Well-being is a multifaceted concept that encompasses several important aspects of life. Think of your wellness as a wheel, subdivided into 6 sections, each of which represents a significant area of your life:
1) Physical Wellness: are you sleeping and exercising enough, eating well and maintaining a reasonably healthy weight? Perfection is never the goal but rather an end point in which all your regulatory systems function optimally together.
2) Relationship/ Social: We are an interdependent species. This doesn’t mean we are desperately in constant need of one another to survive, but rather that we must rely on ourselves, and others to met our needs as well as theirs. This facet of wellness also involves healthy romantic and family relationships; sharing meaningful and stable bonds by having the ability to be flexible, assertive, and express our needs to give and receive from others.
3) Financial Wellness: this doesn’t mean you are floating on a bed of brown bills, but rather living within your means. Setting a reasonable budget and being able to stick to it, having manageable debt and a plan to pay it off, having savings and planning for your future- these are all components of financial wellness. Sure, most of us would love to be wealthy, but everyone’s realistic financial goals are different. This is about paying yourself first and living with what you have leftover.
4) Mental Wellness: refers to the ability to catch and release negative thoughts, handle conflicts and criticism in an effective manor, be assertive but not aggressive in exchanges, and negotiate fairly in order to reach compromises. Mental wellness actually encompasses more areas such as being mentally flexible, i.e. seeing alternative views of a situation, as well as the ability to manage boredom by ‘self-entertaining.’ Mental un-wellness could lead to excessive worry, pessimism, rigid thinking and behavior, and distorted thought patterns about ourselves and the world. This can ultimately result in a slue of unfavorable consequences such as depression, anxiety, and burnout.
5) Emotional Wellness: this is our ability to experience and cope with negative emotions, manage stress in appropriate ways, and identify as well as self-regulate our feelings. It also involves being able to ask for and receive affection and positive feedback from others and allow for adequate leisure time. Someone who holds grudges and clings to negative thoughts, or someone with anger management difficulty, for example, won’t score very high on an emotional wellness scale. The goal here is to react appropriately to emotion-provoking situations; not too intensely, and not too passively, just regulated suitably somewhere in the middle, and returning to a baseline emotional level within an appropriate lapse of time after something distressing occurs. For example, if an inconsiderate driver cuts you off in traffic and you either entirely fly off the handle, it’s still eating you at the dinner table 9 hours later, or both, that may suggest some difficulty with emotional regulation, thus low emotional wellness.
6) Spiritual Wellness: this aspect of wellness may raise controversy among some individuals, but you should know it doesn’t mean going to synagogue weekly or saying eleven Lord’s prayers before you hit the sack. Spiritual wellness has to do with feeling connected to something larger than yourself; a sense of purpose and feeling that your life has meaning. This could come from a relationship with religion or a higher power or with nature, and the universe on some level. It also encompasses your personal beliefs and values and sense of self from within. Being spiritually well means you feel as though you have a purpose in life and are taking steps to fulfill it.
Now that you know a little more about each of the critical subdivisions of wellness, I encourage you rate your perceived level of wellness in each of the areas, 1 being the very poorest, and 10 being the absolute ideal best, by filling in one of the white circles in each of the 6 tiers. Then, connect the dots to see what kind of an ‘overall wellness wheel’ you are working with. Is it nice and round, be it closer to the center or further up in the ideal zones, or does it look like an awkward trapezoid of sorts? And it’s completely okay if it does! That is the point of this exercise. It is meant to give you an idea of where you stand, and prioritize the areas in which you need improvement. It is interesting to see how the 6 different aspects relate to one another as well. For example, someone with poor mental wellness is liable to be lower on the emotional wellness and other scales too. The goal is never perfection, only a well-balanced situation in which one feels satisfied but also open to growth and improvement.
I encourage you to have fun with this exercise and use your results to set realistic goals and implementation plans in order to achieve your ideal wheel.