Practices of Improving the Quality of Life and Personal Wellness

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Wellness is "the quality or state of being in good health, especially as an actively sought goal" (Merriam-Webster).

Each day, humans are faced with endless possibilities, which allow them to either make decisions or act in a manner that supports their personal wellness and well-being or to act in a way that negatively impacts their health. In order to improve the quality of my life and personal wellness, I tend to implement some of the information and practices I learned in this course into my daily life. These practices include tai chi, daily meditation, eating both mindfully and healthily, incorporating intuition into my decision-making processes on a more regular basis, and performing random acts of kindness.

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The first practice that I intend to re-incorporate into my life is tai chi, which is defined as a "slow meditative physical exercise designed for relaxation and balance and health". I used to go to a tai chi class once or twice a week when I was younger for an hour or an hour and a half depending on the class. I stopped going after a while for a few reasons. First, I felt that the classes were too long. Second, they tended to wake me up when I wanted to begin winding down, (I took the classes a few hours before I wanted to go to sleep). Finding this to be counterproductive, I stopped going and in turn receiving the numerous health benefits associated with this form of exercise. Instead of going to a class at a time ill-suited to my particular needs, I think it would be best if I took what I learned and applied it by practicing tai chi on my own for twenty minutes each day. I feel as though the best time for me to practice would be in the early afternoon around two or three when I tend to get tired because I desperately need a break from work. Instead of taking a nap or struggling through an assignment, I can take some time out of my day to practice tai chi. As a result, I'll be able to revisit some of my favorite exercises-like the "great bear swims in the ocean" or the various "eagle" forms-as well as exercise and stretch my body. By the time I'm finished, I should feel more relaxed and awake, which will allow me to tackle anything else that I might need to.

In addition to its ability to prepare me for the latter portion of my day, tai chi has the ability to improve my health in numerous ways. "The reported medical benefits of [tai chi include] pain reduction, improved balance, improved aerobic capacity, reduction in high blood pressure, stress reduction, improved sleep, and increased body strength". Although not all of these benefits apply to me, many of them do. The first benefit, which applies to me is pain reduction. I suffer from both scoliosis and kyphosis, which causes a fair amount of back pain. Reducing the amount of pain I feel with tai chi's assistance will definitely improve the quality of my life because it will help to reduce the amount of times I have to stop what I'm doing and lie down simply because I'm too uncomfortable to do anything else. The reduction in pain should also have a positive effect on my mental health-since I'm feeling better physically, I should begin to feel better emotionally. The second benefit is stress reduction. I experience a lot of school-induced stress. I also need to feel like I'm being productive at all times in order to be happy. I set goals for myself throughout the day and when I don't reach them, I don't feel like I am being productive enough and become extremely stressed-out. By practicing tai chi, I can improve my personal wellness because it will give me the chance to take a step back from my work and concentrate on myself and how I'm feeling. Instead of continuing to get stressed out, I'll have the chance to calm down, which should increase my productivity because it's easier to work without the presence of strong negative emotions. Therefore, it should become easier to reach my goals, which will make me feel both happy and accomplished. Furthermore, my ability to calm down should quiet my mind. As a result, it should become easier for me to sleep because the main reason why my insomnia has grown so out of hand is because my mind is always racing. This leads into tai chi's next benefit-better sleep. I look forward to sleeping more regularly on account of this practice because I definitely don't get enough! I spend my entire day exhausted and thinking about how awesome it would be sleep, only to crawl into bed at night and try and fail miserably. I know I'll be far happier when I'm on a more regular sleep schedule and feel like I have enough energy to tackle whatever life throws at me. I also feel like I'll be a lot more productive because I won't be exhausted all of the time. Finally, tai chi leads to "increased body strength". This benefit can certainly help me because I have virtually no upper body strength. I struggle to lift heavy objects and have a hard time carrying bags and the like over long distances. Instead of struggling to cart the things I need around with me, it would be nice to be able to do it with ease. It would also improve my personal well-being by ensuring that I wouldn't have to be as thrifty-I'd never arrive unprepared for class or work again because I'd have everything I needed with me.

In addition to tai chi, I intend to incorporate meditation into my daily routine. To meditate is "to engage in mental exercise (such as concentration on one's breathing or repetition of a mantra) for the purpose of reaching a heightened level of spiritual awareness". For ten minutes each day, I plan to meditate in the quiet comfort of my room. I want to continue practicing the deep breathing exercises I learned in my meditation class and potentially move onto newer exercises once I grow tired of the old. Although I struggle to meditate because it requires me to be both "un-productive" and still, I think that it is important for me to continue practicing because I need the time to slow down and collect myself. I work so hard that I make myself crazy and meditation can help curb that tendency. Meditation also reduces "anxiety and ruminative thinking". I can definitely benefit from a reduction in the amount of anxiety I feel because I find it overwhelming. Oftentimes, I am kept from taking part in the activities I enjoy because I'm worried about having a panic attack. Since I suffer from social anxiety, I fear going out because I worry about how I'll feel when I get to my destination. Instead of enjoying the occasional night out with my friends, I remain at home because I don't want to contend with my feelings, which are often worsened by "ruminative thinking." If I could reduce my anxiety levels and go out occasionally, I feel as though the quality of my life would vastly improve because I wouldn't feel quite so depressed or isolated. Finally, meditation "increase[s] self-compassion". As someone who suffers from both low self-esteem and self-worth and is often hard on herself, an increase in self-compassion could go a long way. Instead of beating myself up over every mistake I make, I would be able to take everything in stride and view my mistakes as a learning experience. As a result, my mental state would gradually improve because I'd gained the capacity to view both myself and my experiences in a more positive light.

