Many times when we hear the term "wellness", we automatically relate it to physical health, achievable through diet and exercise. However, wellness encompasses much more than the physical realm. It also includes mental wellness, spiritual wellness and social wellness or the way in which we relate to others and the environment. All of these areas are interconnected and essential to overall health and wellbeing.
It’s also important to remember that wellness is a continuum and where we are on that continuum varies throughout life. However, if we’ve paid attention to our wellbeing across all of the key areas of our lives and have found balance regardless of our circumstances or the outcomes we’ve produced, optimal wellness becomes attainable for all.
Since most of us have a clear understanding of what it means to be physically well, I would like to focus on the other areas of mental, spiritual and social wellness. When setting your wellness goals for 2010, I encourage you to not only create dietary and exercise goals, but to also look for ways in which you can achieve wellness in the other realms of your life.
Mental wellness includes the areas of emotional, psychological and intellectual wellbeing. Emotionally, it’s important to be able to express our feelings in a healthy and constructive way as well as cope with the range of emotions we feel on a day-to- day basis. An example of an emotional goal might be to be honest about your feelings, but also responsible for them and their impact on others.
Psychological wellness addresses how you make sense of the situations and challenges you incur in your life. Do you put a positive spin on them and look for ways to grow or do you react negatively and without regard to yourself or others?
Intellectual wellness addresses the ways in which you stimulate your mind, practice creative and critical thinking, effectively listen and solve problems, and increase your knowledge base through curiosity and interest in your own experience of life as well as what’s happening around you. Intellectually, you might consider setting a goal to learn more about a topic of interest to you or to begin a journal as a means of developing a deeper understanding of yourself.
Spiritual wellness has to do with the purpose and meaning we give to our lives. It also means having a clear understanding of our own personal beliefs, values and commitments that we use to guide our life. Spirituality often develops during times of solitude when we spend time to reflecting and listening to our inner being. How we relate to ourselves and the world around us originates in our core and is the basis for our overall health and wellness. Examples of spiritual wellness goals might be to set aside a few minutes each day to sit quietly, participate in a group yoga/meditation class, or commit to spending time in nature on a weekly basis.
Finally, until recently, the social or societal dimension of wellness was often overlooked in the mind, body and spirit equation. However, given the state of our environment and natural world and the challenges we are currently facing as a society, developing wellness goals in this area is just as important as the others. Social wellness includes how we interact with others, as well as our participation and contribution to the community. Developing meaningful relationships with one another and our environment are the keys to achieving wellbeing in this part of our lives.
As 2010 comes to an end and you begin to plan for the new year, I also encourage you to spend time remembering and being grateful for all of the things you accomplished and experienced during the past year. It is equally as important to find peace in those areas that left you challenged, unhappy, or unfulfilled in some way. Completing the old for yourself, both the good and the bad, offers you a fresh starting point from which to create your wellness goals for the new year. Lastly, don’t forget that anything is possible and that there isn’t any dream that’s too big to realize. If you follow your heart and your inspiration, everything else will fall into place.