The Ecosystem of Health in the Wellness Portfolio.
The Wellness Portfolio
Life University’s Wellness Portfolio focuses on six aspects of health: physical, emotional, social, intellectual, spiritual and environmental.
By Stephen Bolles, D.C.
Over the past six issues of TCL, we have presented thoughts and ideas that are part of Life University’s Wellness Portfolio (WP). The WP is a kind of ‘container’ for services, information and developed products related to a vitalistically based orientation toward growth, development, health and repair.
Life has developed a model of health that acknowledges the existence of six distinct but interconnected domains: physical health, emotional health, social health, intellectual health, spiritual health and environmental health. This model allows us to examine beliefs, philosophies, practices, options, sources of support and links to overlapping aspects of individual and community health. The separation of the six domains is somewhat artificial, in that healthy (and unhealthy) practices in one domain of health have extensive ‘spillover’ effects on well-being in other domains. For example, if I begin to improve my physical exercise regimen, I will almost certainly enjoy improved circulation which leads to increased oxygen supply, clearer thinking, improved mood and so on. Conversely, if I meditate on my spiritual health or pray in a religious structure I find deep meaning within, the peace and centeredness that comes from these practices improves my sense of place, my relationship with my body, relationships with other people—and so it goes. Health is a state with multiple dimensions, aspects and opportunities for focus as we seek optimal health and performance within our individually expressed ‘innate intelligence of being.’ As such, we have sought to put six ‘faces’ on the dimensions of health in the following stories.
In our examination of physical health, “Fitness Has A Voice in Life’s Wellness Portfolio,” we discussed the diversity of physical health as it’s expressed in each and every individual. Setting appropriate goals for improving physical health really depends on how well we listen to what our bodies want to do and improve on. Optimal physical health is not a set of performance benchmarks, but rather a way of viewing our understanding of the amount and types of movement our bodies need as they relate to our function.
In our consideration of emotional health, “Reforming Health Through The Wellness Portfolio,” we considered the concept of emotional intelligence, the idea that there is a distinct level of comprehension and effectiveness as evidenced through the level of accomplishment (maturity) of our emotions. Emotional health is an expression of maturity through how effectively we work with our emotions as the language of our bodies, as well as the level of maturity we exhibit in our emotional interactions with others.
When we talked about social health in “The ‘We’ of Life’s Wellness Portfolio,” we considered the complexity of the social webs in which we all live and interact—multiple webs for most of us as we have work lives, home lives and social lives—which are sometimes very distinct from one another. Social health is expressed in part by the degree to which we add depth, maturity and consistency to the various social relationships we create and nurture in our lives.
Thinking about intellectual health in “The Mind Knows No Boundaries in the Wellness Portfolio” led us through considerations of the mind, the intellect, and the roles information and sensation play in stimulating strategies for assimilating and understanding our relationship to the world we inhabit. Intellectual health is optimized when we continue to challenge our abilities and capacity to learn new information and connect it with what we’ve already learned.
Our review of spiritual health in “The Spirit Moves You in the Wellness Portfolio!” sought to highlight the distinction between spirituality as a core healthful practice and religion as a structure for expressing it. Optimal spiritual health is, in a sense, proportional to our examination and articulation of our sense of place in the cosmos, a way of placing ourselves, if you will, in the organization and intelligence expressed all around us beyond Earth’s boundaries—and beyond the boundaries of our conscious experience and understanding. It is a map of the ineffable.
And our exploration of environmental health in “Relationships Seen and Unseen in the Wellness Portfolio” attempted to help us remember that we operate in a complex ecology of actions and effects. The seemingly smallest act of flipping on a light switch can have substantial, unintended consequences—and the opportunity exists, as we seek greater environmental health, to remember and understand some measure of what those consequences create.
These six domains of health provide a different way of looking at our health from a variety of angles—a set of vectors that offer a kind of holistic map of how our innate intelligence expresses direction and our accomplishments in life. It also is a way of divining where there are areas of growth, areas where we can increasingly optimize our performance as we align our ideas, thoughts, intent and actions with the clearest sense we can have of what that intelligence is directing us to do.
