Amber Rose Bedell of McKinleyville is a clinical director in the field of holistic therapy. In the following article, Amber Rose Bedell explains the attributes of overall wellness, what it means to be “well”, and how to aspire towards this goal.
The crucial benefits of wellness have never changed. It’s the definition of overall wellness that continues to evolve.
The first thing many think of when hearing the word “wellness” is physical health. It could mean an overall fitness level, healthy eating, and regular exercise. It could also mean taking steps to cope with short-term or chronic illnesses.
Amber Rose Bedell says that the second component of overall wellness is emotional fitness. It’s establishing self-confidence and maintaining positive self-worth. It’s finding ways to cope with emotional traumas, seeking help when needed, and addressing mental health obstacles. There are certainly some life conditions that can be changed, thereby, increasing our emotional fitness. This is not the normative for emotional fitness. The normative story we hear relates to our ability to handle what life throws our way. Emotional fitness has more to do with resilience or working with individuals on their ability to effectively handle life stressors.
The third dimension of wellness also includes meaning making, the big picture, or a connection to nature or any form of spiritual practice which works for a person. True holistic treatment should address all 3 of these components.
Physical and emotional wellness interact with one another and overlap; maintaining one typically helps with the other. This is because the brain is an organ in our body and in fact, we are now understanding that other organs (ie the heart) also have cellular memory. Physical organs also aide in the production of hormones, neurotransmitter’s and peptides at the brain level and direct processes such as digestion which directly impact physical health. In an ever complicated and complex world, filled with both the benefits and challenges produced by the technological innovations we are in the midst of, the definition of wellness and the approaches to achieving it continues to expand and evolve. The availability of information at our finger tips at any time of day, the constant barrage of information directed as us via our phones has led to our field beginning to look at how this is impacting our primitive brain stress response systems. Frequent calls, texts, emails and virtual communication has led many to view this as a blessing and a curse. Since technology is not going anywhere, we will need to adapt as a species.
What follows are the other components of well being or wellness that are often referenced in psychology literature and a useful guide for holistic health treatment. The patient themselves know best which area’s of life functioning are creating the most impairment for them personally. We often use these categories on a pie chart and have patients color in how secure they feel in each section. This is a good tool for both the practitioner and the patient, it provides a visual with color to look at the whole self. These are also useful pre-post measurement tools as it can be difficult to recognize change when you are the subjective experiencer.
Amber Bedell of McKinleyville says that it’s through recognizing and addressing these deeper elements that help one feels truly well.
Amber Bedell of McKinleyville explains, while used by everyone from leaders of student health centers at colleges to psychotherapists for children and adults, eight dimensions of wellness have now been identified and endorsed by most health providers.
All eight broadly reflect overarching wellness goals which include caring for body, mind, and soul, even though wellness is inherently self-defined, with needs that change throughout the life span.
The eight dimensions are very interconnected, influencing each other regularly.
Amber Bedell on Emotional Wellness
Amber Rose Bedell says that self-awareness is a key element of emotional wellness. Positive emotional wellness includes not just figuring out the best ways to respond to everyday events but recognizing why one reacts in a certain way. As well described by Louise Hay in a conversation with Nick Ortner (The Tapping Solution), “honey, if you want to clean the house you have to look at the dirt.” For about 20% of the time, that is. The other 80% of time should be spent on focusing on solutions not problems and that includes the “grinding of the axe” which is a tendency for some people to get stuck in defining themselves by their history—and usually we aren’t talking about the good parts here.
Emotional wellness may be challenging depending on one’s life circumstances. None of us are in denial that Maslow had a valid point with his introduction of the “Hierarchy of Needs”. In simple terms, it’s difficult to be concerned about your life’s purpose while you are looking for your next meal/shelter/etc. While it also remains true that a person can be experiencing “emotional wellness” in a wide variety of life conditions. Victor Frankel is the most widely known psychotherapist to describe this phenomenon—which continues in psychology conversation today.
