One could argue that nothing we could invest in, has a greater impact on our quality of life, contentment, joy, and fulfilment than our wellness. One of the keys to achieving greater health and wellbeing, is to develop a more holistic approach to the adoption of healthy lifestyle habits. When we focus on various aspects of wellness individually, while still considering the concept more comprehensively, we’ll start to feel better, inside and out.
We often hear people talk about health, wellness, and wellbeing together. One reason for this is, they often come, and go, as a package. But, as they are not synonymous, it’s important to draw a few distinctions between them.
Health, Wellbeing, and Wellness
Health is a state of being. According to the preamble of the “Constitution of the World Health Organization”, signed on July 22, 1946,
“Health is a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-beingWorld Health Organization (WHO)
and not merely the absence of disease of infirmity”
Wellbeing is also a state of being. Our wellbeing is the combination of objective and subjective factors.
Objectively, wellbeing is tied to our financial conditions and access to resources, such as higher education. Another objective component is our comparative quality of life, which includes access to health care. Health and wellbeing interrelate, overlap, and also have a profound impact on one another.
Subjectively, our wellbeing is tied to our happiness, life satisfaction, sense of purpose, and other emotional elements. Even those elements that are objective, how extensive a social support network we have is, are filtered through our subjective, and experiential, interpretation, “Am I satisfied with the level of social support I am receiving?”
“Physical, mental and social wellbeing result from practicing wellness.The World Health Organisation (WHO)
Wellbeing is a state, achieved through practicing wellness.”
Wellness is a practice. It’s the act of consciously and intentionally making choices that lead to greater health. The practice of becoming more well becomes a habit, than a lifestyle. Someone who is living a healthy lifestyle may be on a quest to reach their optimal health. When someone is investing in the emotional and social dimensions of wellness (discussed below) they may be on a quest toward wellbeing.
Wellness is a choice. Improving any facet of our fitness or fulfillment depends upon the prioritization of ourselves, belief in our worth, and as a result, the preservation of time and energy for self-exploration, self-care, and personal development.
Making choices that are preventive, restorative, and mitigate risks increases our health now, and also into the future. We are more likely to make healthy choices that support our wellbeing, long-term, when we see our vitality as largely within our control, and as part of our essential responsibilities.
Wellness practices are on a continuum. Everyone does things that promote being well, to some degree. Eating is just one of the activities oriented toward our feeling alive and energetic. It’s also necessary for our survival. We could conclude that a minimal investment in being well is inevitable and inescapable. Additional efforts have to be made in order to maintain consistent levels of health and happiness over time, and as we age. Flourishing required time, effort, and energy. Since we are all somewhere on the continuum, and optimal health and wellbeing only exist conceptually, we all have room for improvement when it comes to practicing wellness.
Wellness is multidimensional. We can think of wellbeing as state of being achieved through our working on ourselves within those specific areas, and also as a result of finding a healthy balance between the various facets.
What are the Dimensions of Wellness?
Economic wellness entails financial literacy, tracking expenses, creating a budget, living within one’s means, eliminating debt, becoming financially autonomous and independent, and saving for retirement.
Improving our emotional wellness allows us to become more resilient, content, and self-assured. We develop ourselves emotionally through the practice of meditation and mindfulness, emotional awareness and regulation, stress management, self-compassion, and gratitude.
What’s the most important minute in life? I think it’s the next one.Rick Hanson
There is nothing we can do about the past,
and we have limited influence over the hours and days to come.
But the next minute—minute after minute after minute—is always full of possibility.
Resilient: How to Grow an Unshakable Core of Calm, Strength, and Happiness
Environmental wellness involves understanding how we influence, and are influenced by the natural world. We can reduce our impact on the environment by reducing material consumption, eating locally, and recycling. Buying a house plant, hiking, tracking seasonal changes, or listening to waves are a few of the countless ways to spend time with, and connect to, nature. Another important aspect of our environmental, or structural, wellness is having a sense of safety and security where one lives.
