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The 8 Pillars of Wellness and Health- The New Dharma?

8 pillars of wellness

These 8 dimensions, also known as the 8 Pillars of Wellness offer an invaluable, forward thinking model and map to becoming a flourishing, productive and well person. Too many people assume that whenever they’re not ill, they’re healthy. We do yoga or meditation, eat well, and all seems just fine, but we feel that there are still some unfulfilled gaps and blind-spots. This giant carbon footprint, me-generation, speed based, competitive capitalism is hardly sustainable, and if we are honest, many will say that our modern life didn’t really make us happy. It is indeed a challenge now to “self actualize” while many of us are home-bound, but it’s a great time to reflect on our lives and goals, what has been working, and what hasn’t. I believe this holistic, whole person approach to well-being and wellness must be considered and implemented. Even with the inconsolable loss of life with our current pandemic, will get a chance to wake up, reset and restart our lives, with the hope of a much better way forward.

I have spent much of my life as a spiritual seeker, devoting my life to Tibetan Buddhist Dharma and a guru or two, but regretfully, haven’t seen that many really transformational, positive results in our community as a whole. What are we doing wrong? Were we using our meditation and mantra practice for credential, excess intellectualism and spiritual pride? Did we use our religion and practice as an existential escape to bear nothing more much than becoming self-righteous “slactivists?” I don’t mean to be so harsh, but I must ask, does it serve our best interest to retreat, repeat mantras and perform complex rituals all day, borrowed from Tibetan or Indian culture?

I thought that if I was a devoted student and trusted my guru, signed up for a tried and true ancient training, I’d have some spiritual insurance of success in this life, and indeed any possible “future lives.” No such luck… why? If it hasn’t been working, should I just do more and expect a different result? The older, feudal religious social structure of giving one’s power to an authoritarian guru in both the Buddhist and Yogic traditions is now being reconsidered by no less than the Dalai Lama himself.

There were many, many essential components missing in my training, that I believe are the cause of our collective stagnation. These forward-thinking pillars shed light on places that my training did not consider, and can become the basis for creating structurally healthy people and can be extended into engaged dharma, societal models as well. There are eight powerful and essential pillars of holistic wellness: physical, emotional, social, spiritual, intellectual, occupational, financial and environmental.

Physical

The absence or mitigation of illness is an integral part of well-being, but that’s only the beginning. To be physically healthful, a person should also ensure they are: stretching, walking, exercising, sleeping well and taking good care of our bodies. Nutrition is connected to physical well-being. A person’s nutrition should be customized based on their age, activity level, along with other factors, so we should meal plan carefully and even consider using supportive free apps for suggestions, consumption and recipes.  Sadly, the vast majority of adults don’t consume the recommended number of vegetables and fruits every day, nor correct dietary ratios, which may rob the body of nutrients and greatly effect our quality of life. Nourishment give our bodies the energy to function and are integral to our happiness, and should be a #1 priority. Try the free amazing app: MyFitnessPal.


Emotional

We all know all too well that life brings us unexpected and painful surprises, ups and down and inconsolable losses. Our fight or flight chemistry responds by flooding our brain with hormones which cause varied emotional responses, throughout our days, weeks, years and lifetime, right up until the last moment. Assessing, being connected to our emotions, allows us gain control over them can make life’s natural problems seem much smoother and endurable. People can access the powerful, transformative tools of a spiritual or yogic practice, grounding breath-work or mindfulness, while others prefer to journal, or share with friends and family. The more “in-sync” we are with ourselves, the greater we can cultivate our emotional intelligence or E.Q., and thus the potential for the happiest life possible. Many studies say that having a high E.Q. is more correlated to happiness and success, even more than one’s profession or education.


Intellectual

Engaging your brain is vital for good overall health. Many times, personal advancement and community activities are the best way to help keep your brain engaged and learning new things. It strengthens us to use critical thinking, stimulating curiosity, problem solving, and creativity. We can take online classes, many are free, debate, learn a new language, shut down the internet and read an interesting book. Intellectual well-being isn’t confined to a classroom, each moment is a growth and learning opportunity.


Social

Humans are social beings, akin to pack animals by nature and we generally flourish in community. We have an inborn desire to be part of a group and encircle ourselves with loving and supportive people who care for us. Social health is about forming positive relationships and dealing with conflict resolution fairly and productively, in personal, community and multi-societal relationships. Volunteer online, offer to be of service to others, just being there for a friend in need and listening is more powerful than we know.


Spiritual

Spiritual wellness is highly personal, cultural and means something different for everybody. Prayer, meditation and practicing mindfulness are a few common ways for someone to discover their sense of purpose. One of the reported most powerful, spiritually nutritive methods is to walk in nature, breathe fresh air and sunshine or at night, star gaze. This is sometimes called Nature or Forest Bathing. If you aren’t religious, how about hiking or gardening?


Financial

Zen and the Art of a Home Budget. For better or worse, financial health is an integral part of life. The first task is to really look at our money, what do we really need each month vs. what we make? What are our long term goals for retirement, school funds, property ownership? What can we do to save and be more secure? Shopping less, being happy in nature, spending time with family and friends, more simple cost free choices are often the most heartwarming. If we can save, we can begin to pay off any debt and feel protected within a spending budget, and this may do wonders for maintaining peace of mind and more of a balanced, stress-free life.


Occupational

What makes you want to wake each day? Indeed, our work can seem redundant and tedious at times, and not every job is glamorous, but we all find a helpful place as viable members of a healthy society doing what we are good at. We can set personal performance goals and ambitions, consider our job satisfaction, as well a feeling of belonging, meaning and purpose.


Environmental

We need a physical, healthy place to flourish. An environment might be homes, our neighborhood or our country. Environmental well-being means leading a lifestyle that values the relationship between ourselves, our community and the environment. We care for our world, clean our homes, create safe communities and schools. We can find ways to be harmony with the earth, recognize our impact on its environment, and promote practices like recycling, biking, gardening, and energy conservation that will sustain our resources.


How an individual approaches holistic health will vary by person, family or community. Nevertheless, most experts concur that the focusing on only one aspect like our meditation practice, or absence of sickness isn’t only what leads to a healthy, meaningful fulfilling life. I love the premise of the Kingdom of Bhutan, they measure the success of the nation not on commerce, capital, trade, or the GNP, but on Gross National Happiness.  Assessing the pillars that need attention and personalizing our health and life goals is the initial step toward mastering holistic wellness. As inconsolable as things are now with this pandemic and such a loss of life, I am hopeful and excited about what we can create in our future. We have the chance now, to envision true, modern spirituality, real dharma and a whole new way and healthier world for our children, posterity and indeed our earth.

 

Stay well and strong,

Dawn Boiani-Sandberg

Owner of Sakura Designs