What Even is “Wellness” Anyway?

From UCR

As my first self-guided ePort post for this class, I thought I should give an overview of what wellness really is. It seems like a simple concept to most, just working out and eating healthy, right? Contrary to the general belief, wellness is much more complex and is a quite interdisciplinary concept. In fact, the University of California Riverside outlines seven dimensions of wellness. There is social wellness, emotional wellness, spiritual wellness, environmental wellness, physical wellness, intellectual wellness, and occupational wellness. All of these aspects of our lives play a role in our wellness.

Social wellness encompasses our relationships with friends, family, etc. Humans are social creatures and need positive social interaction to thrive. Being able to connect with others is an important aspect of our wellness.

Emotional wellness focuses on our mental health, feelings, etc. Emotional intelligence helps us get through the ups and downs of life; we need to understand and find ways to deal with our emotions to find balance and happiness. Facing hardships in life is inevitable, so we need to develop skills to handle our emotions in order to achieve optimal wellness.

Spiritual wellness deals with our values and beliefs; it also helps us make meaning of our lives. This can be very different for different people. Personally I’m not religious, but I still have my own sort of spirituality and practices I follow to understand life and find peace and harmony within my own life. Other people might follow principles of an established religion to make meaning of their lives. No matter how you go about it, spiritual wellness is about finding peace, harmony, understanding and meaning in your life. 

Environmental wellness can be a little more tricky to explain and might have a little bit of a different meaning to different people. For some, it might mean living in a space/area that feels like home or comforting to you. Things like candles/incense and having a clean room can literally improve your overall wellness. For others, it is more about connecting with the Earth and developing a positive relationship with it. This can include spending time in nature, or helping sustainability efforts. Our relationship with our surroundings is a piece of wellness we should keep in mind.

Occupational wellness has to do with our careers, jobs, etc. It is important to find a work-life balance while being able to support yourself/your family. If we’re overworked, we get overly stressed which can take a tole on our health. If we aren’t working, we may stress about getting the bills paid, or may even get stir-crazy and feel like we need something to do. It is also important to do work you find fulfilling. If you hate your job, you’re most likely going to be miserable, and will offset the balance of your wellness.

Intellectual wellness is about mental stimulation, creativity, learning, etc. Constantly learning new things, participating in creative activities, etc. can actually improve your wellness because you are exercising your brain. Intellectual stimulation is great for the human mind and overall wellness. We have insanely powerful brains… it’s important to use them!

Physical wellness is probably what you are most familiar with. Having optimal physical health helps us thrive not only in day to day activities but other things we might find interest in. It also keeps us healthy and prevents disease. Diet and exercise are without a doubt two of the most important aspects of our health, but they also improve our self-esteem, confidence, and overall happiness. 

Overall, I think this basic overview is a key start to understanding what wellness really is and how it can be achieved. As this journey continues I will keep sharing healthy habits, tips, tricks, and some routines that work for me. Adopting a lifestyle that considers all aspects of wellness can improve your health and happiness. Plus… it feels good to treat yourself well.

Works Cited:

“University of California, Riverside.” Wellness: Seven Dimensions of Wellness, wellness.ucr.edu/physical_wellness.html.

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IDSSem RA Précis

Integration of Eastern and Western Methods: Reiki in Clinical Practice — A Meta-Analysis

As the world of health and wellness expands, we see more and more in todays world that Western or traditional medicine and Eastern or alternative medicine are being used in conjunction. The essence of integrative medicine is that subtle energies play into and affect our physical reality, including our health. This being said, I’m studying the practice and effects of using Reiki healing in clinical practice.

