1 Introduction to Wellness

Module Overview

In this module, you will learn about the dimensions of wellness, and how wellness differs from health. You will also learn about the stages of behavior change, and begin to think about the possible changes you would like to make in order to improve your personal wellness. Finally, setting SMART goals will be discussed.

Module Objectives

  1. Define the dimensions of wellness
  2. Describe the stages of behavior change
  3. Set SMART goals

Health Vs. Wellness

The World Health Organization (WHO, 2020) defines health as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” Definitions of health have typically focused on the presence or lack of disease, illness, or injury. Wellness if defined as “the optimal state of health of individuals and groups” (WHO, 2020). Wellness is typically thought of as reaching one’s fullest potential. It is important to think about wellness as a concept of interrelated dimensions (which will be explained in detail in this module).

For example, emotional wellness can have a direct impact on our physical wellness. Think about a time where you had a stressful day at work or school (emotional wellness). Do you think this stress has an impact on your physical wellness? Did this stress impact your sleep schedule, nutrition choices (maybe you indulged in your favorite comfort food), or your physical activity for the day? Making informed health decisions and practicing healthy behaviors contributes to optimal health.

Dimensions of Wellness

1. Physical Wellness

This refers to the health of your physical body. Nutrition, movement, and mindfulness of the functions of your body on a biological level are the main factors in this, however all eight dimensions of health play an almost equal role in maintaining and supporting physical wellness

Positive Decision Making:

  • Physical Activity- Our bodies were created to foster movement; discover what kind of movement you enjoy and do it often! Salisbury University has a wide variety of movement based clubs and classes.
  • Illness Prevention- Food is medicine. The state of your body directly reflects what you put into it, how you move it, and how you abuse it. Remember that illness prevention has direct ties to emotional wellness.
  • Alcohol/Drugs- Remember to not abuse substances by making alcohol/drugs a primary method of stress release and socialization.
  • Sexual Health- Feel secure within yourself and empowered within your sexuality. Approach sex from a place of respect for yourself and others as equals. Protection is important, but stay aware of potential health complications. If you feel something is wrong, it probably is.
  • Sleep- Proper rest is essential for full brain function. This will help you stay clear while you work on daily maintenance of all dimensions of wellness
  • Nutrition- Eat a rainbow of fresh, whole foods. Try to eliminate your ingestion of processed foods. Remember, you are what you eat. These days, we all have a general knowledge of the spectrum of foods available and what typically falls within the more healthful range. Do a little research and use your intuition. Take note of how your body, both physical and emotional, feels on a day to day basis and begin to relate to nutrition as a possible cause or cure.

2. Occupational Wellness

Involves balancing school work, jobs, and leisure time. Learning ways to reduce stress, live within your means, and live joyfully are essential. Equally as essential is taking your job as a student seriously.

Aspects of Occupational Wellness:

  • Your outlook on your job, class-work, and career.
  • The ability to make choices that foster positive attitudes toward jobs, class-work, as well as your co-workers and classmates which will enhance your personal and professional satisfaction and promote lifelong learning. This involves a strong sense of self and discernment. It also involves working on communication and other interpersonal skills (getting familiar with body-language and human emotion).
  • Knowing enough about yourself to choose a rewarding and fulfilling occupation consistent with your personal interests, values, and beliefs.
  • Being gentle with yourself and putting your mental, emotional, and physical wellbeing first before anything else.

How to Improve Occupational Wellness:

  • Examine who you are and what makes you unique.
  • Pull from that what your passions are and work towards creatively pursuing or applying them in service to the world.
  • Make realistic goals and work on them seriously with gusto.
  • Be patient; life involves many levels through which you must pass before reaching your penultimate position; even then growth should never cease.
  • If your current job has you stressed, reflect. What is going on? Are you misusing valuable personal time? Are you miserable at work? For what reason? Come back to yourself, center, and then create new goals.
  • Make a point to never stop learning.
  • Maintain a healthy balance between work and recreation.
  • Visit Career Services to find a job that’s right for you!
  • Talk to your co-workers about any problems you might have before a dispute happens. Communication creates proper flow.
  • Map out your financial requirements, be objective, prioritize realistically, and assess your ability to be successful as a student- then make decisions based on this personal evaluation.

3. Emotional Wellness

Developing self-awareness to the point of being in control of your emotions. Proper feeling, expression, and release are all apart of maintaining wellness in this area. Emotional wellness requires working on honesty with yourself primarily along with those around you. Emotional wellness requires non-judgement and acceptance in full of anything you may be feeling.

