It’s important to remember that what affects one dimension of wellness will likely affect the others. As we go through this exercise, allow yourself to be okay with not having the answers to everything or knowing where to even start making changes. Continue being gentle with yourself, and we’ll figure this out together.
Let’s first ask ourselves, “What does physical wellness mean to me, and what would that be like if I were physically well to the best of my ability?” The answer to this question will be the road map to understanding your needs and what we need to change to meet those needs.
If you don’t know where to start, we can begin by looking at our current physical conditions or limitations, diet, how often we exercise, how much sleep we get, sexual health practices, and alcohol & drug usage. It’s really about the patterns we find ourselves in and how well those patterns benefit our lives.
Guided Body Scan Meditation for Mind & Body Healing
If it feels right for you, it might be helpful to do a short meditation or mindfulness exercise where you become aware of your body and ground your thoughts. This could be especially helpful if you tend to feel anxiety when thinking about your health or body.
Assessing Your Current Physical State
To begin assessing your current state, click on the boxes below to explore some important topics and questions that go into our physical wellness.
Let’s begin by asking ourselves some questions to take a deeper look at how well our body is functioning.
- Does my doctor have suggestions for managing my current condition or state of being?
- Am I aware of my dietary or physical limitations to make informed decisions?
- Am I getting regular check-ups at the doctor’s and dentist’s offices? If not, how can I access these services in my community?
- Am I taking my medications as prescribed?
- How could I improve my body’s hygiene?
- Have I ever gotten my blood work done?
- How is my body feeling? Try to pay close attention to aches and pains in your body, as they are signals that your body is trying to tell you something.
- Am I digesting my food well?
- How much do I sleep, and what is the quality of sleep I’m getting?
- How do my body and its current condition affect my perception of wellness?
Try to be mindful that allergies, genetic predispositions, fitness level, what our bodies are physically capable of, sensitivities to food/chemicals, and medications we’re taking which can all play a significant role if we are looking to change our current lifestyle. Also, remember that other aspects of us can significantly impact our physical wellness, such as:
If you’re unsure about making changes to your current routine, ask your doctor for a professional opinion.
It’s important to name that physical wellness comes with privilege. Some of us cannot access services in our community to get the help we need to stay healthy. Inadequate access to quality health care can happen because of:
- Financial barriers
- Not having insurance
- Discrimination and systemic oppression
- Lack of local providers
- Lack of reliable transportation
If this sounds like you, here are some alternatives and suggestions you could try:
- Applying for government assistance programs (SNAP, Medicaid, etc.) to help you access the care you need
- Finding sliding-scale providers
- Consider looking into mutual aid groups online
- Asking your doctor if telehealth is an option
- Look into credible rideshare groups & affordable transportation options, like free bus fares for students
If you identify as queer or gender diverse and have anxiety about accessing healthcare that is inclusive, you can try joining local trans groups or forums and ask where others get their care. The same could be helpful for BIPOC individuals looking for service providers in your community.
Healthy Diet Choices
Have you ever heard someone say, “you are what you eat”? As odd as it sounds, it’s true! Everything we consume is broken down and integrated into our biology, helping all our body’s systems function to the best of their ability.
Not only does food give us the nutrients we need to survive and thrive physically, but it can affect us emotionally as well. Did you know we produce nearly 90% of our serotonin and 50% of our dopamine in our gut? In case you didn’t know, serotonin and dopamine are chemical messengers in your body that give you a feeling of happiness & wellbeing and satisfaction & pleasure, respectively. These chemical messengers can play a massive role in our body’s overall health, which gives us more reason to learn how to make healthy diet choices that are sustainable for our wellbeing.
Let’s ask some more questions to get to the bottom of our eating habits.
- How can I start adding healthier choices to my diet, even in small ways?
- Am I getting the vitamins and minerals I need from my food, or should I take vitamins, too?
- Do I drink enough water?
- When I finish a meal, how does my body feel? Am I feeling tired, energized, heavy, or comfortable?
- How would I describe my relationship to food? Has this relationship changed recently?
- What self-talk do I use when eating or thinking of eating?
- How often am I eating, and is it sustainable for my health?
- What feelings do I associate with food/eating, and does that impact my eating choices?
