Wellness and living a healthy life have evolved to represent more than being physically fit. No longer is it enough to make it to the gym and sweat. Today, being healthy and alive involves a more complex and systematic approach that integrates states of physical, mental and spiritual well-being.
Many health experts believe in a theory of wellness that evolved from several crucial areas of healthiness that compliment one another to provide a well balanced, vital and prosperous life.
A well-regarded and concise theory of wellness and lifestyle improvement was developed in 1977 by Dr. Bill Hettler, co-founder of the National Wellness Institute. Dr. Hettler theorized and developed a wellness paradigm that integrates six dimensions of wellness that could be used as a guideline for attaining a whole and complete life.
Dr. Hettler states in his hypothesis that in order to lead a vital, fulfilling, well rounded and balanced life, certain lifestyle dimensions need to be met. When one or more dimensions is missing or falls short, the imbalance sets off an effect that throws off the entire equilibrium and poise to one’s life.
The National Wellness Institute, along with the help of leaders in health and wellness, shared many interpretations and models of wellness. Through this discussion, there appears to be general agreement that:
• Wellness is a conscious, self-directed and evolving process of achieving full potential
• Wellness is multi-dimensional and holistic, encompassing lifestyle, mental and spiritual well-being and the environment
• Wellness is positive and affirming
The definition of wellness, long used by the National Wellness Institute, is consistent with these tenets. “Wellness is an active process through which people become aware of, and make choices toward, a more successful existence.”
It is the integration of the six interactive dimensions that continually influence and balance each other and create overall wellness. Each dimension forms a piece of a lifestyle pie; without one piece, there is a void, a missing link that imbalances the remainder of the dimensions. Life becomes askew when a piece of that pie is missing; the remaining fundamentals of wellness will be missing something crucial. Some believe that if one’s life is not focused on all six dimensions, dissension among the rest will exist and life will be more demanding and unstable.
The six dimensions of wellness are: physical, emotional, spiritual, intellectual, environmental and social. They are discussed in greater detail below.
Physical: Maintaining a sound substantial body through regular exercise, proper nutrition, sleeping well and avoiding harmful habits. Maintaining a consistent well-rounded exercise program is crucial to physical wellness.
Emotional: Being in touch with your emotional presence and being aware and comfortable with your own thoughts and feelings. Emotional wellness relies on being able to express one’s thoughts and sensations and to be able to absorb those of others.
Spiritual: Having a sense that life is meaningful and has a purpose and that we are guided in our journey. Spiritual wellness is about embracing the meta-physical and reaching beyond the physical realm of existence and experiences.
Intellectual: Being able to engage in lively interaction with the world around you. The intellect is about flexing the mind’s muscle and opening the mind. One’s intellectual being is about continued learning, problem solving, processing and creativity. Intellectual wellness involves connecting with others on a cerebral level.
Environmental: Surrounding yourself with a healthy work and living environment free of hazards and focused on conservation of all natural resources and the role we play in bettering the environment. Environmental wellness is about respecting nature and your surroundings and in gaining personal fulfillment from our surroundings.
Social: Social wellness is about relating, interacting and communicating well with others. Social wellness is also about being comfortable in your own skin to be able to contribute and engage in a healthy living environment. Including people in all aspects of our lives is tantamount to social wellness.
By embracing these dimensions you are better equipped to manage the complexities and spontaneity life presents to us. When one or more dimensions are jeopardized, the others play a greater role to balance out the compromised dimension(s).