What Does Wellness Actually Mean?
We live in a sea of buzzwords. From “influencer” to “superfood” to “hack.” The list indeed goes on.
At the very top, though, may just be “wellness.”
The word is big money. From personal care products to yoga, food, and so much more, industries are capitalizing on the trend.
But what exactly is wellness? And perhaps more importantly: are you getting the right kind of it in your life?
The World Health Organization defines wellness as a state of “complete physical, mental, and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity." The National Wellness Institute says it’s a “conscious, self-directed, and evolving process of achieving full potential."
It’s proactive more than reactive; wellness is intentional.
In the last several decades, corporations have upped their wellness games: From in-house cafeterias leaning into healthy vegan options to employee meditation rooms, comprehensive stress management tools and policies, creative retirement plans, environmental policies and more are on the upswing. Corporate wellness has also come to reflect financial security, retirement plans, and investment opportunities for employees as well. And these are all important to offer. But they’re often broad strokes. For that intentional element, wellness needs to be personalized.
So, what does wellness mean for you?
There are 8 wellness categories that you should be aware of:
1. Emotional Wellness
This is number one for a reason. Because the truth is, if we’re not emotionally okay, nothing else really matters. Humans are emotional beings. It’s the core of our experience here. But don’t confuse emotional wellness with being joyful and happy all the time. That will only lead to disappointment. Emotional wellness means having a true and honest understanding of your feelings and taking measures to cope with the stress that causes negative feelings. Does that mean therapy? Meditation? Hot baths? Hiking? For each of us, it’s likely a combination of stress management techniques. But, remember, the first step is taking that honest look at your emotional state. Then you can experiment with various wellness approaches.
2. Physical Wellness
How are you feeling? Is there pain? Inflammation? Dis-ease? Physical wellness is a big part of our lives because as much as we’re emotional creatures, we are very much experiencing those emotions in these physical structures. Just like with our homes, you can allow for some deferred maintenance, but major repairs can’t be ignored for too long or you risk serious and often permanent damage. Ask yourself: are you sleeping enough? Eating balanced whole foods? Are you exercising? Are you paying attention to your body and the signals it’s sending you? How is your digestion? Are you staring at a computer screen too long? Be sure you’re approaching your physical wellness by incorporating these key practices and check-ins. Ask your primary care doctor questions, and be honest with your answers when asked, too.
3. Spiritual Wellness
What values and morals guide you? What gives your life purpose? What keeps you centered and focused? What allows you to express your truest self? This is the core of spiritual wellness. You don’t need to subscribe to any religion to maintain a spiritual awareness practice. But for some, it helps. How do you define your spirit, your soul? How do you make peace with the world and yourself? Is there something you feel you could be doing you’re not?
4. Environmental Wellness
It’s easy to look at the world and the climate crises as outside of ourselves. And not to get all woo-woo on you, but we are the earth, man. We’re born of it and we return to it. And outside of a few hundred people, none of us have even left it. Respect for the environment creates harmony. And when we protect it, we also protect ourselves. It can be deeply tied to our emotional and spiritual wellness, too. How do you consider the environment in your life?
5. Occupational Wellness
Does your job make you happy? Is it a positive work environment? Is it a toxic one? Chances are, it’s a bit of both. Jobs are like that. Are you in a career that just pays the bills, or does it satisfy your spiritual and emotional wellness, too? What can you do in your job or your career to make your occupation the most satisfying? Can you separate your career from your identity?
6. Financial Wellness
What we do for a living greatly influences our financial wellness. And financial security greatly feeds into our stress levels and our physical, emotional, and spiritual wellness. Are you living paycheck to paycheck? How much savings do you have? Does your job offer benefits or employee stock options? Are you able to work with a financial counselor to create budgets, look at the best investments, and make other decisions to improve your financial wellness?
7. Intellectual Wellness
For many of us, once we’re done with school, we’re often done with learning. But that can leave us intellectually bankrupt. It’s a big, interesting world out there. You’ll never know everything, of course, but the more you keep learning, the better your brain. It can feed into your physical, social, spiritual, financial wellness, too. This doesn’t mean you need to finish college or read tomes on a subject. You can expand your intellectual wellness by being open-minded, by observing, and experimenting with thoughts or ideas.
8. Social Wellness
It can often feel like we’re hopelessly alone (thanks, COVID), but we’re not. The relationships we form help us to stay connected and provide us support in numerous ways. This can be as distanced as a Facebook group or Pinterest board and as intimate as a family. How are you cultivating your social wellness? Are you engaging with the best community for you? Are you in need of new friends or partners? Be sure you’re spending time taking care of your community and they’ll do the same for you.
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Jill Ettinger is an LA-based writer and editor focused on vegan and cruelty-free living.