Start a Health Sciences degree at American Military University.
By Dr. Jessica Sapp
Associate Professor, School of Health Sciences, American Military University
Wellness is a beneficial state that everyone should aspire to achieve. Dr. Bill Hettler, co-founder of the National Wellness Institute, created the Six Dimensions of Wellness in 1976. Since then, others have modified this model by adding new dimensions. Peggy Swarbrick and Jay Yudof have the most recent model which includes eight dimensions of wellness, including the original six:
These dimensions are interdependent, meaning that one dimension can influence one or several others. For example, if we are in debt (financial), we can experience stress (emotional), which can lead to illness (physical) which makes us less effective at work (occupational).
With the holidays approaching, it can be easy to ignore our well-being. So before you get too busy, try the seven-day wellness challenge.
Pick One Item to Complete Each Day
For each day during the seven-day wellness challenge, pick one task from the following list to complete. Focusing on small changes for big gains will keep you motivated and not feeling overwhelmed.
Day 1 – Physical Wellness
Take a walk: Walking is one of the best physical activities. It is low-impact and does not require any special equipment other than a good pair of walking shoes. You can take smaller walks throughout the day when you don’t have a lot of free time. Walking outside is a great way to connect with nature. I prefer to walk after dinner because most of my daily tasks have been completed.
Drink more water: Our bodies require water. You may have heard, “drink eight 8-ounce glasses a day,” but drinking half your body weight in ounces is a better formula to accommodate difference in sizes. If you weigh 200 pounds, then you would need 100 ounces of water per day. Cut out sodas and replace with infused water for flavor.
Eat fruits and vegetables: Getting enough fruits and vegetables each day can be tough, especially if you skip meals or don’t like fruits and vegetables. One of the easiest ways to add these superfoods to your diet is by drinking them as smoothies. You can add vegetables like spinach because you don’t usually taste it. You can probably get your children to drink them too.
There are many delicious recipes for smoothies that are packed with nutrients. I use frozen fruit so I don’t have to use ice, and I include eight ounces of water, which accounts for one cup of my daily water intake.
Day 2 – Intellectual Wellness
Keep learning: We should all strive for endless learning because there is so much to learn. This can be as simple as learning a new recipe or more complicated like building a deck. Try to spend at least 30 minutes learning something new. If you aren’t sure where to start, pick a place you would like to travel to and learn about the landscape and local attractions.
Read a book: Reading helps you gain knowledge that could change your life. If you don’t have time to sit in a chair and read, consider using audiobooks, which are great on a daily commute to work or on a long-distance drive. Reading in the evening can be especially beneficial to your physical wellbeing by reducing stress levels and helping you fall asleep.
Do a crossword puzzle: Crossword puzzles, sudoku, checkers and chess are examples of “brain games.” These mindful games are sometimes used with Alzheimer’s patients, but some of them, like crosswords puzzles, offer a great learning opportunity and can be done alone.
My grandmother did crossword puzzles every day. I envied her ability to complete hundreds of puzzles over the years, knowing words that I didn’t know existed. Crosswords can be a fun way to learn new words and make you a better Scrabble player too.
Day 3 – Environmental Wellness
Clean your work or home space: Our environment can affect our mood or productivity. My office desk is one area I try hard to keep clean and organized. I can focus on my tasks and assignments without any distractions.
You may feel anxious when your home needs to be cleaned. Having a clean work area or home lets you devote your energy to other wellness activities. Cleaning can also help your burn calories for your physical health during the seven-day wellness challenge.
Use less energy or water when possible: We continue to learn new ways to save energy. It is good to develop habits that can reduce energy usage, such as turning off the lights when you leave the room or turning off the faucet while you brush your teeth. Not only do these simple acts help our environment, they can save you money on utilities. This kind of conservation can also assist you in meeting your financial goals.
Avoid littering: We can all contribute to a cleaner planet by not littering. Trash as small as a gum wrapper or cigarette butt can create an environmental problem. By not littering, you are doing a community cleanup service. I participate in beach cleanups with others who also care about our environment. That contributes to my social wellness too.
Day 4 – Spiritual Wellness
Spend time with nature: We spend so much time indoors looking at computer screens and mobile phones that we often forget about the fresh air and sunshine outside. If you live in a large city, you may have to travel several blocks to find a tranquil spot, but it is worth it for the healthful gains. Being in nature can reduce any surrounding chaos and recharge you. Devote time in nature and keep your cell phone turned off so you can explore the natural beauty.
Reflect: As I stated in my previous article, “Reflection can include writing or keeping a journal, but just thinking about your accomplishments or challenges is helpful. It’s often easy to focus on the negativity and forget our progress. Reflection also includes visualizing your goals and where you want to be in the future.”
