Most people immediately think of exercise when they hear “physical wellness.” Regular physical activity is an important part of the equation that can’t be ignored. But it’s not the only aspect deserving of attention.
Your body needs more than movement alone. Physical wellness also includes appropriate sleep, hygiene, and stress management. All these components can have beneficial or detrimental effects on our physical wellness. If you’re evaluating your physical health, some questions you can ask yourself include:
Am I getting enough quality sleep?
Do I brush my teeth daily? Do I shower or bathe regularly?
Do I have an appropriate balance between work and life?
Researchers published an update to The National Sleep Foundation’s recommendations for adult sleep requirements. Their study reaffirmed the idea that adults should get at least seven to nine hours of sleep each night. While we sleep, our pituitary glands release growth hormone – which help the body grow and repair itself. Inversely, stress is a catabolic hormone, which can literally cause the body to break down.
For students, parents, and workaholics, adequate sleep hours can be a tough number to meet. But simple strategies can ensure the sleep you get comes easily and goes on uninterrupted.
- Avoid screens 30 minutes before bedtime.
- Incorporate a relaxing wind-down routine each night. This can include dimming lights in your home, turning on calming music, and even light stretching.
- Block out unnecessary light and noise. This can be done with blackout curtains and a white-noise machine.
Though nutrition is intimately tied to physical health, it’s so important and must be represented by its own pillar. This is especially true because nutrition must be personalized based on age, sex, activity level, and body chemistry.
A balanced diet requires that you consume nutritional foods that feed your body and mind. The USDA recommends that during meals, adults fill half of their plates with fruits and vegetables. The other half should be dedicated to mostly grains, along with a modest portion of protein and a side of dairy.
Diversifying your plate with appropriate amounts of each food group will help you acquire the necessary macronutrients for day-to-day energy, muscle growth and recovery, and other bodily processes.
The CDC continues to report a lack of diversity in our nutrition. Despite the health benefits, Americans are not consuming enough fruits and vegetables in their daily diet. This has led to our current health crisis nationwide, one that is being ravaged by chronic conditions. As of 2018, the obesity prevalence in the United States was 42.4%. Obesity-related conditions include heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and certain types of cancers. These are among the leading causes of preventable, premature death.
- Consume a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables. Diversifying this portion of your plate will ensure you get the micronutrients your body needs.
- Pay attention to portion sizes to help with weight maintenance and adherence to MyPlate guidelines.
- Replace refined grains with their whole counterparts to ensure you get enough fiber.
Emotional wellness encompasses the ability to navigate, understand, and accept your feelings and emotions. This includes identifying, assessing, and effectively sharing those feelings with others. Especially true since 2020, our abilities to deal with challenges and change have contributed to our overall mental health.
Why is this important? The ups and downs of life can take you on an emotional rollercoaster. But the better you understand, process, and manage those feelings, the smoother the ride will be.
- Create a list of those who support you and how best to contact them. When the going gets tough, it can be hard asking for help. Having this quick reference at hand may make it that much easier to reach out.
- Seek out a therapist or counselor. Often a third party’s insight can help you navigate rough waters.
- Journaling is an easy way to identify and process your feelings, especially if you’re not comfortable sharing them out loud. It’s always a great way to measure your progress or growth. And reminders of your past obstacles and successes will only be a few pages away.
Social wellness involves building healthy, nurturing, and supportive relationships; to interact with others and form positive connections. Our relationships can also offer support during difficult times, which is key to a healthy lifestyle.
Social relationships create support systems that can carry you through life’s struggles. Harvard’s Study of Adult Development ran for 80 years, collecting data on hundreds of participants. A recent study on a subset of this population—surviving octogenarians—investigated the connections between marital satisfaction, social lives, and happiness. Researchers found that participants who spent more time with others reported greater levels of happiness.
The impact of surrounding yourself with those that care for you can’t be understated. Healthy friendships and relationships create a strong support system to reach out to when stresses rise, and hardships happen. Building and maintaining these relationships takes dedication but they will continue to serve you throughout your life.
