What is “wellness” and why does it matter?

Wellness is an active process of becoming aware of and making choices toward a healthy and fulfilling life.

“…a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” – The World Health Organization.

“a conscious, self-directed and evolving process of achieving full potential.” – The National Wellness Institute

    The above definitions of “wellness” are courtesy of the UC Davis Student Health and Counseling Services. I personally think of wellness as a survival skill for modern “first world living”.  It is an act of finding self awareness and using that knowledge to make choices that give balance in our life. It’s kind of like saying, I think I’ll have a salad for dinner because I ate a bowl of ice cream for lunch.


The UC Davis page does a great job of explaining one way of understanding the balancing act of well-being by outlining the Seven Dimensions of Wellness (Emotional, Physical, Mental/Intellectual, Occupational, Environmental, Social and Spiritual).

Seven Dimensions of Wellness Banner

Why does wellness matter though and how does one actually achieve it?

Daily life for many of us contain stressors and threats in the form of the foods we eat, the work we do, the entertainment we are drawn to.  When we practice balance in the seven realms described above, we can expect to feel less stress, more gratitude and fullness of life, healthier connections and relationships with people we love and more joy despite what hardships come our way.  We know ourselves better and begin to make choices that help us feel good in a big picture kind of way (as opposed to the in-the-moment-good you might feel when in the act of eating that bowl of ice cream).

Wellness is a way of being.  It is an active practice of checking in with ourselves and assessing the choices we make and the ways we think and feel and noticing when things don’t feel right and then learning ways to put things back in place.  For example I know that when my shoulders and neck hurt and I feel a headache coming on it means I feel stressed.  When I feel stressed it’s usually because I may be spending too much time in stillness wrestling with my own thoughts.  I know that I need to go for a walk, call a friend and get out in the world and out of my own head in order to feel more balanced and to maintain my wellness. This process begins with self awareness.

Self awareness doesn’t come easily to all of us but there are things that can help:

1. Keep a journal–record thoughts, feelings and things you did that day. Before long you may notice a connection between how you think and feel with what you do with your time.

2. Try a yoga class–yoga is a practice that uses movement to help build our awareness of our bodies and mind.  Other activities like dance, running, Qi-gong, martial arts, can help you build awareness too.

3. Change one small thing in your regular routine–maybe you decide to cut soda or energy drinks our of your diet for one week.  Notice how you feel? What felt hard? Did your sleep or appetite or thoughts, feelings or relationships change? If so how?

See what works for you! Share your experiences here if you’d like.

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