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“Are you well?” We’ve all been asked this question, or have asked others at some point. Usually, it’s an inquiry as to whether we are currently suffering from any illness or ailment, as wellness is generally assumed to be the opposite of illness. But this is far from being the truth. One way to explain this further is by taking a look at the Wellness Wheel. This allows us to examine different areas of our lives and, by making adjustments and changes, we can improve our overall health in so many ways. We become happier and healthier, which can help us to lead more fulfilling and enjoyable lives.
What is the Wellness Wheel?
In 1976 Dr. Bill Hettler co-founded the National Wellness Institute. It was based on the principle that humans could live better, healthier lives if they paid attention to balance and awareness in various areas of their lives. This led to Dr. Hettler creating a model known as the ‘Six Dimensions of Wellness’ – the first example of a wellness wheel. This simple wellness model was more hexagonal than wheel-shaped, with the six separate sections each containing a different aspect of life. The diagram helps to visualize the fact that all these aspects are joined in some way, each of them having an effect on our lives, with us at the center. All these aspects contribute to better mental health, a healthy lifestyle, and personal satisfaction.
More recently, other wheels have been devised, containing as few as four sections and up to as many as thirty-six! More often than not, though, these wellness wheels will have seven main sections, each one relating to a major area of our lives. At the center of this wheel is you – the individual – with all these facets radiating around you. To achieve true ‘wellness’, each of these aspects need to be carefully balanced.
Think of the wheel on a bicycle; if you attached a weight to the edge, the whole thing is out of balance. Try to ride it and you’d soon discover the effects. After wobbling about for a bit, you would most likely be thrown off. Just as when one area of your life is neglected, it can become a burden, weighing you down and throwing you off balance. If left unchecked, it could bring all kinds of problems, whether physical, mental, emotional or spiritual.
The Wellness Wheel we will look at and share contains seven dimensions of wellness. It’s an updated iteration that is more relevant to our current period. We believe this version is the most complete without being overly complicated. Finding fulfillment with and optimizing for each section will lead to a more balanced life, good health, and help reduce stress. This well rounded version of the wellness wheel includes physical wellness, spiritual wellness, intellectual wellness, environmental wellness, financial wellness, social wellness, and emotional wellness.
How does the Wellness Wheel work?
The theory is simple; balance the different areas of your life, and you’ll start to find that your life will improve. It’s a bit more than that, though. It isn’t merely about not getting ill, it is about making the most of your life. It’s about living life to its fullest and maintaining continuous, positive activity to keep us healthy and happy. It’s about optimal health in each section and not over optimizing one section at the expense of another.
It is a fact that the place where you find yourself today is a result of the decisions you have made so far in life. Yes, it’s a sad fact that some of these decisions will have been forced on you. There may well be some negativity involved – that is simply a fact of life. But where do you want to be in the future? What decisions can you make now that will improve your health and well being? This is how the wellness wheel can help.
The wheel encourages you to reflect on your life and your decisions, relating to the categories in each of the separate segments. You then set goals for yourself, each designed to bring about a balance. Remember; all of these different aspects are a part of you, part of your life. They may seem disconnected, but they all begin and end with you. And your happiness depends on them being balanced.
Let’s take a look at the seven areas of the wheel to give an idea of how you can begin to balance your life:
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It goes without saying that we are all different. Some people are just more emotional than others. But emotional health is vital to us all, whatever our natural disposition. Each of us reacts differently to certain situations, such as stress. And stress comes to us in many different ways and forms; too much work, not enough sleep and rest, disagreements – the list goes on. To balance our emotional well being we must seek ways of reducing stress, firstly by ensuring we get enough sleep.
A more structured day, with a timetable to help us achieve our goals, might be of use. Learning relaxation and stress management techniques, by downloading an app, if necessary, can be an excellent way of promoting emotional wellness. Try not to be too self-critical, and learn to be confident in your abilities. If some of these seem too difficult, then never be afraid to seek help and advice through therapy and counseling.
