21 Feb
We all know that good nutrition and regular exercise are vital for a healthy lifestyle, but there’s much more to it than that.

We all know that good nutrition and regular exercise are vital for a healthy lifestyle, but there’s much more to it than that. Debbie Reynolds looks at how overall wellness is the way to go in 2019


The World Health Organization defines wellness as an active process of becoming aware and making choices towards a healthy and fulfilling life. “Wellness is more than being free from illness, it is a dynamic process of change and growth … a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”

The experts agree that wellness consists of several parts, including physical, emotional, intellectual, social, financial and spiritual health. You may be able to tick a few of these components, but if you’re missing the rest, you’ll likely find yourself needing medical help somewhere down the line.

Counselling psychologist Simon Brittz explains it like this: “If you’re a boat with four anchors – consisting of exercise, sleep, work and play – your boat will stay firm in a calm sea and you could probably manage with only two of your anchors. But when the sea gets rough you’ll need all four anchors to keep the boat on an even keel.”

Influential businesswoman and motivational speaker Margaret Hirsch is a walking, talking example of how wellness can shape your life. She talks about eight facets – health, exercise, your partner, your family, your job, finances, material goods, spiritual life and charity.

“There is truth in the fact that you are what you eat,” says the 68-year-old who has never been off sick a day in her life. “I am a vegetarian and I don’t drink alcohol or fizzy drinks, although I haven’t managed to give up ice-cream yet. Exercise is also vital as it increases mobility as you get older and helps to relieve stress.”

Personal trainer and gym owner Selwyn Rautenbach says exercise is key to holistic wellness, empowerment and unlocking your full potential. “The trick to getting off the sedentary couch is to find exercise you enjoy and which fits into your lifestyle,” he says. “I advocate integrating strength and conditioning training in the gym with active outdoor exercise, be it swimming, cycling, running or playing a sport.”

He says if you have children, it’s beneficial to the whole family to create a lifestyle that everyone can enjoy. “Take your kids fishing, surfing, hiking, climbing or skating. If you tend to be a loner, you can find a group or club where you’re enjoying exercise, but also being social. It could be anything from a running club or scuba diving to beach volleyball or touch rugby.

“The better you feel and look, the more confident you will be. Small changes can achieve big results.”

The biggest excuse he regularly hears is, ‘I don’t have time’. “You’re so right, we don’t have time and life is short, which is exactly why you should find the time to enhance your health and increase your longevity.”

When it comes to happiness Margaret says your partner and family play a big role. “In the old days if you made your bed you had to lie in it, today it’s OK to change the duvet,” she says. “One of my biggest challenges is convincing women they are better off on their own than with an abusive husband/partner. You have to choose to be around people who build you up and applaud your success no matter what you try.”

With regards to family, you should only work with those prepared to work with you. “My brother was an alcoholic and I tried everything. The day I let go of him, his life got better and so did mine,” she says.

Having a job you love is very important, it’s such a big part of your life. “I sell irons, toasters and kettles for a living, but my passion is helping entrepreneurs make a success of their businesses,” says Margaret.

Also crucial to a healthy lifestyle is financial wellness. “Clear financial goals are non-negotiable,” says financial planner Neil Evans. “There are only two things we can do with money – spend it or save it. Unfortunately, too many South Africans choose to spend it without thinking about their future.

“Only 6% of people in the formal sector retire independently,” says Neil, so his top tip is this: the earlier you start saving the quicker the miracle of compound interest kicks in.

Clinical psychologist Francois de Marigny says good mental health is essential to overall wellness, with research clearly showing that emotional and mental issues manifest in the body.

“We now know that childhood emotional trauma affects our whole lives and how safe and meaningful attachments early in life set us up to have a meaningful and satisfying adulthood.”

He says good mental health is not necessarily about being happy. “It is found in a sense of contentment with your life, in which you can have fun and laugh and where you can cope with stress and be resilient in adversity. It is important to cultivate a work/life balance in order to build and maintain a healthy relationship and have a sense of meaning and purpose.”

He says mental health is an invisible and often unspoken about aspect of overall health. “Yet in every neighbourhood in every strata of society, there is a story of the person who seemed fine and then suddenly commits suicide.

“Poor mental health affects our ability to function socially, as partners in relationships and as parents; our performance at work and our physical health, and can range from severe mental illness to the all too common depression, anxiety and everyday stress.”

He says often in relationships and families, one person’s poor mental health can have a negative impact on the whole structure, especially children who can learn bad mental health patterns from their parents.

Finally, on the question of spiritual wellness, the experts agree with Margaret that it doesn’t matter who you pray to or what you believe in as long as you follow the premise: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

And pay it forward. “There is always someone worse off than you no matter how little you have,” says Margaret. “By helping others, you ultimately help yourself.”

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