Miles, P., & True, G. (2003). Reiki- Review of biofield therapy history, theory, practice, and research. Alternative Therapies, 9(2), 62-72. https://s3.amazonaws.com/academia.edu.documents/38851235/Milesand_True.pdfAWSAccessKeyId=AKIAIWOWYYGZ2Y53UL3A&Expires=1551841196&Signature=EIarO961q%2BIC0F00Xhyy8pDklvI%3D&response-content-disposition=inline%3B%20filename%3DReiki–review_of_a_biofield_therapy_hist.pdf

Pamela Miles and Gala True, in “Reiki- Review of Biofield Therapy History, Theory, Practice, and Research” (2003) provide essential background information on Reiki healing including it’s history, theories, and increasing use in clinical practice, explaining that it can be used as a complimentary tool. The authors discuss the basics of Reiki by discussing it’s theory and history as well as things like training, treatment, and how it is being integrated in hospitals and similar settings. Their purpose is to explain the core of what Reiki is in order to introduce why it can be beneficial as a complimentary practice. The intended audience seems to be one more familiar with Western than Eastern methods of healing and medicine because they discuss the scientific background of Reiki instead of just the spiritual one; Western audiences typically are more interested in the former than the latter. 

Kyrak, E & Vitale, A. (2011). Reiki and its journey into a hospital setting. Holistic Nursing Practice, 25(5), 238-245. http://mind-body-science.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/hnp3.pdf

In “Reiki and Its Journey Into a Hospital Setting” (2011), Elizabeth Kyrak and Anne Vitale reflect on their journey of helping integrate Reiki into a hospital setting in their own nursing practices, explaining that it can be a great tool to utilize in clinical practice. The authors show the success of their practice by explaining how the integration process worked over the years and sharing how they’ve seen the benefits of Reiki in their practice. It seems that their purpose was explain why and how Reiki can be used in order to promote its use in clinical settings. The audience the authors target is nurses and other medical professionals, shown by their tendency to explain why policies should be introduced to support Reiki in hospitals. 

Anderson, J & Taylor, A. (2011). Effects of healing touch in clinical practice. Journal of Holistic Nursing, 29(3), 221-228. https://journals-sagepub-com.libproxy.plymouth.edu/doi/pdf/10.1177/0898010110393353

In “Effects of Healing Touch in Clinical Practice” (2011), authors Joel Anderson and Ann Taylor share their study on the effects of hands-on energy therapies like Reiki in clinical settings, determining that it can be useful but tends to be immeasurable. They explain their study like a typical research paper, including things like methods, results, etc., but come to the conclusion that although benefits were seen, our lack of scientific knowledge and measurement tools makes it hard to get concrete numbers supporting evidence of Reiki’s effectiveness. The purpose seems to be to share the findings of their study even though the lack of solid quantitative data makes it hard to come to a solid conclusion, so that they don’t ignore the benefits of Reiki but also don’t deny that they are lacking the information to solidify a certain result. This article seems to be for an audience interested in things like Reiki and similar tools, but who possess a science-focused brain who value those concrete quantitative results because they go through the study as they should and share results without skewing them one way or another. 

Lepine, E. (2018). Reiki in Australian hospitals and ‘palliative care centres’. Journal of the Australian Traditional-Medicine Society, 24(3), 166-168. http://web.a.ebscohost.com.libproxy.plymouth.edu/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?vid=1&sid=07fd8460-2a38-4beb-9675-4bfe9d742f91%40sdc-v-sessmgr05

Eugenio Lepine, in “Reiki in Australian Hospitals and ‘Palliative Care Centres’” (2018), gives a overview of how Reiki is being used in some clinical settings in Australia, Tazmania, and New South Wales, showing that resources are out there for people to reap benefits from. He gives a brief overview of how science is trying to understand Reiki and how/where it is being used in certain areas to show what options are out there and how it has worked for those using Reiki. The purpose seems to be to inform people interested in using Reiki either as a practitioner/medical professional or even as a patient so that more people can utilize this tool. There is no one specific audience, it seems to be directed towards anyone looking into Reiki either as a practitioner or a patient as a way to improve health because he is very broad in his work and doesn’t single out any sort of group.

Bossi, L., Ott, M., & DeCristofaro, S. (2008). Reiki as a clinical intervention in oncology nursing practice. Clinical Journal of Oncology Nursing, 12(3), 489-494. http://web.a.ebscohost.com.libproxy.plymouth.edu/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?vid=1&sid=f09ea682-9c72-4074-baaa-dd51ef25c6c2%40sdc-v-sessmgr06

Three nurses, Lorraine Bossi, Mary Ott, and Susan DeCristofaro, in “Reiki as a Clinical Intervention in Oncology Nursing Practice” (2008), share with readers their experiences introducing Reiki in their own clinical practice, determining that it is very beneficial to patients and nurses alike. They explain their findings by sharing basic information on Reiki, their experiences, the experiences of their patients, the benefits they witnessed, and how others can incorporate it. The purpose seems to be to promote the use of Reiki, so that more patients and nurses alike can reap its benefits in a clinical setting. The intended audience is other nurses; they explain how they got into it, how other nurses can gain these skills, and how it can benefit them. 

