The Physical Domain of Wellbeing
Contributing Author: Kirsten Pabst, NDAA Well-being Task Force Chair
Wellbeing is a complex, dynamic and subjective state. There are six distinct components of wellbeing that all ebb, flow and interact with each other, with each being necessary to a state of holistic wellness. Heightened pressure in one area will often affect wellness in others too. For example, someone in an emotional crisis like grief may lose interest in social activity. Someone who is unexpectedly unemployed may experience intellectual stagnation or spiritual crisis. A medical situation may dramatically affect one employee’s ability to cope with job stress while the same condition may have no negative effect on another employee.
The six aspects of wellbeing include physical; mental/intellectual; emotional; social; spiritual; and occupational/financial. What do you think of when you hear the term, “wellbeing”? I’m immediately taken to a mid-summer meadow beneath a snow-covered rocky crag, with red paintbrush flowers and a stream — my personal happy place. A million miles from work. My knees don’t hurt; I can straighten my hand, injured in a horse-related crash a few years ago. It isn’t real. Especially at work, where I am the elected prosecutor for a relatively urban county in Montana in the midst of a pandemic-spurred violent crime spike. Like many, my wellbeing vision is fantasy. Does it have to be? Can we bring those elements of freedom and relaxation to the workplace?
Starting at the base of Maslow’s pyramid, basic survival stuff, we can break down physical well-being into smaller components. Keeping our bodies healthy is the first step to wellbeing. Hippocrates said, “A wise man ought to realize that health is his most valuable possession.” We already know this, but do we know it?
5 Physical Factors
Here are five key areas to keep our bodies climbing over life’s obstacles.
- Exercise. Keeping our bodies fit improves brain function, reduces stress, increases longevity and contributes to overall health. For some that means running 100 miles a week. For others it means logging 10,000 steps a day. And for others, it means playing pickle-ball every weekend.
2. Diet & nutrition. Paying attention to what goes in our bodies reaps short-term and long-term rewards. We should try our best to eat balanced meals, maintain a healthy weight, consume daily recommended nutrients which, for some, includes supplements & vitamins. This also includes limiting consumption of excessive amounts of alcohol and other harmful substances as well as weekly chores like meal-planning.
3. Sleep. Eight hours a night may seem undoable, but getting adequate sleep is critical to maintaining physical, mental and emotional health.
4. Routine medical & dental care/illness prevention. We are blessed to live in a place where we have access to quality medical care, including preventative care. People who get routine check-ups and recommended health screenings have longer life expectancy. That math is easy.
5. Physically safe environment and avoidance of injuries & harm. Living and working in a physically safe environment is less intuitive than other aspects of physical health, but equally important. Take steps to ensure workplace safety and security. Additionally, it is important to prevent injuries at home. After a bad fall on ice last year, for example, I attached spikes to a couple of pairs of winter shoes and boots and have altered my dog-walking route.
Commit to one thing you will do for your body next week in each category, and plug them into your calendar.
Exercise: I will __________________________________
Diet & nutrition: I will ___________________________
Sleep: I will ____________________________________
Routine medical & dental care/illness prevention: I will ___________________
Physically safe environment: I will ______________________________________
“Keeping your body healthy is an expression of gratitude to the whole cosmos- the trees, the clouds, everything.” — Thich Nhat Hanh
Kirsten Pabst chairs NDAA’s Well-being Task Force and serves as the County Attorney for Missoula County, Montana.