We cultivate intellectual wellness when we expand our capacities by taking a class, reading a book, learning to play an instrument, or solving a crossword puzzle. Continuing to stimulate ourselves intellectually can promote a growth mindset, encourage curiosity and creativity, and also may slow cognitive decline and memory loss as we age.
Physical wellness involves eating nutritious foods, hydrating, getting enough sleep, avoiding harmful substances, injury prevention, and staying active. Seeking preventative medical care, and staying home when were ill, are also practices that support physical health.
Social wellness satisfies our need for belonging and connection. It encompasses our relationships with intimate partners, family members, friends, and colleagues. Developing social skills, such as our ability to assert ourselves, extend support and compassion, apologize, resolve conflicts, and listen intently, can improve our ability to connect authentically, and therefore, strengthen social ties.
True belonging doesn’t require you to change who you are; it requires you to be who you are.Brené Brown,
Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone
Spiritual wellness encompasses feeling a sense of connection to something greater than oneself, which may be expressed through membership in a faith community, giving through volunteerism, or activism. Other components of spirituality include having a sense of purpose or an ikigai (reason for being, reason to get out of bed every morning) and the acceptance of one’s mortality.
Charting a Course toward Wellness
The Aspects of Wellness Overlap, and Compliment, One Another
Note that there is overlap between the different dimensions of wellness, in that one activity could impact more than one. Trail running, for example, could improve physical health and deepen one’s connection to nature and the environment. Volunteerism could simultaneously be a social and spiritual practice.
Where to Begin?
With so many ways to work on becoming healthier, some people find it difficult to choose one, or two, to focus on. There are a few ways to decide where to focus our energy.
Which Aspects of Wellness is Most Lacking?
One approach is to determine which area you are most lacking in, the dimension that has the greatest room for improvement. Because we are all unique individuals with different life experiences, our wants and needs can differ dramatically. Someone who has greater balance between the dimensions may struggle to identify an aspect requiring immediate attention, where someone who is feeling isolated, or lacks financial stability will likely be acutely aware of a neglected aspect.
What Does Ideal Wellness Look Like?
Another option is to explore your “health and wellbeing ideals”. Pause for a moment to picture yourself five years from now. Imagine, at that point, you have reached a wellbeing peak, you’ve never been healthier, or happier. You’re thriving. more well. Reflect on “future you”. Take your time, try to get a sense of some of the nuances, the context around that person.
- What has changed about you or your situation?
- What are you doing? What aren’t you doing?
- Who, if anyone, are you with?
- Do you look different, act different, feel different?
Alice: Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?Lewis Carroll
The Cheshire Cat: That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.
Alice: I don’t much care where.
The Cheshire Cat: Then it doesn’t much matter which way you go.
Alice: …So long as I get somewhere.
The Cheshire Cat: Oh, you’re sure to do that, if only you walk long enough.
Alice in Wonderland
Where Could You Have the Greatest Impact?
A third way set your healthy lifestyle priorities, is to look at those dimensions that you have the most, or least amount of control over at the moment. You may, for example, have serious need for increased economic resources, but few ways to immediately affect your economic circumstances.
Think Globally, Act Locally
Generally speaking, we have the more control over what happens internally, than what happening outside or and around us. Arguably, although small changes can have a huge impact on physical wellness, we have more influence over our thoughts than our bodies. This is not to say emotional wellness is easy. Making changes to our habits, thoughts, and mindset require time and patience. However, the benefits are immense and can be life-altering!
Begin with Emotional Wellness
Focusing on emotional awareness and regulation first has a few additional distinct advantages. First, a more positive mindset and confidence in oneself have the potential to augment the changes we’re pursuing in other areas. Reinforcing resilience factors sets us up with success as we strive to make changes, and inevitably encounter obstacles, challenges, and limitations.
Having the courage to attempt change, the resolve to commit to the work, and the grit to stick it out are all traits of the emotionally well. So, start by creating the inner strength that will serve as the foundation for all of the positive changes you hope to make!