Building a Wellness Mindset

May 30, 2024


I’ve written a lot in this blog about the power of mindset, especially for healing.  That’s because I believe that mindset matters deeply for our well-being.  There are times when we can truly will ourselves into health. The placebo effect offers powerful illustration of that.  Of course, the opposite is also true. We can undermine ourselves with negative thinking that drains us of energy and motivation.  But in this blog, I thought we might take a bit of time to think about what makes for an optimal healing attitude, or what I call a true wellness mindset. 

Interestingly, this term ‘wellness mindset’ is thrown about rather a lot on the web but it’s a bit hard to find a definition for it.  The only one I could find was constructed by Guillaume Mariole, CEO of Ignite, a Dubai-based corporate wellness firm.  Mr. Mariole defines it as:

the attitude (and approach) that allows someone to actively (and consistently) pursue or maintain a lifestyle that supports their overall health.

I like this definition. It emphasises the action orientation of a wellness mindset. Indeed, if we are to build and maintain our health, we must invest with an active and consistent effort.  Perhaps more importantly, this definition also emphasises wellness not as an outcome but as something woven in and through a process.  In other words, wellness is not a static condition. I think it is more of an approach or a way of doing things.  Can we ever define ourselves as truly ‘well?’  Yes, I suppose we can.  For many of us, health is robust, but it is not a given.  However, we can invest and build resilience and resources.  For example, we can build our strength, our energy, our flexibility, and immunity; and, these things will not go away tomorrow.  They are part of us for a while.  But, how long they last will depend upon our lifestyle.  We must move well, eat well, sleep well, and manage our stress well, for them to last indefinitely.

I think it’s true that we can be well only if we do well. 

Of course, it’s not just the doing.  Doing well is not simply about acting well.  Doing well is also about thinking well. Attitude and mindset both matter.

If the placebo effect isn’t enough make this point obvious, consider the arguments of Kelly McGonigal, a health psychologist at Stanford University.    In her fascinating book, The Upside of Stress, she argues that changing our mindset about stress can transform it from a debilitating force into a powerful tool for growth and resilience.  To support her thesis, McGonigal references an extensive literature on stress.  She specifically remarks on a study conducted by Alia Krum, a colleague of hers at Stanford.  Krum’s study found that subjects who believed stress was harmful to their health were more adversely affected by it than those who did not, despite both groups experiencing similar levels of stress.  Clearly, this work, and many of the other studies discussed by McGonigal, make clear that our perceptions and beliefs about stress can dramatically influence its impact on our health. It seems that a more flexible, open mindset that recognises stress as at least occasionally useful is beneficial.

Actually, a more flexible, open and learning oriented mindset seems to be healthier for us, generally.  At least, Carol Dweck’s work suggests so.   I’ve mentioned Dweck’s work a number of times in this blog series.  If you have kids in school, you’ve probably heard of her work in discussions of ‘fixed’ v. ‘growth’ mindsets.  According to Dweck, a fixed mindset is built on the presumption that our abilities and qualities are static and unchangeable, while a growth mindset is built upon a belief that we can develop and improve through effort and learning. Dweck's work has shown that, in general, individuals with a growth mindset are more resilient, more likely to embrace challenges, and more successful in achieving their goals.

Again, well-being is not a static state but a continuous process of growth and self-improvement.  If we believe that is true then adopting a ‘growth’ mindset is tremendously important.   We should expect that on this wellness journey we will go through through different stages and phases and that each stage will offer unique opportunities for growth and development.  Challenges and opportunities will come to us, and with a growth mindset, we can rise to meet them.

So, this is a first pass at what I believe is a wellness mindset.  But now, let’s take the next step and think about how we more actively cultivate this wellness mindset.

Let me suggest that it should arise naturally by building the following disciplines:

1. Practicing Mindfulness.  Mindfulness involves being present in the moment and paying attention to your thoughts, feelings, and bodily sensations without judgment. Being mindful can also help us better recognise our habits and patterns and make more conscious choices to support our well-being.

2. Developing a Positive Attitude.  Fostering a positive attitude involves focusing on the good in our lives and practicing gratitude. This can help shift our perspective from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset, and encourage us to see challenges as opportunities for growth.

3. Setting More Goals. It’s the measures thing again!  Definitely, when we begin to take action, we must set realistic and achievable goals to keep us motivated and focused.  But we shouldn’t get obsessive or overly ambitious.  Let’s try to keep all of our goals manageable by breaking the larger goals into smaller, manageable steps.  And, very importantly, we should celebrate our progress along the way!

4. Engaging in Regular Physical Activity. Truly, I believe that physical activity is a cornerstone of wellness.  One of the first things to do is to find an exercise routine that you enjoy and can stick to consistently.  It doesn’t matter what it is:  walking on the corniche, joining a Zumba class, getting a stationary bike and riding it while watching TV . . . all of that’s great!  Regular physical activity has numerous benefits for both physical and mental health, including reducing stress, improving mood, and boosting overall energy levels.

5. Prioritising Self-Care.  Self-care means taking time to nurture and care for yourself. This can mean allowing yourself to read, meditate, spend time in nature, or engage in the hobbies that bring you joy. There’s no question that self-care activities can help you replenish your energy and support overall well-being.

6. Building a Supportive Community.  This one is a big one.  When we take on this wellness challenge, we truly need to surround ourselves with people who support and encourage the journey. Building a supportive community can provide motivation, accountability, and a sense of belonging, all of which are important for maintaining a wellness mindset. 

I so hope that Azoki can help with this!  We just need to grow a bit more!

7. Learning and Growing.  Stay curious and open to learning new things. Whether it’s exploring new healthy recipes, trying different forms of exercise, or reading about the latest wellness research, continuous learning helps keep your wellness journey dynamic and engaging.

To wrap up yet another longish blog, let me close with a simple appeal that you accept that health is worth your time and attention.  It’s step one in developing the wellness mindset and it’s a powerful way to enhance your overall health and well-being.  When you take step one, you’re one step closer to a healthier, more fulfilling life. 


Yours in Health & Happiness,