Health Is the Whole…Body, Mind, and Soul
You count grams of fat and fiber, eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, drink green tea, and jog four times a week. But you spend most of your time at a high stress job, have few close relationships, and feel that your life lacks meaning. The good things that you do for your body may help increase your resistance to stress and illness, but they only reflect part of a much larger picture.
Health is more than having a body that works properly. It includes physical, emotional, social, spiritual, intellectual, and even occupational/vocational dimensions. When these dimensions are working in harmony, they contribute to a sense of well-being and satisfaction. Doctors Donald Tubesing and Nancy Loving Tubesing are pioneers in the field of wellness. In their book, Seeking Your Healthy Balance , they explain that health involves all of you—your mind and emotions, your connections with other people, your sense of hope, your satisfaction with work, as well as your body.
The Six Dimensional Model of Wellness
So how do you take care of your whole self? The National Wellness Institute embraces the Six Dimensional Model of Wellness developed in 1979 by Dr. Bill Hettler. The chart below, based on Hettler’s model, can provide you with some guidance.
Physical—Achieving personal fitness and health goals through nutrition, physical activity, safety, and self-care
Emotional–Maintaining good mental health, a positive attitude, and high self-esteem; responding with resiliency to emotional states and everyday life
Spiritual —Getting in touch with your deeper self and the spiritual dimension of your life, developing faith in something larger than yourself, finding meaning and purpose
Intellectual—Having curiosity and a strong desire to learn; solving problems; thinking independently, creatively and critically
Occupational/vocational—Engaging in or preparing for work in which you will find personal satisfaction and enrichment
According to the National Wellness Institute, the Six Dimensional Model of Wellness is beneficial for the following reasons:
Human Beings Are Multidimensional
All aspects of a person (body, emotions, thoughts, relationships, beliefs, values, activities) affect his functioning as a whole. Further, these individual aspects affect each other. For example, a person who is not utilizing his interests on the job (occupational dimension) may experience boredom and negativity (emotional dimension). A sense of futility (spiritual dimension) results, which causes others to avoid him (social dimension). This increases his frustration (emotional dimension) and can lead him to overeat and become obese (physical dimension).
Most Modern Health Threats Are Not Physical
Although we think about health in physical terms, “most health threats today are not physical,” writes Brian Luke Seaward, PhD, in his book Stand Like Mountain, Flow Like Water: Reflections on Stress and Human Spirituality . “Instead, they are emotional (feeling overwhelmed, bored, worried, or guilty) or spiritual (assessing relationships, values and one’s purpose in life).”
Health Is More Than the Absence of Disease
The multidimensional approach is oriented toward maximizing individual potential and functioning. It defines health as balance and complete well-being—being all that you can be—not merely as the absence of symptoms and disease.
Unfortunately, today’s medical care is largely based on a disease model of health. You may be able, however, to find doctors who specialize in integrative medicine. This is a practice that places the patient, not a disease, in the center.
Finding Balance in an Unbalanced World
But life can be so busy and complicated these days. Who has the time to address all these dimensions? Many wellness experts suggest numerous opportunities to find more balance. Strategies may include:
Finding Single Activities That Meet Multiple Wellness Needs
For example, taking a daily walk with your spouse and children can fulfill needs for physical activity, emotional bonding, and relationship enhancement. And, if you use the time to discuss ideas and career aspirations, your family walk could also contribute to intellectual and occupational needs.
Clarifying Your Values and Priorities
Take time to know the deepest purposes for which you live, and use them to set goals and make decisions. For example, you may find that you’d prefer more time with your family rather than a bigger paycheck. Don’t wait for a crisis to show what really matters to you.
Identifying Areas Where You Want More Balance
Using your values and the Six Dimensional Model of Wellness, identify your current wellness deficits and develop a few goals that will help you find more balance.
Being Realistic and Flexible
Perfect balance in all dimensions is not possible in an ever-changing world. There will be times when you’re overextended, lonely, angry, and tired. Over the years, you’ll need to make adjustments until you find a balance that enhances your quality of life.
National Wellness Institute
National Mental Health Information Center
Canadian Mental Health Association
Mental Health Canada
California State University website. Available at: http://www.calstate.edu/.
Seaward BL. Stand Like Mountain, Flow Like Water. Deerfield Beach, FL: Health Communications, Inc; 1997.
Six dimensions of wellness. National Wellness Institute website. Available at: http://www.nationalwellness.org/index.php?id=391id_tier=381. Accessed June 16, 2008.
Tubesing DA, Loving Tubesing, N. Seeking Your Healthy Balance: A Do-It-Yourself Guide to Whole Person Well-Being. Duluth, MN: Whole Person Associates; 1991.
Last reviewed May 2008 by Ryan Estévez, MD, PhD, MPH
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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