There are a lot of online resources to help you find the best way to eat for your body and your specific goals. Remember that changing your diet to incorporate healthier choices will take time and is a lifestyle change. Trendy diets are often out of alignment with your body’s natural tendencies and can be exhausting to maintain.
Despite our personal preferences, some general rules apply to how much and how often we should eat certain things. The best way to know what works for your body is to practice intuitive eating.
Have you been craving any foods lately? Usually, that’s a sign that your body has a deficiency in some vitamin or mineral and looking to fill that need. If you also pay attention to when your body is hungry or feels full, you’ll know when to eat or when to stop. It can take practice learning how to read your body’s language (and listening to it), but it can make a huge difference in how you care for yourself.
You don’t need to overwhelm yourself; big changes come from small changes over time. If you want to make changes to this dimension, I encourage you to view it as an act of self-love to help your body get all the nutrients and minerals it needs to stay balanced. If you don’t feel you need or want to change your eating patterns or food choices, honor that choice and do what feels right for you.
If you know you have struggled with obsessing about your weight or body image in the past, be particularly mindful of triggers so that you don’t repeat those patterns. Improving your physical wellness does not have to be synonymous with punishing yourself. Your body is beautiful and wonderful as it is; any changes you make should add to your quality of life.
If you struggle with disordered eating and body image issues, check out our articles on Eating Habits & Disorders for clarity and support in those realms.
Moving Your Body
Most people have heard that exercise is good for you, but why is that? Some benefits include:
- Improving your strength, fitness, and confidence which can help you to achieve your goals in life
- Enabling you to become involved in fun, new activities
- Increasing your energy, flexibility, and mobility
- Helping you to manage stress and anger
- Increasing your self-esteem
- Helping you sleep better at night
- Improving metabolic rate which prevents weight gain and allows you to manage a healthy weight
- Preventing or managing certain illnesses or conditions, such as depression, anxiety, arthritis, type 2 diabetes, etc.
- Clearing your head if you have a lot on your mind
- Meeting new people by playing a team sport or joining an exercise center
Some questions to ponder:
- How do I incorporate movement into my day?
- What are my favorite ways to move my body?
- What are my fitness goals?
- Am I satisfied with where my activity levels are right now? If not, what needs to change?
- What is my relationship to exercising and moving my body?
- Do my thoughts and beliefs support my long-term goals?
If you’re going to try a new workout routine, try looking up safety practices, so you don’t accidentally injure yourself. If something is painful, don’t push yourself. However, it’s normal to feel muscle soreness after working out (especially when you first start), but that soreness should decrease the more active you are. It’s essential to rest well between workouts and be mindful of the muscle groups you’re working out to prevent injury.
As you begin moving your body more and learning what feels right for you, pay attention to what feels good and what doesn’t. Sometimes low-impact exercises are more appropriate if you have issues with your joints. If you have back issues, lying on your back to do exercises may not be the best. Be curious in finding other ways to move your body that feels right for you. It’s okay if it’s challenging, but if it’s painful, try something else!
It’s always a good idea to talk to a medical professional before starting a workout routine if you’re unsure it’s right for you.
Let’s be clear about one thing. Exercise shouldn’t be about punishing yourself. If that’s your mindset, you’re going to have a very hard time sticking to it because it’s not about enjoyment, it’s about punishment. This motive isn’t a great incentive to keep going.
Pro tip: What we focus on becomes more pronounced in our life. So, if we are looking at all the ways we will fail, how hard it is, or how we’re not good enough, we will find ways to affirm that belief. We will be blind to how we are progressing and getting better. Try to keep your focus on where you want to be and you will get there.
Positive affirmations to help you reframe movement and exercise:
- Moving my body is an act of self-love
- I am building a better relationship with myself and my body
- This is an opportunity to feel into my body’s needs
- I am moving my body because it brings me joy
- I can have fun while taking care of myself
If you are concerned with wanting to see progress, find ways to track it so that you can see how you’re improving. If you put your focus there, you will see it! Forget motivation. It’s about dedication!
Ways to Move Your Body
What is your favorite way to get your body moving? Focus on movements that make you feel empowered and good! If it feels like a chore, you won’t find consistency with that movement, and consistency is key! Check out our article on Why Movement Is Good for You to learn more.
