There are so many aspects of living a healthy life we hear about nowadays. Should we start a paleo diet or an intense workout program with a personal trainer? Maybe we should pay for a diet plan with prepackaged meals or go gluten/dairy free. There is so much information on the news, the internet and in books about the best thing you should be doing for your health. So, what is that one thing?
Truth be told there really are many things we can and should be doing to live a healthy life. Being still relatively close to the new year and because of a recent life event I have been thinking a lot about well being and change. What does it mean to be healthy, or have healthy lifestyle? I think part of the answer to this question is in the phrase “live life to the fullest.” We’ve probably all heard this phrase before and it will mean something a little different to each individual. To me it means living life in a way that allows me to be truly happy and able. Delving more into the meaning of that phrase and my answer would be too long for this post, so for now I will leave it at that.
Thinking along this path has led me to think of a class in college I took that touched on the 5 dimensions of wellness. The 5 dimensions of wellness are 5 areas that make up a person’s wellness and all 5 areas need to be nurtured. Usually I would suspect a tendency for a person to focus on 3 or 4 areas and neglect 1 or 2 areas. These 5 dimensions should be within a balance.
The 5 dimensions are: Emotional, Physical, Spiritual, Social, and Intellectual
Well that seems like a lofty goal, right? I mean we only have so much time in the day and we are all so busy. Sometimes I don’t know how people get anything done, and I find myself struggling to juggle going to the gym, work, and doing the dishes! But like I mentioned earlier change was one thing I’ve been thinking about a lot lately and setting goals is one way we can start to change. So…. I’m going to be making one goal in each of these areas over the next several weeks and letting you all know about my experience.
Turning the pages of history back to a little wisdom from a Greek physician can give some guidance when starting on this 5 dimension journey. I say journey because life is a journey. It is an adventure where the destination is important, but it is just as important to find happiness in the journey and joy in the small moments. The Greek physician whose wisdom I want to lean on for a minute is Hippocrates.
“Walking is man’s best medicine.” Hippocrates (460 BC 375 BC).
I think that is a genius phrase! Hippocrates was a lot smarter than me and this may not be what he meant by that phrase, but I think it still holds truth. Walking is medicine. It’s not just medicine but it is the BEST medicine. Thinking of health and disease, we all know walking is great for you! But what about our 5 dimensions.
When I go walking many times I will go to the park a few blocks from my house and walk around the sidewalk. It’s a fairly big park and the sidewalk path is around 3/4 of a mile. Many times my husband may come walking with me, sometimes I will wear my headphones and listen to music, and occasionally I will meet a friend there for a walk. I’m not a huge fan of running, which means my time at the park is almost always spent walking this path and I feel lucky to have a park so close to my home. These moments spent at the park are freeing for me. It provides me with a release, sunshine, conversation, a little exercise, meditation, and sometimes musical enjoyment. The walks I relish the most however, are the walks I have gotten to take by myself in quieter areas. I’ve lived in the country for most of my life and getting to walk down dirt roads next to canals, or fields and the occasional walks I’ve gotten to take in the mountains, through trees, or next to the river or lake in the evening have always left me feeling complete. There is just something about being in the great outdoors.
Walking is medicine to me, and medicine is healing. The world is so loud sometimes a little quiet solitude is good for the soul. Walking I think can be applied directly to all 5 dimensions of wellness, and is a great place to start if you aren’t sure where to. Lets take a look for a second at how it can apply to all 5 dimensions.
Dimension 1: Emotional
I like to think of emotional wellness as interchangeable with mental wellness. Emotional wellness means that you are in touch with your feelings and understand and work through them. It also involves your self esteem, optimism, and other aspects of mental health. That’s why emotional/mental is what I think this one should really be called. Walking is so great for this dimension because it provides you with time to think. You have to give yourself time to think through feelings and sometimes a quiet walk is a great way to do that. Being outside and getting some exercise will also help you fill up on endorphins and vitamin D.
Dimension 2: Physical
Physical wellness involves more than exercise; it is also nutrition, doctor checkups, and sleep habits. Walking is exercise! Not only is brisk walking great for you, it’s not very high impact and it is something you can enjoy with friends and family members. It is one of the most accessible types of exercise. You don’t need a gym membership for a walk around the block. You don’t even have to put on gym clothes, just change into your tennis shoes. Getting in that little bit of exercise will not only lead to overall health benefits but can also help you get better sleep. I know I sleep better when I’ve been exercising.
Dimension 3: Spiritual
Spiritual wellness involves religious faith, values, morals, ethics, and purpose. No matter what you believe in walking allows time for meditation and reflection. I’m a christian and for me walking is a great time to appreciate the beauty of God’s creations. We live in a beautiful world full of natural wonders and I think it is important to take time to appreciate those things. An early morning walk (in a safe area) to watch the sunrise can do wonders for the soul.
Dimension 4: Social
Social wellness is all about relationships. These relationships can be with family, friends, coworkers, and business relationships. It is all about being able to interact with people. When you don’t walk alone, who do you walk with? You walk with friends, family and acquaintances! Spending some time with these people allows you to bond and form friendships. Walking is a perfect time to work on your relationships or on social wellness goals. Also most people won’t turn down a walk as fast as they will turn down an invitation to go on a run. So, invite a friend for a walk today.
Dimension 5: Intellectual
Intellectual wellness has it’s base in knowledge. It is the openness to new ideas, curiosity, discovery, and growth. When you put on those walking shoes, pull back your hair, and put in those ear buds, instead of listening to the new hottest pop song, listen to an e-book. The accessibility we have to knowledge is ridiculous. And by ridiculous I mean amazing! There are so many journals, biographies, classic literature, news articles, and uplifting orations literally at our fingertips. This next walk listen to a book, or talk over current events with a friend.
Walking is medicine guys. It is easy, fun and allows you to work on a little self improvement. It is great for the soul. In the words of our friend Hippocrates, “Walking is man’s best medicine.”
A list of some of the cites I looked at when writing this post.