A Psychologist’s Guide to the Pursuit of Wellness
Wednesday, February 19, 2020
Posted by: Karen Hardin
Written by: Howard Fradkin, PhD, Chair, the new OPA Prevention and Wellness Program (formerly the Colleague Assistance Program)
I just opened the January issue of one of my favorite magazines, Food and Wine, and the Editor’s column is entitled “Be well.” Hunter Lewis describes wellness as “taking the time to cook for ourselves and for others, to share a meal, to savor what’s in front of us.” Of course, for him, food is at the center of wellness. I am reminded of our pre-Christmas family gathering with two 3 year olds and two 1 year olds. We took the time to make homemade pasta together, and everyone had a part to play, whether it was measuring flour and water, cracking the eggs, cranking, or carrying the just-cranked pasta to the drying racks. Some family members joined in the chopping and stirring of the ingredients for the homemade pasta sauces, and of course, all 15 of us got to savor the finished product. Lewis’s description is similar to what I have learned about the practice of mindful eating, really taking our time to appreciate all the textures, flavors and colors on our plate; and equally to be mindful of all the people who were involved in bringing the food to the market so we could bring it home to prepare.
When you think about your own wellness, what is at the center for you? For some folks, our breath may at the center. I still remember early in my healing process when I went to a therapist who spent the first few sessions teaching me how to breathe. Of course, I protested immediately, as I insisted I knew how to breathe; however, learning how to breathe deeply and mindfully is quite a different story, and I greatly benefitted from learning this new tool, which was vital as we explored the depths of my pain in later sessions.
I am reminded of how many times my yoga instructor asks us, “where is your breathing right now?” That’s when sometimes I realize I am holding my breath, instead of focusing on allowing the breath to flow freely, a great wellness practice.
For others, at the center of wellness is our connection to our spirits or our souls. Some of us learned there is no place in psychology for talk about spirits and souls; others find it impossible to enter into a psychotherapeutic relationship without a consideration of how our souls and spirits will have the opportunity to connect with our client’s spirit and soul. As I retired from private practice, I came to fully understand that psychotherapy is indeed a sacred practice where heart, mind and spirit/soul all meet.
Still others may embrace their heart as the center of their wellness, for without a heart, there is no life. Further, connecting with our hearts, both the physical heart and our feeling heart, allows us to experience compassion, warmth, passion, an array of feelings, and connection.
What is at the center of your wellness? The OPA Prevention and Wellness Program invites you to explore this question, and we’d love to hear your reflections. Email them to the PWP Chair, Dr. Howard Fradkin, and we’ll share them in the next e-newsletter.