We all throw around the words health and wellness but what do they really mean on an individual level? Is it about nutrition? Is it about exercise? Is it about mental health? Because it seems that with every person, we would have a different answer, I went back to the original source, to a man named Halbert Dunn. Dr. Dunn proposed in 1961 that wellness consisted of five key components…
After reading a little more, those components seemed to still be relevant. So thank you Dr. Dunn for your modest proposal about how wellness can be defined. After reading this list, it seemed these really fit with what we are trying to achieve at Teaching Well and could act as a great guide to keep our goals focused.
A Zest for Life
All teachers want to have a renewed excitement for their days, both inside and outside of the classroom. Our days bring about daily change and challenges. By having “zest” we have renewed energy and enthusiasm for the things that happen. We look at each day with anticipation and gratitude. We have full lives that include time for our work and time for our lives outside of school. We have hobbies and interests that bring us joy. We have relationships that fill our hearts. We take time for ourselves which gives us a taste peace and serenity.
A Way of Living that Maximizes Potential
This means we have created routines in our lives that help us get the most out of every opportunity. It doesn’t mean we have to be in persistent achieve-mode. It means that we maximize our own individual potential because we are all capable of vastly different things based on all of our individual gifts, talents, interests, and abilities. But the point is that we each need to create a “way of living” (i.e. daily/weekly/monthly routine) that will help us create a life of maximized potential. But this means in our whole life, not just focused on our classroom and our students. We want to learn how to share the wealth of our gifts!
A Sense of Meaning and Purpose
This seems like an easy box to check as teachers…but maybe that’s not always accurate. With the increasing rate of teacher dissatisfaction with jobs, perhaps we have lost our sense of meaning and purpose. This is where I will ask you to some introspection and get back to the basics of why you became a teacher? It was probably because you had a teacher who touched your life or you didn’t and wanted to be that teacher to someone else. Regardless of what it seems your meaning and purpose has morphed into over the years (disciplinarian, standardized test preparer, medication monitor), there was an originating reason you ended up in your classroom. This is what I encourage you to find your way back to. Find ways to renew that sense of meaning and purpose. If it’s always been about the students, find ways to build community with them. Find ways to create connections in your classroom. Just by having new intentions focused on your personal meaning and purpose, the dynamics of the classroom will change, without anything else changing one bit!
A Sense of Social Responsibility
Teaching provides us with a lot (perhaps too much) opportunity to feel a sense of social responsibility. Social responsibility is the obligation an individual or organization has to act for the benefit of society at large. So essentially being a teacher is a social responsibility. We are committed to teaching students so that they go out into the world and benefit society in a great way. So, if you are on social responsibility overload, it may time to take a step back and commit to creating a healthy balance of social responsibility. We can’t change anyone, we can only change ourselves. So by being role models for our students, taking care of ourselves, showing them how to live balanced lives, we are acting in the most socially responsible way possible!
Skills for Adapting to the Challenges of a Changing Environment
Wow, if teachers aren’t ones to experience the challenges of a changing environment, I don’t know who does?! This is another aspect that can take it’s toll on a teacher if he/she doesn’t have some routines in place to help stay grounded in this ever unpredictable environment of a classroom and school. When every day can bring the unexpected, how do we stay centered and not feel crazy at the end of each day? One thing that can help is to stay present with your students. This may sound completely counter intuitive, but really when we’re trying to avoid and ignore what’s happening in our room by checking our email, thinking about something else, or somewhere else, we lose ground about what is currently happening. It leaves us less able to respond to the changing environment we are immersed in. It leaves us less agile and responsive to the immediate needs of the classroom.
One really effective way to develop this skill for adapting to a challenging environment is participating in a consistent mindfulness practice. The definition of mindfulness is paying attention on purpose to the present situation without judgement. When we practice doing this when there are no distractions, we become better equipped to bring those skills to our classroom when we need to remain present, flexible, responsive and aware to whatever happens in our forever changing classroom.
So these five components of wellness are clearly applicable to people in general but in my thinking, teachers can benefit immensely by trying to develop them and put them into practice. Hang a little sign with the five components somewhere you will see them, do a check in once a week or once a month to make sure you are continuing to cultivate these concepts into your work and personal life.
If you haven’t already done so, consider signing up for the Teaching Well’s Twenty Minutes to Wellness. This is a free guide giving you a daily structure to support you on your journey to continued wellness in both your classroom and personal life. Also consider joining us on Facebook where we try to support each other in our wellness journey. Teachers supporting teachers is the best formula I have found to cultivate this in life and I hope that you will join us as we all support each other’s journey to wellness through Teaching Well!