Wellness is one of those things that if you have it, you take it for granted, but if you don't, it will rule your life.

Fortunately, you do have some control over the quality of your life. The choices you make every day about the foods you eat, the activities you pursue, how you manage stress and even who you spend time with will have a powerful effect on the way you feel and your ability to avoid debilitating illness.

Wellness is a matter of taking care of your whole self - body, mind and spirit. Neglecting any of the three will have an effect on your health and happiness.

With that in mind, here are some tips to help you achieve your goal to live long and feel well:

Take care of your body

--Get a physical check-up to make sure there are no underlying health problems. Your doctor will check your heart, blood pressure, blood sugar, blood lipids, and can advise about your general health.

--Stop smoking.  Your lungs will function better; your breath will be sweeter and your skin will be healthier.  Overall, people who don't smoke will age more gracefully, since smoking can negatively affect everything from skin tone to circulation to immune function.

--Drink water, which is necessary for many processes in your body. Whenever possible replace other drinks with water and try to change your thinking to view water as the true thirst quencher.

--Eat good carbs such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains most, if not all, of the time and choose unsaturated fats such as olive oil, avocado, nuts and seeds.

--Eat low-fat versions of dairy products and leaner meats.

--Choose fewer foods that have added sugar and salt.

--Become label savvy. Know what’s in the foods you buy and eat. You will need to invest some time at the beginning of the process, but soon you will be able to efficiently scan any label and glean the information you need to determine if the product is right for you.

--Cut down on prepackaged foods and fast foods, which are generally over-processed, full of preservatives and high in sodium, and stay away from empty calories that provide calories but little nutrition.

--Become aware of portions and serving sizes. One “serving” of meat is about the size of a standard deck of playing cards. One cup of cooked vegetables or rice is about the size of a fist. A medium piece of whole fruit is a little bigger than a tennis ball.

--Eat a variety of fresh, whole foods, including selections from the five food groups—Vegetables, Fruits, Grains, Meat and Legumes and Milk. Eat colorful foods for their phytonutrients.

--Include at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables each day, with an emphasis on vegetables and include a serving of low-fat versions of good quality protein with each meal and snack.

--Include fiber-rich foods in your diet. These are foods like whole grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes and nuts and seeds. Fiber will help you to feel full and will facilitate the efficient movement of food through your digestive system.

--Eat foods that you like and try to change your thinking to like foods that are healthy for you. There are so many wonderful, delicious and nutritious foods to choose from!  Also, look for the most nutritious versions of the "treat" foods you like, so that when you do choose to eat them, you are not eating empty calories. For instance, if you like chocolate, there is evidence that dark chocolate has health benefits—just remember to eat it sparingly, savoring each tidbit to the fullest.

--Get enough sleep. Recently, scientists have found a correlation between sleep and wellness. It is while you are sleeping that your body is able to take care of all those housecleaning duties that it can’t perform while it is busy keeping you going during the day.

--Incorporate some stretching along with other aerobic exercise into your daily life. Find an activity that you like to do and, if it helps, get a friend to do it with you.  Some people function well with a programmed “workout,” while others will be happier if they are doing physical labor or participating in sports or group activity. Whatever it is, if it gets you moving, you will feel better and have more success with maintaining a lifestyle that supports wellness.

--Educate yourself about wellness. Find out all you can, so that you can make informed choices. Make sure that your information comes from sources that have your best interests at heart, and not from a source that has a financial interest in your thinking and behaving in a certain way.

Take care of your mind

--Smile, laugh and think positively. There is a significant body of evidence that positive "self-speak" and attitudes can help you achieve your goals. Hang out with positive people and fill your life with positive messages whenever possible. Thinking of yourself as a happy and healthy person, can go a long way to helping you make healthy choices in your life.

--Challenge your mind. Learn a new skill, take music lessons or learn a language. This will keep your brain active and give you something to think about and work towards.

--Find ways to manage stress. Do deep breathing, spiritual activities, physical activities, and other stress management techniques to reduce the amount of stress in your life. You have probably heard that stress causes you to produce a hormone called cortisol that contributes to weight gain, especially around your middle, where it can be dangerous to your overall health.

Take care of your Spirit

--Cultivate your spiritual health. Don’t underestimate the impact that neglecting your spiritual side can have on your goals—including your goal to be well.  Set aside time for prayer and meditation in your daily schedule.

--Spend time helping others. There is no better boost to your spirits than doing something nice for someone else. Kindness and generosity are closely linked to good health and wellness.

--Practice thankfulness. There is a positive physical reaction in your body when you appreciate and are thankful for the blessings in your life. Gratitude will also help you to keep things in perspective when you are feeling blue.

The rewards

By taking care of your body, mind and spirit, you will find that you are reaping the benefits that only wellness can bring.

1. You will look better, with healthier skin, hair, eyes, teeth, etc.

2. You will be less likely to develop debilitating diseases such as diabetes, cancer and heart disease.

3. You will have more energy to do the things you love.

4. Your mood will improve, as will your sex life (especially if your spouse is pursuing a wellness lifestyle, too).

5. You will require fewer visits to the doctor.

6.  And finally, if you pursue a wellness lifestyle, you will probably live longer, at least in terms of lifestyle-related mortality, and that's good for you and your family.

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