by: Melissa Kuhn, MA HEd, CCP, CTTS

Live well. Think well. Be well.  Are you working on a personalized wellness program? “Wellness” is catching on and becoming a topic more and more prominent in magazines, newspapers, storylines, self-help books, and social media. There are wellness programs at our places of work, worship, socialization and medical clinics.

What does it mean to be well? Historically, we think of this as being free from sickness or disease. A famous quote by J. Stanford states: “Health is a state of body. Wellness is a state of being.” Wellness has many dimensions. Depending on which resource you reference, there can be anywhere from five to eight dimensions of wellness. Let’s focus on five:

Physical Wellness. The dimension of physical wellness embodies physical activity, nutrition, disease management, medication management and adherence, along with participating in preventive health screenings. Knowing your body and how it is performing, along with taking the steps needed to maintain good health is key. You’ll often hear your doctor or healthcare provider encouraging breast cancer screenings, colorectal cancer screenings, diabetes screenings, and others to help you stay ahead of the game. Early detection increases the likelihood of successful interventions and allows you to process through your options and become more aware of your current physical health state. Making healthy food choices that include more whole foods and limit processed foods, along with regular physical activity and exercise (150 minutes per week) assist us in being physically well, but are also interlinked into the dimensions below. 

Social Wellness. Being involved with a sense of community is an essential dimension of wellness that can often be overlooked. It goes beyond just the quantity and quality of friends, but also the feeling of connection to your community. Enjoying a morning exploring vegetables at one of our local farmer’s markets, joining a book club or inviting friends over for a card game affect our social wellness.  Other examples might include taking an early evening stroll in your neighborhood or on a walking trail to connect with nature, volunteering to help with a neighborhood cleanup or even participating in a local social event. Finding that connection with others, whatever it may be, lends to improved social wellness. 

Intellectual Wellness. Creativity and mind stimulating activities also keep us well. Sharing your knowledge with others through your work or volunteering can help you feel productive. Try to identify opportunities to pick up a hobby that you’ve always wanted to learn. Exploring your local offerings at the community college may spark a new creative interest. Sometimes these classes are even free. Continued learning can also lead to support in changing behaviors that might not be so healthy. If you are trying to change eating habits to improve health outcomes related to diabetes, kidney disease, or heart health, meeting with a dietitian to learn more about the effects of food on your health and how to identify better choices may be helpful to you. Additionally, if you are trying to understand your medications better, taking the pharmacist up on the offer for a consult when picking up your medicines, can offer an opportunity for improved intellectual wellness that will then affect several of the other dimensions. 

Spiritual Wellness. Your personal beliefs and value system affect how you live each day, providing that purpose and how get you through challenging times. Spiritual wellness can mean something different for everyone. For some, you may relate this to your religious beliefs. For others, this may be a connection to nature or the universe. Some view spiritual wellness as a combination of both of these. The National Wellness Institute says spiritual wellness follows these tenants:

· It is better to ponder the meaning of life for ourselves and to be tolerant of the beliefs of others than to close our minds and be intolerant.

· It is better to live each day in a way that is consistent with our values and beliefs than to do otherwise and feel untrue to ourselves.

Whatever your spiritual beliefs are, they can help you get through tough times and aid in the healing process of whatever you may
be experiencing.

Emotional Wellness. Accepting the stressors and feelings in our lives, both positive and negative, affect our emotional well-being. While we may make specific efforts to improve our physical health, sometimes we forget to take efforts at improving our emotional health. Life throws challenges at us from time to time. Sometimes more frequently than others. It is important to be aware of your emotions and how best to cope with stressors. The National Institute on Health has created an “Emotional Wellness Checklist” that provides you with tips for improving emotional health by brightening your outlook, reducing stress, getting quality sleep, being mindful, coping with loss and strengthening social connections. To learn more and start your check list, check out this website: www.nih.gov/health-information/emotional-wellness-toolkit.

Physical, social, intellectual, spiritual and emotional wellness have an interpersonal relationship. Let’s use the example of the broad goal to eat healthier and exercise more. There is the obvious impact on our physical wellness, yet you may find a social wellness benefit by joining a walking club or exercise group to meet that goal. As you begin walking more with your friends, you feel more connected with a sense of belonging and accountability. You also feel more energized and happy, all of which influences emotional and spiritual wellness. If through conversations during your walks, you learn of new opportunities or hobbies you would like to try, you now have affected your intellectual wellness. Now, all this may not happen in the first walk with your new walking club, but the first step can evolve to much more than you expected.

As the focus on healthcare adapts to a more holistic approach, the issue of wellness becomes more significant. By its very definition, wellness imparts feeling a sense of balance in our physical, social, intellectual, spiritual and emotional dimensions. Having everything figured out in each dimension isn’t the goal. There are likely dimensions where you will feel more capable, confident, and stronger in how you are managing these areas of your life. Some dimensions of wellness may be more important to you than others and that’s okay. As you find yourself paying more attention to what works for you in maintaining your balance, the healthcare industry is also invested in keeping you well by focusing on the whole person. Your various healthcare providers are asking you questions that may seem “out of the norm,” however, this information helps direct the best and most appropriate resources for you and your health and wellness. For instance, questions on depression and anxiety are part of determining emotional wellness, while asking about nutrition and exercise correlate to physical wellness. Partnering with others invested in your “state of being” will provide opportunity for greater success in maintaining life-long health and wellness.