The path to healthy aging does not mean bathing in the fountain of youth or drinking an anti-aging elixir.
Healthy aging is recognizing that wellness starts now. It’s never too soon or too late to focus on living well. Wellness has been described as a multi-dimensional wheel comprised of eight elements: Physical, Social, Emotional, Financial, Spiritual, Environmental, Intellectual, and Occupational.
Stop and Self-evaluate your “Wheel”
There doesn't have to be an equal balance amongst dimensions, but all areas need consideration. Your goal should be finding personal harmony with the dimensions in a way that is authentic to you. To get there, you must have awareness, be conscientious, and be engaged.
A Closer Look at the 8 Dimensions
Physical Wellness is recognizing the need for physical activity, healthy food, adequate sleep, and staying on top of annual check-ups. Remember, exercise does not necessarily mean going to the gym. You can incorporate exercise into your daily life through activities, such as walking, gardening, or even dancing. Try the MOVE Your Way tool to create your physical activity plan. Healthy eating does not have to be “all or nothing.” Smaller goals are often more sustainable for longer periods and can lead to individual success. For a personalized diet plan, try the MyPlate Plan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Social Wellness refers to the quality of your relationships with others and now is the time to nurture. Maintaining a strong network of people you feel connected to is a valuable component of your social wellness and can help fend off feelings of stress, isolation, loneliness, or even depression. To help you socially connect, set aside specific days with friends and family to do activities such as shopping, baking, playing games, watching movies, or meeting for lunch. You can also try meeting with friends and family virtually. Adults 60 years and older who wish to connect online can attend live classes, such as those offered for free by Senior Planet from AARP.
Emotional Wellness is recognizing and accepting thoughts and feelings you may have. Recognizing thoughts and feelings is important to building balance and resiliency. To foster emotional well-being, take time to quiet your mind and reflect. It is important to share thoughts and feelings with someone you trust and listen to others’ emotions too. Working with a therapist or counselor can help you achieve emotional wellness.
Financial Wellness is having satisfaction with current and future financial situations. Financial well-being is reducing debt, decreasing financial stress, and feeling in control of your finances. Check out these free tools on Investopedia to assist with money management.
Spiritual Wellness refers to beliefs, values, and ethics that guide you through life and inform your actions. Spiritual routines can mean different things to different people; it can be waking up 5-10 minutes earlier to enjoy the calmness and serenity of the morning, it could be prayer or meditation, or perhaps designing a vision board or journaling.
Environmental Wellness includes occupying pleasant and stimulating environments that support well-being. Recognize the responsibility to protect the earth and promote sustainability to achieve environmental wellness. Tasks such as decluttering a room, recycling the trash, or emptying a dishwasher are small ways to create a feeling of environmental serenity.
Intellectual Wellness focuses on lifelong learning, broadening knowledge, and building skills. It’s important to stay curious and partake in creative activities to keep your mind sharp and active.
Activities to accomplish this include reading, brain games, or even attending events at the local library or art gallery. For those aged 50 and older, check out noncredit course offerings and travel opportunities through the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Clemson University and Furman University.
Occupational Wellness is the personal satisfaction and enrichment received from work. Participating in work activities, whether paid or volunteer, is an opportunity to contribute your gifts and talents to your community. An important facet of this dimension is fostering healthy work habits, such as separating work from home and having open lines of communication with employers/coworkers.
Putting it Altogether
No matter your age, now is the perfect opportunity to focus on the eight dimensions of your wellness and to adopt healthier habits. What that looks like and how you get there is truly up to you. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has a guide, Creating a Healthier Life: A Step-By-Step Guide to Wellness, to assist you with “fine-tuning” your wheel. Check-in with yourself, evaluate how you are doing, and work on imbalances affecting your ability to age healthy.