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IDS Sem. RA & AP Prospectus/Timeline

IDS Sem. Applied Project Prospectus and Timeline

Throughout my time as a Communication for Wellness and Exercise major, my interest in holistic health has skyrocketed. I want to share with the world how they can improve their overall wellness and happiness through their lifestyle choices. I’m a big believer that our habits become who we are and by adopting healthy habits, we can unlock our full potential. By becoming the best version of ourselves, we can improve our lives and the lives of those around us. When we find our own wellness and happiness that positive energy radiates, influencing others to find their own nirvana, whatever that may mean to them. I truly believe in my heart and soul that this can cause a chain reaction and we can have an epidemic of personal transformations. With that said, my goal with this project is to study the effects of adopting a variety of lifestyle changes, such as a regular meditation practice, exercise regimen, healthy diet, and putting aside time for personal development activities like journaling or reading. Essentially, the question I’m asking is “how can we take steps to improve our overall wellness and happiness?”. By using the communication skills I have developed, I can take my knowledge of wellness and exercise to share with others ways of improving their lives in terms they understand.

I’m currently drafting up some plans for how I want my subjects to adopt certain lifestyle changes; making diet/exercise guidelines, meditation suggestions, etc. I am working on recruiting participants, and plan to have my final group of participants set in stone by Sunday, 2/24. That week, I will schedule time with each participant to talk with me in which I will have an open discussion about their wellness so that I can make wellness plans personalized to each participants needs. During this time I will guide them in making a quick reflection video discussing their goals, etc. Once I have assessed my discussions with them, I will go ahead making their plans and ask them to begin the following Sunday, 3/3. I will be checking in with participants 3 times a week (making changes and recommendations as needed), and ask them to make video reflections of their progress once a week for the 4 week program. I will give them flexibility and allow them to take a week off and make it up the first week of April if they choose (I have the feeling they aren’t going to be sticking to their regimens during spring break). At the end of the program, I’ll meet and have another open discussion with them to reflect on overall changes and how the program worked for them, making a final video to understand the effects of their various lifestyle changes.

I will know my project is successful if I am able to reach my subjects and help them to help themselves. This is all about improvement and if at the end of the day they feel like they have grown and improved overall wellness and happiness, I’ll be happy. This can be assessed through my ability to communicate with participants and help foster their personal development. If I don’t succeed with this, I don’t think I would consider my project successful, however I will be grateful for the experience and ability to learn from my mistakes and improve my communication skills. There are definitely some risks and challenges, because I cannot force people to do what I ask of them, I need to make sure that my participants are willing and able to do what I ask of them, and reflect on what changes have been a result of their lifestyle changes. All in all, I want to use this project as an opportunity to help improve the lives of others so I can share with people ways they can help themselves improve their overall wellness.

IDS Sem. Research Article Prospectus and Timeline

I am working on the topic of meditation because I want to find out it’s effects in order to help my reader understand better how meditation can help improve their lives. Meditation and spirituality have been a big part of my own personal development and transformation. I truly believe that meditation has helped me achieve happiness and has helped many aspects of my life. I want to study how exactly meditation does this. In the Western world, meditation is often times understood and some consider it taboo or pointless. I want to find the evidence behind it’s benefits and share that knowledge.

I want to write for an audience interested in personal development and how they can improve their lives. I want to write for people who are struggling to find happiness, because I’ve been there before and know it can be a hopeless feeling. I want to help people find the courage to try something new. Age, gender, race, all of that stuff doesn’t matter when it comes to my audience. I want to write in terms that lots of people can understand, because my research is about improving peoples lives. 

