Student Health and Wellness

What Is Wellness?

Wellness is an active process of becoming aware of and making choices toward a healthy and fulfilling life. Wellness is more than being free from illness; it is a dynamic process of change and growth.

“…a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”

-The World Health Organization

“a conscious, self-directed and evolving process of achieving full potential.”
- The National Wellness Institute

Why Wellness is Important

We often think of wellness in terms of physical health such as nutrition, exercise and weight control, but it is much more. Wellness is a holistic integration of physical, mental, and spiritual well-being.

Maintaining an optimal level of wellness is crucial to living a higher quality of life. Wellness matters because everything we do and every emotion we feel relates to our well-being. Consequently, our well-being directly affects our actions and emotions. It is an ongoing circle. Thus, it is important to achieve optimal wellness in order to lower stress, reduce the risk of illness and ensure positive interactions.

Dimensions of Wellness

In 1976, Dr. Bill Hettler co-founded the National Wellness Institute and outlined the first six dimensions of wellness. Wellness encompasses mutually interdependent dimensions. A neglect of any one dimension over time will adversely affect the others and ultimately one’s quality of life. The first six dimensions include:

Emotional health is an important part of overall health as it inspires self-care. Emotionally healthy people are optimistic and in control of their thoughts, feelings and behaviors. They are able to cope with life’s challenges. They can keep problems in perspective and bounce back from setbacks. They feel good about themselves and have good relationships.

Being emotionally healthy does not mean you are happy all of the time. It means you are aware of your emotions and can deal with them whether positive or negative. Emotionally healthy people still feel stress, anger, and sadness, but they know how to manage their negative feelings.

Emotional health is a learned skill and here are some ways to maintain good emotional health.

  • Be aware of your emotions and reactions. Notice what makes you sad, frustrated or angry. Try to address or change those things.
  • Express your feelings in appropriate ways. Let people close to you know when something is bothering you. Keeping feelings of sadness or anger inside adds to stress. It can cause problems in your relationships and at work or school.
  • Think before you act. Emotions can be powerful. Give yourself time to think and calm down before you say or do something you might regret.
  • Manage stress. Try to change situations causing you stress. Learn relaxation methods to cope with stress. These could include deep breathing, meditation and exercise.
  • Strive for balance. Find a healthy balance between work and play, and between activity and rest. Make time for things you enjoy. Focus on positive things in your life.
  • Take care of your physical health. Your physical health can affect your emotional health. Exercise regularly, eat healthy meals, and get enough sleep. Don’t abuse drugs and alcohol.
  • Connect with others. We are social creatures. We need positive connections with other people. Make a lunch date, join a group, and say hi to strangers.
  • Find purpose and meaning. Figure out what is important in your life and focus on that. This could be your work, family, volunteering, caregiving, or something else. Spend time doing what feels meaningful to you.
  • Stay positive. Focus on the good things in your life. Forgive yourself for making mistakes and forgive others. Spend time with healthy, positive people.

(Emotional wellness information was taken from family using medical advice from the American Academy of Family Physicians.)

This dimension recognizes personal satisfaction and enrichment in life through work. It is the ability to get personal fulfillment from jobs or chosen career fields while still maintaining balance in life. The development of occupational satisfaction and wellness strongly relates to your attitude about your work.

This dimension recognizes the need for regular physical activity to build strength, flexibility and endurance. It encourages engaging in healthy activities that benefit your body such as a nutritious eating and exercise. Physical wellness means living responsibly and taking care of your body.

Social awareness is the ability to relate to and connect with other people in the world; showing respect for others and their cultures. It is the ability to maintain positive relationships with family, friends and co-workers. Social wellness encourages contributing to the environment and community, and recognizes the interdependence between others and nature.  

The intellectual aspect cherishes intellectual growth, stimulation and creativity.

This dimension recognizes the search for meaning and purpose in life.  It is about knowing the values and beliefs that provide purpose to your life.

Environmental and Financial components were later added to the wellness dimension’s listing because of their overall impact on our lives. 

We strive to maintain a clean and safe environment when we protect the earth’s resources by taking personal responsibility for the quality of the air, water and land. Our daily activities should maximize harmony with the earth and minimize harm to the environment.  It is all about preserving and restoring the environment.

This dimension involves being able to meet current and future financial goals. Money plays a critical role in our lives and financial stress is common. Financial wellness refers to our relationship with money and skills in managing resources, financial expenses and making good consumer choices.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) uses these eight dimensions of wellness for its Wellness Initiative because they take into account physical health as well as all of the factors that contribute to a person’s overall wellness.