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What is Wellness?

Wellness looks different to different people.  That may be why there is a saturation of information out there on the topic.  For some it is about emotional stability, for others it is about diet or movement, and still for others it may be about mental health.  No one is wrong for focusing on one or two areas, but it is important to acknowledge just how complex wellness really is.

The number of things that fall under the category of wellness is vast and eclectic.  Wellness can encompass a variety of categories.  Body, mind, spirit, community, occupation all have a place under the umbrella term of wellness.  They work synchronously and usually if one is off one or more are affected because they are so interconnected.  Ever notice how a stressful experience affects your eating habits? Or, how your social groups play a role in your activity level (or lack thereof)?  It is not unusual to see someone struggling with work struggle with their emotional wellbeing as well; or how someone concerned with housing can also face a myriad of other physical and mental health issues.  The connection between all the facets is strong and often times they will even overlap.

There are many ways to breakdown wellness and a variety of areas to highlight.  Below are just a few to consider when looking at your whole health and wellness:

  • Physical: This is what is most commonly thought of when thinking about health and wellness.  Movement, diet, sleep all fall under this category.  Physical health is indeed important, but our wellness is not solely dependent on eating an apple and running a mile.  As a society we sometimes focus on exercise and food as the only components to health, but that is just one piece of the puzzle.
  • Mental: Our mental wellness plays a very important role in our overall health.  Anyone who has ever been affected by mental health problems such as anxiety, depression, or even eating disorders can attest how debilitating it can be.  Mental health problems can either be acute or chronic and can impact anyone at any age.  More importantly, our mental health can seep into other areas of our lives.  It can reach us in ways we may not expect or comprehend, for example battling depression can lead to less physical activity or a decreased social life. 
  • Emotional: This area highlights how we manage feelings.  Are we able to show compassion or empathy?  How do we manage the stressors of life?  Do you act impulsively?  It is important to notice our emotional wellness because it can influence all areas of health.  Not being attune of our emotions can make it challenging to connect with others, or even acknowledge the existence of our own pain.
  • Occupational: Most of us will work at some point or another in our lives.  We will spend many hours at a job site or honing a career.  Workplace contentment is important not only because it can help make work more enjoyable, but because feeling unfulfilled at work can lead to problems in other areas of your life.  The way one is treated at work can cause issues with emotional or mental wellness.  Too much time at work can often mean sacrificing time for physical activity or sleep (or even time spent with loved ones).
  • Spiritual: This area is about our place in the world.  It is about the meaning of life and the values we hold.  For some this means an organized religion, but spirituality does not necessarily have to be associated with a certain theology.  Spiritual wellness is important because it can lead us to feel connected to society and the communities we associate with.  Sometimes it manifests itself in how we contribute to those around us.  If there is a lack of belonging it can trickle down to our mental or physical health. 
  • Social: Those around you- friends, neighbors, and/or family members that make up your tribe impact choices.  Social connections can keep us going (or hold us back).  Birds of a feather flock together, therefore they can motivate us, share a laugh or a tear, support us, and even push as needed.  A lack of that support group can also make things challenging.  Not having that group can cause goals to go unreached or even cause health issues like depression or loneliness.
  • Financial: The state of our bank account is important.  After all, finances are needed in order to buy food, see medical providers, socialize, etc.  Ever lose sleep over money issues?  Or stress out about making ends meet?  As much as I hate to admit it, money is important in our modern-day society and a lack of it can cause health issues – both directly and indirectly.
  • Environmental: It is not just about the green space or planet we call home, but also about the personal environment.  Is housing an issue?  Is safety a concern?  Are you worried or stressed about your living conditions?  Are relationships with those you live with toxic?  All these issues can contribute to environmental wellness.  The effects the environment we live in can cause issues to pop up in other areas of wellness.  If there is stress at home our mental wellness is compromised.  If there is no where to cook, then diet can be of concern.  If it is not safe to walk outside, activity minutes might be limited.  The environment in which we live often lends a hand in the outcome of our health.

Wellness is not an end goal, but rather an action that persists over time.  It floats around us, consistently as we live life.  It manifests in different fashions and the product of it is noticeable in a variety of ways.  No two people describe wellness in quite the same manner and that is the beauty of it — it is personal and individualized.  

– Progress, Not Perfection –

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