Mind Mental Health Health Wellness

In 2021, I am embracing my personal wellness on World Health Day

Let’s face it, in 2021, we wash our hands for 20 seconds every time, humming the tune of happy birthday like a ritual. When we leave the house, we are locked and loaded with an arsenal of hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes. Touching our faces? A thing of the past! We don’t need World Health Day on April seventh to remind us how to avoid the virus. 

While this is fitting for a world that has suffered so much from the pandemic, there is so much more to staying healthy than steering clear of germs. I was in the third grade when I had my first exposure to widespread illness; in 2008, swine flu swept the nation with germ-avoiding hysteria. Inexperienced as I was to what wellness means, on the whole, I become a hygiene hypochondriac. To this day, my friends and family jokingly refer to me as a germaphobe. 

In 2021 when COVID-19 hit, I was determined not to make this mistake again. When you are paranoid about staying healthy for the wrong reasons, you ignore your mental health in the effort to preserve your physical health. Abandoning one aspect of the soul to serve another will cause burnout. Trust me; I experienced this first-hand throughout high school by depriving myself of positivity in my surroundings. 

I was obsessed with washing my hands before every meal, busting out the hand sanitizer in the locker room, and dousing my backpack in Lysol when I came home. I refused to share drinks with my friends and avoided high-fives or handshakes. I still flinch when someone touches my face or, God forbid, leans in for a hug. 

Does this sound like wellness to you? 

Eat Better, Feel Better, the new health and wellness cookbook by Food Network star Giada de Laurentiis has become a beacon for me. Released just a few weeks ago on March 16, it couldn’t have hit stands at a better time when millions around the world are feeling isolated, anxious, and more depressed than ever before. 

I have always been a fan of Giada; her recipes, food shows, and travel specials embrace la dolce vita, Italian for the sweet life. I admire her use of fresh ingredients in Mediterranean-style cooking that, while healthy, doesn’t shy away from decadence. 

So when I heard about her book through social media, I didn’t hesitate to pre-order. 

In a time when staying at home is the new norm, and there is nothing and no one to help regiment my diet and restrict the impulse to yield to temptation, the meal plans featured in the book were a Godsend. They returned to me a sense of control when it comes to my diet and soothed the constant worries echoing in my mind during the pandemic. 

At the heart of the book’s message is that wellness starts from the inside. The book’s description from Giada’s website phrases it perfectly: “Boost gut health and immunity with a delicious approach to wellness nourishes mind, body, and spirit.”  

Think food that feeds the soul.

Wellness is so important because it covers all aspects of health: mental, physical, emotional, spiritual, etc. In turn, these things touch so many parts of our lives, from relationships, confidence, goals, and productivity. So much can change based on how you achieve wellness. 

When I’m feeling sluggish or depressed, I point the first finger to the pantry. What have I been eating that week? Have I been drinking enough water? Have I been sleeping enough? 

Usually, the answer is no (and the culprit is potato chips). As fun as it is to indulge, it doesn’t contribute to my overall environment of wellness. That’s where Giada’s new book comes in handy. The recipes feature clean, natural ingredients that made me feel more purified of processed foods within just a few days. One of my favorite dinner recipes is the spaghetti with lemon and rosemary; it’s light and fresh but still allows me to get my carbs in! To indulge, I made the chocolate banana walnut bread (without the walnuts since I am allergic). 

The point of all this? None of it involves being paranoid about germs from the outside world, which tarnishes your cloud of positivity both inside and out. Self-care starts with self-love

For some, that means exercising more so that their bodies reflect how they feel on the inside. For others (like me), it’s pampering time; filling up a bubble bath, dimming the lights, and burning my favorite candle is nothing short of heaven, leaving me relaxed, recharged, and uplifted. 

Redefining what it means to indulge is an easy way to kickstart your personal wellness plan. “Indulge” in what cleanses your body, mind, and spirit–whatever that means for you. 

You can nurture your body with the clean food ideas found in Giada’s cookbook; let how you feel on the inside reflect what is on the outside. Or, let what’s on the outside influence the inside; pamper your skin with Vitamin C, your favorite cleansers, exfoliants, and moisturizers. Experiment with new makeup, or go au naturel (because you don’t need makeup to be beautiful, it’s all how you view it). Once you have embraced your own personal definition of wellness, that positivity will glow within. 

When I stopped over-analyzing every time I touched a surface from the outside world and focused more on the food that makes me feel good and the activities that increase my inner light, I achieved more motivation, confidence, and productivity

Living in a world of paranoia about avoiding germs does nothing to benefit you. It makes you turn your back on the message of World Health Day and only brings you farther from achieving peak inner wellness. In the end, you will increase your standard of living; all you have to do is start from the inside. 

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By Laurie Melchionne

Laurie Melchionne is the editor in chief at The Argo, Stockton University's independent student newspaper. Laurie majors in Literature with a double minor in Journalism and Digital Literacy/Multimedia Design. With a concentration in creative writing, Laurie loves all things editorial and communications, and believes in people sharing their voices through the written word.