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Inside and Out: What Does Wellness Look Like?

posted on November 19, 2018

We come across so many different types of people in the gym and so many, if not all of them, work incredibly hard in this space. Day in and day out, we see them grinding away in Cardio Lab classes or loading up the barbell in the Strength Lab. We see dedicated people training for races on the treadmills and others using up their lunch hour during the week to grab a quick sweat. Yet despite all of this hard work here, how many of them are actually well? Being well is not just a physical trait, so why is it that we continue to base wellness on what we do inside the gym or what we look like on the outside? I’ve been spending a lot of time lately thinking about what wellness looks like and how we can achieve a more holistic view of wellness in our own lives.
So first things first, what does wellness look like to you?
I asked some members what being well meant to them and they touched upon what they believe creates a healthy and balanced life. Yet so many of their answers were dependent upon physical traits or characteristics: body composition, sleep, nutrition, being healthy/not sick, feeling good about themselves, etc. And it’s not that they are wrong but that there are so many aspects of wellness that we are missing or at least failing to consider. So what does wellness really look like then? Truth be told, there is no one correct answer or only one approach to view total wellness but I think it’s easiest to break it down to different categories or dimensions.
There are eight, yes EIGHT, dimensions of wellness: Emotional, Environmental, Financial, Intellectual, Occupational, Social, Spiritual and Physical. Each category is equally weighted and interrelated. True wellness, some believe, comes when all of the eight are in equilibrium.
Let’s talk about the one we know best: Physical Wellbeing. It’s easy to see why we are drawn to this one– after all, we are all interested in fitness. Being a member of a gym usually means that we are seeking some higher level of health. And with this higher level of health, or at least health awareness, comes knowledge about sleep habits and nutrition because of how it factors into our training. We know that physical aspects are an integral part of our wellbeing even if it’s as simple as “working out makes me feel good” or “I function better with 8 hours of sleep”. Physical wellness is easy to put your finger on. It’s easy to set quantifiable goals. It’s easy to see the progress because it is measurable. Emotional Wellbeing on the other hand is a feeling or an experience so it’s a lot harder to calibrate. Being emotionally well is subjective too, right? My emotional health needs will not look like yours. This branch of wellness includes things like managing stress and self care. This is where I think Union Fitness does a great job in communicating a more well rounded approach to wellness. Our staff here regularly preaches the importance of stress reduction and self care activities.
Emotional Wellbeing Tip: Try purposefully smiling at least 20 times today.
Environmental Wellbeing is an aspect that is often overlooked but like we discussed earlier it is equally important and equally weighted as the others. Surface level environmental wellness includes things like having a roof over your head but lets take a look at just that one aspect– Does your heat work well when it’s cold outside? Do you have mold/pest issues? Is your space always a mess? Do you have feuds with your neighbor? Do the neighborhood dogs always use your lawn as their personal lavatory? These are all (and more!) factors in your environmental wellbeing. I know personally that I feel stress when the dishes aren’t done, toys are all over the place and everything is in complete disarray. My environmental wellbeing soars when my space is clean and tidy. And because the different branches of wellness are often blending into one another, once my environmental wellbeing is healthier my emotional wellbeing benefits as well.
On an even grander scale though, this branch of wellness can also be seen as being respectful of your surroundings or even your interactions with nature. After all, Earth is everyone’s home. I know, I know it sounds hippy dippy but you can’t deny that sense of calm that overcomes you when you’re out for a hike or spending some time at the beach.
Environmental Wellbeing Tip: Stop your junk mail. Remove yourself from mailing lists or request electronic communications.
If you’ve ever had a job you’ve hated then you know the importance of Occupational Wellness. You cannot be occupationally well if you hate your job. On the flip side, you could have a job you love but your occupational wellness could still be stunted. Your wellbeing in this branch is more than just simply enjoying your work endeavors. Do you feel a sense of personal satisfaction within your job? Do you appreciate your contributions? Do you feel a sense of personal growth and enrichment? If you answered no to any of these questions, it doesn’t mean you have to up and quit your job but it may mean that you have to take a good hard look at your occupational skills and discover how you can accelerate growth. But being occupationally well also means being able to find work/life balance. Maybe you’ve found a job in which you excel, feel challenged and a deep sense of occupational enrichment but you get home so late you never see your kids. Or you work so much you barely sleep. Or even when you’re home you are working, checking emails, taking calls, etc. If this is you, then it’s time for a reality check or have that difficult conversation with your boss about scaling back or take those hard earned PTO days.