The human brain is a marvelous thing. It soaks up knowledge like a sponge, and whenever we learn something new it makes connections between neurons, strengthening itself, even replacing other ‘bridges’ lost over time. When we neglect it, on the other hand, the opposite can happen. To maintain intellectual wellness, try to keep the learning process going. It’s all about maintaining a growth mindset.
Attend lectures and seminars (that interest you!), learn new practical skills or even another language. Join intellectually stimulating groups, especially those connected to social or political matters, and always try to see things from other perspectives to foster a more critical awareness. Even reading blog posts like this one about the Wellness Wheel is a way to cultivate intellectual wellness.
This one probably rings true for many people and can be a tough one, to begin with. But it is vitally important to keep this area balanced, just as much as the other areas. It is a good idea to create a budget – and to stick to it! Always try to live within your means and make plans for the future. Don’t be tempted to spend now, and regret it later. That will lead to financial instability and set the wheel off balance.
Goal setting for your finances, career, budget, and savings are a good place to start here. When we have clear goals around our finances, it can help enable that other seven dimensions of the wellness wheel. When this section is lacking, it can be hard to fulfill the others. It’s not about making money everything, it’s about getting to a place where money isn’t dragging us down mentally.
This section of the wellness wheel is extremely important and is one of the most neglected aspects. Diet plays a major role in our physical health, including what – or how much – we drink in terms of alcohol or sweet, sugary soda or other unhealthy habits. Our bodies need nutrition, not garbage. Our diets should be balanced, which doesn’t necessarily exclude ‘treats’, but just means we should be sensible about what we put into our bodies. Sleep is just as important, as is exercise. And by using preventative medicine wisely we can avoid future problems as much as possible.
Get medical care when you need it, get enough physical activity every week, and keep to a balanced nutritional diet on most days. It’s simple on the surface but of course difficult in practice.
Probably not high on everyone’s list of priorities, but having a good network of friends for support and friendship can play a huge role in keeping us on the road to overall wellness. Loneliness and isolation can bring with it a whole host of problems, including depression. Sharing a burden with a close friend can reduce the stress of that situation, and may even lead to a solution. Meeting people from different backgrounds, seeing alternative perspectives, and learning about diverse cultures can provide a wealth of knowledge and understanding, helping you grow as a human being. It helps, also, to build trust as well as teaching you how to communicate more effectively.
Healthy relationships with friends and family, as well as meaningful relationships with loved ones, gives us a richer life and experience. Spend time with the people that matter to you most, and don’t be afraid to meet new people and talk to people who may have different ideas than you. Community is important here as well. Whether it’s school, a club, or organization you can feel a part of, it can bring us more meaning.
Though some may find this area on the wellness wheel problematic, it really doesn’t need to be. To be spiritual doesn’t mean you have to belong to any kind of religious body or accept dogma – though neither is it a problem if you choose to do so. Being spiritual simply means to accept that there is more to life than merely physical things. Learn to be mindful, to be curious about the world around you and to consider the ethics and values that shape your actions and life. Set aside time for more personal reflection, and engage in meditation or yoga. If you want to take it to another level, consider trying a meditation retreat.
Spiritual wellness and spirituality means finding meaning in your life. Self reflection and self exploration can help you find what helps you live a more meaningful existence. Whether it’s helping others, working on a project that serves humanity, or living for your children can be some ideas.
A timely and appropriate one for our current situation, with so much negative news about the plight of our planet. Though at times it seems impossible that we alone can do anything to help. What we can do is start with our immediate environment. Get rid of clutter, tidy up your room, your workspace. Always make the effort to reduce waste or choose consumer goods that have a low impact on the environment.
Even better – offer to volunteer with a group that is helping the wider environment in some way. It’s not all about the planet, though. The actual environment you immerse yourself in every day really matters. Make it as happy, as clean, as safe and as positive as you can. That way, you are also contributing to the well being of others as well as yourself.
So, that’s the Wellness Wheel – or at least one version of it. You may wish to make your own or to seek out others more suited to you. They will all have the same, common goal; to bring you to a place of wellness.
But please do consider trying it out. Set your goals, make those changes in diet or lifestyle, and re-balance these aspects of your life. By doing so you could improve your life dramatically, becoming healthier and happier than ever before. And that’s something we could all wish for.