All posts by Matthew Chouinard

Wellness: What It Is and How to Achieve It

Wellness: What It Is and How to Achieve It

“The enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health is one of the fundamental rights of every human being without distinction of race, religion, political belief, economic or social condition.”
— Constitution of the World Health Organization

The pursuit of wellness is one of the most important and rewarding endeavors a person can embark upon. Living in a state of wellness can dramatically improve a person’s life, providing them with fulfilling relationships, happiness and a sense of meaning.

But what exactly is wellness, and more importantly, how can someone work toward achieving it?

The Connection between Health and Wellness

We should start by distinguishing between wellness and health, which are related but distinct concepts.

The World Health Organization defines health as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” By contrast, the National Wellness Institute defines wellness as “an active process through which people become aware of, and make choices toward, a more successful existence.

Breaking down that definition can help us more fully understand the concept of wellness:

  • An active process” means wellness is an ongoing effort that a person must invest themselves in, not something that can be granted to them. It also means improvement of a person’s wellness is always possible.
  • Through which people become aware of” means that wellness is dependent upon a person seeking out and discovering new ways to improve their lives. People don’t always know how they can improve until they learn new information that can help them.
  • And make choices toward” means that a person can and should consider a variety of options for improving their life and attempt to select the best ones for their circumstances. It also means the person must act on their own behalf to achieve desired outcomes.
  • A more successful existence” means a life filled with well-being, happiness, accomplishments and purpose. Every person must decide what these things mean for them.

    In some ways, then, wellness is a method by which we can achieve complete physical, mental and social health.

The Eight Dimensions of Wellness

Image courtesy of Wikimedia user DaisyFig [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)]

Even though we’ve defined wellness, it may be difficult to know how to start practicing wellness in your life. After all, a wide variety of factors contribute to a person’s happiness and well-being.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) divides wellness into eight separate dimensions that take all the major aspects of life into consideration. Understanding these dimensions can help a person evaluate their wellness in each category and form plans for improving their life.

Here are SAMHSA’s eight dimensions of wellness along with a few ways you can increase your own wellness in each area:

  • Physical wellness means recognizing the need for physical activity, diet, sleep and nutrition. To be physically well, you should strive to stay active, even if it’s only through small actions like taking the stairs instead of the elevator. You should also do your best to make healthy choices when eating and get plenty of sleep each night.
  • Emotional wellness means coping effectively with life and creating meaningful relationships. An important part of emotional wellness is being aware of your feelings and sharing them with people you trust. Pay attention to what you’re feeling and why you’re feeling that way, and reach out to people who are close to you when you’re struggling with upsetting emotions.
  • Social wellness means developing a sense of connection, belonging, and a well-developed support system. To develop and maintain your personal relationships, try calling, e-mailing or visiting an acquaintance at least once a day. If you’d like to make new friends and relationships, consider joining a club or volunteer group.
  • Occupational wellness means getting personal satisfaction and enrichment from one’s work and hobbies. In order to find satisfaction in your work, you should try to pursue career or volunteer opportunities that align with your interests and passions. When at work, take breaks to avoid becoming overwhelmed, and try not to set unrealistic performance expectations on yourself.
  • Intellectual wellness means recognizing creative abilities and finding ways to expand knowledge and skills. Reading books, whether they are informational or for entertainment, is a wonderful way to stimulate your mind. You might also consider attending community events that interest you or enrolling in skills training classes at your local library.
  • Financial wellness means finding satisfaction with current and future financial situations. Make an effort to learn about finances so you understand which financial behaviors are wise and unwise. Then work toward creating financial stability by following a budget that allows you to save for your future. You can also seek out advice from financial experts if needed.
  • Environmental wellness means achieving good health by occupying pleasant, stimulating environments that support well-being. In general, you should spend as much time as possible in calming or uplifting places. Take the time to go outside and appreciate nature, and donate or recycle things you don’t need to make your home a less stressful environment.
  • Spiritual wellness means expanding your sense of purpose and meaning in life. Practicing a religion can improve spiritual wellness for many people, but any activity that enhances your sense of connection to yourself, nature and other people is also good. Discover what values, principles and beliefs are most important to you, and do your best to help others when they’re in need.

If you regularly work on maintaining and improving these eight dimensions of wellness, you’ll be better able to create a life full of health, happiness and purpose.