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What does wellness really mean?

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by Peggy Tschauner

We often hear the term “wellness” and think “healthy” or lack of illness.
Much study and research has been done in recent decades in the subject of wellness. We now know that wellness means much more than simply a lack of disease. It means to thrive in your life on a variety of levels.

Last month I celebrated my first year as a cancer survivor. I actually don’t care much for that term… I feel that I am a “thriver” not just a survivor. Despite the detour taken through surgery and chemotherapy last year, my life is not significantly different (except for the scars) than before. I love life! I enjoy life! I am thriving, thank you very much!

So how are you doing with your life? Are you living a life of wellness? What does that mean to you? The excitement is that everyone has a different view of what’s important in their life.

Those experts who have studied wellness have identified several dimensions of whole person wellness. These include physical, spiritual, emotional, intellectual, social, vocational and environmental. The goal is to have all areas in balance. All work and no play not only make Jack a dull boy, but leads to an unbalanced life. It’s really up to each person to examine his or her life for balance. If you take a look at your life in these different areas, you may identify an area in which you can improve your personal wellness & balance your life.

Physical wellness includes not only eating healthy and exercising but doing other things that will lead to long-term health. Things such as wearing seatbelts, avoiding tobacco, moderate drinking, medical screenings, and other activities help you be proactive in improving and maintaining your health.

Spiritual wellness means finding purpose in your life. It may involve organized religion. It also includes a passion for helping others – people, animals, the earth, whatever lights your passion will help you find purpose in your life.

Emotional wellness means honoring your emotions. It doesn’t mean you don’t express emotion, it means that you understand and respect your emotions, manage them constructively and respect the emotions of others. Emotional wellness can also include your values and attitudes toward yourself and others. Some people carry emotional scars that sabotage them throughout their life. The saying; “Change your mind and the rest will follow” indicates that it’s never too late to improve your view of yourself and others.

Intellectual wellness refers to life-long learning. No matter how far you went in school (or plan to go) never stop learning! It can be through reading, formal education, online research, talking with others, volunteerism, anything that helps you learn new information and skills leads to a healthier and longer life. In the area of senior wellness, one of the hot new trends is “neurobics” – activities that stimulate the brain to improve memory, attention, and fight the mental decline that many associate with aging. Everyone can and should pursue topics of interest to keep your mind sharp and improve quality of life.

Social wellness refers not to being a party animal, unless that’s what you love. It does encourage people to maintain healthy relationships, strong friendships, and develop intimacy and caring for others. It also means allowing others to care for you. Being open to others is sometimes difficult, but very rewarding! Why not reach out to someone today and renew an old friendship or relationship that may have suffered from lack of attention?

Vocational wellness makes many folks think about their jobs, but it is so much more! Confucius said, “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” This can apply to a paid job, a hobby, or volunteerism. Be flexible in responding to changes in your work. It also involves setting goals to help you prioritize what is important in your life. Simplifying life can sometimes free up time to spend on balancing other dimensions of wellness.

Environmental wellness involves demonstrating a commitment to a healthy planet. “Reduce, reuse, recycle” concepts will lower your impact on the earth. This was not originally a part of wellness, but as we see the earth losing balance at our hands, we have to step up efforts to help clean the air, water, and earth. Growing and buying local food cuts emissions in transportation and often provides healthier options than mega-farmed foods. Ways to enhance your environmental wellness: buy things with minimal packaging, resell or donate items you no longer need, recycle what you can, use natural products on your body and your home.

Seems like a lot of work to maintain wellness. Maybe, but it’s totally worthwhile! A life out of balance ends up costing more in time, illness, worry and stress. Using the list above, I challenge you to examine your life and choose one area that is not in balance. Set a goal or two that will help you regain balance. Working in tiny steps, and working together, we can balance our lives, our community, our world.

Peggy Railey Tschauner is the owner of Shelby-Fit for Life and college instructor. She’s also a wife, mom, dog-lover, volunteer, crafter and recycler. She strives daily for balance in her life. Contact Peggy at shelbyffl@yahoo.com