Before we dive in, let’s get clear about what we are going for here. Is it just improved health and fitness? A lower weight? Absence of disease?
From what I have learned over the years from clients, patients, and myself, most of us really want more. We really want to be well.
Well-being is a sense of contentment, resilience, confidence, and satisfaction in life; deeper even than happiness, which can be more dependent on outside factors. Well-being is an internal sense. Health and fitness can certainly contribute to well-being, though the two do not necessarily go hand in hand. Do you know of someone who is very fit and trim, yet missing that internal okay-ness?
If well-being sounds like what you are seeking more of, which works better for you, self-discipline or self-care?
Certainly, self discipline could lead to fitness and weight loss. How much would it bring about contentment or satisfaction – both in this moment and long-term? Discipline often uses reward and punishment to motivate abiding by a set of rules. Research shows this form of self-discipline can actually decrease our motivation long term.
How about self-care? The definition sounds like it would activate well-being. However, in our culture the term self-care can sound a bit hedonistic, selfish, self- indulgent. Is it selfish to clean your house, take care of your car, wash your clothes? No, I think we would agree that is just part of taking care of something, keeping it in good condition.
The body is constantly striving to take care of you. Heart beating, lungs breathing, nervous system communicating, immune system healing. Self-care is then automatic and built right into the design of the body! So cool!
We can either inhibit the body’s natural self-care by being in a stress response, or help it along by being in a state of mindful awareness. The answer lies in how each are used. When self-discipline triggers stress through ignoring signals of pain and fatigue from the body or w
hen self-care weights us down with guilt, neither activate well-being.
When self-discipline is done as a form of true self-care, as an act of kindness, it does not interfere with our body’s built-in systems of self-care.
Check it out for yourself and let me know.
Activate It: Brainstorm all the words you associate with self-discipline and all the words you associate with self-care. How can you find the blend of the two so they activate your well-being?
May You Be Well,
Janet Huehls, MA, RCEP, CHWC
Clinical Exercise Physiologist
Health and Wellness Coach
Yoga and Meditation Teacher