Submitted by Cindy Johnson, Columbia Presbyterian Community
Today’s quiz: How many kinds of “wellness” are there, and which are the most important?
Surprisingly, wellness can be divided into seven dimensions. All seven are important, all contribute to enjoyment and satisfaction in life. The biggest surprise: one actually outweighs all the others in importance, and it isn’t the physical.
When one hears the word “wellness” most folks think immediately of physical wellness. Am I well, or am I sick? Am I always short of breath or can I walk a mile in under 30 minutes? Whole person, integrative wellness is so much more than just “sick” or “well”. When someone starts to deteriorate rapidly the metaphor is often used that “the wheels fell off”. A wheel is the perfect metaphor for the dimensions of wellness. When things are running smoothly we don’t necessarily notice each one individually. But when one area goes awry, it tends to throw the whole system off balance. So what are these seven dimensions of wellness?
Physical Wellness – This one is the foundation of overall good health and wellness. If the body is not strong and healthy it is difficult to maintain other areas. Physical wellness has to do with fitness (including all areas of functional fitness: strength training, flexibility, balance, and agility), maintaining independence, maintaining medical well visits, as well as avoiding negative behaviors such as smoking or excessive drinking. Eating well with healthy fats, lean meats, lots of vegetables and little sugar can also contribute to overall health.
Spiritual Wellness – Just as we exercise to condition our bodies, a healthy spirit is nurtured by purposeful practice. A strong spirituality can assist and comfort with many of life’s challenges. If our spiritual health is strong, we may be able to experience a sense of peace and purpose even when life deals us a severe blow. A nurtured spirit helps us to survive and thrive with grace, even in the face of difficulty. Spiritual wellness includes feeling a connection to a Higher Power, which can mean participating in religious rituals; the ability to spend reflective time alone; having a clear sense of right and wrong; spending time outside; prayer; yoga; and meditation.
Emotional Wellness – Having a positive attitude, high self-esteem, a strong sense of self, and the ability to recognize and share a wide range of feelings in a constructive way. It is important to feel that our lives are meaningful and our relationships are healthy.
Intellectual Wellness – It is important to keep the brain busy and engaged as we age. Intellectual wellness deals with learning new things, flexing your creative muscles. This includes reading, using memory often and playing challenging games. Learning a new language or taking up bridge are good ways to stimulate brain function. There are many classes offered for learning in retirement, such as the Shepherd’s Center and Midlands Lifelong Learning.
Vocational Wellness – This dimension is one that we don’t typically have to be intentional about when we are still in the workforce, or are raising families, or actively volunteering. However, once we are retired we must make an effort to seek opportunities for vocational wellness in order to help us feel that we matter and have purpose. Intergenerational activities and opportunities to volunteer are a couple of ways to engage vocational wellness. Taking up painting or creative writing or gourmet cooking can keep your creative juices flowing.
Environmental Wellness – Environmental wellness is concerned with being respectful of our surroundings. This dimension encourages interaction with nature and our personal environment. In addition, avoiding toxins in food or personal products is a positive step.
And here’s the promised super-wellness which outweighs all the others:
Social Wellness – Believe it or not, more than whether or not you exercise, whether you eat right, even whether you smoke, the single most important factor in predicting longevity is whether or not you have social connectivity. This is one of the reasons that coming to a community such as Presbyterian Community of Columbia is so important for helping seniors remain independent as they age. Those seniors that live in a retirement community can expect to live about 3-4 years longer than those living in their homes.
When we are truly “well” all of these dimensions work together, and overlap seamlessly. The goal should be a lifestyle that supports all seven.
You can reach Cindy Johnson of Presbyterian Communities of South Carolina at
803-227-8342. Or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org