Many people use these terms interchangeably, but they are actually quite different, and you need to care for both, which is why we look at them separately in order to apply the learning and ensure sustainable transformation.
THE 7 DIMENSIONS OF WELLNESS
Wellness is multi-dimensional and encompasses the following 7 dimensions:
PHYSICAL • MENTAL • EMOTIONAL • SPIRITUAL • SOCIAL • ENVIRONMENTAL • OCCUPATIONAL
It is a full integration, in pursuit of continued growth and balance in the following seven primary dimensions. Each dimension contributes to our own sense of wellness or quality of life, and each affect and overlaps the others. At times, one may be more prominent than others, but neglect of any one dimension for any length of time has adverse effects on overall health. By applying all of these dimensions, a person becomes aware of the interconnectedness of each dimension and how they contribute to healthy living.
KEY WELLNESS CONCEPTS
Beyond basic prevention, achieving balanced wellbeing is an ongoing process. The word “wellness” is used by many people and organisations, especially since the sharp rise in healthcare costs, diabetes and obesity during the past decade.
Wellness has a history of being defined within a disease framework, meaning reducing health risks and preventing disease. Those are good goals, but it’s an outdated vision.
KEY CONCEPT # 1: Illness-Wellness Continuum
A new vision was articulated by a few innovators, including Wellness Inventory creator Dr. John Travis. Dr. Travis decided that rather than treating sick people, he would dedicate his life to inspiring people to be well. After creating his breakthrough wellness model, the “Illness-Wellness Continuum”, (refer diagram below) Dr. Travis opened the first wellness centre in the United States, the Wellness Resource Centre (Mill Valley, CA). There he developed an innovative program for personal lifestyle change that focused on self-responsibility and engaged the whole person — body, mind, emotions, and spirit. Dr. Travis created the first wellness assessment, the Wellness Inventory, as a whole person intake for his new centre. The work at the centre championed “wellness” and attracted a lot of media attention.
THE ILLNESS-WELLNESS CONTINUUM
“Wellness is a process, never a static state”
KEY CONCEPT # 2: The Iceberg model
Illness and health are only the tip of the iceberg. To understand their causes, you must look below the surface. Icebergs reveal only a small part of their true size above water, about 90% is submerged. Your current state of health, be it one of disease or vitality, is just like the tip of the iceberg. This is the apparent (visible) portion. If you don’t like your state, you can attempt to change it OR chisel away at an unwanted condition such as weight. But, like an iceberg, if you chip away a piece, another portion rises to the surface! For true whole person life-balance and wellbeing, you need to dive deeper. To understand all that creates and supports your current state of health, you have to look below the surface of your wellness state. Science has clearly demonstrated that our conscious and unconscious can impact our mental and physical health.
KEY CONCEPT # 3: The Wellness Energy System
We are all energy transformers, connected with the whole universe. All our life processes, including illness, depend on how we manage energy.
In 1977, Professor Ilya Prigogene won a Nobel Prize for his theory of dissipative structures, open systems in which energy is taken in, modified (transformed), and then returned (dissipated) to the environment.
For example, a seed, which constructs a plant from soil, air, and light, is an open system. So is a town, one of Prigogene’s favourite examples. In the town, raw materials are converted into other objects by factories. These manufactured goods are then sent out into the world. Information and experience are processed in the town’s schools with the end result being educated minds that are then released to make their impact on the world
So how do we start building our wellbeing…
The PERMAH framework provides evidence-based, actionable ways to build our own wellbeing. By building up each of these 6 elements that support our wellbeing, we are more able to thrive and live life to the fullest.
P.E.R.M.A.H is an acronym for a model of wellbeing put forth by a pioneer in the field of positive psychology, Martin Seligman. According to Seligman, PERMAH makes up five important building blocks of psychological wellbeing and happiness. In more recent years, the original PERMA model has been extended to include the letter H on the end, for Health – so the full model acronym becomes PERMAH or PERMA-H. The Health component was added as other researchers began to feel Seligman’s original model was missing a crucial element of life that leads to feeling happy and a sense of wellbeing – our overall feelings of physical health.
- Positive emotion – this is among the many components that make up happiness and wellbeing, and one of the more obvious layers of happiness. Focusing on positive emotions is more than smiling, it is the ability to remain optimistic and view your past, present & future from a constructive perspective.
- Engagement – activities that meet our need for engagement flood the body with positive neurotransmitters and hormones that elevate your sense of wellbeing. We all need something in our lives that absorbs us into the current moment, creating a “flow” of blissful immersion into the task or activity.
- Relationships – happiness and psychological health are inextricably linked with close, meaningful and intimate relationships. We are social animals who are hard-wired to bond and depend on other humans, hence the basic need for healthy relationships.
- Meaning – having an answer as to why we are on this earth is a key ingredient that can drive us towards fulfilment. True happiness comes from creating and having meaning in life, rather than from the pursuit of pleasure and material wealth.
- Accomplishments – having clear goals in life, even small ones, and making efforts to achieve them. Achievement builds self-esteem and provides a sense of accomplishment and self-belief.
- Health – Physical health, wellness and a sense of vitality goes beyond the absence of disease. It involves balanced eating, sleeping well and regular exercise
If you are serious about moving beyond “just coping”, into a space of wellbeing and thriving, we highly recommend attending our online Stress Management course that takes a deeper, intimate look into everything we have covered in the 3 articles about stress, resilience and wellbeing.
Find out more here