The difference between illness and wellness

The difference between illness and wellness

If you haven’t listened to my podcast this week with Morgan Beard, the lady with the amazing singing voice, I recommend you do. Wow, what a powerful conversation I had with her about her fight with depression, suicidal tendencies, and, what she overcome to be inspiring people today. At one point in the conversation, she talked about the difference, as described to her, between illness and wellness.

In many ways she was referring to mental illness and wellness, but I believe this every much applies to physical illness and wellness also. She spoke about a doctor, who when asked what he believed was the difference between the two, described in a very simple, yet powerful way. As I highlight the following letters in the two words, you will see the obvious and very accurate difference between Illness and WEllness. Clever, right? And, so true. It has been highlighted to me so clearly in the time of isolation during COVID-19.

I hope this doesn’t sound bad, but, for the most part, I have actually really enjoyed the period of isolation over the last few months. It has afforded me; time to reflect, time to grow as a person, time to create, the necessity to try new things and opened the door to amazing opportunities that have come my way. On the other and, however, living alone in some ways has been hard, really hard. I have, as previously mentioned, struggled with loneliness and dealing with certain things on my own. It resulted in some anxiety, periods of sadness, and whilst I don’t think I would describe it as depression, it was really tough at times.

The easing of COVID restrictions coincided with my niece, Tess’s 21st birthday, and so I went to spend a couple of hours with my brother, Matt, sister-in-law, Fiona, nephew, Jake and Tess, to help her celebrate. I arrived at their front door, pressed the doorbell and Tess came to answer it. She opened the door, looked at me with an unsure look on her face and asked, ‘are we hugging?’ ‘Heck, yeah!’ I said as I grabbed her and gave her a big and loving uncle/niece hug. It felt so good. For the next couple of hours, to be in the company of people that I love; talking, touching, hugging and laughing was just what I needed to leave feeling refreshed, renewed and ready to get back to happy me.

In last week’s blog, I explained that you are not alone in this world. This week, I want to encourage you to discover, find and spend time with your peeps, your tribe, your community and the people who care about you. This, my friend is the best antidote for illness there is. Get away from the ‘I’ mentality and get into ‘We’ mode. Many mental health issues begin because a person feels alone in the world, un-loved and un-heard. Morgan, in this week’s podcast, describes this heartbreaking feeling in her life as she spiralled into depression and many suicidal thoughts and actions. It was her connection with other people, which kept her alive, just one day at a time, until the WE-factor allowed her to fully recover and go on to be a person who is there for and impacting so many lives in a positive way.

When we are ‘I’ and feel alone, we often dwell in our brain on the things that are not good in life and the insecurities we have about ourselves. This can lead to unhealthy and damaging thoughts, emotions and actions that will destroy our mental and physical wellbeing. When we find ‘We’, in the way of the community of people who care, support, encourage and want to help us, then we feel strong, positive, confident and the thoughts, emotions and actions that follow will help us to be strong, healthy and happy; mentally and physically. If you want to live and amazing life of joyful longevity, then please move away from Illness and towards WEllness.

Deliberately choose your addiction

Let’s face it and be honest; we are all addicted or going to be addicted to things in our lives, right? From a self-help perspective, it may seem appropriate for me to tell you to avoid anything addictive, break all addictions and be a good boy or girl, but it’s not very reasonable. We are human and the human condition leads us into addictive behaviours. I know this because I have an addictive personality, for good, and not so good. What about you? If, in fact, we are going to get addicted to things in our life, then I want to suggest that we deliberately choose addictions that will help us, not harm us.

Every one of us is moved by one of two motivating factors; the gaining of pleasure or the avoidance of pain. We either go to work because it brings pleasure and we love what we do, or we want to avoid the pain of losing our job and having no income. We exercise because we either want the pleasure of that euphoric feeling, or we want to avoid the pain of ill-health. We save our money for the pleasure it brings knowing that we are building financial security, of avoiding the pain of poverty. When you think about all of the choices you make on a day to day basis, I’m sure you can identify the reason for it as either; gaining pleasure or the avoiding pain.

