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Teacher Newsmagazine Volume 20, Number 3, November/December 2007

On being well: The simple truth of wellness

By Julia Johnson

The October 27, 2007 Vancouver Sun, was a special edition on personal health and wellness. According to guest editor Dr. Penny Day, "Health is the No. 1 issue facing Canadians. That’s a very important reason to educate the public on the health system and their health care." Apparently, when it comes to determining how long we can be expected to live, Dr. Thomas Perls, who heads the New England Centenarian Study, (the world’s largest study of those over the age of 100) states, "that based on available research approximately 30% of our health is genetic, which means that 70% is within our control." For the past five years, the focus of this wellness column has been to work within the framework of these two perspectives—to educate by appealing to the wisdom we have been given, but often ignore, for making choices about our health that are within 70% of our control.

The central issue of implementing a healthcare plan is an early diagnosis from a skilled medical team. Today, the availability of the Internet enables individuals to begin this diagnostic process before seeing a doctor. With 5% of all Internet searches being health related this is evidence that people are endeavouring to take action for their own health. However, part of accepting responsibility for one’s health goes beyond seeking solutions only when ill health begins to rear its ugly head, but requires that we establish a preventative healthcare plan that is woven into the fabric of the way we live.

The very simple truth is we are brought to life with a first breath and our life ends with a last breath and in between these two breaths are the choices we make that create the wellness pages of the book of our life. More often than not these wellness pages are reduced to background images as we pursue education, careers, relationships, causes, financial success, and recognition. The lifetime pursuit of these goals easily becomes the foreground to the emotional drama that frequently has an impact upon our ability to keep well.

At the onset of life, however, as we learn and grow as children, our life is simple; it is not infused with complicated decisions that require logic and reason. The pages in our book as children are filled with the feelings and emotions we are experiencing at the time. We are either happy or unhappy based upon whether or not we like or don’t like what we are doing. If we like something and are happy, then we stay engaged in the activity. If we are unhappy and don’t like the experience then we become disengaged. Simple!

This simple truth is worth remembering when we are faced with life’s choices. Dr. Phil of TV fame has created a counselling empire using this simple truth with his renowned question, "How’s that working for you?" Such a question gets to the root of one’s feelings and helps determine a course of action that comes from the heart. When we make decisions that take into account how we feel, instead of only listening to the voice of logic and reason, we begin to understand what makes us happy, and what we are good at. With this knowledge we are better able to connect with the heart and soul of who we are, thus creating pages in our book of life where wellness becomes part of the foreground in all we do.

Julia Johnson, is a retired learning resource teacher in Quesnel and a BCTF PD wellness associate. livingjewels@shaw.ca.

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