Why wellness is more than food and exercise

To understand the different factors and lifestyles that cultivate an optimistic outlook, Life is Good conducted a National Optimism and Positivity Index this past spring. We partnered with wellness and positivity blogger Georgie Morley of to bring one of these findings in particular to life: People with very high daily stress levels are more likely to be pessimistic than those with lower stress levels.

When I first became curious about health and wellness, my focus was on how I was eating and moving. It was a message I heard everywhere: that diet and exercise would ultimately dictate how I felt inside and out. That if I could just find the perfect combination of macronutrients, squats, and supplements, then maybe I could find the keys to happiness.

If you’ve read my blog or listened to my podcast, you probably have a hunch where I’m going with this. If you haven’t, I’ll spoil the ending for ya right here: I never found that key. Trust me, I tried.

Here’s the thing: There’s more to wellness than just food and exercise. Two elements that have long been overlooked are stress management and a strong connection to a community. In the past two years or so, these elements have gained attention, but there’s more work to be done.

Which is why I’m thrilled that Life is Good chose to research what really matters when it comes to positive thinking, happiness, and optimism. I was especially excited about these findings:

  • Those with a strong support system are more optimistic than those without one.
  • People with very high daily stress levels are more likely to be pessimistic than those with lower stress levels.

Makes sense, right?

When thinking about my own experiences, I was probably the most conscious of my diet and exercise routine right after I graduated from college. My weekly meals consisted mainly of smoothies and veggies by the plate. I was working a full-time job on top of working on my blog for five to six hours a day. On the weekends, I was training for a half marathon. On paper, at least, I was at my “healthiest.”

But when it came to how I was really feeling, I never felt good enough. I felt like I was one food choice or exercise away from unlocking health and happiness, but no matter what I did, I still couldn’t crack it. I didn’t have any friends nearby; I just didn’t have the time.

Fast forward to today. I’m probably the least conscious about what I eat. Instead, I let my choices vary from day to day and craving to craving. I walk most days and exercise vigorously maybe once a week, but I don’t keep any record or strive for any physical changes. On paper, at least, I might not be perceived as “healthy” at all.

But inside and out, I feel like I’m glowing. I stay close and connected with people who lift me up and support me. I feel alive, excited, and joyful most days. I’m much better at slowing down when I start to feel overwhelmed. I practice self-care in my own ways.

To me, I’m my happiest and healthiest. To society, who knows—and who cares?

I’m not saying that I have it all figured out. I’m a constant work-in-progress. I know that every day can’t be magical. But I do know that my life has improved dramatically from my focus on stress management and my ties to my communities big and small. I hope that with time, community will be elevated to the status of diet and exercise in the mainstream health world. I dream that one day, self-care ranks higher than salads or spinning classes.

Because when the world feels like it’s crumbling, I’d much rather get on the phone with my girlfriend or get a hug from my sister than turn to a bag of spinach. Of course, eating according to your body’s needs (and pleasures) does wonders for your well-being, but nothing replaces the feel-good power of people who support us in sickness and health.

Before I go, I want to leave you with some practical for takeaways de-stressing and connecting with your people.

Tips for de-stressing and building connection

  • Reach out to someone you love with a phone call, letter, or text to say that you’re thinking of them.
  • Do one thoughtful thing a day for someone you either live with or see often as a reminder that you appreciate them.
  • Find out your partner or best friend’s love language and express it in a way they can feel.
  • Repeat a mantra that can help re-center you during stressful moments (ex: “I am supported”).
  • Give yourself time to watch or listen to your favorite TV show or podcast.
  • If you’re having a rough day, don’t hold in your tears. There’s something so freeing and relieving about crying.
  • Take time at night to go through your skincare routine. It may sound trivial, but taking care of your skin can feel nourishing and relaxing
  • Don’t be afraid to accept an invitation. While it can be draining for some, it can also feel great to get out there and connect with new and old friends.
  • When all else fails, take a walk to clear your head.