- Meet new people through social networks, community events, or volunteer service.
- Schedule a recurring time weekly to reach out to out-of-state friends and family. Connect with someone new each week to keep those relationships strong.
- Revisit the idea of pen pals and snail mail. Connecting with loved ones through handwritten communication can really strengthen bonds.
The spiritual pillar will look different for everyone because it’s such a personal piece of overall wellness. It will play a stronger role in one person’s life more than another, depending on how each person defines it.
Spirituality is commonly viewed as being connected to something greater than yourself and having a set of values, principles, morals, and beliefs that provide a sense of purpose and meaning to life. Spirituality can help guide our actions.
Most importantly, spiritual wellness is not about a specific religion or belief system. Spiritual health is about personalizing your journey. How you choose to strengthen your spiritual health is up to you.
- Dedicate a small chunk of time each day to yourself. Make this time a priority, free of distractions, interruptions, and major activities. This time can be used to relax, reflect, meditate, or pray.
- Keep a journal. Writing regularly can help clear your mind and keep you accountable to the goals you’ve set.
- Choose your top three values in life and write them down. Reflect on them often. Keeping these values in the front of your mind will help guide everyday decisions—big and small. This practice will make it easier to say “yes” to things that matter, and “no” to things that don’t align with your values.
Intellectual wellness is strengthened by continually engaging the mind. We must always remain curious to expand our own horizons. The more knowledge we can learn and acquire, the more we are able to share with others. This pillar is not dedicated completely to our academic pursuits, it also entails creativity and common sense.
Some experience intellectual boons through self-discovery and personal advancement. Academic efforts, involvement in community activities, or other avenues of personal growth are just a few you can try.
- Look for continuing education classes through a local community college or university.
- Join a book club or visit your local library and sign up for a card.
- Instead of spending time watching TV at the end of the day, opt to read a good book or podcast instead.
To be financially well is to live within your means; knowing what you have, where you are headed, and you feel good about it. Our relationship with money plays a huge role in this pillar as we manage our financial and economic lives.
Financial wellness might not always sound exciting depending upon the person but pursuing betterment in this area will surely strengthen the other pillars of health and wellness. Financial troubles are one of the top stressors that Americans report. Taking small steps to control spending and save money can really lighten the burden on your everyday life.
- Make paying off debt a priority!
- Create a budget with the help of an online system or a personal financial planner. Additionally, utilize financial resources that your workplace might offer.
- Set aside a fixed amount of money every month for non-essentials, like entertaining, dining out, and recreation (and make this non-negotiable!)
Environmental wellness is concerned with your immediate personal surroundings and the larger community where you live and work. Specifically, environmental wellness is determined by the reciprocal relationship between an individual and their environment. How do you support your environment? And in return, how does your environment support your health, well-being, and safety?
The effects of strengthening your environmental wellness can be felt personally, and by your larger local and global communities. The more you care for and respect your natural and built environments, the better they can support and sustain your daily life.
- Individual: Keep your workspace clear. A clutter-free workspace inspires creativity and productivity.
- Neighborhood: Join local clean-up efforts. This could include: producing less waste, recycling, and picking up litter in your neighborhood.
- Larger community: Cut back on car trips. Whether it’s combining errands or replacing motorized transport when possible, each small effort can add up to a large impact.
Build Up Your Pillars of Health and Wellness
Wellness means different things to everyone. Being well gives each person the ability to reach their personal goals. After all, when your body, mind, and soul are cared for, you’re able to pursue and meet your goals with less resistance.
To determine your personalized approach to wellness, reflect on the eight pillars of health and wellness. Figure out which ones most require your attention and identify the pillars you may be neglecting. Remember, strengthening each one will provide a great foundation for living your best, healthiest life.
Dillon Painter, MS – Fitness Supervisor
Hancock Wellness Center – New Palestine