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Action plan affirms our desire for wellness

"How are you?"

When I'm asked that question, I respond with "I'm well, thank you." A more standard response is "good" or "fine." Some people reply with "fantastic" or "tremendous." To me, that's a little suspect. It's okay occasionally, but who can be "fantastic" every time they get a simple query about well-being.

Being "well." Just what does that involve? Let's consider the non-standard perspective. I think it means you've had a good night's sleep and are neither constipated nor headachy. Any aches and pains are manageable, or you've devised some sort of distraction technique, so you don't think about the jabbing pressure in your knee as often.

It means you're eating more green and yellow foods than you are white and gray and you're probably chewing your food to the consistency of applesauce (I'm told it promotes good digestion and you ultimately end up eating less).

If you can respond affirmatively to the "How are you?" question, I suspect you're physically active in some small or large way — on a daily basis. And you've probably seen your doctor in the past year and he/she ordered a battery of tests and pondered the results, and at the end of a 22-minute visit you heard something comforting like, "I won't need to see you again for another year."

The term "wellness" came into vogue in the 1970s and is defined by Wikipedia as "a healthy balance of mind-body and spirit." The Wiki also points out a great irony. "Wellness" is only a consideration after you're assured your basic needs of food, shelter and medical care are met. It's "a luxury pursuit" to counter the side effects of affluence which are (of course) obesity and inactivity.

I probably should have known this, but I didn't realize there were two distinct types of wellness: secular and faith-based. Using specific examples of each approach portrays them best. They range from a company's health and safety program designed to improve employee morale and productivity (www.seekwellness.com) to Dr. George Malkmus's Hallelujah Diet (www.hacres.com/home/home.asp).

Enough of that. When I say, "I'm well, thank you," it's about self-efficacy (personal self-confidence). I'm confident that I am always getting better. Even if my eating plan is less colorful than it should be or my strength training routine has been aborted by a busy schedule, I will come up with a way to change that.

In the interests of wellness, I'll create an individual action plan and put it in play. It will be something I want to do (not have to do or should do) which is achievable and action-specific. It will be precise. It's not an action plan that involves running a half-marathon by week's end, but instead, it's an action plan that says, "I will add 10 minutes to my before-breakfast morning walk on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. My confidence level, on a scale of 1-10 (with "1" being "not at all confident" and "10" being "extremely confident") is a heartfelt 8.5.

I say I will do it. And then, I actually do it. Hallelujah.

Sharon Johnson is an associate professor in the College of Health and Human Sciences at Oregon State University and on the faculty of the OSU Extension Service. She can be reached at s.johnson@oregonstate.edu