Using the Four Aims to Practice Wellness
Our membership in Alpha Sigma Alpha is for a lifetime, but after our college days are behind us, we can sometimes forget what our sorority challenges us to do. Alpha Sigma Alpha challenges us to strive towards healthy living by using our four aims: Intellectual, Physical, Social and Spiritual. These are huge concepts and ideas to live by and I want to challenge you to find little things that make big changes utilizing our four aims in promoting overall wellness in your life.
So what is wellness? According to The University of California, Davis, “Wellness is an active process of becoming aware of and making choices toward a healthy and fulfilling life. Wellness is more than being free from illness, it is a dynamic process of change and growth.” This definition stood out to me because of the use of the phrase “an active process of becoming aware of and making choices toward.” Wellness is being aware of our actions/emotions and making a choice to live a certain way.
Self-awareness forces us to look at our actions, speech and thoughts and potentially change them. The change will usually be noticed outwardly and sometimes that is scarier to us than actually changing. We fight change and this can add to stress and anxiety as well as burnout, but all change does not have to be “big.” Our wellness can be greatly improved by making small steps towards healthy lifestyles by using the four aims.
I love to learn and promote lifelong learning and education. These are some little things that will promote big change in your intellectual wellness:
● Learn something new! Ever wanted to learn to paint? Craft? Decorate cookies? Make Jewelry? Learn Yoga? Just challenging yourself to learn something new will reap significant benefits to your overall wellness. I mentioned that change is scary, but these would be fun changes. I wanted to learn hand lettering last year so I signed up for a class, bought a hand lettering book and pens and went to work. Learning can help us build confidence and fuel our creativity and curiosity.
● Read a book…for FUN! I love to read. I don’t read as often as I would like, but reading reduces stress, lowers heart rate and blood pressure, and improves memory and brainpower.
● Take a professional development course. Do you find yourself at work struggling in an area? Find a class or someone who knows more about it and learn it. I am always looking for ways to be more efficient. My husband is a computer guy, so if I am struggling, I bug him to help me find some way to be more efficient in the technological world.
● Plan/Organize something: Creating “order” can help us reset our lives and again use a part of our brain that can help us reduce stress. Planning and organizing skills help you manage time, tools, and resources to reach a goal. They help you work out what you need to do to achieve your aims. I love to organize, especially my workday. In fact, I spend the last hour of my day planning the next day to ensure productivity. When I am productive I feel better.
Being intentional about your physical wellness plays a huge role in your mental health as well. Here are some ways that you can make sure that your Physical aim is being focused on:
● Exercise of all kinds! Do you love to run? Run! Is CrossFit your jam? You go, girl! There are so many other ways for you to get physically active and exercise. Walking is a great example of an exercise that is low impact and quite easy to do. Hiking is another that adds a little extra twist and lets you enjoy nature while doing so. How many of us played sports in high school and college? Pick up that volleyball, softball or tennis racket and get to moving! Physical exercise releases chemicals in the brain that boosts your mood and reduces stress. It gives you more energy and helps you sleep better.
● Sleep. Sleep is a major necessity for good physical wellness. I am guilty of getting much less than the recommended eight hours. When we are rested, we have more energy and are more productive. Sleep can boost our immunity and decrease anxiety. In our fast-paced world, sleep can be the last thing that we choose to put a priority on, due to deadlines and being constantly pressed for time. Sleep needs to become a priority in our lives to help us maintain well-rounded health.
● Self-Care. This is something that I also take for granted. Do something that makes you feel pretty. Go get a pedicure or a massage. Get your hair cut or eyebrows waxed. How about trying out a new lipstick or eyeshadow? If you like it, try it. We live in such a world where other people tell us what “pretty” is, but “pretty” is YOU and how YOU define it.
● Healthy Eating. Staying in tune with eating healthier meals and drinking water over other sugary beverages can play a major role in our physical wellness. Water helps our skin, energizes our muscles, aids in calorie intake, and helps our kidneys flush out toxins in our body. Eating fruits and vegetables (which are also high in water) give our physical body vitamins and nutrients that it needs to maintain proper body functions.
Being socially healthy is so important for our mental health. This is also one of the easiest aims for me. I love to have people over at my house or go out with friends, but when COVID-19 changed the way those things looked for many of us, we all had to become creative in our social activities.
● Girls Night Out (or In)! To me, there is nothing better than getting together with my friends. It’s time to remember that we are all human and not perfect. It is a time to gab about life and celebrate milestones in each other as women. Girl’s nights can have a tendency to turn into therapy sessions very quickly. I have laughed and cried harder than ever during girl’s nights. We have celebrated birthdays and anniversaries as well as grieved over loss and disappointments. These social gatherings are essential to the human experience and needed.
● Practice Good Manners. When you are pleasant and kind, it radiates off of you and others will usually return the favor. In our world today, being kind is a hard choice to make sometimes, but practicing simple things such as opening doors for someone, smiling, and saying “thank you” will make our social worlds blossom.
● Listen over Talking. When you are going through something and need to talk to someone, it is up to that person to actively listen to you. I have learned this in my advising role. When a woman comes to me to talk, I need to make sure I am actively listening and not distracted. I need to shut things off and allow her the time and space to be vulnerable. Listening is the best skill to gain trust. When we are truly listened to, we create safe spaces in relationships.
I have seen it year after year in planning dedication days that this aim seems to be the hardest aim for collegiate women to connect with. I view my spiritual aim through the lens of self-awareness and a higher being. There are many ways to also celebrate this aim:
● Attending church or religious services and celebrating holidays that are important to those beliefs.
● Yoga. I love yoga. When I am intentional about practicing yoga, it helps me relax mentally and physically.
● Practice Gratitude. Gratitude can be described as an inward feeling of joy and contentment and because we have that inward joy and contentment, we outwardly display that joy in loving action towards others.
● Journaling or Writing. I am a big fan of journaling. Remember when we were teenagers and kept a diary? Well, there are a lot of benefits of writing down our thoughts in a very raw or thoughtful format. I use writing/journaling in making big decisions and centering my feelings towards different viewpoints.
● Put your phone away. This can be hard. We can get sucked into the electronic devices and our newsfeeds can make time pass by fast as we fill our minds with clutter. We can make quick comments and posts without much thought to the world around us. Being intentional about having electronic downtime can spiritually ground you back to remembering what you believe and why you believe it and not get overwhelmed with thousands of other’s viewpoints.
Alpha Sigma Alpha creates many opportunities for us to live out these aims. I challenge you to live out your aims and core values through the eyes of wellness. Being intentional in making decisions about your intellectual, physical, social, and spiritual wellness can change your life. Small things can make big differences and you will be healthier because of it.
Mandy Wood Gray