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New texbook, Health and Wellness for Life outlines the six dimensions of wellness

by Bhibha Das, MPH




Six Dimensions of Wellness

The six dimensions of wellness model (see figure 16.1) was developed by Dr. Bill Hettler, cofounder and president of the board of directors of the National Wellness Institute, which is an organization formed to provide health promotion and wellness resources to health professionals and individuals. The model demonstrates that all six types of wellness-physical, intellectual, emotional, social, spiritual, and occupational-must be present for a person to attain overall wellness (National Wellness Institute 2007). Efforts to attain wellness now will become a foundation for your life later.

 

Physical Wellness

Physical wellness-the wellness of the physical body-is important to overall health and wellness because when the body is sick or injured, it’s harder to do physical and mental tasks well. You can’t focus in class or complete homework assignments, for example. In the workforce, being physically ill may have a negative impact on your work productivity, ultimately affecting your career. Finally, if you continue being physically fit into your later years, you’ll be able to maintain your independence and continue with your activities of daily life such as bathing, carrying groceries, and playing with your grandchildren.

 

You can do many things to maintain physical wellness, including getting regular physical activity. There are 1,440 minutes in a day; use at least 30 of them to do something active that you enjoy. Finding activities you enjoy will ensure that you continue participating in them. For instance, if you’re a competitive person, you might want to join an intramural sport team.

 

Another important step you can take to being physically well is to have good eating habits. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), you should eat food from the grains, vegetables, fruits, milk, and meat and beans food groups (USDA 2008).

  • At least half the grains you eat should be whole grains.
  • Eat a variety of vegetables, especially dark green and orange veggies. Next time you’re eating a salad, try to replace the iceberg lettuce with some spinach.
  • Eat a variety of fruits. They can be fresh, frozen, canned, or dried. Beware, though: Fruit juices often add extra sugar, which adds calories.
  • Dairy products should be low fat or fat free. If you’re lactose intolerant, try eating lactose-free products and get your calcium from sources such as salmon, broccoli, or spinach.
  • When choosing meat products, go lean. The best ways to prepare meat are to bake, broil, or grill it. Try to vary your choices in this food group. You can try fish and even nuts.
  • The USDA food pyramid recommends eating sweets only in moderation. Every food fits, but in moderation.

Other things you can do to maintain physical fitness include not using tobacco products and illegal drugs such as marijuana or cocaine. Also, if you use alcohol, be sure to drink responsibly.

 

Remember these two tenets of physical wellness:

  1. It is better to consume foods and beverages that enhance good health than those that impair it.
  2. It is better to be physically fit than out of shape.

Intellectual Wellness

Intellectual wellness addresses creative and mental activities and your openness to new ideas (National Wellness Institute 2007). People who are intellectually well continually try to expand their knowledge and skills, and they’re willing to share their knowledge and skills with others. You can achieve intellectual wellness by engaging in lifelong learning through both formal education and informal life experiences. If you’re intellectually well, you’ll welcome lifelong intellectual growth and stimulation and you’ll look for interaction with the world around you. Intellectual wellness helps keep your mind sharp as you age.

 

Being enrolled in college is a step you’re already taking to achieve intellectual wellness. As a college student, you are being exposed to a variety of ideas in both formal settings, such as the classroom, and informal settings, such as your dormitory or fraternity or sorority. Reading is another great way to stay well intellectually. If you don’t like to read, you can watch or listen to programs with educational value. You can find a variety of educational television programming on the Discovery Channel, History Channel, Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), and so on. You can also learn new skills or pick up new hobbies throughout your life to help maintain intellectual wellness.

 

Remember these tenets of intellectual wellness:

  1. It is better to stretch and challenge your mind with intellectual and creative pursuits than to become self-satisfied and unproductive.
  2. It is better to identify potential problems and choose appropriate courses of action based on available information than to wait, worry, and contend with major concerns later.

Emotional Wellness

Emotional wellness gives you the ability to get through the rigors of life (National Wellness Institute 2007). Some aspects of emotional wellness include self-acceptance, self-confidence, self-control, and trust. Emotional wellness involves the ability to deal with stress, the ability to be flexible, and your attitude toward yourself and life in general. Emotional wellness will help you have a better outlook on life so that you enjoy it to its fullest.

 

You can do several things to help improve your emotional wellness. One of the most important is to develop a good social support network. In other words, make friends! Friends provide a sounding board, and their support helps you reduce stress and manage negative emotions. Even with a busy and sometimes chaotic schedule, make time to nurture relationships so you have a solid support system in times of need and in times of joy.

