Updated: Mar 4, 2021
*I wrote this exactly 1 year ago, before we knew the pandemic we are currently in the midst of was possible. And before I knew that I could think wellness education could be more important than it already was.
Holistic Wellness. It’s all the rage these days. Google it and 5 gazillion matches will pop up: blogs, foodies, centers, products, podcasts, logos… and the list goes on. Our society loves the idea of it, talking about it, dancing around it, and Googling it, but there is a disconnect. If we are so wellness-obsessed, why are we still hearing the abysmal statistics about the continuing health decline of the people living in our country? Why the disconnect? Why are we hovering around the intrigue of wellness and not diving right in? Ask any physician, drug company, or health insurance company and they will tell you: real Holistic Wellness is a hard sell. It’s abstract, somewhat undefined, and highly individualized. Deep down, we all know we desperately need it, we’re just not sure how to go about getting it and there is no quick fix or simple answer. Our children need to be taught, which takes time, persistence, connection to a larger purpose, and nitty-gritty hard work. For wellness educators like me, to see the change one child, one student, one individual at a time is not about money. It’s a labor of love.
In addition to teaching my own children, I teach Holistic Wellness to high school kids in Memphis, TN. The curriculum I have designed is built on pillars of wellness that my students learn to incorporate during their high school years. The concepts of wellness they learn reach far beyond the walls of the school, and my overarching goal is to infuse the facets of wellness into the future success of my students. Once they reach graduation prepared to pursue (or figure out) their passions, they understand that wellness cannot be extrapolated from the success equation. To have long-term success and happiness, wellness must be practiced. There simply is no other way.
The beginning of Holistic Wellness Education begins with a deep understanding that it is not a means to an end. It is the foundation upon which life-long, sustainable success is built. I would confidently wager a bet that you know someone who fits this description: A brilliant and wildly successful, driven workaholic who is sedentary, lives on fast or processed food, stressed to the max, and makes no time in her schedule for leisure or hobbies. Of course, you do; and I know you are well-aware of what happens next in the story. We just all hope that what happens next is not the end of the story. Building success in life without a strong foundation in wellness is living life in a house of cards.
So, what is this holistic stuff about, anyway? Am I urging students to buy organic herbs from Whole Foods? Hardly. My holistic approach simply means that I consider all the parts of wellness that kids—that people – need to learn to fully thrive. The whole is much more than the sum of its parts. All elements of wellness work together to strengthen each other, and one part is no more or less important than the other. My approach to teaching Holistic Wellness goes something like this:
We must pay attention to how our lives are balanced, or we may inappropriately allocate our focus and time and could become bored or burned-out. If our time is not managed well, stress sets in and sleep suffers. When we are tired or feeling stressed, we often make poor nutrition choices attempting to find quick energy or comfort. If we are not fueling our bodies properly with healthy foods, we are more likely to become sick. And exercise is the glue that holds it all together- adding strength to all aspects of wellness.
We practice, then we talk about it, then we practice some more. For four years my students weave the truths of wellness into their lives so that by the time they move on, it is beautifully engrained. They know no other way. I care about these kids. I care about the future health of our community and our nation. To make real change happen, I know no other way.
I have taken on this crusade. I hope other schools, parents, businesses, local governments join me in teaching Holistic Wellness Education. When my students have families of their own, I anticipate hearing new health statistics, but I can’t do it alone. Help me be the change.
Yesterday, I watched students walk across the stage at graduation, knowing that they are more than academically equipped to excel at their college of choice and that they have the strong foundation of wellness to build a life of health, success, and happiness. They will come to forks in the road and hit some inevitable bumps, as we all have. The difference is that the walls of their houses are made of iron, not cards, and they will continue their journeys upward. They are going to be fine. No… they are going to be well. Whether watching as an educator, parent, friend, or mentor, there is no greater feeling.