Wellness and Wholeness | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Wellness and Wholeness

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Kathleen Mitchell

I love few things more than the idea of getting organized. Lists? I'll make every dang list you can think of. I keep whole notebooks of lists. Resolutions are my jam. Nothing excites me more than a new project. Give me a goal and a deadline, and I'm all over making a plan to conquer.

So as the days fell away on 2013, my brain inevitably started thinking about resolutions for next year. The past 12 months have been hard on me (my husband deserves a medal for all the emotional holes he's pulled me out of and all the proverbial ledges he's talked me down from), and I can't help but see a new year as a chance for a better year, and especially a better me.

My goals for the next 12 months are focused on my wellness, in all that the word encompasses—health, fitness, mental strength and stability, financial and professional success, a happy home and beyond.

What I am slowly discovering is that for me to be well, I need to fulfill and nourish multiple sides of myself. I need to be physically fit, yes. But I also need—not just want, but actually need—time to be creative, or intellectual, or quiet, or even drunk and laughing with my friends. I need to work and grow professionally. I need to pursue my crafty pursuits at home. I need to go out and meet people and feed my social self.

Although I may resist it, I also need to be responsible for a clean home and cooked meals and keeping our pets healthy. Those things, too, are part of my wellness. I'm learning that real wellness is wholeness. It's the big picture in balance.

You can't have true wellness without balancing the whole. A person who works 24/7 might be great at his or her job. They might be successful or rich. But they aren't truly well. A person who has a model figure but obsesses over working out, counting calories and skipping anything with flavor isn't well.

A city is the same way. Fixing one thing will not make our city well or whole. Problems are interconnected, and must be viewed as such when we seek solutions.

One great, new thing does not a fixed city make. We could replace every single pipe running under the city's streets and be looking at pristine, pothole-free pavement—but if our education system is still a mess, Jackson will never be whole or well. We could build the grandest convention center hotel in all the land and see money start to flood the downtown economy, but unless we see that money going back into our city and our citizens—not wasted or sent elsewhere—we won't be well, either.

It reaches beyond Jackson, too, just as I know my personal wellness affects my husband and family. Cities need suburbs, but suburbs need cities, too. If we learn to work together, to support one another and consider the metro area as one, we will be that much more whole.

The good news is that, while problems are interconnected, so are triumphs. A healthier body leads to a better self-confidence. Expanding your mind tends to correlate with better performance at work. A more fulfilling social life and better mental health go hand in hand. Perspective and balance are a beautiful Catch-22.

I'm not saying we can or should attack every problem at once. Time and physics and, usually, funding prevents us from doing that successfully.

With people it's a little easier: You can work on your physical fitness, expanding your intellect, deepening your inner peace and have a little fun all in the same day.

Cities (and countries) must practice the art of working on some aspect of improvement while remaining fully aware of the other areas that need help as well.

There's one other "w" word to add to what I'm seeking in 2014: willpower. I start this new year the same way I start every new year: with great intentions and grand plans, all initial excitement that may burn out anywhere from mid-February to May. But great intentions and grand plans mean little if I don't eventually see a result. Making that list might feel great, but how good is it if it stays a piece of paper?

There's science that backs this up. Apparently the act of making a list or a plan releases some chemical or hormone in your brain that basically says, "Yay, you did it!" Simply by making a list or a plan, you feel accomplishment—even if it's false accomplishment. Just because you've listed the 408 things you want to do to improve your home doesn't mean your home is actually improved. Your brain just gets excited thinking it is. (Of course, inclination to procrastination is a big part of this, something else so many of us fall prey to these days.)

My self-improvement goals aren't complicated, and they are the same as many people all across the world. Find a fitness routine I can stick to. Grow intellectually. Accomplish something fun creatively. Overcome my tendency to overthink and overstress.

Easy peasy—but only if I find the willpower to do the hard work. To get out of bed early and hit the gym. To put down the remote and pick up the broom. To fight the internal struggle between lofty career ambitions and a deep desire to marathon Netflix shows. Above all, to have the courage to really look at myself and my shortcomings. To be honest with myself about where I should improve, and what I must change about my lifestyle or my personality or my habits to do it.

Jackson should face the new year prepared to ask the same tough questions and dig in for the real answers.

And I am realizing I don't need to be perfect in every area. I don't need a flawless physique or an award-winning home. Whole doesn't necessarily mean ideal, it just means complete. Full. I need to find a balance among everything and, especially, to forgive myself when I don't get it exactly right.

Wellness takes work. It doesn't matter if you are seeking it personally, for your family or your city.

Here's to a new year of growth, health and never-ending improvement.

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