Feeling Well Enough to Feel Good or Even Great
It’s May 2020. Usually this time of year I would be getting ready to get out on the water, or have family picnics, graduations, weddings, and all kinds of other seasonal activities. Instead of spending time with friends and family we have been advised to stay in quarantine. This is tough enough on mental health without all the other changes on top of that. Many different variables contribute to our mental health. Let’s dive into a few of these variables!
First, what does feeling, “good” mean? If someone asks you “How are you?” and you answer “good,” do you really mean it? Sometimes it may be hard to know because how is someone to know what they don’t know? Confused yet? I will share a personal experience to shed some more light on this.
When I first decided to become a certified personal trainer, I thought, “how hard can it be?”. I know how to strengthen my body at a high level, I’ve stretched during every practice, and did all kinds of drills and exercises. I thought I was a pro. Then I purchased my first personal trainer textbook which was around 500 pages and the information I learned started to shift my perspective. I knew how to do some of the things taught, but I also didn’t know a lot of the other questions being presented. I started to learn more and more. Why it’s recommended to do specific things for certain people, what is most effective, common mistakes, the extensive theory behind movements that we do, and how the body works. Ultimately, I realized how much I didn’t know back when I started. I would have never known how little I knew if it wasn’t for entering a new phase in my life and picking up that first book.
Another example of not knowing what “good” is, was when I met our nutritionist, Whitney George. She would ask me in our sessions how I felt and in the beginning I would say, “good,” but that’s because I didn’t know what “good” really could mean for me. I had a horrible diet most of my life, but I never was overweight so I never thought my eating habits were poor. Backing up a little bit, when I became a certified personal trainer I started practicing what I learned about nutrition from my certifications. I was abiding by the guidelines taught and thought I was eating “clean.” When I met Whitney a few years later we started to do some work where she pulled back the curtain a little bit. She helped me figure out a lot about my body. She uses a common sense approach; eat whole, natural foods to heal the body. Just like my training philosophy, she tailors her approach specifically to the person she is treating. After some more work we discovered that gluten was one of the biggest reasons I’ve been getting “heartburn.” If you have “heartburn,” pay close attention!
Since I was 7 years old, I remember asking my dad for his Rolaids because I had heartburn. He would say, “You’re too young for heartburn,” but would still give me one and I would stop complaining. Later in life, I got an Upper GI Exam and discovered I had GERD/Acid Reflux. I was in my early teenage years and the doctor told me that I had two options. The first option was to have surgery. The surgery was not recommended because at the time, it wasn’t comfortable for the patient afterwards. The patient would no longer be able to “burp” and would experience gas more times because of it. The second option was to take a pill once a day for the rest of my life. Once I chose that option I read the back of the prescription label and it said, “Do not take for more than two weeks.” At my next appointment, I mentioned this and the doctor’s reply was, “It’s one of the safest drugs on the market. You can take it everyday and you should be good.” It was that easy so I was happy. I took the pill and continued to eat and drink anything I wanted. It was great, but again I only felt “good” compared to what I have experienced in life up to that point.
The epiphany happened once Whitney figured out gluten caused my heartburn and bloating. I went gluten free and from that point forward, I never felt the same. Realizing only after the fact, I was extremely bloated and have lived with it for MY WHOLE LIFE growing accustomed to that feeling. Once I got rid of the boating I couldn’t believe how good I felt. Because I’ve eaten gluten my entire life, I never knew what it would feel like to not have the side effects that gluten has on me and has had on me ever since I could remember. Now I was well enough to know the difference of feeling bad, feeling good, or even truly feeling great. After I got accustomed to a gluten free lifestyle, I do not struggle as much with those symptoms, but I know there is still work to do to go from “good” to “great.” I’m trying hard to celebrate my positive, open-minded perspective because it helps me look forward to more progress which makes me feel even better. With this new perspective, I feel that it is my duty to shed light on what “good” and “great” can truly be for them.
The main point of my story is that perspective is really important. Mental health has a lot to do with physical health and vice versa. In order to feel good physically, and therefore more mental happiness, we may have to shift our perspective. When I hurt my back it was my second permanent disability and my 15th surgery. I was only 22 years old and feeling “good” at that point was getting through a day without crying. Things didn’t really change until years later and I got tired of feeling physically and mentally down. I lost a lot or muscle and while going through those injuries and it all caught up with me. To make a long story short, I eventually got stronger and healthier. With the extra strength, coupled with the confidence boost from not being in constant, agonizing pain, I learned there could be a “new good.”
Sometimes finding that “good” has to be through faith. I have seen a lot of people conquer some incredible injuries. They beat the odds without surgery. They didn’t do it with a negative frame of mind either. Every single one of them believed they could beat it and that belief probably had more to do with their success than their hard work. Many variables go into this success like having the right people around you and the right information, etc. Those people believed there was a “good” to be lived which was said to be unlikely, but they fought for that “good” anyway. That perspective doesn’t exist initially until it is willed into existence.
There are so many ways to create your “good” or “great.” Our mind, body, and spirit are all connected. Most of us have control of our bodies and our thoughts some of the time. So if we start with what we have control of and we gain more control of our bodies we are bound to feel that health increase in our mind, spirit, and the rest of our body. I think that is why going for a simple walk has so many benefits, tangible and intangible. There are tons of studies out there showing ways to increase your dopamine and serotonin levels, but let’s do what we know works. We feel more endorphins the more intensely we work out, but we also produce more cortisol and that breaks us down. So it is not healthy to only work out intensely. Some really fit people may be able to work out vigorously 2-3 times a week and still recover. Rest and even light workouts are as important as the intense workouts. Everyone is different in what they need so what works for someone who’s “like” you may not work for you. As always if you have any questions, myself and my team at Ampersand Integrative Wellness are here to help. It’s easy to overthink things so keep it simple and we are here if you need a helping hand.
Personal Fitness Trainer