A Condensed, yet Comprehensive Conspectus
I am currently completing my Masters with a focus in Integrative Wellness at Point Loma Nazarene University, of which I am over halfway through. For those of you who know me, this sort of program is a dream. There’s a particular area of interest, beauty, awe, passion that I have found here; every day + every assignment is lined with excitement. There’s also a peculiar coincidence + paradox I have surfaced in the journey as well. Let me elucidate…
To whomever may be drifting by these words, I invite you to consider what it is that wellness means; and particularly for my colleagues in this journey, what it is that we study. We (that is, those in this specified area of health exploration + expertise) recognize that there are several dimensions of wellness — including physical, intellectual, emotional, spiritual, social, and even environmental, occupational, or financial. What do we as wellness professionals and human beings seek in cultivating and nourishing these aspects of wellness? What is the underlying motivation or ultimate goal to be achieved? To live a better, more satisfying life…sure! But what about beyond that? Do you notice anything curious about the dimensions in light of that last question — “beyond” this life? Let’s take a look at each one a bit more in-depth, in reality.
Physical: no matter how conscientious, caring, and compassionate we are towards our physical bodies/health through means such as nutrition, exercise, sleep, and medical care, our bodies are bound to fluctuate in size over time, movement + function will likely become more difficult than it used to be, we will grow more fatigued than in our younger years, and we will ultimately pass on — a vapor that is here ~73 years (the world’s average life expectancy) and then moved on.
Intellectual: we spend our whole lives learning new things — without even trying. It is inevitable! What a glorious reality. However, as we begin to age, our memory weakens, our mental stamina + reflexes are lessened, we may find it more difficult to keep in step with our old routines or our previously-loved hobbies.
Emotional: this category is a rollercoaster in itself; do I need to explain? Ha, kidding. But, our emotions legitimately are bound to ebb + flow + fluctuate depending upon our circumstances, our conscience, our counterparts. Working towards emotional stability + regulation has evidence backing its efficacy, yet we cannot ultimately control external circumstances and how they truly make us feel inside, regardless of how well we process or react to them.
Social: I think we can all relate to very impactful + meaningful relationships that we have had in the past that are no longer present. That hurts — really, really hurts. Yet, when those relationships were at their prime, they offered contagious contentment, comfort, confidence, encouragement. It’s another reminder of an area that truly nourishes the person in its pursuit + practice, yet is not promised to last forever.
And taken together (since these are not always included in all wellness models, though I do appreciate their inclusion), Environmental, Financial, Occupational: Melting icebergs, blizzards in Texas, skyscrapers in place of farmland — we know well how the geographical landscape is steadily sliding into deterioration + transformation, whether you see that as good or bad, it is not under our ultimate control. Inflation, Unemployment, Unexpected emergencies — such quick occurrences can turn what we placed all of our hopes, plans, promises in, upside down + flattened out. Again, completely out of our control.
Now what’s my point? To be oh-so-very pessimistic + pitiful? No! Our lives — every aspect + dimension of them — are coherently created + diligently designed gifts given to us! We focus on all these areas in order to be good stewards of our gifts. However, did you notice that I forgot to get nitty-gritty with one of the dimensions? Well, that was intentional. Spiritual wellness, or spirituality, is a unique player in this game. Why? It doesn’t fade, falter, fluctuate, or fail. Let me repeat, spiritual wellness is steadfast + lasting. And for the people in the back, spiritual wellness is firm + forever. How can this be?! Our spirit + what our spirits are connected to are eternal things — not things of this physical, material world. Yes, devotional books + church buildings + hymnals will also fade away like all the previously mentioned. Yet, the Word of God, the Church of Christ (that is, the body of believers), + the songs of the saints will carry on into eternity (Isaiah 40:8, Hebrews 11:16, Revelation 5:9-10,15:3-4,19:1-8, 21:1-5). Have you noticed the stark trend in the aging population that are more invested in their spirituality, faith community, or even finding God for the first time? That is partially due to changing times + the era that they grew up in, but not to be dismissed is their realization that as their physical body, mental capacities, social interactions, and finances diminish, they become more aware + dependent on the Almighty God who both created + sustained them through all of their life; who is currently sustaining them when they have no else. If only we could reach that realization sooner. If only we could live a full + whole life, throughout our life. If only we could truly say that we care for + cultivate our health + wellness…
In case you may be wondering why all of the other aspects of health are bound to deteriorate, unlike spirituality, I will share a bit of a well-known story. God created the universe in perfect order + harmony — there was never pain, death, sorrow, strife (Genesis 1). He created humans to be like Him, to have a right relationship with Him + with one another, and to steward His creation (Genesis 2). Yet, those humans didn’t quite obey the perfect order that God had set in place, and this act of rebellion is called sin (Genesis 3). Sin immediately ushered in all of those dreadful things — death, disaster, depression, destruction, etc. Because of this sin, we now see why the things on Earth are bound to corruption (i.e., our bodies, relationships, planet) (Romans 5:12,8:22). But God couldn’t stand to see His beloved creation (His people) to live in this way. So, He sent His Son Jesus Christ, part of His very self, to be born + live among people on Earth whom He knew would reject + despise Him because of their sin (John 3:16, Psalm 118:22, Isaiah 53:3, Luke 17:25, John 1:11). Why would He do such a thing?? (This is where the story gets really good). While Jesus was on Earth, He lived a perfect life without sin so that He could pay for the price + punishment that was due to the Holy God on the part of OUR sin (2 Corinthians 5:21, 1 Peter 2:22, Hebrews 4:15, 1 John 3:5). The punishment of our rebellion was death (Romans 5:8,5:12,6:23, Hebrews 2:9). Jesus Christ, God’s own Son + piece of Himself, died to wipe our record clean, but most importantly, He rose from the grave up to Heaven, signifying that the substitution for us was accepted by God (John 11:25, Romans 10:9, Ephesians 1:7, 1 Peter 1:3). Whew! (If you made it this far, I’m sending you a big, big hug). This whole process with Jesus removed eternal death/destruction/darkness + secured eternal life for those who believe that this testimony is true, committing their lives to abiding in Him (John 3:16,3:36,5:24,17:3). Bonus: not only do these believers receive eternal life, they also receive abundant life now (John 10:10, Romans 8:11,15:13) — this is what spiritual wellness is all about! We have hope, purpose, meaning, direction, guidance, peace, comfort, growth, joy, and contentment in this life because of where our spirits lie. Without a grounded foundation of our spirits, we are bound to worldly deterioration + our aims for health/wellness are in vain.
So, what is wellness to you?
Header image: Shane Watson (2021). Holiday self-care for parents: The eight dimensions of wellness. NotMyKid.org. https://notmykid.org/2021/12/12/holiday-self-care-and-the-eight-dimensions-of-wellness/