Defining Wellness: The Ultimate Balancing Act
What does it mean to be well? Think about that for a second. Think about how you define wellness.
The word wellness is defined as activities and lifestyle choices that effect one’s overall health. When we say the word wellness, the first aspect that typically comes to mind is physical wellness, which encompasses nutrition, exercise, and sleep. Wellness is so much more than physical health though. There are eight dimensions of wellness: physical, mental (learning, problem solving, and creativity), emotional (being self aware of, accepting of, and being able to express those feelings), occupational (using talents and skills, work relationships, etc.), financial (how does your income and investments impact your lifestyle), spiritual (meaning and purpose as a human being), social (connecting and interacting with others), and environmental (healthy and safe physical environment).
Embracing a New Perspective
You’re probably thinking, with so many dimensions of wellness how can I possibly balance them all? This is where the wellness continuum comes into play. The wellness continuum, as I define it, is the continual assessment and reassessment of identifying the aspect(s) of wellness that need a little more TLC (tender, loving, care) to help focus our efforts to adjust our activities and lifestyle choices to find a balance. Finding this balance can be difficult because all aspects of wellness are interconnected. For example, if you’re having a medical emergency (physical wellness) and have to take time off of work (occupational wellness), you may begin to struggle to make ends meet (financial wellness). Finding that balance will look different for everyone, but living a fulfilled and happy life is always the end goal.
How do we begin to find that balance, find that harmony? The answer is through our habits and routines. Our daily routines and habits can offer a sense of satisfaction and balance, but when our habits and daily routines are no longer serving us in the way we originally attended, it’s time to reassess. During that reassessment period, we may recognize that we need to create new habits altogether or establish new routines. For example, we may schedule a weekly zoom meeting with our friends for happy hour because we need more social interaction in our daily lives. Or, perhaps we begin meditating every morning before work to set intentions for our day because we feel depleted in our emotional and/or mental health. Regardless of what routines or habits you decide to create, it’s important to address what is most important to you. By identifying the root cause of your wellness imbalance, all other aspects of your wellness will come together and follow suit. Because we all have different priorities, balance for one person is going to look completely different from another.
So, what are our next steps? If you’re feeling imbalanced, take some time within the next couple of days to identify what areas of wellness you are deficient in and identify “what you need” and “what you will do.” Here are some examples of questions to ask yourself about each aspect of wellness.
Physical: Are you getting 7-8 hours of sleep? Do you have access to medical and dental care?, What have your experiences been with drugs and alcohol? Do you have access to nutritious food? Are you able to participate in physical activity/movement daily?
Financial: What are your biggest expenses? How does this impact your wellness? Does your bank account align with your goals? Do you have a budget? Do you have a plan for eliminating/minimizing your debt? Do you have a plan for your long term finances (retirement, etc.)?
Mental: What do you do for fun? What activities can you do to challenge yourself? How do you react when faced with a challenge? What are your creative outlets? Do you like to learn about new things?
Spiritual: Do you understand your personal values and beliefs? Do you participate in a spiritual/religious community that you feel supported in? How does meditating/ mindfulness impact your overall wellness? How does spirituality play a role in your life in times of grief and pain?
Emotional: Do you allow yourself to feel emotions as they come? Do you feel like your current relationships support your emotional needs? How do you express your different emotions? What self-care practices do you currently engage in? How do you manage stress?
Occupational: Do you feel fulfilled and challenged by your current career? Do you feel supported by your current employer? Do you feel a sense of accomplishment and pride in your current role? Are you able to recognize and appreciate your accomplishments in your career?
Environmental: How does your lifestyle impact the environment? Do you live in a clutter free environment? When was the last time you went on vacation? How often do you go outside to enjoy nature?
Social: Do you feel supported by the people in your life? How often do you spend time with your friends and family? Are you open to meeting new people from different cultural and ethnic backgrounds? Do you make time to spend with friends and family?