For my research, I want to focus on case studies and I want to find scientific research about meditation to get a more complete view on it. I want to look at it from all sides, spiritual, scientific, etc. I’ve found that terms such as meditation, mindfulness, and even physiology help me find sources, as well as terms related to buddhism, yoga, and spirituality. I’ve had a hard time finding library databases that have this kind of information. On our Lamson Library website, however, I have found a few articles that match up perfectly with what I want to research. Also, I want to meet up and talk with a local meditation expert who works at a holistic healing center here in New Hampshire to get her perspective based on her many years of experience working with other people. 

I think the most important part about this paper for me is the research. I will need to find my core sources and do my précis before March 6th, so I have a lot of research to do in the next couple of weeks. From here I’ll be able to make an outline due March 20th. I’m hoping in those couple of weeks to meet with a meditation expert. Based on that I can pull together a draft getting all the information I want in there, due April 10. Once the draft is done, I think it will be a matter of cleaning things up and making it nice, and I’ll be set with my paper before April 23. 

Potential Sources:

Davidson R, et al. “Alterations in Brain and Immune Function Produced by Mindfulness Meditation” Psychosomatic Medicine, vol. 65, no. 4, pp. 564-570., doi: 10.1097/01.PSY.0000077505.67574.E3

Kohn, Livia. “Meditation Works : In the Daoist, Buddhist, and Hindu Traditions.” Three Pines Press, 2008.

Sedlmeier P, et al. “The Psychological Effects of Meditation: A Meta-Analysis.” Psychological Bulletin, vol. 138, no. 6, 2012, pp. 1139–71., doi:10.1037/a0028168.

Wallace, R K, and H Benson. “Physiology of Meditation.” Scientific American, 1972, pp. 84–90. 

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Senior Capstone Idea Brainstorm

I am working on the topic of Reiki healing because I want to find out how it is beneficial for overall health in order to help my reader better understand energy healing and how it can help them. I have a lot of interest in energy healing because I think it can be a great supplement to contemporary medical practices. It has been used for hundreds of years and it is gaining popularity again. I think it would be difficult to fully explain the effects of Reiki and the actual practice/experience itself without having first hand experience or expertise (I’m not a practitioner of Reiki and it requires training). I want to incorporate the disciplines of traditional energy healing practices and modern medicine as well as communication because I want to make my findings understandable to readers who don’t understand the health field; I want to help them understand how it can benefit them. 

I am working on the topic of meditation because I want to find out the effects of a regular meditation practice in order to help my reader better understand how they can improve their overall wellness. Over the past year or so I have begun to adopt a regular meditation practice and I have found that it has benefitted me a lot. I want to understand exactly why this is and share it with others so that they understand. I think it will be hard to find actual hard scientific information about this kind of thing, but I’m determined to do so. I want to combine spirituality with psychology and health science to teach readers the interconnectedness of the mind and body. 

I am working on the topic of lifestyle coaching because I want to find out why a healthy lifestyle is so important in order to help my reader better understand how they can achieve overall success in all seven dimensions of wellness. In the future, I’d like to try a career in lifestyle/health coaching because I want to help others lead healthy lives. Wellness is about more than diet and exercise, and I think if more people understood this they could help improve their own lives. I think actually putting an experiment together on this would be hard because I don’t have experience in life coaching. This is a huge combination of communications and health, which are the disciplines at the center of my major. I need to figure out how to take my scientific background and use my communication skills to teach others how to live healthful lives and improve their wellness across all planes. 

I am working on the topic of holistic health to better understand why the mind and spirit are so critical to health in order to help my reader better understand how to achieve health AND happiness. I think a holistic approach to health is the future and it is what I want to pursue as a career. It isn’t a “new” concept, but it is on the rise and lots of people don’t understand it. Although it will be a challenge, I want to utilize my skills in the field of communication to explain really what holistic health is. I want to help people find both health and happiness. 

I am working on the topic of integrating contemporary and traditional medicine because I want to find out how we can combine these practices for optimal health as a population in order to help my reader better understand what medical options are out there for them. I’m a big believer that a lot of disease, surgery, and hard medications could be avoided by incorporating traditional with contemporary medicine. I think health of the population would be greatly improved if we found ways to integrate these two separate disciplines of health. I think the challenge here would be explaining what traditional medicine is and is not, and how the two actually can be used together. 

I’ve had a hard time thinking of ideas for my applied project, but I’ve come up with some general ideas that still need specifics.

