Seven dimensions of wellness

By Holly Steele - For PCCOA

Dancer gatherers: Betty Huff, Patsy Worley, Margie Stevenson, and Shelley Ratliff.

Dancer gatherers: Betty Huff, Patsy Worley, Margie Stevenson, and Shelley Ratliff.

Pictured dancing are Pam Hines and Gene Sandlin.

Pictured, the center’s Quilting Ladies speaking to kids from St. Clair Academy.

EATON — As your local senior center, and the #1 Senior Center in Ohio, we pride ourselves in providing our senior community with a variety of activities that are interconnected with the seven dimensions of wellness. Let’s first take a deeper look at what ‘wellness’ means. Research tells us that, for a long and happy life, it’s about nurturing a set of seven interconnected dimensions of wellness.

According to Dr. Jennifer Hunter, a senior research fellow at the National Institute of Complementary Medicine in Sydney, Australia, holistic wellness is about “the whole person, not the parts.” As a Holistic Health Practitioner, I truly value this concept of living, and I know many of you understand and live by this concept as well. Wellness isn’t simply about evading this year’s flu bug or lowering our cholesterol level a couple of points. Rather, as the World Health Organization (WHO) stated as early as 1948, it’s about striving toward “physical, mental, and social well-being” and is “not merely the absence of disease.” Let that sink in, wellness is about the balance of our lifestyle, not merely the absence or lack of something, such as disease.

In 1978, Dr. Bill Hettler, co-founder of the National Wellness Institute in the US, developed a model of wellness that included six dimensions of health: physical, emotional, intellectual, spiritual, occupational, and social. Some researchers have since added environmental health, making a list of seven dimensions that Hunter stresses “are completely interconnected and interwoven.” Dr. Mary Knudsen, a naturopathic doctor in Calgary, would agree, and says, “Improved physical heath can directly impact our emotional health and sense of peace day-to-day, how we interact with others, and how we perform in our occupations.” However, Dr. Badri Rickhi, a psychiatrist and clinical professor of medicine at the University of Calgary, adds that, with the “smorgasbord” of options available to us to promote our wellness, it can be overwhelming to know where to begin. Right!?!?! With modern technology and consumerism, we have so many more options than we once had, and that can be overwhelming. Rickhi recommends starting small and seeing where that leads.

To illustrate his point, he recalls a patient who wanted to exercise more, but had reached the point where even walking had become uncomfortable. This man drove a truck for eight hours a day, and Rickhi recommended that he take a couple of breaks each day to do two push-ups. After six months of following Rickhi’s advice, the man could do 50 consecutive push-ups, and had inspired several of his colleagues to start doing the same. Reflecting on this story, Rickhi notes, “We need people who are motivated and who find changes within themselves to become the teachers. Right now we are expecting health professionals to take the lead, but the greatest effect is the public effect.” Oh, I like that!! Let’s get a brief overview of what the seven dimensions of wellness are:

1. Physical Wellness encourages the balance of physical activity and nutrition to keep everyone in the family healthy. When families are aware of their physical health, members can achieve their full potential in life and work together to improve weak elements. Broadly speaking, physical wellness involves implementing regular physical activity, maintaining a healthy diet, and rejuvenating our bodies through rest, and sleep – all things that protect us from chronic diseases and improve our quality of life.

2. Emotional Wellness is about self-esteem, self-care, self-control, and persistence towards achievements and goals. It is important that the family be attentive to both positive and negative feelings and be able to understand how to handle these emotions. When we feel emotionally balanced, we are aware of and able to manage our emotions, and we have a realistic and mostly positive view of ourselves, others, and the circumstances in our lives. We also feel equipped to deal with the stressors that life throws our way.

3. Spiritual Wellness can be defined through various factors including religious faith, values, ethics, and morals. It is important because it lets us find meaning in life and helps define our individual purpose. It provides the compass in our lives. Although spiritual wellness can certainly be obtained through religious practice, Rickhi clarifies that spirituality is much broader and involves “learning how to be more forgiving, grateful, and compassionate, to be kinder and less judgmental.” Rickhi recommends implementing a deep, slow breathing or meditation practice for as little as five minutes per day. Noting that doing so for 60 to 80 days will start to build neurons in the brain. Research supports his claim, indicating that mediation is linked to changes in our brain regions involved in things like introspection and emotion regulation.

4. Intellectual Wellness encourages creative and stimulating mental activities, and sharing knowledge and skills with others. Intellectual wellness can be developed though academics, cultural involvement, community involvement and personal hobbies, a commitment to lifelong learning. We nurture our intellectual health when we engage in creative activities, learn new things, and expand our knowledge. A British study found that older adults (aged 70 to 91) who regularly did things such as reading and crossword puzzles had significantly lower levels of cognitive impairment than those who did not. Also, those who attend sports and cultural events and places are more likely to report good health than those who do not.

5. Environmental Wellness: A 2008 position statement released by the Australian Psychological Association Affirmed, “It is clear that the well-being and integrity of natural ecosystems and the biophysical environment are integral to human health and well-being.” Certainly, many of us have experienced the restorative feeling of spending time in the great outdoors. But what is it about nature that research shows can reduce our stress levels, improve our mood and concentration and increase vitality? One theory is that being in nature helps us reflect on our thoughts and feelings by giving us a break from the hustle of everyday life. Another is that it helps us feel connected to something bigger than ourselves.

6. Occupational Wellness is the enrichment of life through work, and its interconnectedness to living and playing. Though this may be more about the parents, children are also affected by the milestones they achieve at school or in sports. A personal sense of pride over a job well done. This is also related to financial stability and provides hope for a better future.

7. Social Wellness refers to the relationships we have and how we interact with others – not just with those in the family. Social wellness involves building healthy, nurturing, and supportive relationships as well as fostering a genuine connection with those around us. A large body of research indicates that people who have more meaningful social relationships are healthier, happier, and even live longer. Throughout his career, Rickhi has found that, when it comes to what people really want to see changed in their lives, it isn’t about making more money or having more success – it’s about “the desire to be closer to family.” Although many realities of our modern world – more screen time, longer work weeks and crammed schedules – don’t always lend themselves well to socializing, increasing our time with others is one of the most accessible and inexpensive health strategies available to us.

At the Preble County on Aging, we do our best to offer our senior community opportunities, through activities, trips, educational and informational talks and resources, that aid in seven dimensions of holistic wellness. These offerings are for seniors, their families, and the community as a whole. For a complete list of all that we do become a member of the PCCOA for only $10 per year. To stay informed and to become a member, check out our website at www.prebleseniorcenterorg and Facebook page.


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Dancer gatherers: Betty Huff, Patsy Worley, Margie Stevenson, and Shelley Ratliff. gatherers: Betty Huff, Patsy Worley, Margie Stevenson, and Shelley Ratliff.

Pictured dancing are Pam Hines and Gene Sandlin. dancing are Pam Hines and Gene Sandlin.

Pictured, the center’s Quilting Ladies speaking to kids from St. Clair Academy., the center’s Quilting Ladies speaking to kids from St. Clair Academy.

By Holly Steele