Attend church or other community organization: Your beliefs will inspire you to choose where to gather for your spiritual needs. You may believe in God or a higher power and attend a house of worship for prayer and congregation, or you may prefer yoga and meditation. Regardless of where you go or for what reason, finding meaning and purpose in life will boost your spiritual health.
Day 5 – Social Wellness
Join a club: Being with others who have similar interests is enjoyable because you can share stories and participate in activities together. I love surfing, so I joined surf-related organizations and clubs. I now have friends around the world who surf.
Attend a support group: Finding people with similar experiences is extremely helpful when you need emotional support and encouragement. They can give you guidance, inspiration and tips that others without having had similar experiences cannot do. There are various support groups such as for caring for elderly parents, addiction recovery, diabetes management, depression and fitness. Finding a support group for your needs will expand and strengthen your social network.
Spend time with friends and family: Our relationships affect our social lives. Connecting with others brings harmony and positivity into your life. Having healthy relationships is critical. You need only a few close, meaningful relationships to contribute to your social wellness; quality is more important than quantity.
Day 6 – Emotional Wellness
Journaling: Writing has been linked to intellectual wellness, but journaling can also improve your emotional and mental state of mind. You can find tips for computer journaling, but I recommend using pen and paper. I use a notebook because it is easy to carry. Besides, putting words on a page and getting away from technology is calming.
Watch a movie: Good movies can inspire us, make us laugh or cry, or empower us to feel like we can accomplish anything. Movies are an ideal way to relax emotionally because you don’t have to do too much thinking or expend much energy. You can relax and escape for two hours. I have a list of favorite movies that I use depending on what type of emotional boost I need.
Help others: It is amazing how helping others makes us feel good. It gives us a sense of purpose and a feeling that we are making a difference. This affects not only our emotional wellness, but our spiritual and social wellness too.
Day 7 – Financial and Occupational Wellness
Set financial goals: Goals help us decide what we want to accomplish. They give us something to work toward and help us determine our priorities. Setting financial goals is important to financial wellness. Do you want to save for a vacation? Buy a new car? Do you want to pay off a loan? Decide what you want to accomplish in the next year and stick to your plan.
Create a budget: Budgeting is essential for your financial health. You can only spend what you make, so your budget should be based on your current income. Avoid debt or taking out loans whenever possible. To prevent unnecessary spending, keep your emergency credit card at home.
Track your spending: Swiping your credit card or doling out cash can be a mindless activity. We don’t think twice about it sometimes, but tracking your spending can quickly put it all into perspective. By tracking our spending we can see where our money is going, where we can cutout some things in our budget, and ensure we are not overspending.
You can write down your transactions in a notebook or you can use a mobile app. There are many free apps that offer a convenient checkbook balance sheet. For security, I do not put any account information in my checkbook balance apps.
Focus on the positive at work: If you love your job, it is easy to stay positive at work. Finding a career that incorporates your passions can be very fulfilling. However, it can be difficult to see the positive when you are not satisfied with your job.
Often, we grow significantly when we experience adversity. Each position is a learning experience so focus on what you are learning. Seeing a bad boss in action can teach you “what not to do” when you lead your own team.
Volunteer: Occupational wellness doesn’t only include paid employment. You can gain a lot of experience through volunteer activities. Volunteering is a great way to work with an organization that shares the same passions as you.
Build your skills: As professionals, we should always keep learning and improving our skills. This helps us progress and advance in our careers. Each year, I review my resume and evaluate how I can build on my skills. I use this to make annual goals.
Some of these activities can affect numerous aspects of wellness. For example, meditation can improve spiritual and emotional health, whereas volunteering can improve both occupational and social wellness.
Do You Want to Try the 8-Week Dimensions of Wellness Challenge in 2019?
In early 2019, APUS Public Health will be hosting an eight-week wellness challenge that will focus on each dimension in more depth. We will provide daily challenges and support throughout the entire eight weeks. This challenge will be a great motivator for your New Year’s resolutions. To stay informed and to get more wellness tips, follow our AMU & APU Public Health Facebook Page. Share your progress with us by using the hashtag, #SmallChangeBigGainAPUS.
About the Author
Dr. Jessica Sapp is an associate professor in the School of Health Sciences at American Military University. She has over 13 years of experience in public health, working in various environments including government, hospitals, health insurance, community, international, corporate and academia. Jessica earned her D.P.H. in health policy and management at Georgia Southern University and a M.P.H. in health promotion, education and behavior at the University of South Carolina. She also has a B.S. in health science education from the University of Florida.