How this can be a massive consideration and influence on the formation of addictions (or habits) is; when and why you choose your motivating factor. You see, we can go for short-term pleasure, which often lead to devastating long-term pain. On the other hand, some short-term pain can, with patience, often lead to amazing long-term joy and abundance. It all depends on whether we can wait for the long-term benefits, or, our impulse control is not strong enough for us to resist this short-term and quick-fix need for pleasure. It is really this desire for a quick hit of pleasure that most readily leads to destructive addiction.

When we feel bad and want to feel better, drugs or alcohol can help us immediately feel some pleasure and comfort. We know, however, the long-term potential for addictive pain here, don’t we? When we try to fast track weight loss, and become addicted to diets, tablets and shakes, the long-term pain will impact many lives. One of my unhealthy addictions was for the immediate attention I got to my athletic body. I was insecure and needed external validation that I was good enough. I gained short-term pleasure through people telling me how good I looked, but let me tell you, it took me down a very unhealthy path. I overtrained, I ate extremely, I was stressed, and I was continually chasing recognition, more and more. I was chasing a tail I could never catch. You see, the greatest problem with addiction is that, with each addictive behaviour, what it takes to receive the same pleasure diminishes over time, meaning the behaviour can, if not checked, grow out of control. We are seeing evidence of this all over the world.

Get addicted to waiting for pleasure

So, my thinking is this; if we are going to end up addicted to certain things, why not focus on and get addicted to the things that are going to enhance and improve your life? The only difference between positive addiction and negative addiction is deliberate attention. You will know that when an impulse strikes, without deliberate attention, it’s very easy to just go down that path of gaining immediate short-term pleasure. With attention and focus, and knowing what’s truly important in your life, it’s easier – not easy – to resist the short-term pleasure, experience some short-term discomfort and bask in the amazing joy and wonder that comes through delayed gratification.

When I decided to become an author, I was working over 100 hours, seven days per week and desperate to get out of my personal training career. Do you think I really wanted to wait two years before I could hold that published book in my hands? No way! I wanted it the next day, but that’s not how success works. It takes time; planning, working, falling and getting back up again, persisting and waiting until the planting of the seed bears fruit. So, this was definitely the case of short-term pain for long-term gain. I have been experiencing the joy and fulfillment of being a full-time author, speaker and difference-maker for over 15 years, as I write this. I am living a life of abundant joy, and I will tell you, it was well worth the wait.

So, what should you get addicted to? Great question. I was in a crazy period of my life; spending 80 hours per week in my personal training business, another 20-30 hours per week in a café business that was losing money every day, and, trying to squeeze time into writing a book. So, I became addicted to the dream of being free. That gave me daily pleasure. Every day as I sat down to find a small pocket of time to write a few words, I knew I was getting closer and closer to that dream of holding my book in my hands, and, impacting lives all around the world. I was addicted to each word I wrote. I was addicted to feeling that my life was changing one word at a time. I was addicted to the belief that I would be living a better life. Every word was getting me closer to that reality. Even today, more than fifteen years later, I am still addicted to writing every day.

What about you? What could you start focussing on, and getting addicted to, that will actually bring you, over time, to the place of success and joy you are aspiring to? The key here is focus and deliberate attention. Without it, you and I will fall for the short-term pleasure attraction that comes with; procrastination, blame, victim-thinking, alcohol, food, diets, gambling, smoking and the other addictions you know you should be avoiding but are stuck in the middle of. Could you get addicted to the feeling of strength and courage it takes to say no to that extra drink? What about getting addicted to the feeling of wellbeing every time you consume some fresh and natural food? Can you get addicted to the feeling of growing financial strength each time you save rather than spend? I encourage you to get addicted to the feeling that you are in control of your life every time you make a choice to do something that, may not give you short-term pleasure but, will absolutely bring long-term joy and abundance.

Addiction is depicted as a bad thing. Well, doesn’t that depend on what you are addicted to? My mother, in her fight against cancer and striving for the desire to be around for her family, became addicted to each new day and the hope of a breakthrough. I believe this was one of the things that helped her outlive the doctor’s terminal prediction by fifteen years. You may think addiction is out of your control, but that’s only if you let it happen without thought or attention. When you are focused on what’s most important in your life, and, when you’re emotionally and powerfully attached to its achievement, you will more likely deliberately focus on the right things and choose addictions that will move you towards it. Deliberately choose your addiction today.