Well Life Episode 3: What Is Wellness

Hey there. This is Johnna. Every week, I’ll be sharing strategies to help you love your body, love yourself, and live life well. In future episodes, I’ll dive right into the tips. But in these first few posts, I’m introducing myself, and talking about how I define health and wellness, and why it matters. Today, I want to talk about all of the domains that I think are involved in wellness.

Like I talked about in my last post, health and wellness has different meanings for different people. There are definitions driven by experts, of course, ones which are based on psychological and behavioral science theories. And these are all well and good, and I use them in my wellness coaching. But I’m also an anthropologist, which means that I like grounding my work in a narrative approach.

I base my work on research done at Stanford University, where scientists talked to people about what they thought health and wellness was all about, asking them about times when they experience both high and low wellness – without defining for them what wellness meant. The researchers at Stanford asked as diverse a sample as possible, with different ethnicities, ages, incomes, and physical health types taken into account. Based on those interviews, researchers extracted 10 domains of wellness, which aligns well with the work that I have done with my clients. So I use these domains as well.

Now for an explanation about those domains. The top ten things that came out of those interviews with people when they told their stories about times of high wellbeing and times of low wellbeing were: social connectedness, lifestyle and daily practices (which is what you typically think about when you talk about wellbeing. So there’s things like your diet, your physical activity, alcohol use, and sleep). Another domain is stress and resilience, then there’s mental and emotional health, purpose and meaning in life, your physical health itself, finances, spirituality and religion, exploration and creativity, and then your sense of self.

And just to clarify, because you may be wondering how physical health and lifestyle are different – lifestyle and daily practices are things you do in your life that can influence how healthy you are, right? But your physical health could be how much energy you have. All of the domains are definitely interconnected, but physical health is more directly related to whether or not you have a disease, or if you feel a sense of vitality and energy. Whereas lifestyle and daily practices are more of the things that you do to achieve that physical health, if that makes sense.

Here’s the definition for each of these ten domains:

  • Social connectedness are the positive or negative relationships that you have with others, and how those relationships influence your wellbeing.

  • Lifestyle and daily practices, like I said before, are the lifestyle behaviors that can influence your wellbeing, such as diet, physical activity, sleep, the use of tobacco and marijuana, and other ways that people take care of themselves.

  • Stress and resilience means having the ability to adapt to change and bounce back after hardship. It also includes whether you have any feelings of overload and an inability to balance or manage tasks.

  • Emotional and mental health is how often you experience both pleasant and unpleasant emotions.

  • Purpose and meaning means having a sense that aspects of your life provide purpose and meaning. Some examples of this include having goals, dreams, and feeling like you are a part of something bigger than yourself.

  • Physical health is the perception of your own health status. This includes things like energy levels, ability to resist illness, physical fitness, and experience of pain.

  • Finances means your perception of having enough money to meet your needs.

  • Spirituality and religion is the extent to which spiritual and religious beliefs, practices, communities, and traditions are important in your life.

  • Exploration and creativity is having opportunities to grow as a person and to explore new experiences and ways of thinking.

  • And finally, sense of self is the extent to which you feel like you know yourself, can express your true self, have self-confidence, and feel good about who you are.

Now, the important thing to keep in mind is that whichever of these domains that drives your wellbeing is going to be different than mine. I don’t want to make that assumption for anybody. So when I have a consultation with a potential client, I weigh the wellness scale I’ve created with that particular person’s values. That’s what the results of my intake meeting with someone are based on.

For example, my top three domains are spirituality and religion, sense of self, and social connectedness. My bottom three are exploration and creativity, finances, and purpose and meaning. That doesn’t mean those bottom three aren’t important to me – just that they aren’t as important as the other things. And I’m sure that your top and bottom three domains are going to be different than mind. And these top and bottom three domains probably will change throughout your life, as well.

When thinking about all of this and what it means for improving your health and wellness, the goal is not to optimize everything. Instead, the goal is to optimize your health and wellness in the domains that are important to you. So if you could care less about spirituality and religion, I would never give you strategies on improving this domain when I was working with you – unless one day you decided that it was important to you.

So that’s how I work, and that’s how I help every individual person address their health and wellness. That also means that this podcast is going to cover all of these domains. So I want you to spend the week thinking about these domains. What are the three most important domains to you? What are the three least important domains to you? Feel free to share your answers with me over email or social media. I’ll be here next week for the first podcast with a bite-sized tip for your listening pleasure. I’m Johnna, and here’s to living life well.

Do you want to get even more tips and tricks for your wellness journey? Then I hope you’ll join my community by subscribing to my newsletter. When you join, you’ll get monthly 4-day wellness challenges, and two research-backed articles sent straight to your inbox every month. If that sounds like something you want to be a part of, then head on over to my website at johnnawilford.com and subscribe to my email list. Thanks so much. I look forward to meeting you.