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Is your life designed for optimal health?

Too often we focus on only one aspect of our health and wellness. As a result, we become terribly out of balance. We may be rocking it at work, but we're overstressed, not getting enough sleep, and eating on the run. Or, on the flip side, maybe our nutrition and exercise are right where they should be, but we're not paying sufficient attention to our social networks (the real people ones, not only the virtual ones!). Maybe you feel like you're lacking a purpose in your life (spiritual aspect of wellness). Maybe you know what you should be doing in all these areas, but procrastination and/or motivation is your sticking point. No matter what aspect of wellness you focus your attention on, it is important that all aspects are in balance but without over attention to any one such that the others suffer.

So ... how is such a balance achieved? Here are 7 takeaways to improve the health and wellness balance in your life:

  1. Take time off from work -- this may seem counterintuitive, but when we take time away, to decompress and disengage, more often than not we return reinvigorated. Our creativity is sparked, we realize that everyone survived our absence, and we may even have determined to set new boundaries on our work vs personal time. We realize that we are more than our work. After all, there's truth in the old saying: "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy,"

2. Social -- Strengthen your social network. Connect with friends and/or seek out new connections. Take a class, join an organization, volunteer for a cause you believe in. Make a commitment to connect with your network on a regular basis, ideally in person.

3. Physical -- Pay attention to your nutrition and be sure to get some movement in your life. Check out Harvard's Healthy Eating Plate ( Guidelines for adult physical activity are at least 150 minutes of moderate activity or 75 minutes vigorous activity per week along with strength training at least twice per week (

4. Mental -- Mental wellness includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It's how we think, feel, and act. It is a factor in how we handle stress, get along with others, and the choices we make. To promote mental wellness, make sure to make room in your life for relaxation and engaging in the activities you enjoy as well as for connecting with friends and family. Learn coping strategies to manage stress, anxiety and negative thoughts. If you experience unrelenting anxiety or depression, seek therapy.

5. Emotional -- This is closely tied to mental wellbeing and is an important part of overall health. It impacts your outlook on life, your relationships and your health. When you are emotionally healthy, you are resilient and bounce back quickly from adversity and stress. Emotionally healthy individuals are generally positive people with positive emotions, positive moods, thoughts, and feelings -- the glass half-full kind of people. Emotionally healthy people are more reflective than reactive, able to reflect on themselves and their actions. Ways to improve emotional wellbeing are through exercise, established routines, connection with others, introspection, gratitude, healthy sleep.

6. Environmental -- Environmental health is promoted by having a lifestyle that is respectful of our surroundings and in harmony with nature. It can also include environmental factors such as living in an area where you feel safe; having adequate proximity to the outdoors; being safe from environmental toxins, undue noise, chemicals and pollution; and promoting relaxation and community. Removing unnecessary clutter, cleaning up and being intentional with how we set up our homes is a part of environmental wellness.

7. Spiritual -- Spiritual wellness is defined as having a sense of purpose and meaning. It includes balancing individual needs with the needs of others. Spiritual wellness means being connected to something greater than yourself and having a set of morals and ethics that provide a sense of purpose to your life and guide your actions. Sometimes it includes religious practice, but it doesn't have to have this aspect.

Designing your life for optimal health and wellbeing is not a task easily accomplished and it certainly isn't accomplished quickly. In fact, it is the work of a lifetime as we often find that our wellness "wheel" becomes unbalanced in different ways depending on our stage of life, the needs and demands of those stages, and simply as our life changes over time. Many people choose to have a fitness coach at the gym, a financial advisor for their money, or a spiritual coach for their particular religious tradition. In the same manner, some people find it helpful to engage a life coach to help them overcome roadblocks and challenges as they seek to clarify and create a life plan to help them achieve optimal health and wellness.

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