February 17, 2019

Reflecting On The Dimensions of Wellness

Each year, my school runs a Wellness Day for its faculty and staff. The purpose of the day is to provide the team with an opportunity step back from the day-to-day routine of school life and focus on resting, recharging, and reconnecting with each other.

The day is typically organized in the following format:

We kick the day off with a whole-team breakfast which is organized by our social committee and served by our leadership team. After breakfast, we all sit in for a morning presentation (usually aligned to our school’s mission). The team then breaks off for two back-to-back activity sessions. The sessions have included everything from yoga, to outdoor activities, staff volleyball, massage sessions (we invite professionals to come in for this), knitting courses, art activities, cooking classes, and even personal reading time. At the end of the day, we all gather in the gym for a whole-team activity (this year we had a sweet drum circle going). After the final activity, a family at our school organizes a smoothie bar to help wrap the day up in fashion.

This year, I was asked to co-present a session on sustainability. As one of our major themes at school, sustainability is a topic that is talked about and felt throughout all aspects of our school’s reality. However, we hadn’t ever taken a look at it through the lens of health and wellness. Given the fact that this presentation would be delivered during the morning of this year’s Wellness Day, I thought it would be a great opportunity to look at the impact that sustainability of our people could have on our ability to serve our school’s community and fulfill its mission.

Before I go on here, I have to give a shoutout to my colleague, Danielle Delhaes, who worked with me on this presentation. Danielle - who is too busy being kind to our planet to have a Twitter or LinkedIn account I could link to - is an inspiration and incredible advocate for sustainable living.

Danielle’s idea was to link sustainability to health and wellness with the following driving question: “what can we learn about health when we look to Nature as a teacher?”

As a provocation to help spark the team’s thinking, Danielle then showed the following TED talk:

The link made at this point is that we are all interconnected; that in order for mother trees (or teachers) to be able to continue to give to their seedlings and communities in sustainable ways, they need to have. The seedlings depend on the mother trees’ health.

From there, it was my turn to lead the presentation. I began by reminding our team that the first of our school’s founding principles is “Health Must Come First”. Our founders were onto something and were probably aware that we cannot thrive without our health and wellness.

As Danielle’s shared in her intro, the Old English definition of health was “wholeness: a being whole, sound, or well”. But what does it mean to be well in the holistic sense of the word?

Although many of us physical educators know this, many people in the general population do not think of wellness as a multi-faceted construct. That is why I decided to present wellness as a collection of its dimensions

With the dimensions of wellness introduced, I let the team know that we were going to be doing a personal reflection that day with the help of a “Thrive Guide” booklet I prepared for them (side note: shout out to my teaching partner Emmanuelle for helping me fold 100+ booklets!)

By taking time to reflect on each dimension of wellness using a five-point scale, the objective was to identify dimensions of our own wellness that we may be sacrificing as we seek “thrivability” in regards to other dimensions.

Following the self-assessment section of the booklet, faculty and staff were invited to privately answer the following questions:

  1. Which dimension of wellness do you believe is hurting the most in your life?
  2. What are some factors that are contributing to you hurting in that dimension?
  3. What impact would an improvement of the quality of wellness in that dimension would have on the people you care about?
  4. What is one simple action you could take this week to create a positive impact in that dimension of your wellness?

Here’s the thing about personal reflection: it only works if you are willing to get real with it. Unless you are willing to face the things that you don’t want to face, unless you’re willing to get over wanting to sound/look good to others, unless you’re willing to get to the core of what is chewing away at you… then you can’t begin to heal. Naming things lets us then get to know them, knowing them helps us understanding them, and understanding them helps us grow.

So help others feel comfortable with getting real in their reflection, I decided to share my own reflection with the team. I won’t get into that here (maybe another time), but I will say that I’m glad that I did it. I think it gave others permission to be vulnerable and helped the group get to a place where they could be honest with themselves.

The last item in the booklet were two Post-Its on the final page. As shared in the booklet, one Post-It was meant for anonymously sharing a star: something people had done to experience success in a dimension of their wellness. The other post-it was for a stair: a question they had that had them feeling stuck in regards to a dimension in which they were hurting. I was amazed at what my colleagues shared and I will be creating resources in which I share their stars and attempt to answer (with the help of experts I have contacted within my network) some of the stairs questions they had. I’ll be sharing these resources with the team throughout the month of May, which is when we celebrate Health Month at my school.

The feedback I received after the presentation was overwhelmingly positive. I take presenting to teachers really seriously (especially when those teachers are also my friends) and I’m so happy that the presentation and reflection exercise served them well.

Although the presentation and reflection exercise might be advanced for my elementary students, I couldn’t help but wish that I could share it with the high school students I used to teach. I wish that those kids could grow up with the understanding that wellness is a multi-dimensional construct, that true wellness requires a holistic approach, and that - by focusing on our own wellness - we can continue to help others thrive.

I don’t teach high school anymore, but I know a lot of you do. If you’d like to run this kind of session with you students (or your faculty, or your family), I created a Dimensions of Wellness Poster that you can display in your gym/classroom to help them understand the different facets of wellness.

Also, I’m making the 11”x17” Wellness Thrive Guide Booklet PDF available in the download package so that you can use it with your students to guide their reflection. You can access for free here:

Download Wellness Dimension Reflection Kit

I also made a quick video that you can use to help you (or, if you’re smart, your students) fold the booklet since I think my teaching partner will kill me if I ask her to fold any more of these things!

I hope that this activity and its resources serve you well.

Thanks for reading and happy teaching!

Joey Feith
Joey Feith is a physical education teacher based out of Nova Scotia and the founder of
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