For the past year I have taught academic classes about wellness at local universities in Des Moines. One of the first questions I ask my students is “define wellness or what it means to be well.” I actually make this assignment a bit more interesting by having them find a photograph that depicts their definition. As to be expected, most of my students have very one-dimensional definitions of wellness. Occasionally I will get a definition that is rather evolved and robust but usually the definitions are specific to eating healthy or exercise, i.e. I’ve received a lot of photographs of people running and bowls of shiny apples.
I believe in a multi-dimensional model of wellness and that balance between dimensions is of utmost importance. One of the dimensions I believe in is spiritual wellness. This brings me to the second part of my “what is wellness” exercise. I ask my students to define each dimension of wellness so I can get an idea of what they think each dimension encompasses. A lot of people associate spiritual wellness with believing in a higher power or being religious. While that answer is not wrong, people who don’t attend religious services or believe in a higher power often times think they aren’t spiritually well. That, however, is not true.
I believe spiritual wellness is practicing altruism. My favorite way to practice spiritual wellness is through volunteering my time and donating to causes I believe in. Every year I volunteer at an awesome event called Reggie’s Sleepout. This event raises money for the Iowa Youth Homeless Center. Each year, close to 1,000 youth and adults camp out in cardboard boxes or tents on the field at Drake Stadium to better understand the struggles the homeless face.
What causes do you feel passionately about? Is there a way you define wellness, and more specifically, spiritual wellness? I encourage you to stay well by getting involved in causes you find worthwhile. You will probably find many dimensions of your personal well-being are enriched by these experiences.