Well-Being: More Than Exercise and Vegetables

wlcWellBeing.jpgWe often talk about health and wellness as goals, but the real focus is about our quality of life. We are actually meaning more than wellness; we are seeking “well-being.” Wellness is the absence of illness. While this is a good thing, it doesn't address what it takes to be happy or to enjoy life. The concept of well-being involves the quest for satisfaction in six, rather than only one, domain in our life.

  1. Physical Wellness To achieve good physical health that will allow us the energy to enjoy a flourishing quality of life, there are certain components and behaviors that we need to consider: Exercise, diet and sleep.
    • Exercise– Exercise is effective in eliminating fatigue and improving mood. Dr. William Petrie, Professor of Geriatric Psychiatry at Vanderbilt University recommends walking at least a mile every day to maximize physical and mental health. There are tremendous physical benefits from 20-30 minutes of exercise most days of the week. But if you can’t fit that in, add any kind of movement to your day to feel better.
    • Diet– Eating the right foods in your diet translates into energy and improved physical health. Eating the right kinds of fats, whole grains, vegetables, nuts and fruits can help maintain your health. The negative effects of obesity can shorten your life span and reduce the quality of your life.
    • Sleep– Our bodies are amazing, finely tuned machines that require some recharging and maintenance along the way for optimal performance. Getting 7-8 hours of sleep allows us to synthesize learning. Our VUMC Stress survey results found that those who get 7-8 hours of sleep in a 24-hour period were less likely to report feeling high levels of stress or burnout.
  2. Emotional Wellness This is about more than managing stress. We all deal with stress; the key is how well we cope with that stress. Optimism, humor, and gratitude are traits that can be cultivated. Psychological wellness involves resilience and heartiness. Read our resource article, “Attitude,” for more information on this domain of well-being.
  3. Social Wellness Nurturing our social relationships is another component of our overall well-being. Those who have nurtured their friendships and romantic relationships suffer from less burnout and stress. In fact, positive, committed relationships can serve as a protective factor from burnout. The differentiator between a good life and a great one can be traced to the environment in which you live-your community. This translates into your sense of safety, involvement with others, and your environment.
  4. Occupational Wellness When a person finds a career that they enjoy, do well, has meaning, and can get paid for it, they flourish. As Confucius said, “Choose a job you love and you will never have to work a day in your life.” Those who feel that they have chosen the right career also suffer from less stress and burnout (VUMC Physician Stress survey conducted by Work/Life Connections-EAP 2003-Unpublished).
  5. Financial Wellness Money problems are one of life’s major stressors. 70% of Americans live paycheck-to-paycheck making us one event away from a financial crisis. Spending in accordance with your means is a key for creating economic health, as are goals to create an emergency fund, savings account, and planning for education and retirement. Financial health allows us to have options.
  6. Spiritual Wellness Belief in a power greater than oneself and finding a sense of purpose in life are often considered to be a path to spiritual well-being. The capacity for compassion, love, forgiveness, integrity and altruism enhance spiritual health. Prayer, mindfulness, yoga, and mediation are paths on that journey.

Working towards a pleasing level of satisfaction and resilience in these areas allows us not just to survive but to thrive and be happy.

Additional Reading:

Well Being: the Five Essential Elements by Tom Rath and Jim Harter, Gallup Press, 2010.