Wellness. What comes to mind when you hear this word? While the word may be associated with yoga retreats, healing crystals, juice detoxes, and essential oils, wellness extends far beyond that. The Global Wellness Institute (yes this exists) defines personal wellness as the active pursuit of activities, choices, and lifestyles that lead to a state of holistic health. But what does this mean? It means that wellness is a state that can be pursued — we can strive to be well. Dr. Jack Travis describes wellness as a continuum where one end is poor health and the other is the “people who focus proactively on prevention and maximizing their vitality by adopting attitudes and lifestyles that prevent disease, improve health and enhance their quality of life and sense of wellbeing”. The definition also means that wellness does not just include physical health. Rather, wellness has a variety of different facets. Let’s discuss some of the dimensions of wellness:
Typically, this is the first dimension that comes to mind when I think of wellness. Physical wellness involves activities that you do physically to improve your health such as exercise, proper nutrition, adequate sleep, and generally taking care of your physical body by maintaining medical examinations and avoiding consumption of toxins and drugs. It’s important to also note that wellness isn’t interchangeable with other buzzwords like “health” or “fit”.
Occupational wellness is the wellness associated with your career. Your occupation is intended to provide you with a sense of purpose in the world, and when it doesn’t it can have consequences on your well-being. A study conducted of 6,432 Americans found that individuals dissatisfied with their jobs reported higher levels of depression, sleep problems, and excessive worry. So, one aspect of your well-being can directly influence another aspect of your wellness.
Now this one is a bit tricky because contrary to popular belief, money doesn’t necessarily affect wellness. Finances may have an effect on your wellness when you aren’t able to meet your basic needs. For example, research from the University of Southhampton found that students who were struggling to pay their bills had higher levels of anxiety and substance dependence over time. As long as you are able to pay your bills and afford your necessities, money doesn’t affect your wellness.
Humans are social beings. We are hardwired to crave human connection. So, it’s no wonder that loneliness has negative effects on our health — cardiovascular problems, anxiety, and depression. Having meaningful relationships is shown to improve our happiness, confidence, and worth and also provides us with a sense of belonging. Relationships and interactions ground us to a larger purpose and community.
Mental wellness involves stress management, self-care, relaxation, and understanding/managing your emotions. In general, when one is mentally well they are in touch with their desires, wants, and needs. This means accepting their emotions and feelings and finding that mind-body balance. Some people tend to separate spiritual wellness from mental or emotional wellness, but the two are pretty closely related. Spiritual wellness includes following your moral compass and staying true to what you believe in. It connects you to a higher sense of meaning and purpose in life.
Environmental wellness refers to being in touch with nature as well as the intangible environments you are surrounded by. For example, if your work office has an environment that is competitive, judgemental, and non-supportive, your environmental wellness might be low. The second aspect of environmental wellness involves “living in harmony with the Earth and taking care of your surroundings”.
We all crave some sort of creative outlet to express ourselves. In fact, researchers at the University of San Francisco found that creativity provides employees with a way to buffer the stress of work demands and improve work performance. It also gives people the opportunity to discover new skills they never knew they possessed or new activities they never knew they enjoyed.
Now this one deserves a whole article to be written about it, but I am just going to briefly sum it up. Since technology has become a part of our everyday lives, we now have to worry about the effects it is having on our wellness. New platforms, such as social media, are supposed to connect us with people but are actually having inverse effects. Increased social media use has actually been associated with feelings of isolation. As technology becomes more and more integrated into our lives, we need to recognize the effects that it may have on our wellness.
While many people consider wellness as being free from sickness, wellness is much more dynamic than that. Wellness is a process of change and growth that is a path we should all strive to follow. In order to achieve holistic health, we need to find a balance between all of the different dimensions of wellness. No one category of wellness is more important than the other. Rather, they are all interconnected and equally important in the pursuit of overall wellness.
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