Wellness: A Theory You Didn't Know You Knew

Written By Alaina Cyr

Editor’s note: On May 9, ELLICSR hosted For Me With Me: A Forum for People Affected by Cancer. We invited people who’ve been impacted by cancer to come share their experience, learn from others what helped them, and work with us to begin to revolutionize the cancer experience. Late in the morning, we broke into smaller groups to share experiences and build a toolkit to help others. ELLICSR bloggers sat in on each session. Here’s what they experienced.

“What healthy lifestyle choices have you made?” Nazek asked to kick off the group discussion. Together we hoped to discover what a “healthy lifestyle” meant to people who’ve had a cancer diagnosis in their lifetime or within their family.

The first few comments were about changing eating habits and getting more exercise. And that’s where I’d expected we’d stay for most of the breakout session. Very quickly, though, the conversation moved in a completely different direction and didn’t turn back. It was almost as if the people had to acknowledge these factors, but they wanted to talk about other things. “Yes, yes. Eating healthy foods and spending time being active are important parts of being healthy. But now that we’ve mentioned those, let’s spend the rest of the hour talking about the other things that matter.”

They talked about art, meditation, and making time for personal priorities over the priorities of others. They talked about connecting with nature, noticing and even appreciating the world around them, and finding reasons to laugh, even on the toughest days.

Image of artwork with healthy living messages
Some of the healthy lifestyle choices shared by participants at For Me With Me.

It wasn’t until I sat down to write this post that I realized that, at least to the people at the table that day, a “healthy lifestyle” was about embracing the Six Dimensions of Wellness, a model I was introduced to while studying Wellness & Health Promotion at Centennial College. Wellness is the process of becoming aware of and making choices toward a more successful existence. The Six Dimensions of Wellness model states that there are 6 inter-connected dimensions that play a part in one’s wellness.

Everything mentioned by the participants in the breakout session matched up with one of the six dimensions:

  1. Social: Several people mentioned taking steps to have better relationships by spending more time with the people who made them feel good and cutting back the time they spent with those who didn’t. According to the Six Dimensions of Wellness, social wellness is about recognizing the importance of positive personal relationships. 
  2. Intellectual: When the group talked about learning new hobbies or activities that were personally rewarding to them, even if they’d never become professionals, they were choosing to improve their intellectual wellness. Intellectual Wellness explores challenging your mind with creative projects and pursuing personal interests. 
  3. Spiritual: Some discovered a newfound appreciation for the changing seasons and paying attention to the things they used to take for granted. By doing so, they were boosting their Spiritual Wellness. Spiritual Wellness involves having a greater appreciation for life and the world around you, and when your actions are in alignment with your personal beliefs and values. 
  4. Emotional: Some people had learned to let out their feelings and not keep things bottled up for the sake of looking strong. Those who had trouble with finding words found that art (like painting) could help them. Being aware and accepting the feelings you and others have describes strong Emotional Wellness. 
  5. Occupational: By learning to say “no” to the responsibilities that would cause them more stress and letting others take on responsibilities and not letting it bother them when they weren’t done “right”, people took actions to improve their occupational wellness. Occupational Wellness is about finding work that is meaningful and rewarding. 
  6. Physical: Choosing to eat a variety of foods in moderation and pushing their fitness routine a little harder deals with their physical wellness. Physical Wellness is about understanding and appreciating the relationship between what you eat and do, and how your body performs.

Despite experiencing the difficulties that go with a cancer diagnosis, the people around the table each expressed things (and illustrated them on pages in a book) that made me understand just how well they were.



The Six Dimensions of Wellness, National Wellness Institute.