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  • jeniferfoster2

Are you environmentally well?

I have to admit, I’ve been contemplating starting a wellness retreat for a long time. I get stuck in my own head sometimes. But, when I first started down this path, probably eight or nine years ago, I started looking at wellness and what that actually means. That was when I found the “eight pillars of wellness.” Honestly, I had been thinking of wellness mostly around the ideas of physical/mental health wellness. I hadn’t really considered how much career, financial or intellectual wellness might play a part. In hindsight, of course all of this makes sense. In school I learned about Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. If you’ve never learned about it, essentially Maslow hypothesized that people need to first focus on their basic needs: shelter, food, medical issues. However, as those become more stable, then people have the room to focus on “deeper” needs, such as safety, relationships, self-esteem and self-actualization. Thus, if you consider these two concepts together, it makes sense that people need to focus on their financial stability and their career first in order to be “well.”

Strangely, the one component of wellness I never considered until I moved to Roatan was environmental wellness. What does that even mean? When I read about it, it was proposed that environmental wellness is about how connected you are to your environment, and are you doing things to support your environment (and it you)?

Right now, all I can think of is environmental wellness. It is hitting me differently at the moment. It really does strike me as odd that I haven’t thought much about this though. I have moved around a decent amount. Since I was a child, I’ve lived in five different states. I’ve spent more than a month (living/working) at a time in three different places outside of the country. I know many people who have moved far more (and people that have moved far less). You would think I’d have thought of the importance of environment a little more than I have. Maybe because at this point in my life, I’ve really stayed in one place for a long time.

Now, I’ve been home one week. Man, I miss diving every day. Really! Can I live in an environment where I don’t have access to that on a daily basis? That has been on my mind rather constantly.

Being home has made me consider what goes into an “environment.” So, the obvious: what does the place you live at look like? Is it rural, suburban, urban? In it, do you have access to diversity (of people)? Have you considered what activities are available to you? Do they correspond to activities you need to make your heart sing? What about access to social interaction? Does your environment promote you seeing people and connecting with them to the extent that you want? Do you have access to the food that you enjoy? Is it easy to get around or difficult? When you consider things like commute to work, can you get there by walking, bike, car, public transportation? Do you have to spend hours commuting? Does your environment promote time doing the activities you enjoy? Are you taking advantage of the activities available to you? Phew.

Truly, I have never considered environment to this extent before. It’s so interesting that where we are might play considerably into our happiness, yet how many of us don’t spend much time considering it?

I’ve lived in DC for a long time. It took being away for me to realize how little of my environment I’ve been utilizing. I think it has been a slow process, but over time I’ve become less and less likely to do things like walk around downtown, go to museums or plays, go to restaurants or clubs, take in art or music, or even spend much time with friends outside of my household. There have been multiple reasons. First, I moved. So, things which used to be within walking distance, now require either both walking and getting on public transportation, or driving. Thus, accessibility has declined. But, the pandemic also slowed down social interaction and because I was no longer working downtown, I was considerably less likely to go. Prior to my return to DC this week, I had been to one play, one concert and one museum within the past five years, perhaps longer.

This week, I went to a few museums. I went out to a brewery, and met with friends. I’ve gone downtown three times, and spent time walking around and taking in art and music. I’ve also been swimming and out walking. I’ve been to restaurants and talked with friends. I’ve seen family. Yet, the sea is calling my soul and I have (almost) zero access to it.

Yet, when I was in Roatan, there were so many other things I missed. Getting around is incredibly challenging without a lot of planning or help. Access to food, aside from my own cooking, was limited. Within the place I was living, there was little diversity in regards to people or activities. My social group was incredibly limited, and my access to close friends or family was almost non-existent (I did have two friends come visit). While I went to two “museums,” they were not exactly burgeoning with information, art or excitement. I did hear live music at least once a week (more if I made an effort to do so).

But, how much do we consider our environment when we contemplate our own wellness? Believe me, I understand that moving is incredibly challenging for most people, be it for family, friends, finances, career, community, etc. But, is your current environment playing in to your happiness or challenging it? Are you taking advantage of the environment in which you live, or it is happenstance? Are you involved in the community in which you live? If not, are there ways you would like to be?

The one other thing that diving has helped me realize is how much I was ignoring the environment (on a larger scale) and how I was contributing to its demise. I worked for five weeks at a dive shop in Colombia. During that time, I helped with an Ocean Conservation week, and did a lot of research to write a blog post for the shop. I learned a ton about trash, and how so much of it (especially plastics) end up in the ocean. I was shocked. I hadn’t realized just how much I had been taking for granted the health of the environment. Some of the statistics are appalling really. Since then, I’ve been making a significantly greater effort to do simple things like use re-usable grocery bags and recycle what I can rather than simply throw it away. I’ve also been more conscious about doing things like reusing plastic when I can (like washing ziplock bags, and re-purposing bottles). If you have any doubt about human’s impact on the world, I encourage you to watch, “The Year the Earth Changed” or “Mission Blue: Creating Hope Spots.” Both are magnificent movies and will change how you view the planet.

So – environmental wellness. Yeah. It’s a thing. How is your environment contributing to or detracting from your wellness?

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