By: Michelle Jenck, M.Ed., Wholly Healthy LLC, Tillamook County Wellness Coordinator
The term “wellness” can mean different things to different people. In the past, people considered the word wellness to mean the degree to which someone is not sick. Now, people are beginning to understand that “being well” is much more than “not being sick.”
Dr. Halbert Dunn, former chief of the U.S. Public Health Service National Office of Vital Statistics, came up with the term “high-level wellness” many years ago, describing it as:
- Far more than the absence of disease or infirmity.
- An awareness and aliveness to the world in which one lives.
- Having a sense that our body and mind are in tune with the world around us.
- An energized spirit where no task is too difficult, no hurdle too high
We recognize these traits and are attracted to them in other people, but they often seem out of reach. How does a person achieve high-level wellness? In order to answer that question, it might help to break down the idea of wellness a bit more.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) Wellness Initiative states that there are eight dimensions of wellness: Emotional, Social, Financial, Occupational, Physical, Intellectual, Environmental and Spiritual. Each dimension is interconnected and dependent upon the others. When one is out of balance, it often affects the other dimensions. For example, financial stress might cause emotional distress and that, in turn, can hurt our social or work relationships. At first glance, this can seem overwhelming. These eight areas encompass so much of our already busy lives, it is difficult to determine what is causing our stress and what we can do about it. How on earth can we be expected to resolve the myriad issues that go sideways in any one of the dimensions, let alone across multiple areas?
In looking at how Dunn further describes wellness, we do get some clues. He cites three qualities of high-level wellness which include:
1) A direction of progress toward a higher potential of functioning;
2) A continual challenge to live at a fuller potential;
3) The integration of the total individual in body, mind and spirit in the functioning process.
Notice the words Dunn uses to describe this process: direction, continual challenge and integration. These are not end points in a process. They are the process. It is in the approach – in the “doing” – that we become well. When we choose an apple instead of a candy bar for that late afternoon snack, we are moving in a direction. We are helping ourselves realize our full potential in that one simple act. When we choose to meet a friend for a walk instead of a glass of wine. When we decide to make coffee and meals at home instead of spending the extra money eating out. When we choose to turn off the screen we are watching at night so we can get eight hours of sleep. When we decide to set aside fifteen minutes each morning for prayer or meditation. Over and over, day after day, we are presented with the “continual challenge” to move toward wellness. Over time, these micro-changes in our lives add up, functionally changing who we are in every aspect of our lives allowing us to realize our full potential from that one simple act.
With that in mind, we are excited to launch our Tillamook County Wellness “Choose Well” campaign. During this year you will see opportunities to Eat Well, Move Well, Work Well and even Screen Well with preventive health screenings. To kick things off, we invite you to follow us as we share simple tips and tricks for improving our eating habits. Consider choosing one small change each week, maybe try one of our delicious recipes or even just setting aside one night each week for a family meal.
According to Dunn, these changes can lead to “an intoxicating and contagious sense of joy.” Ah, yes. That sense of awareness and aliveness that we observe in others and seek for ourselves. This is the what Tillamook County Wellness is all about. Collectively, we are Making Healthy Happen. We can lead by example as individuals, parents, friends, family members and co-workers; making small changes in our daily lives and invite others to join us along the way.
For more local health and wellness information, go to www.tillamookcountyhealthmatters.org, follow Tillamook County Wellness on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.