Wellness Series P. 2: Show me the Data! Is a Wellness Lifestyle Worth my Time?
Welcome back to our mini-series on wellness. In our previous post, we talked about what wellness is. To recap, the popular ideals of wellness that are supported by the $1.5 trillion industry only fall into half of the eight different dimensions of wellness, which are: physical, intellectual, emotional, social, spiritual, vocational, financial, and environmental.
If you’re thinking “woah, I didn’t know that wellness was important in every area of my life!”, you’re not alone. The popularity of health-based trends in popular culture leads us to believe that we’re one green juice and group mediation class away from achieving our ultimate state of wellness. But wellness is so much more than a trend, it’s a practiced lifestyle.
Wellness is personal and there are so many different ways to achieve it that are unique to your life and needs. Below, we take a look at examples of data for each of the eight different dimensions of wellness and why committing to this lifestyle is totally worth it!
- Physical: Daily exercise is important – yes, we know this may be obvious, but it helps more than just your body… it helps your brain!
It’s common knowledge that the probability of heart attacks, stroke, diabetes, among countless other health-related diseases decreases when you make exercise a habit. Studies show that even walking briskly for only 120 minutes every week can improve memory (that amounts to only walking an hour two days a week!). Studies have also shown this kind of exercise can not only positively affect mood, sleep, and stress, but also suggest the parts of the brain that control thinking and memory (the prefrontal cortex and medial temporal cortex) have greater volume in people who exercise versus people who don’t. Exercise not only increases muscle volume, it increases brain volume! Woah.
- Intellectual: Having hobbies isn’t just fun, it can make a difference in your physical and mental health.
According to this study, “individuals who engaged in more frequent enjoyable leisure activities had better psychological and physical functioning.” They reported greater life satisfaction, life engagement, social support as well as lower depression – and to top that off, they had lower blood pressure, cortisol, and better perceived physical function. It’s never too late to start a new hobby!
- Emotional: Therapy not only helps the mind, it heals the body.
Can Therapy Affect Physical Health? explores the findings on therapy and its effect on physical health, with research in four areas of health psychology and behavioral medicine: smoking cessation, chronic pain, cancer, and bulimia nervosa. The summary of these studies is that therapy can affect physical functioning – patients who are undergoing treatment for physical ailments can potentially benefit from psychotherapy as a way to improve their physical health. We knew there was something to that mind/body connection!
- Social: Having friends not only affects our happiness, but it affects our physical health.
This article discusses studies providing evidence that loneliness and a lack of close friends contribute to poorer physical health as we age. The article cites a 2015 analysis that compiled data on more than 3.4 million people across 70 studies. The findings proved that the absence of social connections carried the same health risk as smoking up to 15 cigarettes a day. It also found that “loneliness led to worse outcomes than obesity.” Maybe it’s time to unmute that group chat…
- Spiritual: Meditation isn’t just for hippie yogis, it has serious health benefits.
This article details that practicing meditation may reduce blood pressure, symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, anxiety and depression, and insomnia. Results from a 2012 study where researchers compared brain images from 50 adults who meditate and 50 adults who don’t meditate suggest that people who practiced meditation for many years have more folds in the outer layer of the brain. “This process (called gyrification) may increase the brain’s ability to process information.” And even more good news?! Meditation in the US tripled between 2012 and 2017 (from 4.1 percent to 14.2 percent)! Sometimes saying “namaste” to the latest trend is totally worth it!
- Vocational: People are taking their mental health seriously and telling employers “I quit.”
It took a pandemic, but the workforce is currently experiencing a grand exodus as millions of people are quitting their jobs. This fact may be unsurprising, as this article states that over 53% of Americans are unhappy at work. That’s over half of us!
- Financial: Money matters, but what you spend it on matters, too.
$105,000 – that’s the amount that is considered “ideal income in North America”, according to this article, citing a 2018 study. However, this article mentions that the way we spend money affects our happiness, not just how much money we make. A survey found that “more than 80% of people under 30 reported deriving more happiness from buying experiences — like trips, concerts, or special meals —than from buying material things, such as gadgets or clothes.” Time with the people you love = priceless.
- Environmental: Even the thought of a changing environment can affect our mental health.
This article from the United Nations Environment Programme explores studies on the environment’s effect on a population’s mental health and well-being. One study shows the effect of just the idea of living in the midst of the climate crisis affected a population of Greenland’s anxiety and depression levels. The study showed that “the effects of our changing climate—economic uncertainty, job insecurity, extreme and volatile weather patterns, and displacement—also influence mental health.” Shifting to the effects of our environment on our mental health… a study showed that “children become three to four times more likely to have depression at 18 if they had been exposed to dirtier air at age 12.”
The data is in: wellness is worth the time for a better quality of life and a happier and healthier you! Now that you know the impact of practicing wellness, next time we’ll tell you how Surprise can be your biggest wellness advocate and accountability partner!
Allie Demopoulos is a Content Copywriter at Surprise.com. A writer and producer, she believes that humor is the greatest tool and that the best of anything–comedy, music, stories–are experienced in basements. When she’s not creating, you can find her in the electric streets of Manhattan, a place she feels lucky to call home.