  1. Being a lifestyle coach for a few friends of mine, and assessing their health and wellbeing before, during, and after a couple months of working with them. It would be a reflective piece relying on a lot of interviews and such. I think the challenges would be actually getting my friends to make the changes I ask them to, and finding ways to measure growth. 
  2. Working with a local reiki healing expert to experience reiki first-hand, talk with her clients on what it has done with them, and get her perspective and expertise on energy healing. I think this could be very interesting, but I’m not exactly sure what I want to do with this.
  3. Working with the naturopathic doctor in Plymouth to understand what he does and discuss with his clients what his work has done for them. Again, I don’t know exactly what I want to do with this but I would love to work with him to understand what he does, how, why, etc. 
  4. I have an idea that is a little more personal than the rest, as it would be focused on myself. I want to do an experiment on myself where I give myself a health plan pulling on all 7 aspects of wellness. I want to give myself a regimen to tap into all of these things to see how it improves my life, physical health, so on and so forth. However, I think it would be hard to measure my own progress.
  5. I would like to get together a large group of people to get a meditation group going, where we would have group meditation sessions, yoga, and most importantly, reflection. Similar to the lifestyle coaching idea, it would be all about their growth and improvement and how it has improved their lives. Again it would be challenging to measure their growth on a set scale, but it could be more interview and reflection focused. 
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A Reflection on my Intellectual Journey

With humility, I would say I’m what most would consider to be a “pretty smart kid”. I have almost a perfect GPA, I constantly make the President’s List, I’m a member of an academic honor society, so on and so forth. However, I wouldn’t say it has always been this way. As a kid, I struggled with school, especially in subjects like math and science. I always got by with decent grades, but I was never too far above average. I went to a private high school for my last 3 years of high school, and I thrived socially and athletically while still managing to get mostly B’s when it came to grades. I can recall, however, a couple of situations that made me feel like I would never be “smart”. At the end of sophomore year, our biology professors would recommend to our advisors what physics class we should be registered for. My teacher suggested I go into the “conceptual physics” course instead of regular or advanced physics. When I asked my advisor (who was a complete sweetheart and like a second mother to me) what “conceptual physics” even was, she told me “well, I’d say it’s like physics for poets”. She put it in a nice way, but I knew what she meant was that I had been put into the “dumb” class. In that moment in time I convinced myself I would always be terrible at science. Two years later, in my senior year calculus class, I sat there struggling in a classroom with all of my friends, when my teacher, who I was also very close with, looked at me and announced in front of the class, “You know Amanda, for someone who is pretty smart, I just don’t understand how you can be SO bad at math.” I’ll never forget that feeling of incompetence, and although my teacher was otherwise great at his job, that ruined math for me to this very day.

However, in a strange way I’m grateful to have experienced that gut-wrenching public humiliation. Until that point I had cruised through school managing to get mostly B’s, and trying hard enough, but not as much as I could have. That experience lit a fire under my ass; I got competitive, and I now wanted to prove myself. I went into college with a mission to grind as hard as I could to be at the top. I never wanted to feel stupid again. I pulled all nighters, drilled information into my head, whatever it took to get an A and feel like the smartest one in the class. While I was succeeding and getting straight A’s (as a science major, ironically), I was driving myself insane. Not eating, not sleeping, just working and studying all day and all night. It got to the point where it wasn’t good for my health. I lost too much weight, didn’t socialize or have friends, and was so obsessed with the idea of being smart that I forgot to take care of myself, and love myself. After almost a couple of years of this, I decided I needed to make a change.

I ended up switching majors, from Exercise Science to Interdisciplinary Studies. Not because I thought it would be easier, but because I realized I didn’t want to be a file cabinet of information. I wanted to help others be the best version of themselves. I wanted to help people lead better lives by being able to communicate with them like a normal person, without big fancy science terms. I loved my time in exercise science, but I wanted to put my knowledge at use for other people. I realize now that there is so much out there in the academic world that I have yet to explore. Besides physical health and exercise, I’m also wandering into subjects like spirituality, personal transformation, holistic healing, etc. As my knowledge and studies expand, I hope to be able to help others in many aspects of their lives. 

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