When you think about physical fitness, you should think about being able to accomplish tasks of daily living with vigor- being able to walk to class, shop for food, do your homework and have enough energy left over for hanging out with your friends and enjoying free time. When you think about being healthy, think about following mom’s advice and eating your fruits and veggies. Also, think about getting to the gym (or the ballpark) for a workout a few times a week and remember that sleep is a necessity, not an option.
These are all very important aspects of a healthy lifestyle—but according to the World Health Organization (WHO), they are not enough. In 1970, the WHO redefined good health to mean more than avoiding a necessary visit to the doctor—you need to achieve a high level of wellness. The WHO defines wellness as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well being, not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”
What is wellness? Wellness includes seven different dimensions:
True wellness is about balance—which means nurturing all parts of you. Draw a circle and divide it into seven slices of pie, one for each wellness type. For each slice, rate yourself and shade the pie on a scale of one to 10 (one being not at all well and only a tiny bit of shade, 10 being absolutely well and shaded all the way to the edge). Think about how well you feel in each area, and focus on quality over quantity. For instance, if you feel like you have a good network of friends, a good relationship with your family and are happy with your romantic situation, give yourself a 10 for social and shade the slice completely. On the other hand, if you have tons of acquaintances to party with, but no real friends to call on when there’s a crisis, only shade a one or two. For your physical slice, if you make an effort to regularly eat fruits and veggies, exercise most days of the week and get enough sleep to stay awake in class, give yourself a good score.
After you’ve thought about and shaded every slice, take a look at your pie—if you had to roll it down the street, would it move smoothly or would it thump to a halting stop? You’re better off having a smooth pie of all fives and sixes than a jagged pie with a couple of 10s and a bunch of ones and twos. Why? Because wellness is about balance—it’s a process of making good choices by being aware of how those choices interact. If you work out for hours every day and are a physical stud, but you eat tons of junk food, have no time for friends or family and are failing your classes, your physical fitness will not make up for the lack of quality in the rest of your life.
Take a look at your wheel—where could you use some work? There’s no one-size-fits all formula to improve your wellness. Instead, think about ways that are relevant to you. For some people, increasing spiritual wellness might mean going to church or temple more often, while other people might focus on non-religious forms of spiritual development, like meditation or personal reflection. For some students, cultivating occupational wellness may involve a part-time job or researching internships in your desired field. For others it may mean scheduling an appointment at the career center to get help in selecting your major. It’s your life and your wellness—find it your way!