What is Wellness?

What is Wellness?

According to Merriam Webster, wellness is “the quality or state of being in good health especially as an actively sought goal.” The key here is “actively sought.” In other words, wellness is a constant pursuit. Much like happiness, wellness is found in the journey; it’s not a destination.

The National Wellness Institute defines wellness as “an active process through which people become aware of, and make choices toward, a more successful existence.” That’s what this site is all about: thriving.

Dr. Bill Hettler developed a model to explain wellness in six dimensions, which are Occupational, Social, Physical, Intellectual, Spiritual, and Emotional Wellness. Thinking about your current state, you can probably easily see that these dimensions are interconnected and each play a significant role in your life overall. Like a performer spinning plates, throughout our lives we have to tend to one area or another depending on what’s going well and what needs attention. With that being said, let’s take a look at each dimension and how it affects your life:

  • Occupational Wellness. This refers to your life’s work. This is much more than a job. For a stay-at-home mom, this area of wellness would encompass her feelings of fulfillment and efficacy with her decision to stay home. For a businessperson, it may mean job satisfaction. For anyone, this can also involve skills not used at “work,” but rather, work skills used in other areas, like volunteering.
  • Social Wellness. Community, family, and friends are all involved in this wellness dimension. Do you feel like a part of a harmonious community? Do you have positive, encouraging, supportive relationships with your family and friends? Whether an introvert or an extravert, we are all social creatures and need positive social relationships to contribute to our overall journey of wellness.
  • Physical Wellness. This refers to “health” as we usually think of it. Things like physical activity, good nutrition, optimal sleep, and treatment of illness all fall into this dimension. It is very much interconnected with other wellness dimensions, which is clear when stress causes illness or lack of sleep leads to work or family issues.
  • Intellectual Wellness. Creativity, problem-solving, productivity, and learning are all topics addressed by this dimension. Much like our physical muscles need to be used to stay healthy, our mind also needs exercise. This encompasses the idea to “never stop learning” and helps a person to feel confident, vibrant, and alive.
  • Spiritual Wellness. About spiritual wellness, The Wellness Institute says: “You’ll know you’re becoming spiritually well when your actions become more consistent with your beliefs and values, resulting in a ‘world view.'” This has to do with finding meaning in life, feeling connected to a deeper purpose, and striving to live for the values that matter to you. I find this meaning in my relationship with Christ, so for me, working to live to please God gives deep spiritual fulfillment.
  • Emotional Wellness. Emotional wellness is not the absence of negative emotions. So many unhealthy behaviors come from our futile attempts to avoid things like sadness, anger, or hurt. Emotional wellness involves being aware of and accepting of a wide range of emotions and coping with these emotions appropriately. It involves optimism and autonomy. Emotional wellness can also include positive mental health and self-care practices.

Why should you care?

If you are neglecting one of your wellness dimensions, your entire life will suffer. On the other hand, understanding this framework can help you to proactively address each dimension to live your best life. Thinking of life on these terms provides a clear way to evaluate and improve upon each area.


Which dimension of wellness is going well in your life? Which one needs some more attention? Share in the comments below!


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