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Wellness Pioneer

by Sandra Ramani

Don Ardell is considered a godfather of the modern wellness movement
Don Ardell went from a career as a city planner to a champion of holistic-minded health care. Over the last four decades, he has authored several books (including the just-released Wellness Orgasms: The Fun Way to Live Well and Die Healthy), lectured around the world, and created a website that serves as a treasure trove of wellness-related articles and resources. Learn more (and sign up for his info-packed newsletter) at seekwellness.com.
Organic Spa Magazine: What sparked your initial interest in wellness?
Don Ardell: In 1972, I was living a calm, “normal” life in a mild-mannered Midwestern city when an opportunity came along to lead a health planning agency in San Francisco. This work led to both career and lifestyle reassessment, as I was exposed to alternative approaches to relationships, to becoming and remaining healthy, to finding added meaning and purpose, and to having fun. It all sparked what I’ll call a “mid-life awakening”—in fact, one of my first major wellness insights was that a mid-life awakening is more fun than a mid-life crisis!
OSM: What does wellness mean to you today?
DA: Wellness means thinking and acting in ways consistent with evidence-based principles of effectiveness, in the areas of Reason, Exuberance, Athleticism and Liberty—these are the four parts of what I call R.E.A.L Wellness. Wellness is a lifestyle that does not require any products, treatments, healings, therapies, services or other interventions by outsiders; it is up to each person to shape, sustain and enjoy a wellness way of life.
OSM: What are your top wellness tips or advice?
DA: We need to function at our best within the environments in which we live and the cultures that affect us—for better or worse. With those constraints in mind, there are the four things everyone should do, if they know what’s “well” for them: Develop and practice the art of reason, also known as critical thinking, effective decision-making, respect for evidence and an appreciation of science. Think in terms of exuberant living, loving life and finding ways large and small to add meaning and purpose. Look after your body with vigorous daily exercise, and favor a whole foods, plant-based diet to the best extent possible. Protect and enjoy your freedoms to live your life the way you want to live it, free from cultural, institutional, religious and other constraints.
OSM: Why should wellness be a part of one’s life?
DA: Because it is a richer way to live. It is better to be exceptional than mediocre, happy than sad, fit than fat, serene than stressed, and fully alive than half dead.

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