The 7 aspects of wellbeing: What are they and how can you protect them?

Photo of three fitness instructors sitting cross-legged on the ground with their eyes closed performing meditation in an indoor fitness studio.

What does the word wellbeing mean, and how would you define it?

At UW-Madison, rather than using one brief definition, we define wellbeing by recognizing seven aspects: health, meaning, safety, connection, achievement, growth, and resiliency. These seven aspects are all components that factor into a person’s overall ability to flourish in their own environment.

We believe that every individual has a unique definition of what wellbeing means to them, and may find certain aspects to be more important than others. Also, that definition can evolve. Your own sense of wellbeing may look different today than how it looked a few months ago.

Whatever your own definition, it’s important to think about how you can protect your own seven aspects of wellbeing, especially during the pandemic.

Protecting your health: Beyond the absence of physical illness, health is a feeling of strength and energy from your body and mind. The most obvious way to protect your health right now is to physically distance yourself from others. No matter where you are, be sure to adhere to government guidelines about how to safely practice physical distancing.

You can also support your body by hydrating and staying physically active, taking some time to meditate, and eating nutritious foods as best as you can. If you’re looking for tips and tricks about how to move and fuel your body, check out some of our other recent blog posts.

Make sure to pay attention to your mental health, too. It’s normal to feel sad, anxious, or confused right now. People all around the world are learning a new normal. Whether you’re on campus or not, UHS has mental health resources available to help you.

Finding new sources of meaning: We define meaning as the feeling that you are part of something bigger than yourself. Knowing that what you do matters, having purpose in life. No matter where you found meaning in your life before, right now we all can find a special sense of meaning in keeping each other safe. Practicing physical distancing and wearing masks are the best way to keep your community safe. Yes, just like they said in High School Musical, we’re all in this together.

Your sense of meaning in other parts of your life might change daily during this time, and that’s okay too. Be gentle with yourself and know that each day may not look the same as the last. Today you may find the most meaning in doing a craft or taking a nap, but tomorrow it might be cruising through a book, working, or spending time with a roommate. Do you, and lean into the things that give you a sense of meaning right now.

Prioritizing safety: Safety is knowing that you are safe physically, psychologically, and financially and also safe to express yourself and show vulnerability. If you don’t feel safe in your current situation, know that help is available.

If you don’t feel safe at home:

If you’re having trouble making ends meet or finding enough to eat:

Visit covid19.wisc.edu for the most updated information about resources for UW-Madison students, faculty, and staff.

Setting aside time for connection:  Connection is defined as experiencing positive, trusting relationships with others and feeling a sense of belonging, acceptance, and support. In this time, we have relied largely on virtual platforms to replace in-person connections that we have lost. On one hand, we are lucky to live in a world that can be constantly connected virtually, because then physical distancing doesn’t need to feel like social distancing. On the other hand, it’s totally okay if you’re feeling exhausted by constantly answering a call, FaceTime, or Zoom. It’s okay to take a step back. Allow yourself to find balance between virtual social interaction and allowing yourself to take time for solitude. Build that “you” time into your schedule to allow yourself a moment to breathe.

Celebrating achievement: Achievement is defined as having the support, autonomy, and resources to achieve your goals. Right now, the most important thing is to have grace with yourself and others. Plans have changed in the past few months, and if your trajectory isn’t exactly where you thought it would be a few months ago, be gentle with yourself; it’s normal and okay.

It’s also okay to be mourning the loss of a long-anticipated celebration of an achievement. Whether it’s a graduation or a thesis defense, you’re allowed to be disappointed that you lost your moment and you’re allowed to feel let down. When you feel ready, take time to celebrate those milestones.

Allowing for growth: At Rec Well, we define growth as progressing, learning, and being challenged to use and expand our strengths. Whether you feel you are growing right now or not, remember, we all are in a period of growth during these uncertain times. You are being pushed every day, and for that, you should give yourself a pat on the back.

Building resiliency: Resiliency is your ability to bounce forward, rather than backward, from a tough experience. Resiliency is a skill that you gain through life experiences. You might not have consciously thought about it yet, but you’re building resiliency every day through this experience with COVID-19. And, while we are all learning to be resilient during this time, some people may be experiencing especially difficult hardships. With that in mind, if you know a Badger in need, reach out and show your support if you’re able.

What’s next? Take a moment to reflect on your own definition of wellbeing. What does wellbeing mean to you and how can you contribute to your sense of wellbeing in the coming days and weeks?