Many actions are available to raise emotional wellness, including spending time for reflection and relaxing the mind, seeking help, or accepting help from others (the acceptance of help is considered self care!), as well as sharing your feelings with someone trustworthy, such as a friend, family member, or partner.
Little things can make a big difference emotionally according to Amber Rose Bedell. We spend a lot of wasted energy not taking care of “small things” around our home, family or friendship groups. It’s also true that humor can be some of the best medicine. Taking time to laugh or smile goes a long way to decrease stress. Recognizing and learning from mistakes can lead to significant emotional growth, as long as minor guilt and not shame are incited. Shame is one of the lowest emotions to feel. Gratitude, it turns out, is one of the highest. Above all, one should be kind to themselves.
This doesn’t mean reading the encyclopedia or watching “Jeopardy!”. Intellectual wellness often comes from valuing creativity in one’s life and pursuing activities that are challenging and stimulating.
To foster intellectual well-being, Amber Bedell of McKinleyville says that it helps to not have knowledge and scholarly pursuits limited to a classroom. Traveling strengthens the intellect, especially when traveling to a place where people speak a different language or have a different way of life. Hobbies are intellectually stimulating, as is reading for pleasure.
But it’s the simple acts of open-mindedness and active listening that are arguably most important to developing and maintaining intellectual wellness. Flexible and adaptive brains fair better in times of stress as they are able to see alternative options rather than fixate on the problem.
By working on overall health, Amber Rose Bedell says that one works on overall well-being. Physical fitness is all about establishing a keeping a quality of life that is comprehensively beneficial. Exercising is a major hallmark here, but so is listening to one’s body when it says something may be wrong. Weight training and yoga are good options.
It means getting the sleep one needs and valuing a balanced diet. It’s putting one’s health first. Supplements for certain vitamins are necessary due to most of our diets not providing adequate essential elements. Unrefined sugar and processed foods are the leading cause of many modern dis-ease.
Having a lot of expendable income means someone is financially well off, but someone who learns how to manage expenses and set long-term goals is financially well.
This is one of the dimensions with the greatest potential to change over time, but key pathways remain the same. Amber Rose Bedell says that financial wellness can mean everything from prioritizing savings and setting (and keeping) a budget to researching financial resources and tackling financial challenges head-on. Finances rate high on the list of modern day society. Again, it can be difficult to consider other areas when one is living in survival mode financially.
Through positive occupational wellness, people feel empowered to be open-minded to new careers and opportunities. It reflects how satisfied one is in a workplace, how engaging a workplace is, and if one feels stimulated or that their work has meaning. Employee’s have rate how appreciated they feel by their employers and how important their work is as high indicators of job satisfaction.
Several actions may foster occupational wellness, including setting work goals that are achievable, improving conflict management and communication skills, and the community that can form in the workplace.
Amber Rose Bedell says that it is perhaps the deepest dimension of wellness. Spiritual wellness is characterized by thinking about one’s purpose and discovering the meaning of life in the context of one’s values and beliefs. Spiritual wellness prioritizes life direction and purpose — and that can lead to long-term resiliency and the ability to face challenges. Finding meaning, purpose and connection to others are hard wired human needs. Meditation practices have demonstrated efficacy in reducing anxiety and depression.
All work and no play is no way to work on overall wellbeing. Social health centers on finding and keeping relationships that are positive, supportive, and meaningful. It includes respecting others but also respecting oneself. Paths to social health vary wildly but may include joining a club, volunteering, keeping up with friends regularly, and discovering which social interactions are most beneficial simply by noticing what feel’s good. The human need for connection is unavoidable and essential.
Yes, this dimension is about valuing the environment and its fragility, but it also means valuing one’s future and the lives of others. Amber Rose Bedell says that environmental wellness comes from being outdoors regularly, being mindful of potentially wasteful habits, supporting local farmers, and, of course, recycling. Walking in the forest, putting our hands in dirt and walking barefoot actually contribute of overall health and well-being.