Of late I have given a number of talks on Wellness. “What is wellness?” you may ask. Any decent psychology textbook will tell you it is not the absence of disease (as the name implies). No, Wellness is a conscious process of living life to your full potential, even if you may be coping with illness, loss and struggle. It is what we like to refer to as ‘holistic’ because Wellness is not purely about physical (physiological) health, but mental, spiritual and environmental health as well.
We talk about the six dimensions of Wellness. These are:
To this we can also add Environmental Wellness (hence 7 dimensions of Wellness).
To explain further…
1. Occupational (which includes financial health) Wellness – Not only is this about what my job offers me but also what I can offer my workplace and those that I work with. Do I need to be thinking about a career change? It’s also about taking finances in hand and taking more control of my financial future.
2. Emotional (including mental health) Wellness – Are there past hurts that are preventing me from moving forward? Do I acknowledge all aspects of myself, all feelings even if it feels uncomfortable? Do I contribute to the emotional wellbeing of those around me? Do I need to speak to someone, be it a pastor, a psychologist, a close friend in order to put myself in a better emotional space?
3. Physical Wellness – Am I getting enough exercise? Enough sleep? Do I rest in between the busy times? What is my relationship with food? Do I nourish my body? You should be getting between 8 and 10 hours of sleep at night. Lack of sleep increases appetite, slows down metabolism, raises stress levels, makes us generally less able to cope, can cause depression, can make us physically ill, and can weaken our immune system. Not sleeping? Why? See your doctor, see a counsellor, talk to a friend. Beware of relying on medication. It may be necessary but try to get to the root cause of your sleep problem and start from there. Take naps, slow down, breathe, hug a tree.
4. Social Wellness - We are social creatures. We exist in families, friendship circles, neighbourhoods, housing estates, social clubs, religious groups. Being isolated puts us at risk of depression and anxiety, and loneliness. Do you need friends? Are you spending too much time on your own? Do you have healthy, generally happy relationships with those around you? Are you able to communicate your needs, do others feel they can be honest and communicate with you?
5. Intellectual Wellness – Do you read? Do you feed your mind, your brain with knowledge, with challenges? Do you contribute to or participate in community or cultural activities? Do you foster creativity and intellectual pursuits in others?
6. Spiritual Wellness - If you feel you don’t have a reason to get up in the morning, create one. Get a pet, get a plant, set a goal, set 10 goals. Take care of your spiritual life whether it be church, prayer, God, meditation. “If you can’t figure out your purpose, figure out your passion. For your passion will lead you right into your purpose” (Bishop TD Jakes)
7. Environmental Wellness – Are you living a life that is respectful to the environment that surrounds you? Do you contribute to environmental health, do you make choices that are protective of the world we live in?
As laid out here, these are very simplistic ways of looking at these seven dimensions. You can unpack each one and spend days getting to the heart of it. Ultimately, Wellness is not purely, “What am I getting out of this?” but also, “What am I contributing?”
When I give my Wellness talks, they can be momentarily energising to those present in the room. I might even hazard an ‘inspiring’ but once out of the room, and back in the throes of life, it is difficult to stay focused. Wellness is something that needs to be regularly revisited, redone, re-internalised.
I recently picked up a beautiful book of soul-defining stories by author Rachel Naomi Remen called Kitchen Table Wisdom. In her book physician and counsellor Remen recounts anecdotes from her own life as well as stories told by her patients that speak of healing. As I have been reading this wonderful book, I cannot help but think these wisdoms cut to the heart of Wellness. Wellness is not a recipe to live by, it is something that is in the heart of all of us and it just needs a voice. That voice is unique to each of us, a fingerprint if you will. Time to make your mark.