Nine Aspects of Wellness
Karl Knopf, EdD
Consider wellness as the ability to manage stress, maintain balance in work and leisure, maintain healthy habits in all aspects of life, feel good about self and others, and live optimally, genuinely, and joyfully.
Wellness include many aspects of our life. Just like a bike rim has many spokes, so does wellness. And, just like a bike rim, a damaged or broken spoke leads to a bumpy ride. Let’s explore nine aspects of wellness and, as you read about each, rate your personal level on a scale of 1-10.
1. Emotional Wellness
This dimension emphasizes an awareness and acceptance of one’s own feelings. It is seeing self in a positive light, having an optimistic outlook, and zest for life. Emotional wellness is the ability to critique your own limitations in a way that is nurturing and productive. This aspect of wellness involves self-acceptance without condition, the ability to manage feelings and behaviors, and to cope with stress. You are able to successfully utilize your intellect, experience and emotions to make productive decisions welcoming these challenges as opportunities. This life affirming quality includes a sense of gratitude, kindness, forgiveness, and joyfulness that is nurturing and sensitive to the needs of self and others. An emotionally healthy person is able to create relationships based upon a foundation of mutual respect and values all aspects of life and relationships.
2. Mental Wellness
This involves the aspect of lifelong learning and the practice of thinking creatively. The desire to explore new areas creates the ability to learn throughout your lifespan. Learn something new each day. Mental wellness is the ability to see the opportunities that lead to new skills and knowledge.
3. Physical Wellness
Physical wellness is providing the body good nutrition, living an active lifestyle, and avoiding harmful behaviors. Proper maintenance of the body helps to keep the brain fired up. Regular aerobic activity calms the body; serotonin (the “feel-good” hormones) is released in the brain with regular exercise helps to manage stress and get a good night sleep. Physical wellness includes feeding the biological machine with healthy nutritious fuel including plenty of water. In other words, exercise is literally good for the body, the brain and our well-being. Treat your body like a temple not like a tent!
4. Social Wellness
Being outwardly focused and initiating better communications with others keeps us connected and well grounded. Current research suggests that being socially engaged is more important in longevity than exercise. Social wellness is the ability to interact in a positive manner with others; the cultivation of close friendships with a variety of people of difference cultures and backgrounds, lifestyles and abilities. Socially healthy people have a network of friends and family providing a community of mutual support. Being balanced socially includes the ability to balance fun activities with obligations. The bottom line: socially connected people live longer and happier lives.
5. Spiritual Wellness
Spiritual wellness has nothing to do with religion. Spiritual wellness is about life having meaning and purpose. When your actions are in alignment with your beliefs there is a sense of tranquility, congruency and harmony. Being open to re-defining and re-evaluating our belief systems as we learn from one another along the spirit journey can lead us to serenity, enlightenment, and perhaps one day, world peace.
6. Occupational Wellness
The occupational dimension of wellness is the journey into personal satisfaction and enrichment though one’s work and career. This includes our attitude towards work. Each of us has the unique ability to add our own expertise, unique skill sets and talents in occupations that are personally meaningful and rewarding. Having a job that is meaningful is highly desired. There is no such thing as an insignificant person doing an insignificant job. No matter what we do to earn a living, there is always purpose and meaning. You can trust that your work, when performed well and with a grateful heart, creates a positive impact in the world around you. The world needs unique, wonderful you and the energy that you bring to your endeavors, regardless of the height of the ladder rung where you are standing.
7. Cultural Wellness
Cultural wellness supports cultural diversity including religion, sexual orientation, gender, age, racial and ethnic background, ability level and the uniqueness of each culture. Cultural wellness takes into account one’s own personal culture of origin and understands that each culture is unique and is comprised of various sub-cultures. This also recognizes the contributions of the various cultures and one’s willingness and ability to communicate effectively with members of all walks of life with sensitivity. In other words, it is the ability to coexist. Allow yourself every opportunity to be in the presence of people that don’t look or think like you do.
8. Recreational Wellness
The word “recreation” literally means “to re-create or to make anew.” Recreation is the engagement in activities in a manner that is designed for therapeutic refreshment of mind and body. Spending leisure time with hobbies and sport for the sake of enjoyment are both forms of recreation. Participation in recreational activities contributes to a sense of well-being, life satisfaction, quality of life and sense of wellness. Research has shown that people with chronic pain or health impairments need less medication and are happier and healthier when they participate in recreational activities and hobbies. Recreation activities such as art and music appreciation, sports, and wide variety of focused use of leisure time can help develop cultural appreciation, spiritual awareness, social interaction and the learning of new skills. Recreation is the focused use of leisure time for the sake of fun and play. To some, recreation is viewed as a non-productive use of time. But judicious balance of work and play can enhance the quality of each, and therefore increase productivity overall. When a person is refreshed and renewed, there is an increased experience of life satisfaction.
9. Legacy Wellness
What gift are you to this world? What footsteps do you want to leave behind? How do you want to be remembered? This is probably the hardest aspect of wellness for many of us to evaluate, but it is interrelated with all other aspects of our life. It has been suggested to learn from our past, live in the present, and prepare for the future.
How did you score on your wellness level in each category? Do you see some spokes that need adjusting? Now is the perfect time to begin bringing these elements into balance because our wheels are made for turning, for moving forward, and for a smoother ride as you climb the hill to your goals and dreams.
Dr. Karl Knopf has been involved in health and fitness for over 45 years, working in almost every aspect of the industry – from personal trainer and therapist to consultant. While at Foothill College, he was the Director of the Fitness Therapy Program, a teacher of adaptive PE, and recognized with several awards for teaching excellence. For 15 years, Dr. Knopf served as the President and Founder of Fitness Educators Of Older Adults. He has authored many articles, has written over 20 books, and has been a frequent guest on the Sit and Be Fit television show