Some types of movement you may resonate with:
- Dance. You can do this in the comfort of your room or out with friends. Explore different styles of dance and see what feels best for you. You can find a lot of dance tutorials on Youtube and TikTok if you like choreographed dance. Dancing in front of a mirror is an excellent way of improving your dancing style if that interests you. Dancing without a mirror can allow you to be present in your body as you interpret the music with movement.
- Martial Arts. Not only will you feel confident in knowing how to defend yourself (if need be), you can become stronger, improve cardiovascular health, have more stamina and endurance, and become more empowered through focused training.
- Bicycling. If you live in the inner city, biking is a great way to explore independence and improve cardiovascular health. Even living in a rural area, you can significantly benefit from long bike rides. Being in nature can significantly improve your mental health, too.
- Resistance Training. Having gone through gym class, you probably know what this is. It’s a type of exercise where you contract your muscles through resistance-based exercises to improve strength, endurance, mass, or tone. Resistance or weight training may include lifting weights, using bands to increase resistance, bodyweight exercises (calisthenics), or using machines in the gym. Tracking your progress with weights, reps, and sets can improve your self-confidence, as well as improve your self-esteem, body image, and mental health.
- Running or Walking. There’s something about accomplishing a run that feels incredibly satisfying. Running is an excellent way of increasing your stamina and endurance, as well as your cardiovascular health. Plus, it’s something you can do almost anywhere, whether you prefer to run on a track, treadmill, sidewalk, or trail. The same applies to walking! If you have a hard time running, walking is a great alternative and can be a fantastic way to clear your mind, as well.
This topic can either be fascinating or low-key embarrassing…and that’s okay! We’ll get through it together. Not everyone wants to have sex or is ready to, but it’s still good to know how to keep yourself safe sexually if you decide later on that’s something you’d like to do.
If you are sexually active, knowing how to have proper boundaries, communicate honestly, and advocate for yourself are all extremely valuable skills to have. Note: I said skills. Clear communication is not something most people are born knowing how to do, and learning how to use your voice will empower you in making sound decisions for yourself.
How To Have Safe Sex | Big Sis Advice | Meghan Hughes
Things to consider:
- How educated are you on safe sex practices?
- What needs do you have sexually and how can you meet those in a healthy way?
- What measures are you taking to make sure you’re safe in your sexual encounters?
- What does healthy intimacy mean to you?
- What boundaries do you have when it comes to sex?
- Are you satisfied with the amount of time you make to be sexual?
- Do you feel comfortable talking about sex or your needs with partners?
- How much is your sexuality affecting your overall wellness? Does it influence other dimensions?
- What are your current beliefs and thoughts on sex and what a sexual relationship looks like with yourself and/or others?
To keep you and your partner(s) safe, it’s essential to:
- Talk about your sexual history
- What other sexual partners you have (or had)
- Your current status on sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
- When you were last tested
- What forms of protection you’re comfortable with using or what you’re currently using
It’s important to talk about these things before any sexual contact happens because it’s much harder to talk about when you’re in the moment.
It’s also relatively easy to transmit some infections and diseases through sexual contact alone, so you need to know what barriers are best to reduce the risk of it spreading. Do your research about how to practice safe sex for your lifestyle and what form of birth control or barriers you need to stay safe. Check out Planned Parenthood’s resources on safer sex and birth control methods to learn more!
You are allowed to have boundaries in all aspects of your life. Boundaries allow us to honor our limits and respect ourselves while also letting others know our needs and what makes us feel safe. Boundaries can also help define roles in relationships, which could be helpful if you have multiple sexual partners.
When we can openly share what we are or are not comfortable with, we are telling our partner(s) how to create a safe experience for us. This means we also need to be open to hearing our partner’s boundaries, so we can make them feel safe and supported. When boundaries are respected, it creates a space of safety and security.
Regarding boundaries and sex, it’s okay to say no if you’re not feeling it, and your partner needs to respect your decisions about your body. Same goes for them, too. Being rejected can sting, but you wouldn’t want to push their boundaries and make them feel unsafe or like they can’t trust you anymore. Communicate clearly and effectively and don’t be afraid to state your needs. You have every right to share those.