Aspects of Emotional Wellness:

  • Being sensitive to your feelings and the feelings of others.
  • Keen discernment of what situations in your life require an emotional response by deciding whether or not the situation serves you in the grand scheme of things, whether it truly matters or needs much attention.
  • Learning to prevent and cope with stress. Take time to get to know yourself and what exactly works for you.
  • Being realistic about your expectations.
  • Taking responsibility for your own behavior.
  • Maintaining constant communication with your inner-self and truth; disconnect will ultimately lead to emotional havoc. Accept what you can’t change and be aware of what you can.
  • Viewing challenges as opportunities rather than obstacles.
  • Functioning independently but knowing when you need to ask for help.

How to Improve Emotional Wellness:

  • Build an awareness and acceptance of your self- this relationship is the most crucial one you have.
  • Realize your thoughts are everything; once you start changing your thoughts, everything else will follow suit.
  • Research strategies for coping effectively in stressful situations. Never be too quick to move into a reactionary emotion. Remember to stay centered and keep a wide overview.
  • Start with understanding what you love the most, whatever brings you the most light; whether it be walking outside, moving, being still…and make sure to incorporate often.

4. Social/Interpersonal Wellness

Refers to the daily interactions you have with others, their quality, and personal social skills. This dimension of wellness also addresses the human desire for a sense of belonging and community contribution.

Aspects of Social/Interpersonal Wellness:

  • Achieved when you are actively participating in your environment to the best of your abilities.
  • A comprehensive understanding of your specific role in society and how the positive contributions you make ultimately affect all beings.
  • An awareness of the communicative and energetic symbiosis/exchange which must occur between you, others, your community, and nature in order to feel socially well.
  • Relying heavily upon self-image and self-imposed limitations.
  • Having the courage and confidence to emanate all you stand for.

How to Improve Social/Interpersonal Wellness:

  • Recognize the personal power you contain, release fear.
  • Check out volunteer opportunities in your community- if you feel particularly lacking in this aspect of health, make it a point to push yourself! College is the ideal place to experiment with this.
  • If you feel you are lacking in casual social interaction, make it a point to stay open all day. College is bustling with people, all you must do to have a meaningful interaction is produce and direct enough energy out of you via words and body language to make the communication real and intentional; shallow communication will leave you unfulfilled, whereas even the smallest meaningful conversation can impact your entire day.
  • Attend a SOAP or other campus event and make more friends!
  • Take time to listen to your friends – helping others can make you feel better! Thoughtful listening can help you to open up.
  • Make Salisbury your home. Settle in. Treat the town like your hometown, because for the time being, it is! Explore and absorb all of the wonderful things Salisbury has to offer.

5. Intellectual Wellness

Stimulating your innate desire for learning and growth.

Aspects of Intellectual Wellness:

  • Activities that stimulate mental acuity and creativity. There are a variety of ways you can stay sharp while expanding your brain’s capacity for skill development (physical practice, binaural beats, meditation, reading, tackling challenging problems creatively, art, proper sleep and nutrition).
  • Encompassing the ability to share knowledge and learn about cultural and lifestyle differences.
  • Necessitating mental receptivity.
  • Developing personal interests and making continual accretion of knowledge a lifelong mission.
  • Encouraging personal creativity and embrace of mental challenges.
  • Ease of mind in the sense that thinking does not overpower all other senses. Being in your head with constant thought can cause nervousness and dis-ease in other areas of wellness, not to mention take you out of the present moment.

How to Improve Intellectual Wellness:

  • Observe your thoughts. Practice watching from an objective view. You will learn your destructive patterns and be more equipped to make changes.
  • If you’re feeling drained or dull notice if this is stemming from lack of intellectual challenges. If so, start reading! Read about anything you like. Seek information in whatever method makes sense to you. An easy way to spark intellectual fulfillment is to stay on top of your school-work.
  • Go somewhere you’ve never been and examine your surroundings. This stranger point of view will heighten your awareness and force you to be clear of mind (because you are being forced to be receptive)
  • Be curious!

6. Spiritual Wellness

The personal connection to whatever energy, entity, philosophy, or belief that makes you feel whole as a human being; that which completes the trinity of mind, body, and spirit. Spiritual Wellness is feeling complete and supported, purposeful, and at ease. It is light; it is our shared human lifeline.

