When people start talking about wellness, or well-being, do you know what they are referring to? Wellness is much more than physical health. Wellness is a state of active awareness about how to create a healthy and fulfilling life. It is a lifelong process of making choices that optimize each individual’s potential so that we may live life to the fullest.
It’s not so easy to pin down a one-size-fits-all definition because wellness is different for everyone, though someone who feels well generally has an all-around sense of good living!
As defined by the World Health Organization, wellness is "...a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity." That last part is important because rather than just “not being sick,” wellness means being better than just okay! Rather than striving toward a baseline of being disease-free, wellness means treating every facet of life as if we are always getting better. (1)
In this way, wellness is more a mindset than a set of rules. It’s an important mindset because the way we act stems from the way we think. Operating from wellness means taking responsibility for the choices we make, and learning how to make better choices for ourselves as we go. Enacting wellness is empowering! From the people we choose to know to the food we choose to eat, we can take positive action towards creating a more congruent and meaningful life. And keep in mind it is all a process! Wellness is a lifelong journey, and it means different things to everyone.
Of course there are concrete ways to improve wellness that work for most people. The basic physical behaviors are well known by many of us: eat well and exercise. But it goes so much deeper than that, and every person has a unique combination of factors to consider. For example, one person’s wellness may mean drinking coffee every morning, while another person’s wellness means eliminating caffeine. Wellness is also much more than just physical health. What does wellness mean to you?
The 7 Dimensions of Wellness:
Physical Wellness: The ability to get through daily routines without affliction or fatigue, and respecting and taking care of our bodies. Making choices that lead to greater physical health and avoiding behavior that is physically destructive.
Social Wellness: The ability to connect and empathize with other people, and establish and maintain positive social relationships. Effective communication, a sense of community and time for recreation and leisure.
Emotional Wellness: Healthy expression of feelings and resilience in the face of turmoil. Understanding our own emotions and working through them constructively. Possessing self-awareness and seeing challenge as an opportunity for growth.
Spiritual Wellness: Peace and harmony within ourselves. Understanding our own values and acting in a way that honors those values so that we are in alignment with what is most important to us. Having a sense of hope, purpose and gratitude.
Environmental Wellness: Recognizing our interconnectedness with our environment and our responsibility to minimize pollution and act in a way that positively impacts our air, water, land and fellow creatures. Feeling part of a larger ecosystem.
Occupational Wellness: Feeling a sense of fulfillment from our jobs and careers while still balancing other aspects of our lives. Finding meaning in the work you do and contributing to something worthwhile.
Intellectual Wellness: The ability to approach life with an open mind and a desire to learn new things and have new experiences. Clear thinking, overcoming obstacles, problem solving and curiosity. (2)
Doesn’t everyone want to live a life that feels well? Of course. We all do. There are many ways to start, and every little step makes a huge difference in the overall picture of your life. Wellness begins with seeing everything as being connected to everything else. No one can be perfect. But it is possible to have the most of what’s right for you. This means taking all 7 wellness factors into account and figuring out what feels best in each one. No one else can tell you what that is, but sometimes it helps to have an outside perspective reflecting back to you different ways to think about your life.
If you’re unhappy and can’t figure out why, or you are having trouble actualizing an idea, a wellness coach is someone who is trained in helping you achieve your own personal best. Whether you have specific goals or a general desire to improve, a wellness coach can help you see, think and act outside of the boxes you may find yourself in.
We’re all on a journey of discovery to find out what makes us happy and fulfilled. Wellness means being aware of how your choices affect your state of being, and then acting in ways to make life better!