Consider Breaking-Up With “Shoulding” Through Your Wellness


If you’re here, chances are you practice yoga or think you “should” practice yoga. This post is not about yoga, and in fact, it may be about not doing yoga at all. Let’s start with this question:

How much does “should” drive your life?

When people find out I teach yoga, a frequent response is something along the lines of “oh, I know should do yoga.” That is not the only place verbiage around “I should…” exists, it’s rampant, especially within wellness.”

Yoga is a tool to enhance overall mind, body, and spiritual well-being. Yoga means many different things to many different groups of people, but the common thread among them all is that it’s a system of tools to encourage us to move our bodies, calm our minds, and connect deeper to our true selves.

Is yoga the only method to achieve greater well-being? Absolutely not! It’s a massively popular way, especially currently, because it just feels so dang good and the results are so obvious to those who practice often! (I might be a tad biased, though.)

No, it is not the only method, and my general thought on the matter is that whichever method resonates most with a given individual is the method they should utilize!

For example, I detest running. I’ve given it many a few chances, and I find it to be extremely unenjoyable. As such, I do not go for runs, but I do take dance classes, go on hikes, long walks, and, of course, practice lots of yoga. These are all methods of physical movement that resonate with me and bring me joy.

Why am I telling you this? Because I know, from talking to MANY people, that it is not uncommon in our society for people to feel they SHOULD go to the gym, should go to yoga, should do this, that, or the other wellness-related activity.

Here are my two cents on this matter: consider not “shoulding” your way through your wellness routine.

How often have you gone for a run, to the gym, meditated, drank green juice, taken supplements because it occurs to you as something you should do, not because you want to? When we hyper-focus on what we should do, it often takes us away from deeply listening to what our minds and bodies are telling us we deeply enjoy.

Contemplate what feels organic, natural, and enjoyable to you. Let’s start with physical fitness. What types of movement are easeful? Which do you experience as being fun? Exciting? Invigorating?

  • Swimming?

  • Dancing?

  • Kickboxing?

  • Walks on the beach?

  • Walking your dog?

  • Fencing?

  • Wrestling?

  • Rock climbing?

  • Long walks with a friend catching up?

  • Meandering through a forest?

Let go of all thoughts of location, resources, and time. In an ideal world, what are your favorite types of movement? Jot down what comes to mind!

Now, is there any way these methods can become part of your wellness routine? Perhaps you don't live near a beach, but your heart just absolutely loves long beach walks. Have you ever considered relocating? That may sound extreme, but it’s something to consider.

Do you love swimming? Is there a pool near you that you can join? YMCA, neighborhood pool, military base pool, neighbor’s pool, the ocean, a lake (in the warm months), a high school pool, community college pool, etc. Chances are, there’s a pool somewhere accessible that you can “join” in some capacity! Your wellness-work is to start incorporating one of your preferred movement types into your wellness routine!

Now, let’s briefly tackle some other wellness areas, as well.

What foods do you eat because you “should?” This is a big one. This isn’t to say it’s remotely wise to live off of a chocolate cake and Doritos diet if those are your favorite foods. Staying within the realm of reason, science, and nutrition, what foods do you prefer over the ones you “should” eat, if any?

For example, I have never been able to enjoy kale; I don’t care for its taste or texture. Instead of forcing it upon myself, I opt for other healthy greens that I do like, fresh spinach, romaine lettuce, etc. Chances are, there are plenty of produce types you naturally find delicious; eat those often! Stress less about the ones you can’t manage to make yourself enjoy. Make a list of the fruits, vegetables, herbs, grains, etc. that you know you love, and then use your list as a reference when grocery shopping and recipe searching.

Mental health is a major topic, and more and more statistics are coming out indicating that mental health is declining for most humans. Having anxiety, depression, ADHD, PTSD, to name a few, is becoming commonplace. It’s becoming “normal.” More mental health “shoulds” are coming out than ever before, and though they are well-intended, they often leave people feeling MORE anxious.

Do you feel you “should…”

  • Meditate?

  • Spend more time in nature?

  • Practice self-care?

  • Go to yoga?

  • Be social?

None of those activities are inherently wrong, but they don’t resonate with everyone. Many of my friends, family members, and yoga students abhor seated meditation. They’ve tried it, and it is just not enjoyable for them.

If you don’t like to sit down and meditate, should you have seated meditation as part of your mental health upkeep? Probably not. Instead, try this on:

Brainstorm everything you can think of that brings you joy and/or a sense of peace.

  • Catching up with a childhood friend

  • Planning a trip

  • Spending time with kids

  • Climbing trees

  • Riding on electric scooters

  • Reading about epic adventures

  • Learning a new skill

  • Painting

  • Singing in the car

  • Hosting events

  • Gathering people together

  • Finding a craft on Pinterest and trying it out

  • Baking scones

This is a random list of examples. Make yourself a  list and read it twice! Three times! Stick it in your purse, pocket, on a mirror, in your car. Keep it close. Why? Because “life” happens and then suddenly *poof* no time for the joyful-activities. *Poof* everyone else’s agenda takes over your own. *Poof* you think you have no funds for your activities.

Skip the “should” list of mental health upkeep and allocate space, time, and resources to anything + everything that brings you joy (and is also relatively healthy, i.e., I am not recommending you binge drink because beer or tequila shots bring you joy).

To summarize:

What you’re drawn to, what you love, what makes you feel deliriously excited or happy IS NOT RANDOM. What your heart, body, and spirit crave is part of what makes you WELL. These are the activities, foods, experiences, and people that are meant for you to enjoy to reach your optimal wellness.

If you don’t care for running but force yourself to run however often, I hypothesize that those runs are doing less for your wellness than going for a swim twice a month would do, if swimming is what you enjoy most.

A daily green juice, I hypothesize, is doing less for your wellness if you DESPISE the taste than a daily bowl of berries if you love berries more than spinach.

Meditating for five minutes a day when your mind is racing and your itching to get up and move, is doing less for your mental well-being than listening to your favorite podcast while taking your dog for a walk. Or playing with your kid(s) for 20 minutes a day, if that’s what you love most.

Final action step: keep a journal, or a note on your phone, nearby and jot down ANYTHING that brings you, a sense of peace, gets you excited, pleasantly surprises you, makes you feel curious, etc. Every few days or few weeks, read back on your entries and contemplate how you might incorporate more of these joyful things into your wellness-routine. Or just into your life. Routines have never worked for me, non-predictability brings me joy; therefore I avoid routines, routinely ;) Yet, for many people routines bring HUGE amounts of joy.

The point? Follow your bliss and wellness will exude out of your every pore.

Namaste humans,


Zoe FreedmanComment