Wellness Check

Do you laugh frequently?

Yes / No

Experts say: Laughter truly is our best medicine. Studies prove that when we laugh, it can improve our blood flow, help us fight infection, lower the blood sugar levels of diabetics and help us relax in general. That’s all great news;  physical health is a cornerstone of emotional wellness.

Do you exercise three or more days each week for 30 minutes at a time?

Yes / No

Experts say: Physical exercise is a powerful mood moderator. Duke University researchers discovered that 30 minutes of brisk exercise three times per week was just as effective as drug therapy at relieving the symptoms of depression—and for those who exercise consistently over the long term, the blues are less likely to return.

Do you get between 7 and 8 hours of sleep most nights?

Yes / No

Experts say: The National Institutes of Health reports that most healthy adults need between 7 and 8 hours of sleep each night; fewer than 6 can have adverse affects on your mood and physical health. When you get enough zzz’s, you improve your ability to learn and retain information, your ability to focus, and during REM, you give your heart and vascular system a chance to restore.

Even during challenging circumstances, do you tend to focus on how you can create a positive outcome? 

Yes / No

Experts say: When you have a hopeful attitude, you contribute to your own happiness. And hope can be learned: In one study, when participants were taught hope-related skills, such as identifying goals, and then moved toward those goals, they reduced their symptoms of depression.

Do you have at least one close friend or family member you can confide in?

Yes / No

Experts say: Nurturing close connections with others not only increases our joy, it can improve our overall quality of life. It might also add years: In one study, those who maintained a network of friends and family members were more likely to extend their lives.

Do you have an outlet for expressing your emotions?

Yes / No

Experts say: One study demonstrates that when you find a healthy outlet for your emotions, such as writing down your personal experiences, you can improve your mental and physical well-being.

Do you find your work at least somewhat enjoyable and fulfilling?

Yes / No

Experts say: When you work in an unfulfilling, overtaxing job, you tend to take that stress home with you, and that can lead to burnout.

SCORING: If you answered “yes” to 6 or more questions: Keep doing what you’re doing; you’re on the right path for optimal wellness. While you’re at it, spread some joy to others: Studies link performing random acts of kindness with an overall feeling of well-being.

If you answered “yes” to 4 or 5 questions: You’re giving yourself some love, but you could use a tad more. Take some time this weekend to write down which areas of your life need a wellness lift, then map out a plan for how you’ll increase your daily dose of joy.

If you answered “yes” to 3 or fewer questions: You need a major time-out, my friend. Commit to at least one new behavior that’ll improve your perspective—more sleep, for instance, or more time with friends.

Read more in the May 2012 issue of EBONY Magazine.