Type the keyword “travel” and a host of websites queue up to ask you when and where you want to go and what sort of lodging you’d like when you get there. Type “investment” and firms will be falling over each other to take your money and buy commodities with it. Try “plumber” and ten local plumbers will pop up ready to show up at your doorstep tomorrow.
But type “wellness” and your search engine will go into dictionary mode: “What is wellness?” “The eight definitions of wellness,” “Dimensions of wellness,” “Why is wellness important?” etc. Instead of action, it will offer definition – make that multiple definitions! Apparently, while concepts like “travel” and “investment” are quite clear in our heads, we are still working on what ‘wellness’ means.
It is a broad topic – but that’s no excuse! We are still defining wellness because it continues to elude us. The day we think we are well is the day we discover some significant piece of ‘unwellness’ in our life. And if we concede that maybe we are not well, we are overwhelmed by the prospect of achieving it.
True wellness cannot be specific to one area of our lives; it must cover several bases to bring us the peace that it promises. Each provider has a different number of such bases. When I took a week-long mid-career assessment several years ago, they focused on five: physical, vocational, financial, familial, and spiritual. In other words, were we reasonably physically fit, were we finding some level of satisfaction in our careers, were our finances in order, how well was our family/marriage functioning, and where were we on our faith journey? Wisely, they made us do homework before the assessment: get a physical, print out our financial statement and latest tax return, bring our journal – that sort of thing. We then, over the course of the week, took turns reviewing our data with a professional: a nurse, an accountant, a pastor, a therapist if necessary. The goal was to cover the bases. It was very helpful.
If someone is serious about getting well, the greatest challenge is prioritizing the areas that need the most attention. If you try to address all of these at once, you will be overwhelmed! For example, as a pastor, I counseled one woman who was battling cancer. She had expensive pills to purchase for her treatments. Because of such expenses, she could not afford to live near her friends. In fact, she was living in the basement of a generous friend whose generosity was beginning to run out. Clearly, she was well neither in the physical nor the social arena. But I asked her what she was doing for income. She said she was unemployed and looking for work. I tried to help her see that it would be difficult to work on either her physical health or her social needs unless she had the money to support either or both. Wellness for her, at least in this phase of her life, began with the vocational: a source of income would pave the way for wellness elsewhere.
Prioritizing isn’t always that straightforward or simple. Many of us are getting by in all or most areas. But wellness means thriving, not just surviving. It may take some careful discernment, prayer, and/or discussion with trusted counsel to ascertain which area of your life to begin with. Lack of physical health can impede wellness in family dynamics. Too much overtime at the office (wherever that might be these days) can make physical fitness difficult. For that matter, lack of spiritual health can create attitudes and ambitions that run us off the rails in the financial sector.
Where does the journey toward wellness begin with for you? Which area, if improved, can be the key to wellness in other areas? Is there one area that has been dragging you and your family down for years? Again, the help of others may be indispensable here.
Wellness is about harmony integrated throughout your life. If unwell, your life may feel like yarn tangled in a knotted ball. Peace, wholeness, and serenity begins when we take the time to find the end of the yarn and begin threading it out of the knot toward freedom. It’s well worth the work (pun definitely intended).
Once you are well or are on the path, you can begin to look around you and be helpful in contributing to the wellness of others or, just as importantly, the wellness of your community. A true sign of wellness is being able to give it away!