Dimensions of Wellness

The wellness movement in the U.S., as well as the use of the term in our everyday language, can be traced to the publication in 1961 of a book by Dr. Halbert L. Dunn, M.D., entitled, High Level Wellness. In it he described a glowing, natural state of well-being in which you are “alive clear to the tips of your fingers. You have energy to burn. You tingle with vitality. At times like these, the world is a glorious place.” He described the interconnections between body, mind and spirit, explained how health is more than the absence of illness, and stressed the importance of finding personal satisfactions and a sense of purpose in life. The special name that Dr. Dunn gave to this state of well-being was “wellness.”

In subsequent years, dimensions of wellness were identified by various individuals and groups working to promote the concept of wellness. The early dimensions have been revised to the following, which are widely accepted today:

  • PHYSICAL – exercising, eating a balanced diet, practicing safe driving and medical self-care; avoiding the use of tobacco, drugs, and excessive alcohol consumption.
  • SOCIAL – developing satisfying relationships with your partner, your family, your friends and associates; being active in community affairs; contributing to protect the environment by conserving and recycling; interacting harmoniously with people and the earth.
  • EMOTIONAL – being able to recognize and accept your feelings, your strengths and your limitations; managing your emotions and coping with stressful events; being able to experience life’s ups and downs with enthusiasm and grace and maintaining satisfying relationships with others.
  • INTELLECTUAL – feeling creatively and mentally challenged: continually seeking to expand your knowledge and skills; using available resources to expand knowledge, improve skills and to increase the potential for sharing with others.
  • SPIRITUAL – appreciating the meaning of life and the expanse of nature; finding peace with your place in the universe; developing a set of beliefs and values that give purpose to our life; having a strong sense of personal values and ethics.
  • OCCUPATIONAL – finding satisfying work; a balance between work and leisure; enjoying responsibilities and challenges; having positive attitudes about work.
    (Bill Hettler, M.D., 1979)

You can see from the above description that the current Allegheny College Student Affairs Mission Statement clearly reflects the concept of wellness:

Members of the division of Student Affairs work to enhance and supplement curricular learning and student development in collaboration with students, faculty and other administrators. We foster the intellectual, physical, spiritual, emotional, social and professional development of students by offering a full range of programs, support services, and experiential opportunities. Through individual attention and community building we encourage students to create a campus environment that respects difference and values the voices of others.