When you think of the concept of “health”, what comes to mind? Eating all your vegetables? Bathing yourself in hand sanitizer? Hitting the gym for some sick gains, bro? Sure, all of those things can definitely help you live a healthier life, but there’s way more to health than just having a healthy body.
Here at OneLife, we’re firm believers in whole person health. What’s that, you ask? Elementary, my dear Watson. Whole Person Health is the concept of wellness in every dimension of a person’s life because, you know, humans are multi-dimensional beings. You’re more than just a physical body existing in space, but rather, you’re a complex combination of physical, intellectual, emotional, social, spiritual, and financial dimensions which fit together to make you you.
In order to be healthy in the fullest sense of the word, you must focus on building healthy habits in all six of these areas.
In the words of LL Cool J, let’s break it on down. First off, your physical “you.” This dimension is the most obvious because, well, you can see it. Your physical self is easy to define—it’s your body, with all it’s curves and all it’s edges, all it’s perfect imperfections. *ahem* Your physical health is determined by a multitude of internal and external factors, but you can improve your health by exercising, eating right, getting enough rest, practicing good hygiene, and avoiding drugs/alcohol and risky sexual behavior. Next, your intellectual “you.” This refers to your mind—your ability to understand and process information, think cool thoughts, and be creative. You can improve your intellectual health by focusing on academics, reading books, visiting museums, studying new concepts, exploring different cultures, gaining new skills, and being a lifelong learner. Up next, your emotional “you.” Emotional health involves being aware of your emotions and being able to manage and express them in appropriate ways. You can improve your emotional health by cultivating a positive mindset, using healthy strategies to manage stress, building resilience, practicing self-care, and creating a strong support system. This brings us to our next dimension—your social “you.” Social health refers to the ability to relate and connect with other people; it’s all about building and maintaining positive relationships that add value to our and other people’s lives. You can improve your social health by investing in your existing relationships and building new ones, joining in group activities like sports or hobbies, using social media responsibly, developing good communication skills, and treating others with respect and understanding. Next, your spiritual “you.” Spiritual health refers to the beliefs, values, and customs which govern our behavior, help us find meaning in life events, and define our individual purpose. Regardless of whether you believe in a particular religious faith, having a sense of purpose and a personal code of ethics is vital to living a meaningful life. You can improve your spiritual health by practicing mindfulness, understanding your beliefs, grasping family values, seeking your purpose, serving others, and maintaining a grateful attitude. The final dimension is your financial “you.” Financial health involves, you guessed it, dolla dolla bills, y’all. It’s all about your ability to meet your financial needs, prepare for unexpected financial emergencies, and work towards future goals. You can improve your financial health by tracking your spending, making a budget (and sticking to it!), starting a money saving habit, giving to charity, and learning more about personal finance, and getting an education. That’s right...stay in school, kids! These dimensions function together to create your whole person, and while they are all distinctly different, they are interconnected. For instance, intellectual health and physical health are closely tied because your mind (intellectual) is housed in your brain and central nervous system (physical). Social health and emotional health heavily influence each other, as our emotions affect our relationships and our relationships affect our emotions. Even less obvious connections exist, like the way our spiritual health is related to our financial health. The way you approach financial matters—like what you choose to spend our money on, whether you’re more of a spender or a saver, your attitude towards finances in general—is directly influenced by your values. Interesting stuff, huh?
Since these dimensions are interconnected, they’re also interdependent. Growth in one area has the potential to stimulate growth in the other dimensions. Conversely, dysfunction in one area can negatively impact other dimensions.
Let’s look at a practical example: Jethro makes the choice to vape—a risky choice because it is addictive and harmful. Jethro soon becomes addicted to nicotine, and starts experiencing shortness of breath and dizzy spells from his frequent use (physical). He has a hard time focusing in class because of nicotine cravings, and his grades start to drop (intellectual). His basketball coach tells him he’s in danger of losing his starting position on the team if he doesn’t get his grades up, and his team mates are frustrated with him because he’s been off his game and just doesn’t have the physical endurance he used to have (social). He’s getting really stressed out about everything, so he starts vaping higher doses of nicotine to take the edge off, but it’s just not enough (emotional). Juul pods are expensive, and it’s been months since he’s been able to save towards the car he wants (financial). Jethro is disappointed in himself—he doesn’t like the person he’s become, but he feels kind of helpless to change (spiritual). See how all the dimensions affect each other? Jethro probably didn’t consider that when he made the choice to vape. Maybe he was after a buzz (physical), or trying to relieve stress (emotional), or hoping to impress people (social). But we have to stay mindful of the fact that every aspect of our health is affected on some level by the choices we make on a daily basis. That’s why It’s so important to live intentionally—with a goal in mind. When you act on purpose instead of just making choices based whatever feels good in the moment, you’re well on your way to experiencing Whole Person Health and actually getting where you want to go in life. Jethro’s example focused on negative impacts, but there’s no way I’m ending this blog on a bummer note. Positive impacts are also totally possible, and can be achieved quicker and easier than you might think! Try this little exercise: close your eyes and breathe in slowly through your nose for a count of four. Hold that breath while you count to seven, then exhale slowly and smoothly through your mouth for a count of eight. Repeat this cycle four times, paying attention to the way your body feels as you move through the exercise. If you just did that, you should feel super relaxed right now. You’re welcome. This simple breathing technique is a physical exercise you can use to relax your body and relieve stress. Feeling more relaxed (physical) and less stressed (emotional) can positively impact you in every other dimension—a clearer mind (intellectual), less tension in relationships (social), an overall sense of peace and well-being (spiritual), and better focus on practical goals (financial). Boom. Breathing can change your life. So the next time you’re faced with a choice big or small, take a few moments to breathe (for real) and consider the possible consequences of that choice on your whole *spectacular* self.