A Note on Birth Control
If your partner says they’re on birth control and therefore you don’t need a condom, know that you can still transmit STIs, and there may still be a chance of pregnancy. If your partner says they don’t like condoms and don’t want to use them, be mindful that the “pull out” method is not 100% effective for birth control, either.
Get into the habit of getting tested regularly and when you have a new partner so that you can make adjustments to your safe sex practices as necessary.
Cocaine vs Sugar
Every substance we consume will affect us differently. Substance abuse can affect us in many dimensions of our lives and often overlap. When it comes to our physical wellness and substances, we need to consider what we use and how often. This will inform us of the role it plays in our health.
Food for thought:
- What kind of role do substances play in your life?
- What is your intention for using them?
- How are substances affecting your physical health?
- What changes to the way you use substances, if any, would make your body happier?
The definition of a drug is any substance that alters your brain chemistry or affects your body after being introduced to your system. Under that definition, we aren’t just talking about weed, alcohol, meth, coke, Xanax, molly, etc. Caffeine (energy drinks, soda, & coffee) and sugar also change our brain chemistry.
Some things to consider:
- Limiting your consumption, or taking a break, from substances can help you feel more clear-headed, grounded, and lighter
- Stimulants can also play a role in your mental health, especially if you’re prone to having racing thoughts or anxiety
- Abusing drugs and alcohol can suppress our immune system
- If you’re getting sick often, consider consuming more Vitamin C or slowing your drug consumption down some
Recognize that anything you put in your body will affect you physically. Our body works hard to break down and process the chemicals we introduce to our bodily systems. Somewhere down the line, it will play a role into our health.
In honoring your decision to do what you want with your body, you can try:
Ask yourself why you’re using the substances you do. Is it a habit, a numbing agent, for fun, spiritual purposes, or other reasons? Knowing the motivation behind it and how it’s affecting your life can help you decide whether it’s aiding or hindering you.
If drugs or alcohol negatively impact your life (socially, academically, legally, etc.), think about changing how and when you’re using the substance. You can also find support through a support group or by talking to a counselor or therapist with experience in addiction or substance use disorder.
If you decide you’d like to stop using or cut down your consumption, it might be helpful to check out podcasts or YouTube videos of others that have quit to hear some of their tips first-hand. Researching outpatient or inpatient rehab centers may also be an option for you. Before quitting cold-turkey, do your research to make sure that is a safe option for the drug you are using.
Treating Your Body With Love & Respect
Remember to express gratitude to your body. Every day, our body carries us through life; it deserves love. Often, it can be easy to get wrapped up in how we are presenting to the world and what our body looks like, yet we forget how much it does to keep us alive and how much it’s capable of doing for us. It might not reflect us perfectly or be able to handle everything we put it through, but it’s the only body we have, and that’s special.
Here are some ideas to give it some extra love:
- Give yourself a massage (or pay someone else to do it)
- Take a bath using a bath bomb, salts, or moisturizer
- Add oil or lotion to your skin after a shower or bath
- Spend some time stretching throughout the day, especially after working out
- Keep your body hair if it makes you comfortable; society shouldn’t have a say in what you do with it
- Look in the mirror and tell your body something kind, or say, “I love you.”
- Have that sweet treat or smoothie bowl you’ve been eyeing as a bit of a reward
- Get dressed in something that makes you feel good—just because!
All of our bodies are different, and none are better than others. Embrace the stretch marks and scars, the hair you grow, the soft and firm bits, and every part in between. Celebrate the skin you’re in with radical self-love. You deserve it.
About The Author
Mordekai (he/they) is an Online Youth Peer Support Specialist with Youth Era. He provides crisis and suicide intervention outreach services online, moderates Youth Era's Twitch channel, and manages the content and creation of Youth Empowerment by Youth Era.
It's his life's passion to help others feel more connected to themselves, others, and the world around them.
About Youth Era
Youth Era is a nonprofit that works with teens and young adults to become happy, successful, and contributing adults members of their communities. The organization creates solutions for communities across the country that look beyond short-term assistance for the few and toward sustainable support for the many. To learn more, visit www.youthera.org.