Obviously this is not a choice. Fitness is feeling well physically. Now as this definition clarifies, this is just one of those parts of a general sense of well-being. If we have to use “wellness” as a desirable state and think about those facets of our life which have to feel well – we may come up with a list which would read as intellectual wellness, emotional wellness, psychological wellness, social wellness, spiritual wellness, sexual wellness, financial wellness and yes physical wellness. There would be more in the overall sense of well-being, but the above list may in some form cover them in their definition. So let us see what each one of these mean.
First let us get the aspect of intellectual wellness right! It sure is not a narrow state of being well read or being a know-all in interactions with people. I would say a farmer with no formal school education who could accurately sense the state of the climate and its effect on his crop and who would have the intimate knowledge of his soil that he treats it right to get the right quantity and quality of harvest is an intellectual in his own right. And intellect is the fiefdom of the seeker of knowledge. Research though has indicated that physical activity would make one alert and disciplined. Physical activity also generates helpful hormones and pheromones, which improve cerebral function. One particular molecule which gets help in getting produced by physical activity “Irisin” helps protecting the brain from degeneration and improves cognition.
When one talks of emotional wellness, it is about those feelings and triggers which are natural or automatic. If we try to define it in a narrow sense – it is as opposed to logical or rational, a reaction not based on a calculation or analysis which your brain would consciously do; rather it is involuntary and based on more primal instincts. These instincts are triggered by that part of the brain (called amygdala) which triggers the fight or flight reaction as a reflex of stimuli. More often a prolonged sense of not being emotionally well is because of a reaction which could not be rationally sorted out as one is not equipped with the self-awareness. Here again – physical activity buffers one’s emotional brain with numerous experiences and lot of them positive, that more and more stimuli tend to generate positive emotions. Also a general sense of being strong and fit helps in one meeting negative emotions quickly that they are able to seek logical explanations to their feelings and address problems with responses rather than reactions.
Now we will come to psychological wellness which is a close cousin of emotional wellness, but is entirely different. Being psychologically well or not well is almost a medical condition. I personally think it is something to do with the complicated circuitry of a human intelligence system and we still have not fathomed it right. Help is being afforded by professionals who use everything from talking to people who are having difficulties to using tons of statistics to arrive at a cure or assistance. Researchers are also increasingly pointing out physiological reasons for psychological problems. Even a person suffering from a clinical psychological disorder may benefit from physical activity and fitness as there would be lesser self loathe and negative emotions.
Feeling socially well is as simple as having good friends and acquaintances. It does not take too much of dwelling into this topic as associations formed for a positive purpose are the healthiest and more socially successful. Physically fit people do attract more friends, who do befriend them for positive reasons. And as I found out, just pursuing fitness through some structured activities results in some great friendships and acquaintances.
I always liked the quote “when wealth is lost nothing is lost, when health is lost something is lost and when character is lost everything is lost”. Why would this be relevant? – because one of the needs of a human is spiritual wellness. Let us say, spirituality is a deep awareness of self and allowing the self to resonate with the much larger truth and have a very strong sense of purpose. It is no secret or a dispute that a healthy body hosts a healthy mind, and a fit person has a deeper sense of self-awareness. This self-awareness comes about because of a constant probing of ones physiology and an almost meditative focus as one is engaged in structured physical activity.
Another important primal need for a human being is sexual wellness. I do not think there is a taboo in accepting that it has a direct relationship to physical fitness and physical wellness.
Last but not the least is financial wellness. I cannot but quote the example of Colonel Sanders of KFC, who despite a life full of failures, made it big with KFC and is the face on the logo of the company. His claim to success came when he was at an age when people would normally retire. There are many inspirational stories of people who became heroes or lead a life positively impacting many. There is possibly one aspect common with them. Obviously, they are financially self-sufficient, but more important, they do not go through life paying guilt money for not contributing to the society but they offer themselves for the service. This offering of themselves is enabled by their innate physical capacity.
These are the many aspects of wellness. A bit of thought and analysis of ourselves as we grow older will set us thinking. Is physical fitness just one aspect of wellness? Or is physical fitness essential for every kind of wellness? Or does being physically fit enable every other kind of wellness?
The answer is simple – however you look at physical fitness, it is a great state to be in and the journey to belong to the physically fit community is possibly the most interesting. In short – wellness is the effect and fitness is the cause.
RS Raja Gopal Sastry
An ex soldier – now the CFO of a leading manufacturing listed company in India
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