by Jeff Witman, CTRS, Retired Professor, York College of PA
- Evidence of strong faith and spiritual involvement.
- Tendency to demonstrate flexibility and to adapt to change.
- Chronic empathy and sensitivity.
- Compulsion to be of service and contribute to society.
- Consistent tendency to say “I get” rather than “I have” to engage in daily activities.
- Persistent presence of a support network.
- Repeated amazement at the beauty and possibilities of the world.
- Consistent patience and perseverance.
- Rapid response to and recovery from stress.
- Passion for values and interests.
- Regular identification and communication of feelings.
- Repeated episodes of love, gratitude and generosity.
- Daily appetite for physical and mental activity.
- Persistent sense of humor and frequent laughter and smiles.
- Enhanced recognition and application of strengths and skills.
- Increased expressions of hope and optimism.
Habits are powerful! They can build us up or tear us down. Once established they defeat resistance. For example, as a habitual daily walker, I have overcome weather, injury and distractions to get at least a 30 minute stroll for 2000+ consecutive days. On the flip side I have consumed, with very few exceptions, a daily dose of coffee for many years. Habits both influence and are influenced by our choices, including choices regarding pastimes, recreation, leisure and play.
Thriving relates to being not just “not sick” but rather to flourishing, having a sense of being “very well” and enjoying life. The combination of positive habits and experiencing well-being can provide us with a tool Prince Harry recently described as mental fitness – “the key to powerful leadership, productive communities and a purpose-driven self.”
In 2010, Indiana University Professor David Austin shared a list of “12 Warning Signs of Health” which he attributed to A. A. Nathan’s The Art of Recreation Therapy. I have been tweaking the list ever since with much help from students, clients, colleagues, family and friends. Check out the list above and know there is a strong evidence base for each and all of the items. The classic Harvard Study of Happiness (https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2017/04/over-nearly-80-years-harvard-study-has-been-showing-how-to-live-a-healthy-and-happy-life/) and the Blue Zones Project findings about longevity (https://www.bluezones.com/) both support the importance of multiple items from the list.
While achieving all 16 at once may not be realistic, finding and nurturing those items of particular importance to you and to the folks you serve can tap into valuable results. Those of you involved with educating/coaching others regarding leisure and wellness may find them to be an especially productive catalyst for goal setting and affirmations. A participant in the Pathways to Discovery support group I recently led provided an insightful approach to consider as you identify possibilities for change:
Reflect on the potential benefits and take small steps.