It helps to know the rules if you want to play a game. It might be fun to think of wellness as a game, especially if you want to have fun while getting serious about a more ambitious lifestyle. Wellness is not complicated. Imagine a game about boosting your quality of life. Why not? Games are enjoyable and often effective as a learning tool. A wellness lifestyle game might be an attractive way to approach a higher quality of life.

A game is an activity engaged in for diversion or amusement. It is defined in Webster’s collegiate dictionary as “a procedure or strategy for gaining an end.” The end in this case is a lifestyle that makes the most of your potentials.

Let’s start by exploring links that might connect a wellness lifestyle with games that provide pleasure and diversion. For starters, it seems to me, games have rules, penalties and rewards, spectators, players, goals, agreements, winners and losers, expectations, adversaries, uncertainties and skill requirements. Some people have innate advantages for playing certain games; others have to practice more to reach a level that comes easily for others. Neither a game nor life is always (if ever!) fair. The pursuit of wellness has such characteristics; only the form of is different from games you have played and enjoyed.

To play what could be called “The Wellness Game” (henceforth the TWG), you first decide to participate. A wellness lifestyle usually does not come about accidentally. Instead, it is a choice.

Like any game you play, TWL works best if you know and abide by the “rules.” Here are a few basics.

* Decide to play.
* Make a commitment to try to win.
* Recognize TWG is something you want to do – nobody is pressuring you to play.
* Don’t put it off till tomorrow or next week – get started now.

If you start now, you will be following all these initial rules. See – it’s easy to play TWG. The next step is to follow a rule not found in most games, but helpful for TWG – express your commitment to play. Do it in writing.

In your calendar book, diary, journal, notebook or anywhere you can enter a notation that won’t get lost, record your commitment to playing TWG. Keep it simple. Just note that you are committed to playing TWG. Sign your name to the agreement.

It might read like this:

“I, _______________, agree to play TWG and to follow the rules, except those I don’t like and to add my own rules whenever it suits my purposes.”

I told you TWG could be fun. In addition to the rules I suggest, I want you to feel free to add your own. After all, it’s YOUR lifestyle that is to be won or lost.

OK, if you wrote a little note as suggested, you are on your way. You are committed to learn about and shape a wellness lifestyle. Games, though associated with frivolity and play, are hardly frivolous when they have a long-lasting positive impact on your life. Follow the kind of rules (or guidelines, traditions or principles) that seem most likely to complement your circumstances and ambitions. Remember, this process is about enjoying and winning TWG. The bottom line is to identify, create and sustain a lifestyle that boosts your well-being, particularly your happiness and capabilities to live well.

What counts as lifestyle? Lifestyle includes the entire range of actions that are or could be brought under your control, including but not limited to:

* How and what you eat. In the course of playing TWG, you will discover that it is less important to think in terms of specific foods being “good” or “bad” for you as it is to eat wisely most of the time. Nobody is or needs to be perfect. If a certain food is a big treat for you, enjoy it now and then, but not so often if it’s the kind of item that might give the average dietician a heart attack to look at, let alone consume.

* How often, how long and how intensively you exercise.

* Your ability to enjoy some aspects of everyday life, find rewarding work that is of interest and maintain friendships and community support. A game? Yes, we can think of it that way, but the stakes are higher than any game you might play in Las Vegas, Monaco or elsewhere.

* Your understanding of the medical system, particularly its limits and how little it can do, under the best of circumstances, beyond diagnosis and treatment of injuries, illness and disease. Becoming healthier is entirely up to you – based on the lifestyle you create.

In summary, a key rule in TWG is to take your lifestyle choices seriously without being grim or rigid about it. Fine the balance that works for you – that’s what the best lifestyle players do. You can learn to play as well as anyone else.

The environment for TWG is important. You can’t exert as much influence on the environment as you can on your own lifestyle. Yet, you must pay attention to the nature and influence of your surroundings. To the extent possible, rearrange it to your favor, at least at home and in your work setting and friendship circles.

Because only your lifestyle is under your direct influence, the emphasis in TWG will be on elements that fit the lifestyle category. But, the culture is important. I read an interesting book the other day by Eric Weiner entitled, “The Geography of Bliss.” The book explores the relationship between place and contentment. Ten countries are profiled, including America. My favorite chapter is the one about trying to find happiness in Moldova. It’s not easy.

The author describes his experiences there and concludes that it’s “better to be a small fish in a clean pond than a big fish in a polluted lake. ” An environment or culture that belittles certain qualities needed for happiness or hope, optimism or, in our case, a wellness lifestyle, will make success at TWG difficult, no matter how outstanding an individual plays TWG. An individual can only do so much. A wellness lifestyle will be difficult to sustain in Moldova because of the culture there. Eric Weiner found that the environment does not reinforce trust and friendship but rather rewards mean-spiritedness and deceit, leaving little room for kindness. (The Geography of Bliss, p.218.)

The efforts you make to succeed at TWG and enjoy well-being and joy in life, happiness, a positive outlook and multiple levels of meaning and purpose are shaped by the quality of the physical, emotional and mental surroundings. If you live in Moldova, and if Mr. Weiner is correct about it, winning TWG might be difficult. But, chances are you don’t live in Moldova and hopefully nowhere else like it, so take advantage of your good fortune.

Best wishes. Stay well and look on the bright wellness side.