Aspects of Spiritual Wellness:

  • Based solely on the core beliefs and values of your being. You can be told a million different ways to be spiritual, but it is up to you to feel out what being spiritual is to you.
  • Tolerance of others and their beliefs while remaining true to oneself.
  • Does not necessarily denote religion, although religion is most certainly not excluded. Spiritual Wellness is diving deep into the depths of your soul to find what resonates with you.
  • Appreciation for the profound miracle of life and the respect of natural forces and laws that exist in the universe. Spiritual Wellness encourages mindfulness in all things so that you may learn from your experiences therefore revealing to yourself the underlying lessons in all experiences, no matter the magnitude, and walk forward with integration toward becoming the fullest, brightest version of you possible.
  • Teaches us that when things get tough with-out that you must go with-in.
  • Teaches us the meaning of trust and faith in the universe and our chosen philosophy, but even more importantly, in ourselves.

How to improve Spiritual Wellness:

  • Set aside uninterrupted time for objective reflection each day.
  • If you are new to spirituality, research! Attend events, talk to people, read etc. or simply work to sit comfortably in the stillness of the present moment.

7. Financial Wellness

Denotes a balance between living comfortably in the moment while being mindful of the financial requirements of the future. Empowerment and feeling in control of this financial balance is the goal.

Aspects of Financial Wellness:

  • Having a real, unclouded understanding of your personal income and the financial requirements of your lifestyle.
  • Being comfortable with where your money comes from and where it is going, as well as developing a sense of autonomy.
  • Caring for your finances so that you can handle financial changes.

8. Environmental Wellness

Being aware of the very serious role human beings play as the primary caretakers of Earth. Every single you choice you make has an environmental repercussion. The key is in learning to make decisions based upon this mindfulness. We are not separate from the planet on which we live; every positive, wholesome choice made for the Earth is a positive, wholesome choice made for every other aspect of our health.

Aspects of Environmental Wellness:

  • Learning what is good and bad for the Earth and how your choices directly and indirectly further one of the two polarities.
  • Being aware of the state of the Earth’s resources and atmosphere.
  • Mapping out ways you can alter your everyday choices to walk in alignment with your role of Primary Earth Caretaker.

How to Improve Environmental Wellness:

  • Recycle!
  • Volunteer your time to a worthy cause and do research to make sure said cause is worthy of your time.
  • There are no insignificant positive choices; every time you pick up a piece of trash, choose to eat organically, throw away cigarette butts, avoid junk food, help a fellow human being, speak from a place of love…anything you could intuitively conceive of as being a “positive choice” has a positive impact on the environment.
  • Research the effects existing environmental damage can have on you and protect yourself and others from these environmental hazards. For example, you could look up your county’s water quality report, look up the effects of added chemicals and substances; really dig around for both sides of the bias. Realize you may not currently be in control of much of what enters your body or consciousness, realize what entities are in control, and most importantly, realize you are totally capable of making the shift…step into the position of control.

Stages of Behavior Change

The Transtheoretical Model, also called the Stages of Change Model, was developed by James Prochaska and Carlo DiClemente in the late 1970s. Considered the dominant model for describing how behavior changes occur, it evolved through studies examining the experiences of smokers who quit on their own and comparing them with the experiences of those requiring further treatment. The goal of those studies was to understand why some people were capable of quitting on their own. It was determined that people quit smoking if they were ready to do so. Thus, the Transtheoretical Model (TTM) focuses on the decision-making of the individual and is a model of intentional change. The TTM operates on the assumption that people do not change behaviors quickly and decisively. Rather, change in behavior, especially habitual behavior, occurs continuously through a cyclical process. The TTM is not a theory but a model; different behavioral theories and constructs can be applied to various stages of the model where they may be most effective.The TTM posits that individuals move through six stages of change: precontemplation, contemplation, preparation, action, maintenance, and termination. Termination was not part of the original model and is less often used in application of stages of change for health-related behaviors. For each stage of change, different intervention strategies are most effective at moving the person to the next stage of change and subsequently through the model to maintenance, the ideal stage of behavior.

Six Stages of Change:

  • Stage 1: Precontemplation- In this stage, people do not intend to take action in the foreseeable future (defined as within the next 6 months). People are often unaware that their behavior is problematic or produces negative consequences. People in this stage often underestimate the pros of changing behavior and place too much emphasis on the cons of changing behavior.
  • Stage 2: Contemplation- In this stage, people are intending to start the healthy behavior in the foreseeable future (defined as within the next 6 months). People recognize that their behavior may be problematic, and a more thoughtful and practical consideration of the pros and cons of changing the behavior takes place, with equal emphasis placed on both. Even with this recognition, people may still feel ambivalent toward changing their behavior.
  • Stage 3: Preparation (Determination)- In this stage, people are ready to take action within the next 30 days. People start to take small steps toward the behavior change, and they believe changing their behavior can lead to a healthier life.
  • Stage 4: Action- In this stage, people have recently changed their behavior (defined as within the last 6 months) and intend to keep moving forward with that behavior change. People may exhibit this by modifying their problem behavior or acquiring new healthy behaviors.
  • Stage 5: Maintenance- In this stage, people have sustained their behavior change for a while (defined as more than 6 months) and intend to maintain the behavior change going forward. People in this stage work to prevent relapse to earlier stages.
  • Stage 6: Termination- In this stage, people have no desire to return to their unhealthy behaviors and are sure they will not relapse. Since this is rarely reached, and people tend to stay in the maintenance stage, this stage is often not considered in health promotion programs.
Figure 1. Transtheoretical Model/Stages of Change Model

Goal Setting

Lifestyle Modification Barriers

Barriers occur during 3 stages of behavior modification: admission of the problem, initial attempts to change, and long-term change as outlined below.

  • Barriers to Admission of the problem- The first step in lasting change is admitting a problem exists. People often fail to change behavior that poses a risk to their health because they deny a risk exists, trivialize their personal risk, feel invulnerable, make a faulty conceptualization, (i.e., they attribute early warning signs to a benign cause), or experience debilitating emotions when contemplating preventative measures.
  • Barriers to Initial Attempts to Change- At this stage, people acknowledge the need to change but struggle to accomplish their goals. This failure is a result of lack of knowledge, low self-efficacy (the belief in one’s own ability to succeed at change), and dysfunctional attitudes.
  • Barriers to long-term change- Just because a person has experienced success in changing a behavior, that doesn’t mean the change is permanent. Barriers to long-term change include cognitive and motivational drift (diminishing enthusiasm for the need to change), lack of perceived improvement, lack of social support, and lapses.

Fostering Wellness in Your Life

You are once again feeling motivated to eat better, exercise more, drink less caffeine or make any number of the positive lifestyle changes you have been telling yourself you want to make. You have tried before—probably declaring another attempt as a New Year’s resolution—but without experiencing much success. Making a lifestyle change is challenging, especially when you want to transform many things at once. This time, think of those changes not as a resolution but as an evolution.
Lifestyle changes are a process that take time and require support. Once you are ready to make a change, the difficult part is committing and following through. So do your research and make a plan that will prepare you for success. Careful planning means setting small goals and taking things one step at a time. Here are five tips from the American Psychological Association (APA, 2010) that will assist you in making lasting, positive lifestyle and behavior changes:

  • Make a plan that will stick. Your plan is a map that will guide you on this journey of change. You can even think of it as an adventure. When making your plan, be specific. Want to exercise more? Detail the time of day when you can take walks and how long you will walk. Write everything down, and ask yourself if you are confident that these activities and goals are realistic for you. If not, start with smaller steps. Post your plan where you will most often see it as a reminder.
  • Start small. After you’ve identified realistic short-term and long-term goals, break down your goals into small, manageable steps that are specifically defined and can be measured. Is your long-term goal to lose 20 pounds within the next five months? A good weekly goal would be to lose one pound a week. If you would like to eat healthier, consider as a goal for the week replacing dessert with a healthier option, like fruit or yogurt. At the end of the week, you will feel successful knowing you met your goal.
  • Change one behavior at a time. Unhealthy behaviors develop over the course of time, so replacing unhealthy behaviors with healthy ones requires time. Many people run into problems when they try to change too much too fast. To improve your success, focus on one goal or change at a time. As new healthy behaviors become a habit, try to add another goal that works toward the overall change you are striving for.
  • Involve a buddy. Whether it be a friend, co-worker or family member, someone else on your journey will keep you motivated and accountable. Perhaps it can be someone who will go to the gym with you or someone who is also trying to stop smoking. Talk about what you are doing. Consider joining a support group. Having someone with whom to share your struggles and successes makes the work easier and the mission less intimidating.
  • Ask for support. Accepting help from those who care about you and will listen strengthens your resilience and commitment. If you feel overwhelmed or unable to meet your goals on your own, consider seeking help from a psychologist. Psychologists are uniquely trained to understand the connection between the mind and body, as well as the factors that promote behavior change. Asking for help does not mean a lifetime of therapy; even just a few sessions can help you examine and set attainable goals or address the emotional issues that may be getting in your way.


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Media Attributions

  • Stages of Change model


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Lifelong Fitness And Wellness by Zachary Townsend; Susannah Taylor; and Maureen Reb is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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