Occupational Wellbeing Tip: Turn off your cellphone to work related activities when you leave work.
Occupational wellness isn’t so cut and dry either—Financial Wellness plays a large role in our occupational wellness, right? How we wish we could just up and leave a job we hate without the financial repercussions of mortgages, student loans, childcare expenses, grocery bills, utilities and the like. This dimension is tough for a lot of people because it is so closely tied to many of the other dimensions of wellness. Not enough money means not being able to pay rent/mortgage (environmental), lack of sleep (physical), stress (emotional), not being able to go out to dinner or other recreational activities (social), working longer hours or multiple jobs (occupational) and possibly make us question why we are being punished (spiritual). Who said money doesn’t buy happiness again? So ok, it may not buy happiness but, for many, it can definitely help buy a little wellness. But being financially well doesn’t just mean making more money. It also involves being able to successfully manage the money you do have and the ability to plan for the future. As much as I love a good cup of Starbucks, I know in the long run I would be more financially well saving that $5 per day from my habitual daily coffee habit, so I make coffee at home.
Financial Wellbeing Tip: Track what you spend in a month and create a realistic budget.
There’s a reason we come home from a Paint ‘N Sip party and proudly display our new artwork on the mantle and post it to our Social Media accounts. There’s a reason why the crossword puzzle is a staple in every newspaper. It’s the same reason why we were drawn to Candy Land and Monopoly board games when we were younger. You know that urge you get to blow into a harmonica even when you have noooo clue how to play? Yep, it’s that too. It’s because, as humans, we have a drive to be creative. We crave new ideas and knowledge. We have an innate drive to be mentally stimulated and it is all a part of our Intellectual Wellness. Being intellectual well means learning to see the value in curiosity and life long learning. It is about picking up that guitar you haven’t played in years or finally learning Chinese like you promised your grandfather you would. Intellectual wellness isn’t just about scholastic or creative endeavors either– it can also involve joining in on cultural and community activities.
Intellectual Wellbeing Tip: Read a book that interests you just for fun.
These types of activities encourage our expansion of knowledge and it also blends into our Social Wellness. Our wellbeing in this dimension is dependent upon how we interact with the people around us. But introverts, don’t panic! You can still have a high level of social wellness without immersing yourself in large groups of people. This aspect is all about being able to communicate well and have meaningful personal relationships with those in our support network: family and friends. Having a healthy social aspect to your wellbeing means engaging in positive and rewarding relationships and your ability to foster genuine connections. That means quality over quantity!
Social Wellbeing Tip: Call a friend you haven’t spoken with in a while just to say hi.
Last but not least is the dimension of Spiritual Wellness. This category provides us with systems of beliefs, values, ethics, principles and morals in which we use to guide us through meaningful life. Sounds great on paper, right? The truth is though that work in this dimension is never truly finished. It is a constantly evolving process of self-discovery and reflection. Values and principles can change or fluctuate over time. So how then do we become spiritually well? I think the first step here will always be to stay true to yourself. Not sure exactly what that is? Take a yoga class. Meditate. Travel. Volunteer your time. Mentor someone. Be accepting of other viewpoints. Practice tolerance, love and forgiveness. We may never be able to answer the question “What is the meaning of life?” but spiritual wellness gives us the tools to guide us through a fulfilling life with purpose.
Spiritual Wellbeing Tip: Take a 5 minute silence or meditation break right now…yes right now!
So there you have it—a long (and somewhat daunting) list of wellness. How many of these categories can you tick off your wellness list? If the physical dimension is the only one you can say you are well at then you have some work to do. Don’t be overwhelmed with trying to achieve this perfect idea of wellness but use this as a guide to find some more harmony and balance in your life. Tackle small steps. And most importantly know that no one can tell you what wellness in your life looks like, only you can know that.


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