Officially recognized by the World Health Organization as a positive dimension of mental health, wellness refers to a "state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity". In order to understand wellness as a construct, the following definitions are extremely useful.

"Wellness is an active process of becoming aware of and making choices toward a healthy and fulfilling life. It is a dynamic process of change and growth" (University of California, Student Health and Counseling Services).

"Wellness is a conscious, self-directed and evolving process of achieving full potential" (The National Wellness Institute).

Dimensions of Wellness

As a psychological construct designed to further of understanding of optimal mental health, wellness is comprised of multiple mutually interdependent dimensions, the most commonly cited and researched of which are:

The physical dimension of wellness

Physical Wellness: A conscious effort to take care of your body. The physical dimension of wellness concerns how one can engineer and maintain a flourishing lifestyle by adopting a series of healthy habit routines; e.g. balanced diet, sufficient sleep, medical checks, regular exercise. Seeking to challenge, minimize and ideally avoid addictive behaviors e.g. excessive alcohol consumption and drug use is also a key aspect of the physical dimension of wellness.  

The Intellectual Dimension of Wellness

Intellectual Wellness: A conscious effort to engage in cognitively stimulating activity. Learning for learning's sake, exploring your curiosity, critial thinking, objective reasoning, sharing your passion and knowledge, are all key attributes of the intellectual dimension of wellness.

The Financial Dimension of Wellness

Financial Wellness: A conscious effort to understand that your financial standing, values and needs are unique and have to be managed accordingly. Cultivating an informed relationship with your money, living within your means, prudent financial planning and preparedness all reside within the financial dimension of wellness.

The Social Dimension of Wellness

Social Wellness: A conscious effort to positively connect and engage with those around you. Enriching the relationships you have with family, friends, colleagues and neighbors by taking a mindful and active interest in the lives of others is a fundamental tenet of social wellness.

The Environmental Dimension of Wellness

Environmental Wellness: A conscious effort to understand the ways in which environmental factors affect health and well-being. An appreciation of the unequivocal scientific evidence for climate change and global warming combined with an awareness of how our own actions impact the health of the planet are integral aspects of the dimension of environmental wellness.

The Vocational Dimension of Wellness

Vocational Wellness: A conscious effort to derive personal satisfaction and intrinsic motivation from your work. Identifying rewarding and meaningful work skills, roles and personal development opportunities is at the heart of the vocational dimension of wellness.

The Spiritual Dimension of Wellness

Spiritual Wellness: A conscious effort to find meaning and purpose in life. Not necessarily connected to belief in a higher being, the practice of self-reflection, gratitude and a willingness to display unconditional compassion are central to the spiritual dimension of wellness. 

The Emotional Dimension of Wellness

Emotional Wellness: A conscious effort to understand the affective nature of your feelings, attitudes and behavior. Seeking ways to cope with stress, enhance relationships, elevate self-esteem, foster self-acceptance and knowing when to seek and ask for help are all major components of the emotional dimension of wellness. 

It's important to note that while there may be some debate surrounding the number of dimensions of wellness and the relative importance of each as regards an overall measure of positive mental health, there is general consensus that the nature and process of change required to facilitate wellness is highly individualistic.

"Attention must be given to all the dimensions, as neglect of any one over time will adversely affect the others, and ultimately one’s health, well-being, and quality of life. They do not, however, have to be equally balanced. We should aim, instead, to strive for a "personal harmony" that feels most authentic to us. We naturally have our own priorities, approaches, and aspirations, including our own views of what it means to live life fully." (Stoewen D. L. (2017). Dimensions of wellness: Change your habits, change your life. Can Vet J., 58(8), 861–862).

Executive Wellness

The study and practice of wellness has been explored and examined among various subgroups, law enforcement, elite sport, students, air traffic controllers etc; however, it is executive wellness which has arguably received the most attention in recent years. Motivated largely in part by the findings of major studies, most notably, 

  • The IBM CEO study, that interviewed 1,500 CEO’s and uncovered huge levels of emotional vulnerability. 

  • A Stanford Graduate School of Business, executive coaching survey report that found while nearly 100% of CEOs questioned saw the value of executive coaching and stated being receptive to making changes based on feedback; 66% of them never received any advice from an outside consultant or coach.

  • A Harvard Business Review reporting that 61% of executives felt unprepared for the strategic challenges they face having being appointed to a senior leadership role.

The overriding message to come out research into executive wellness is that it is very often 'lonely at the top' and that success, position and high performance offer no discernible protection against stress, burnout, addiction, family dysfunction etc, and conversely in no way guarantee happiness and a life well lived.

So why do so many C-level executives struggle to engage with the process of change and growth associated with wellness? A major reason is the flawed assumption that corporate achievers and leaders by virtue of their rise to the top must by default have already harnessed the positive dimensions of wellness. As Jason Saltzman noted in an article he wrote for Fast Company, titled 'CEOs and entrepreneurs, we need to talk about your mental health'.

 "I don’t have any superpowers. I’m a regular human being that goes through ups and downs like anyone else. But I’m also an entrepreneur and a CEO, which means people around me tend to put me in a category above themselves."

With this in mind, it's worth suggesting that of all the dimensions of wellness outlined above, emotional wellness is the one that C-level executives need to pursue more than any other.

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