- Your body is all yours, and how you think about it and care for it is going to impact your wellness.
- Shifting to a place of appreciation for your body can influence how you treat it.
- Having an ideal future in mind can provide clarity around your actions and how you live in the present.
We all have a story and a history with our physical wellness that is unique to us. Our bodies and our relationships with our bodies are personal and complex. And, despite the miraculous nature of our bodies, our relationships with them can often be fraught with negativity.
The reality is that taking care of your body is a lot of work. While this topic can bring up feelings of resistance or vulnerability, I hope that you will feel empowered to take care of your physical well-being—and empowered to invest in yourself. After all, your body is all yours, and you only get one to last you a lifetime.
Thankfully, we can nurture and tend to our bodies in meaningful ways that align with wellness. This brings me to the first reframing we can do to shift our thinking around how we care for our physical being.
1. Your body is your forever home.
I invite you to reflect on how you have traditionally cared for the body you have been entrusted with and how it has shown up for you:
- What is your relationship with your physical body like?
- Give yourself a score for how well you have cared for your body.
- Give your body a score for how well it has worked for you.
- What has your body carried you through?
In my book, Stress Wisely: How to Be Well in an Unwell World, I talk about leading this type of reflection in a workshop. I listened to years’ worth of examples of growth, movement, and pleasure listed alongside examples of pain, betrayal, suffering, and damage. People also spoke about healing, recovery, and life. It was an extraordinary experience to witness people holding space and reverence for the miracle that is our physical being.
Our bodies are the most sophisticated organisms on earth. We are true marvels of science. It became evident in this workshop that more often than not, our bodies have shown up for us. I think it may be time that we show our bodies the respect they deserve.
When we think about physical wellness, it is all about recognizing the value of sleep, nutrition, movement, and listening to your body. We can treat our forever homes well by allowing them adequate rest, nourishing them, and moving them. For many of us, it is also time to change the way we talk to ourselves about our bodies. We cannot hate ourselves healthy or punish ourselves into feeling better. Our bodies are meant to be our protectors, not the enemy.
Shifting to a place of gratitude and appreciation for the body that carries you through this life can have a remarkable impact on how you choose to show up and care for your physical well-being. You need the right mindset, aligned intentions, and self-awareness to make the physical changes most people are seeking. And what is it that you’re seeking? What are you hoping your body sees you through? Dr. Peter Attia’s approach can give us some context and help us out here.
2. Reverse-engineer your health.
The second reframing comes from the work of Peter Attia, physician and author of Outlive: The Science and Art of Longevity. In his book, Attia introduces the Centenarian Decathlon framework that encourages us to be thinking about the 10 most important physical activities we will want to be able to do for the rest of our lives.
To do this, Attia talks about the idea of reverse-engineering your health or backcasting (a term he borrows from Annie Duke). When we look to the future and identify what it is that we hope to be able to do, it provides an anchor for us to work backward from.
What do you want to be able to do at 100 years old (or even 80 or 90)?
Each of our lists will be unique to us, with items ranging from activities of daily living to athletic pursuits, as well as items reflecting our own interests. For example, perhaps you want to be able to pick up your grandchildren, open a jar without assistance, walk up and down a flight of stairs, carry your groceries, go for a 30-minute walk around the neighbourhood, and more.
Once we’ve brought awareness to what it is that we hope to be able to do in the later decades of life, we can begin to identify the necessary steps we can take to bring that future into fruition.
What are the actions, behaviours, and habits that are going to get you there?
I believe that this approach can alter the way we take care of ourselves today. Clarity around what we are hoping to achieve in later years can help to inform the types of activities we are engaging in and how we are living our lives in the present.
Realistically, our physical abilities will naturally decline with age, yet Attia suggests that it is never too late to start training with purpose and intention to improve our quality of life.
Physical wellness is about doing what’s within your control to take care of your body now and for the future. We see time and time again that small changes can lead to huge gains when practiced consistently and with intention. The choices that we make today will impact us tomorrow. When we begin to take steps in the right direction, our momentum will build, and we will be on our way toward living healthier and more fulfilling lives. As the saying goes, “Do something today that your future self will thank you for.”
Bigger and better moments, days, and decades are ahead when we learn to stress wisely for physical wellness.
Attia, P. (2023). Outlive: The Science and Art of Longevity. Harmony.
Hanley-Dafoe, R. (2023). Stress Wisely: How to Be Well in an Unwell World. Page Two.