 

Another important step you can take to maintain emotional wellness is to build confidence. Each person has unique abilities and weaknesses. Accepting your strengths and weaknesses and doing the best with what you have can help build self-confidence.

 

Finding the optimal balance between work and personal life is another important step to maintaining emotional wellness. Try to schedule time to pursue activities that interest you, such as reading, exercising, or going to the movies. Finding a balance between schoolwork and the rest of your life will help you not only in school but as you enter the workforce and raise a family.

 

Remember these tenets of emotional wellness:

  1. It is better to be aware of and accept your feelings than to deny them.
  2. It is better to be optimistic in your approach to life than pessimistic.

This is an excerpt from Health and Wellness for Life, edited by Human Kinetics.



Social Wellness

The emphasis behind the social wellness dimension is becoming a contributing member of society (National Wellness Institute 2007). A socially well person takes an active role in the community and encourages effective communication among community members.

 

Volunteering in the community provides a sense of satisfaction and purpose that paid work often can’t give, so it’s a good step toward social wellness. Another step is to expand your social support network. Your social support could be made up of people from work, school, professional organizations, and clubs. Being respectful of others will help you develop into a socially well person. You can also become socially well by joining a club or organization that is of interest to you. Most schools have a variety of clubs for virtually any interest. After college, you might want to join service organizations within your community. Joining clubs gives you a sense of community, which ultimately helps you achieve social wellness.

 

Remember these tenets of social wellness:

  1. It is better to contribute to the common welfare of your community than to think only of yourself.
  2. It is better to live in harmonywith others and your environment than to live in conflict with them.Spiritual Wellness

Spiritual Wellness

The dimension of spiritual wellness focuses on meaning and purpose in life (National Wellness Institute 2007). Aspects of spiritual wellness include the ability to forgive, to show compassion, and to love. Although traditional religious beliefs and practices are part of spiritual wellness, spiritual wellness can also encompass the broader range of relationships with other living things and your perception and appreciation of nature, the universe, and the meaning of life. The spiritual dimension also equips you with the ethics, values, and morals that help guide your decisions.


Developing spiritual wellness takes time, and there is no single approach that fits all. It’s often hard to find time to develop spiritual wellness, but some simple things can help. Here are a few ideas that might get you started.

  • Take a few minutes out of your day to pray or meditate. Taking just 5 minutes to clear your mind will help you become more focused.
  • Use affirmations to change negative self-talk into positive self-talk-repeating positive ideas about yourself leads to positive feelings, which in turn increases spiritual wellness.
  • Look for something inspirational to read every day, even if it’s just a short quote.
  • If you practice a religion, attending a church, synagogue, or temple will help with your spiritual wellness. Becoming involved in activities at your place of worship is another step you can take to becoming spiritually well.
  • Practice breathing exercises-in a quiet place, breathe in slowly and deeply through your nose, and then let the breath out through your mouth.
  • Spend time in nature, which can renew your sense of belonging to the world.
  • Take care of yourself, including regular exercise and a balanced diet.
  • Express yourself creatively through painting, drawing, singing, writing, and so on.

Remember these tenets of spiritual wellness:

  1. It is better to ponder the meaning of life for yourself and to be tolerant of the beliefs of others than to close your mind and become intolerant.
  2. It is better to live each day in a way that is consistent with your values and beliefs than to do otherwise and feel untrue to yourself.

Occupational Wellness

Occupational wellness applies to the personal satisfaction you get from your career (National Wellness Institute 2007). Satisfaction increases as you contribute your skills and talents to work that is meaningful and rewarding. Look for a job in a field you feel passionate about so work feels less like work and more like fun. Choose a career path compatible with your interests, talents, and personality.


Build strong working relationships with your coworkers. Creating strong relationships will help foster community in the workplace. Try to create a better work environment by avoiding
gossip about your colleagues.


You can also achieve occupational wellness by working toward your career goals. Having a clear vision of your future will help you find ways to reach your career dreams. And, if you
find that the current career path you are on is not fulfilling, be open to change and learn new skills.


Explore a variety of career options. During college, you can optimize your occupational wellness by visiting your campus career planning or placement office and using the resources there. Counselors can give you advice about a career path and give tips and suggestions for your résumé.


Remember these tenets of occupational wellness:

  1. It is better to choose a career that is consistent with your personal values, interests, and beliefs than to select one that is unrewarding for you.
  2. It is better to develop functional, transferable skills through structured involvement opportunities than to remain inactive and uninvolved.



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