What We Talk About When We Talk About Wellness
Wellness is a multi-billion-dollar industry that offers various theories and practices on how to achieve a state of well-being. Implicit in that notion are all the benefits of inner peace and a sense of wholeness, which is obtained, and maintained, through the cultivation and care of mind, body and soul. Within that, there is a lot of talk about mental health – the mind part of the mind-body-soul line up, I suppose.
This is where I get stuck. Something is missing. An important piece is being left out. We get that diet, exercise and sleep all nourish and strengthen our bodies. We’ve learned that calming the mind through meditative-type techniques helps lower stress, which is key to good health. And, we’ve come to appreciate that with self-love and care, we tend to our souls. Combined, we strive to put ourselves back together from whatever wounds have fractured us over time.
It’s all good.
But what about our hearts and what we feel deep inside?
Minds think. Hearts feel. Thinking is not feeling and feeling is not thinking. Hurting is hurting, but in the brain and in the heart, the pain is two totally different things.
I have long felt this way, but nothing drove it home like the loss of my friend to suicide. In our search for answers, the conversation about him making that choice revolved around his mental health. But is it strictly mental, or at all? We don’t really know. It’s too easy to call it mental illness by default. But by doing so, we don’t question the nature of the pain, and therefore can’t even begin to help relieve it.
All I could think was that I wanted to throw my arms around my friend and cry for whatever hurt him so deeply that he made that choice. It wouldn’t have been about words. There would be nothing to talk about or analyze. There was no cognitive exercise that could reach him where he was suffering. It wasn’t enough that he knew I loved him.
Part of the problem is the pharmaceutical industry. I’m not a fan. They try to convince us that their pills address emotional problems and pain. I concede that they alter brain chemistry. But that’s brain chemistry, not heart chemistry. No pill will mend a broken heart. That is a human process that takes a lot of work, the same way our bodies need the time, space and effort to heal from physical injuries. We can’t think our way to healing because injured hearts don’t heal in the mind.
Sadness and happiness live in our hearts; caring for other people comes from our hearts; taking and not giving originates in our hearts; and healing emotional pain comes when we find love for ourselves and others in our hearts – not our heads.
All I’m saying is that it’s time for emotional fitness to take its rightful place on stage with its mental and physical counterparts. Then, we have a truly holistic approach to wellness.