Wellness is more than positive vibes and cold pressed juice. “Wellness” is the all-encompassing synonym for health, happiness, and success. A word that is trending on the cover of every magazine and at the forefront of everybody’s to-do list. “Wellness” is defined by the National Wellness Institute as, “an active process through which people become aware of, and make choices toward, a more successful existence.” This is similar to the World Health Organization who has defined wellness as, “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity”. So then how is it measured, you might ask? Aside from what your doctor, your friends and your boss may tell you, you are the one who gets to determine how you will measure your wellness. But first, let’s categorize! There are six dimensions of wellness, as developed by the National Wellness Institute. In no particular order, (although, Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs may disagree) the dimensions are as follows:
Has your wellness depleted by just thinking about how much work you have do? Mine too. But here’s the thing, wellness is a completely fluid, ever-shifting, and sometimes elusive, state of being. Imagine the dimensions of wellness labelled on a “wellness abacus”. Here is the premise of the game: each dimension affects the others, and you can either fuel or drain multiple dimensions at the same time. There are sixty total chips; ideally 10 chips per dimension of wellness. The end goal is to have 10/10 in each category. In each of our lives, certain dimensions will be in a constant state of push and pull. Somedays your social health is 12/10 but that might also mean that your physical health is a little lower on the totem pole, darn you bottomless mimosas. Similarly, your occupational dimension is spilling over the bucket with that shiny new job title, but you haven’t sat down for a meal with somebody who wasn’t wearing a suit and tie in weeks. Give and take.
“Try to keep each dimension of wellness in mind as you go about decision making, but understand that you are only human in an unpredictable world.”
So, this is the part where I say start your day with a 12oz glass of water, set your intentions in a journal, eat your greens and don’t go to bed angry. Okay, people, there is no argument that to be physically well you need to eat more vegetables and exercise daily. And can you really be emotionally and occupationally well without being physically well first? (Refer to my earlier slight about Maslow’s Hierarchy). Vegetables aside, what wellness is to you, may be completely different to me. So while our capitalistic society is cashing in on people’s self-awareness, a yoga membership may not be your one-way ticket to wellness (although it probably won’t hurt). Find your deficits. Which dimension keeps you up at night? Which dimension is constantly draining the other areas of your life? Start there and make that a key focus without putting any of the dimensions on the back burner. If you can keep each category in mind and feed each dimension in a small way each day, you are working towards the goal of ‘wellness’. “Goal” being the key word, because though I mentioned the goal is to have 10 out of 10 in each category, that is next to impossible.
We can do everything we think we are “supposed to do” to be our best selves, but life doesn’t always consider your ‘wellness abacus’ before throwing a wrench in your plans. Tires pop. Flights are delayed. Doctors don’t always have good news, and people come and go just as fast as money does. But let’s pretend we did live in a controlled environment. Our bodies still contain self-sabotaging chemistry that all too often says “eat the damn cupcake”. So a part of your wellness may mean giving yourself a break! Try to keep each dimension of wellness in mind as you go about decision making, but understand that you are only human in an unpredictable world.
Written by Hannah Joy Porter (Clinical Physiologist)