Balancing the three dimensions of health for a fulfilled life
BY THRITY ENGINEER-MBUTHIA
Everyone craves for health. When children are born, parents heave a sigh of relief to hear that the baby is healthy. As one matures and moves into middle age, the body gets ‘worn’ out and by the time one gets to old age, health concerns become paramount. The World Health Organisation defines health as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” The word that is now used to better express the same concept is wellness. The University of California website lists wellness as “an active process of becoming aware of and making choices towards a healthy and fulfilling life.” This definition would suggest that wellness is a much broader umbrella term that encompasses the aspect of health. The other key part of the definition comes from the ability to make choices, meaning an individual is in control of his wellness whereas he may or may not have direct control over his health.
Dimensions of wellness
The National Wellness Institute elaborates that there are six dimensions of wellness. These are emotional, occupational, physical, social, intellectual and spiritual dimensions. The dimensions need to be considered in conjunction with each other in a wholistic approach towards the wellness of an individual. Therefore, an apt description of wellness would be congruence in mind, body and spirit.
The occupational dimension describes one’s connectedness with an organisation or work. Since work takes up such a huge chunk our time in a day, many people are looking for purpose or meaning in work. There is a common thread in conversations nowadays where people are questioning whether they are getting job satisfaction or fulfilment from their jobs. The state of fulfilment is connected to personal happiness and meaning in life.
The emotional dimension is not only about emotions but also about self-awareness, self-management and self-regulation. Being able to work with others in a harmonious way, adds to a peaceful and generally stress-free life. Managing feelings instead of ignoring them or keeping them bottled up also contributes to the experience of wellbeing.
The physical dimension is the one that most people are familiar with since it touches on the health of the individual. Diet, nutrition and exercise are all common terms that are connected to health. Nurturing the body and ensuring that it has the right fuel, makes it more efficient and optimises performance.
The social dimension focuses on the role the individual plays as a part of the larger society or community. People need social connections to make them feel wanted, respected and have a sense of belonging. Contributing to the welfare of those around you also brings an additional feeling of adding value to a bigger picture.
The intellectual dimension impacts the mental activities and means that an individual will focus on building skills and knowledge. Things that touch on problem solving and critical thinking tend to allow an individual to have personal growth. These skills also allow sharing of information to the larger society. An individual who is looking to nourish the intellectual dimension will focus on classroom learning and self-learning by reading widely and being optimistic and enthusiastic about trying out new things.
The final dimension is spiritual wellness. It is not so much about religion as it is about appreciation of a higher power or being that enables us to understand our place and purpose in the universe. This dimension also has a focus on personal values and the happiness that comes when how one behaves is in line with one’s personal values. In addition, it is about finding the meaning of life, in beliefs, in cultural practices and in being one with the universe.
Benefits of workplace wellness
The six dimensions do not exist in isolation but rather a close integration of each contributes to the total wellness of a person. What would happen if an individual is not able to balance the different dimensions? Imagine a situation where one’s physical wellness is not in good shape. Would that impact the emotional and spiritual dimension?
Wellness programs have become quite the rage, over the last few years. Organisations run wellness programs for their employees with an aim to improve health and wellbeing. The benefits are two-fold; for the employees and for the organisations. Research shows that benefits include reduced health costs, higher engagement, improved productivity, higher job satisfaction, reduced absenteeism and better retention of staff among others. No wonder, wellness programs are being introduced at the workplace, with the hope that the knowledge of wellness can disseminate further into society.
Larry Swanson (2015) compares personal wellness and corporate wellness in order to demonstrate the importance to an individual. He outlines that personal wellness is driven by the individual and personal goals or needs. Personal wellness is a proactive process because you are concerned about your wellbeing. He also argues that as an individual you can focus on the holistic approach of wellness with an emphasis on all the different dimensions.
In the words of Greg Anderson “Wellness is not a ‘medical fix’ but a way of living.”
Thrity Engineer-Mbuthia is a PhD student of management and leadership at Management University of Africa. She is also a certified executive coach and marketer. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org