It’s 7 a.m. and you’re exhausted, but you have to drag yourself out of bed. You sluggishly make yourself a cup of coffee and rush to work. After work, you go through the motions of trying to keep your house from exploding into chaos, prepping meals, grocery shopping, and checking off the ever-growing lists of to-do’s on your phone.
You do this day after day and week after week, until you realize you haven’t taken a second for yourself and you’re spiraling out of control.
If you’re ready to take charge of your life, a wellness wheel can help. Learn more about what this tool is, how to use it, and why it matters below.
What is a Wellness Wheel?
The wellness wheel was first invented in 1976 by Dr. Bill Hetler, co-founder of the National Wellness Institute.
Acknowledging the multi-faceted nature of wellness, Hetler’s hexagonal model provided a visual aid to assess six distinct categories of wellness—occupational, physical, emotional, social, intellectual, and spiritual—and how they compared in relation to one another.
Hetler believed in holistic wellness and each category’s interdependent nature. When one area of life is neglected, the wellness wheel becomes lopsided and unstable—a representation of a life thrown off-balance. By optimizing all sections of the wheel to similar levels, the wellness wheel functions smoothly and friction-free.
Since this model was initially presented, it has grown and changed over time. Now, wellness wheel models range from four to 36 sections of wellness, with the standard being a seven-section wheel that includes environmental as the seventh segment of wellness.
How to Incorporate a Wellness Wheel into Your Wellness Practice
My personal favorite way to track my wellness is with an ongoing spreadsheet that I can update monthly in a new tab. You can make your own chart by following this example here and using a radar chart format to measure your ongoing wellness.
Find the cadence and worksheet that works best for you, and track progress over time for long-term benefits. Once you’ve taken the assessment in the manner that makes the most sense to you, then you’re ready to start making changes for a more well-rounded self.
Ways to Improve Your Overall Wellness
Once you’ve identified the areas in your life that you hope to improve, consider the following ways to improve physical, emotional, social, environmental, spiritual, and intellectual wellness for a balanced self.
More than just strength and conditioning, physical wellness improves brain health, mood regulation, quality of life, and alertness throughout the day.
Even just thirty minutes of exercise everyday can jumpstart your mood, creativity, and overall wellness for a vibrant and more active life. While there are a myriad of ways to incorporate physical wellness into your life, consider some options below:
- Joining a local gym
- Training for a 5k or 10k
- Finding a physical hobby like kayaking or rock climbing
With the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) reporting more than one-third of adults aged 45+ feeling lonely or isolated, social wellness is becoming an increasingly important aspect of wellness in need of attention.
Social isolation and loneliness are linked with premature death and increased risk of dementia, heart disease, stroke, depression, anxiety, and suicide. There are many manifestations of social wellness, but some places to start include:
- Scheduling regular check-in calls with friends and family
- Joining activities and meeting new people
- Inviting friends over for dinner or a party
- Reserving time to spend with loved ones
Whether you’re religious or spiritual, connecting beyond the ‘self’ helps to ground and center. Spiritual wellness offers the ability to find meaning and purpose, in an often irrational and senseless-seeming existence. Opportunities to deepen spiritual wellness include:
- Joining a religious or spiritual group of seekers
- Grounding mindfulness with yoga
Cultivating a growth mindset takes work, but the desire to constantly grow and learn has long term benefits. Intellectual curiosity is what leads us to grow in new ways and learn new things. Improve your intellectual wellness by trying one of the following:
- Setting a reading goal
- Starting your day off with a podcast or daily newsletter
- Trying a new hobby
- Learning a new language
- Taking a class at a local college or adult education center
A well-balanced mental and emotional health teaches us how to manage stress, cope in times of grief, and move forward in spite of adversity. Consider improving your emotional wellness by:
- Seeking therapy or counseling
- Improving your sleep schedule
- Taking time alone to recharge
Noted in some wellness wheels as financial wellness and in others as occupational wellness, this type of wellness focuses on the material needs and successes in your life. From promotions to budgeting, here are some ways to improve financial/occupational wellness:
- Seeking a job that provides satisfaction and fair compensation
- Negotiating a raise, as needed and warranted
- Investing in your future through stocks and retirement funds
More than just the nature that surrounds us, environmental wellness hones in on the environment that you live in, and how it shapes you and your overall wellbeing. Environmental wellness means taking the time to create a clean and livable space, or seeking creature comforts that offer security. Examples of environmental wellness include:
- Scheduling time to clean and tidy, ongoing throughout the day
- Making your bed every morning
- Caring for our natural environment, through conservation efforts
Whatever your wellness wheel looks like, know it’s never too late to grow and change. Find balance and restoration today for a healthier and calmer tomorrow.
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Photo: Dana Drosdick