It’s said that wellness begins within and this is an adage that is not only true but so often overlooked, especially in these hectic times when we very often feel as if we are on a perpetual rollercoaster.

This is not only about how much exercise we do, meditating and what we eat; it extends to our general outlook on life, what we value and what we prioritise, because these have as much impact on our holistic wellbeing.

Our world today is so super hyper-connected that it’s all too easy to become caught up in the pursuit of external markers of success such as wealth, status and material possessions. However, studies show that these external markers fail to bring lasting happiness and fulfilment. Every time we see #humbled and #blessed we land up questioning our own joy and achievements in comparison to others.

However, it is our priorities and values that shape the choices we make in life, ultimately determining our sense of fulfilment and wellbeing. Recent research published in the Journal of Happiness Studies suggests that individuals who prioritise intrinsic values such as personal growth, relationships and community involvement report higher levels of happiness and life satisfaction. Go figure!

It was only on my recent trip to India for my sister’s wedding that I realised I’m as caught up in the merry go-round as everyone else: That my priorities have become skewed and that I’ve been handicapping my own wellness, both mental and physical.

In just a few days I learned so many valuable lessons that have contributed to a new set of beliefs and a new purpose for me; a new way of slowing down and the realisation that the way we are doing life isn’t the way we should be doing it. That less superficiality can, in fact, lead to greater contentment which, in turn, can contribute to overall health and wellness within. I’d like to share the five lessons which were most meaningful for me:

Less is more
My first stop was a simple rural town in the south called Coimbatore, which was very traditional and we had to dress modestly and cover shoulders and arms and all down to our ankles. I realised how modesty is more meaningful and that it allows you to get to know the essence of someone rather than merely their superficial exterior.

When I went on to Mumbai, where they are more western and cosmopolitan and more emphasis is placed on clothes and how we look, it was interesting how much more insecure I felt and how it felt that the focus of the people I met was on appearances rather than who we were as people.

The experience showed me very clearly how less is more and I think that this applies to all areas of life.

We’re not living how we’re meant to live. Full stop.
We’re glued to our devices and permanently on call. We’re not spending time with loved ones, sharing and conversing. It’s limiting our interaction and limiting us as human beings. And we are missing out on so much connection and conversation.

And, in doing so, we’re living vicariously and we’re dumbing ourselves down and creating depressive cycles of comparison, which is the thief of joy. We’re focusing on the superficial and what everyone else is doing, rather than on ourselves and our own lives.

The power of mantra
When my sister got married in an ashram, I was exposed to many mantras and rituals that were so empowering for spirituality. It made me realise how disconnected I have become from spirituality, connection and the universe and repeating these mantras and participating in rituals was so liberating. It allowed me to be a part of something greater than myself and establish a connection spiritually.

And I’m not necessarily referring to religion but to feeling a deeper connection with others and with the world – and, by applying this level of connection, we can free ourselves as human beings and feel a deeper inner peace.

To celebrate the simplicities of life
My sister’s wedding was modest and beautiful in its simplicity.  We learnt Indian dancing, sat on the floor, ate with our hands, took shoes off before entering homes. I was reminded that being exposed to other cultures is so refreshing. We’re so set in our ways with our own cultural beliefs and completely isolate ourselves in these individual silos, but when we allow ourselves to be exposed to embrace cultures, we feel a part of this world and that we can exist outside our bubble.

It’s a reminder that not everything is about you and that there is a wide world out there with a multitude of different cultures that we can learn from.

The power of community
In the Indian culture, the family aspect is so important and everyone is involved and included. Before the wedding, the sisters were tasked with dressing us in saris and adorning us with jewellery; the mothers had other roles like cooking and preparing and even the children were involved in every aspect, never ignored or sidelined.

It was beautiful to see how this extends to people taking turns to take care of the children and swapping roles for the greater good and it made me realise how stereotypical gender roles are outdated and, for the most part, don’t serve a purpose in a community.

“Wellness truly begins within, encompassing our mindset, values, priorities and purpose. Wellness is about cultivating a positive mindset, aligning our actions with our values, prioritising simplicity, down time, community and connection. If we switch our focus to these traits, instead of the superficial, we can really enhance our overall wellbeing and lead happier, more fulfilling lives.” Yael

Yael Geffen is the CEO and shareholder of Sotheby’s International Realty, South Africa. She grew up in a real estate dynasty established by her grandmother, Aida, and, prior to joining the family business in 2009, she acquired extensive real estate marketing, brand building and business development experience in the United States. Yael is also an accomplished public and motivational speaker and her broadcast experience includes hosting and producing her own radio show from 2013 to 2017. Yael is a sought-after Life and Business Strategy Advisor.