It is also a way of considering a kind of ecology of being. As multidimensional beings, we create, carry and use a kind of living ecology that holds all the connections within and without us. This ecology, much as one we might consider in nature, seeks to explain five areas of inquiry, as outlined by Ernst Haeckel (1834-1919):
- Life processes and adaptations;
- The distribution and abundance of organisms;
- The movement of materials and energy through living communities;
- The successional development of ecosystems, and;
- The abundance and distribution of biodiversity in context of the environment.
These areas also map well to health in vitalistic terms. Put somewhat differently, our health is an ecology through which we seek to optimize our lives:
- The processes of growth, development, adaptation and repair;
- The degree of diversity in our connections to what we see and cannot see;
- How efficiently we maintain our connections to and our understanding of our deepest sources of life, living and direction;
- Whom and what we develop that enhance the life we live beyond our active participation; and
- The degree of personal equilibrium created by the diversity of expression of our innate intelligence.
It really forces us to reflect on how limiting the term ‘health’ is in considering even a fraction of the opportunities and implications of manifesting our potential, and the responsibilities in guiding others towards their own.
It also is a good way to capture the opportunities for us as doctors of chiropractic at a time when health care reform is so badly needed and being so poorly executed.
Consider this: How often do you see someone in your office consulting with you on his or her health as representing an ecology—a complex system seeking optimal integration in how it operates in its environment? How effectively do you see the manifestations of any symptomatology or objective clinical signs of subluxation or other reactions or adaptations across the multiple domains of health in someone’s life? What are the effects of an irritated nerve on someone’s spiritual health? What are the consequences of an unhappy relationship on someone’s ability to get up out of a chair?
These questions sure show up the limitations of SOAP notes in a patient’s chart!
Yet it is in these and similar considerations that doctors of chiropractic can make a meaningful and perhaps more lasting contribution to the health of our patients and the health of the system they operate in—the health care system that is under such strain, and which collectively supports our country’s health so poorly.
For while it is true that our patients seem isolated and distinct as they sit there in the office, they in fact are operating in their own very complex ecologies, as well as being part of the larger ecology of health care. There are very real effects to that reality, and many are not considered, perceived or understood by those who come in our doors.
It is perhaps an essential aspect of our role as a source of expert guidance and counsel that we spend time helping our patients understand how to more effectively operate in that ecology, and to more optimally express their degree of health within the toxic, dysfunctional system at large.
What, then, might be a helpful and practical way to frame this for our patients, family, friends—and ourselves? Perhaps reframing the five areas of inquiry as parameters of a personal ecology for when we deal with our patients might look something like this:
Where are we conscious of our own processes and patterns of growth, development, adaptation and repair? The answers to this (and where we discover we are not conscious of them) can help us understand where our expression of innate intelligence is optimal and where it can benefit from further support.
To what degree are we mindful of the diversity of connections we have created in our lives, and how intentional are we in our cultivation and maintenance of them? The answers to this can help identify where we consciously attend to the lives we have created—and also unconsciously let areas go fallow, diminishing us at the same time as we cultivate others.
How clearly do we maintain and honor our intent to keep open the channel to our source? The answers to this can help identify how much impedance we impose on that most important source of communication, information and of our very life source.
How well do we contribute to life? The values of giving, loving and serving—and to do so all out of a sense of abundance—speak not simply of a generosity of spirit, but also of a sense of responsibility to materially improve the lives of those around us.
And finally, how balanced is our lifestyle across all six domains of health? There is a personal equilibrium, a kind of harmonious energetic balance, that is possible to achieve when we see all six dimensions of health as not simply important, but active in our lives. The equilibrium that comes from these efforts has profound effects in our own lives and the ecosystem in which we operate.
It is perhaps in the consideration of these questions that one of the most important achievements and contributions of chiropractic can really be explored and expressed. It is doubtful that any one our patients visit commonly see these truths, value these connections, and hold the responsibility of optimizing the expression of innate intelligence as articulately and clearly as Doctors of Chiropractic.
Now it is up to us to use these dimensions of health, these concepts in the Wellness Portfolio, as a vehicle to greater contribution, success and reward!