Eating both mindfully and healthily is the third aspect of this class that I intend to incorporate into my daily life. Although I maintain a fairly healthy and balanced diet, it could always be improved. However, I am not the most mindful eater because I often eat when I am distracted-choosing to spend my meals multi-tasking whenever possible in order to make the best use of my time. For example, during lunch I often eat and listen to a lecture for one of my classes. As a result, I tend to enjoy my food far less than I could because I'm too distracted to concentrate on how it tastes or how it makes me feel. Furthermore, my distracted state occasionally leads me to eat during times when I am not hungry or until I am uncomfortably full, which is the opposite of mindful eating. Therefore, I miss out on the benefits associated with eating mindfully. These benefits include "encouraging self-acceptance… and freedom from worrying about body size". Both of these benefits are something, which would have a positive impact upon my life because like most women, I struggle to accept my appearance. I often feel chubby and unattractive and waste time wishing that I could look a little better. However, I could counteract this tendency by making more of an effort to eat mindfully and without distraction. Hopefully, I'll come to a point where I won't be so self-critical and negative because I'd developed a healthier relationship with food. Naturally, the quality of my life would improve as a result because I'd be feeling better emotionally.

Although I eat a healthy diet with a fair balance of fruits, vegetables, carbohydrates, dairy products, fat and protein, my diet could always be improved for the betterment of my personal wellbeing. The time I spend on my education leaves me exhausted and with minimal amounts of time for food preparation. As a result, I tend to reach for whatever I can find in the refrigerator/cabinets whenever I get hungry and need a snack. The things I find tend to contain high amounts of saturated and trans-fats, which are considered to be bad for your health. This is due to the fact that "the main dietary factors associated with elevated blood LDL cholesterol are high saturated fat and high trans-fat intakes". Although I don't have a problem with my cholesterol at the moment, I hope to keep things that way by making more of an effort to avoid foods high in saturated and trans-fats. From now on, instead of snacking on things like cookies and cheese, I plan to make more of an effort to snack on fresh fruit and vegetables, which are better for my body. Further efforts to reduce my intake of unhealthy substances found in the food I eat such as "coloring… refined or bleached flour… GMOs," etc., should also help to reduce my chances of suffering the ill-effects of a poor diet. Examples would include heart disease and high blood pressure. By avoiding these illnesses and ill-effects with a diet rich in vitamins and minerals, my physical wellness should stretch well into my later years. As a result, my emotional wellness should remain both strong and stable because I won't have to struggle through the stresses induced by illness and physical discomfort.

According to Jonas Nordstrom, "intuitive decisions produce better results compared to when only using analytical and logical reasoning". As a result, I intend to incorporate intuitive-decision making into my life in the hopes that it will have a positive impact on my personal well-being. As of right now, I ignore my intuition. Whenever I make decisions, I hear my intuitive voice, but don't consider what it is saying. Instead, I rely on logic and reason whenever I am making a decision. Sometimes, my choice to rely on both logic and reason works out well, but sometimes it doesn't. During those instances in which I regret my decision, I grow frustrated with myself because I realize that the outcome of my decision would have been better had I paid attention to my intuition. Now that I know that using both logic and intuition to make judgments is beneficial, I intend to do so on a regular basis by gradually incorporating intuition's use into my life. I think that it may be difficult for me to trust my intuition at first, but I am hoping that I can come to rely on it as much as I do logic given time. As a result of my actions, I am hoping to live my life with fewer regrets, which should improve both my mood and emotional wellbeing.

Finally, I plan to perform random acts of kindness on a more regular basis in order to support my personal wellness. Maria Napoli writes that "research has… found that individuals experience more happiness when an act of kindness is done for someone we know versus a stranger and that varying the types of kindness offers more happiness to the giver". Since I suffer from depression, I definitely want to experience the benefits associated with giving. Even the slightest relief from my malady will be appreciated and the opportunity to help others will give me the chance to feel good about myself. My actions will also have the added benefit of brightening another individual's day. Furthermore, increased interactions with other individuals will allow me to practice being around them, which may reduce the crippling effects of my social anxiety. Thus, I intend to perform at least one random act of kindness a week for either a stranger or a friend or family member. Examples of what I might do include writing a note of all the reasons why I love someone, making someone a batch of cookies, buying someone tea or coffee, or helping someone across the street.

In conclusion, I am faced with the decision to act in either a manner that will benefit my personal wellness or negatively impact it on several occasions throughout the course of any given day. After having taken this course, I discovered that there were several things that I could be doing in order to positively impact my personal wellness. These things include practicing tai chi and meditation, eating both healthily and mindfully, incorporating intuition into my decision-making processes, and performing random acts of kindness. I intend to incorporate all of these things into my life, which should help me lessen the negative impact of stress, anxiety and depression upon my body and promote personal wellness.

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