland University of Technology
All of my life I have been exposed to people from diverse cultural backgrounds. Those ongoing experiences fueled my desire to live in different places and led me to cultivate an interest in living overseas. I dreamed of being an international person living abroad and immersing myself in a new language and culture that was far away and foreign to everything I had ever known. I moved from Oahu, Hawaii to Sunshine Coast, Australia almost 4.5 years ago. The weather is similar enough as is the language, for the most part. Although living in Australia is comfortably similar to the United States, my lifestyle now includes more frequent international travel. Like many Aussies, extended surf trips allow me to experience immersion in other cultures where I enjoy practicing conversational Bahasa or exploring untamed Fijian landscapes alongside a briskly walking guide old enough to be my grandfather.
Living in Australia has been a life changing experience, however less foreign than I had anticipated. In the coastal suburb where I live beaches are easily accessible, the population is small but growing, people earn a reasonable wage for a high standard of living, accrue a descent amount of vacation time and generally enjoy a good quality of life. It truly is a great place to live and a seemingly safe place to raise children. I live in a regional area that easily affords local residents a lifestyle that is conducive to wellness. Our quaint beach pocket community is situated between a river mouth that fills into a small lake with the changing tides, a small creek, a coastline with a variety of surf – able beach breaks and a well maintained pathway that winds through protected national park bushland along the coast.
Nature based-physical activity is a major component of my life in Australia. There are only a few major cities and even those areas of dense urban development often feature natural landscapes, botanical gardens, harbor views and river footpaths that help to break up the intensity of city life. It appears that activity in nature is a central component of daily life that helps Aussies on the Sunshine Coast enhance their longevity and remain active as they transition across their lifespan. When I have the time, I particularly enjoy surfing with a group of mostly retiree’s who meet every morning at the beach access on my street. This group of people is representative of the active aging population that is encouraged and supported in Australia. People in these regional areas seem to remain more active because city councils maintain infrastructure for accessing beaches and national parks, participating in active recreation, and provide daily upkeep of outdoor entertainment and rest area amenities that permit people of all ages to enjoy the health enhancing features of restorative coastal landscapes.
Being a resident in Australia has helped me to live a wellness induced lifestyle. Although a train route has yet to be built connecting the Sunshine Coast to Brisbane where I attend University, my full or partial commute to the city is predominantly a tree lined highway that makes the drive much more relaxing. Oddly enough the thing that has most benefited my wellness journey is probably not what you would expect. Within the context of innumerable positive lifestyle components the thing that I feel has contributed most to improving my wellness has by far been the social impact. I am a woman of color. And whatever color my skin actually happens to be, in Australia, friends and strangers alike bring up my color as an issue or unsolicited topic of conversation. People here are probably not any different from people in the United States or any other westernized country but prior to moving here I personally had little to no experience with people who did not communicate in a reasonably politically correct manner.
In Australia, for some in all levels of society and for many in some levels, there is no such thing as political correctness; some might even say that the idea of being politically correct is laughable. For example pumpkin, cookies and cheese are openly advertised using terms that would in no way be considered politically correct in the USA. Similarly, roads and places still carry the names of historical laws and events that can be a reminder of past tragedy. While I am not suggesting support for these things, I must admit that my personal wellness has profoundly improved as a result of the Aussie way of “taking the p..s” and generally making light of, well of everything.
Initially these aspects of life in Australia were probably detrimental to my health and wellness. In recounting my experiences there are still things I have heard and experienced that I would be reluctant to repeat, but through these experiences I have connected with others and acquired more self responsibility in my wellness journey.
Admittedly I grew up a bit sheltered in a multi-ethnic family which allowed me to believe that Western societies had left certain beliefs and ideas in the past. For anyone who might have thought that was our history, I’m sure media and elections in the past decade have brought to light some surprising realities. However, I cannot speak for Australia’s Indigenous people, immigrants, refugees or various populations in Australia who might also be considered “other” like myself. Though fundamentally this speaks to an important yet neglected aspect of wellness, in western societies such as Australia or the United States the law provides a reasonable amount of protection within which individuals can explore ways to develop more wellness and specifically to break free of potentially limiting generational cultural and/or socioeconomic patterns.
Being born as a woman of color I will sometimes, maybe always, be placed in a certain social context. Beyond my lived experience there might always be a larger context that in some way pervades all aspect of my life. In recent decades such impacts have been enhanced as technology increasingly innervates life and continues to shrink our world as we establish global connectivity. As a result, our social and emotional experiences can be affected by those of others and not necessarily our own. By living in Australia where little is off limits I have gone beyond what had mostly been internalizing negative experiences of others. Aussie culture has created opportunities for me to experience what some people think and feel. Without rules about what is politically acceptable I sometimes find myself in conversations that reveal what might otherwise be obscured and provides an opportunity for me to better understand how people define and experience individuals or cultures they find different.
This has been the most health enhancing aspect of my experience in Australia because I have been presented with beliefs and ideas that I sometimes cannot comprehend yet they exist alongside my life and in my relationships with the people who hold these beliefs. My ability to live in a place where there is little to no ethnic diversity is evidence of the luxury of exploring self-identity and self-responsibility from within a somewhat protected space and this process demonstrates how dynamic adaptation can enhance our wellness journey. For example, someone who I have developed a friendship with recently said in matter of fact way that I was of an inferior race. He then revealed that it was said as a joke, and though believed by some, not actually true. This might sound horrendous, and it is actually the second time someone in Australia has said this to me though the other person was not making a joke. In no way do I intend to offend anyone in sharing this nor am I condoning such words. In sharing this I would like to express the transformation I have been through while living in Australia. I have heard enough to understand how some people have come to hold or even just consider such ideas.
As he said those words I had the most interesting experience. I felt this energy move through my body. It was some combination of appall and other unpleasant feelings. This was not a one on one experience either; he said it in a room full of people with whom I had no emotional connection. With pause he defined me as the only person in the room who was not part of the ethnic/racial mainstream as they saw it.
As he spoke my emotions were raised, and because I have heard such things so many times, I immediately processed his comment. I had actually previously heard enough of his ideas and words that I recognized those are his ideas and might even be a consensus in the room. Though I have never had any extreme obstacles due to being a woman of color, I grew up inspired by change makers and have been affected by the inspirational words of people like Viktor E. Frankl and Nelson Mandela. Inspired by others I’ve strengthened my self-identity and I have cultivated more self-responsibility as a direct result of experiences like this that are an example of the Aussie way of “taking the p..s” or giving people a hard time.
One of the many proposed models explains wellness as the functional or dysfunctional transformation of incoming and outgoing energy. I believe that my wellness has improved because I have nature all around me and submerge myself in it regularly. Being a resident in Australia has shown me that unrestricted communication in combination with the ongoing exposure to psychologically restorative landscapes that I experience when surfing helps me to process and transform energy in ways that continually improve my overall wellness and helps me to enhance my life in each composite domain.
I hope that sharing my personal wellness journey can help others explore unconventional opportunities to cultivate a more wellness enhancing lifestyle.
Kailani Marlow is a PhD candidate at Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane, Australia. Her thesis is an examination of the health effects of natural and built environments. She is passionate about helping people discover ways to have more vitality inducing experiences in their daily lives. In pursuit of this goal she has worked in various capacities with adults and children of all ages including infants, seniors, at risk youth, and children diagnosed with autism. Kailani is currently serving as student liaison officer for the NWI Australia. Kailani is currently a member of the National Wellness Institute of Australia Management Committee in the role of Student Liaison Officer.
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