What comes to mind when you think of wellness? We often think of a mind-body connection: exercise, rest, meditation, and types of self-care that help reduce stress and promote a feeling of peace and harmony. There are even more paths to achieve a sense of well-being than we might immediately identify, however. In this month’s blog we explore the Urbana Park District’s inclusive Wellness Wheel, and some of their recent and upcoming programs that provide opportunities for everyone to reach their wellness goals.
What is the Wellness Wheel?
This approach looks at wellness as an entity containing interconnected aspects of our lives. Rather than just a list of the different ways we can achieve a sense of well-being, picturing the issue as a wheel helps us see how these eight elements all touch on each other at some point. Achieving wellness is not a linear step-by-step progression: instead, it is a rotating process where we tend to different areas of our lives as it spins, and to keep it spinning smoothly, we cannot put all of our efforts into just one area.
The eight dimensions of the Wellness Wheel include the following:
- physical wellness: incorporating regular movement, a nutritious diet, enough sleep, and safe behaviors into our everyday routines
- intellectual wellness: seeking to expand knowledge, skills, and creative abilities
- emotional wellness: fostering a positive attitude and the ability to identify and express feelings in a fitting manner
- spiritual wellness: expanding one’s sense of purpose and meaning in life based on a core set of values and beliefs
- environmental wellness: committed effort toward sustaining the Earth’s natural surroundings
- financial wellness: making responsible decisions to live within one’s means and setting financial goals today that will positively impact the future
- occupational wellness: engaging in work that is meaningful, enjoyable, and aligns with personal values
- social wellness: establishing a sense of connection and belonging through positive interpersonal relationships
The Wellness Wheel and Urbana parks
We sat down with Elsie Hedgspeth, Outreach and Wellness Manager for the Urbana Park District, to learn about some of the ways the UPD has incorporated the Wellness Wheel into their programming.
These programs that approach wellness from so many different angles offer some really great variety in programming. What inspired the UPD to branch out into these different areas of wellness that people might not immediately associate with parks?
“UPD was inspired to branch out for several reasons. We were embarking on the first steps of our strategic planning process and we knew we wanted ‘Health & Wellness’ to be a main emphasis of that plan. We were also hopeful that a new facility focusing on health & wellness was in UPD’s future. The district was already running a robust fitness schedule of over 50 classes per week and wanted to expand our offerings to encompass more than solely physical wellness. We were confident in our ability to offer a variety of wellness programs that were recreational in nature. It doesn’t matter how physically well or fit you are if your mental/emotional state is lacking or your finances are in shambles. All dimensions of wellness are intertwined.”
What impact have you noticed so far from these types of programs?
“We have been able to form new connections and partnerships as a result of our commitment to expanding our wellness programs. It has been a highlight of my position over the past 3 years to seek out new partnerships to offer programming within the 8 dimensions of wellness. For example, we developed new partnerships with the University of Illinois Extension to offer our financial wellness workshops, and we fostered existing partnerships with Urbana Free Library to offer our intellectual wellness workshops. I have noticed a great deal of staff buy in on this new initiative as well because our staff has been able to lend their own talents to assist with this programming. Below are a few examples of how staff have lent their talents to offering workshops for us throughout different dimensions of wellness:
- Savannah Donovan (Environmental Program Coordinator) offered Forest Bathing workshops for environmental wellness
- Niki Hoesman (Community Program Coordinator) offered Resume, Cover Letter, and Interview workshops for occupational wellness
- Jacob Johnston (Community Program & Engagement Coordinator) offered a Wellness Wearables workshop for physical wellness
- Ashley Dennis (Outreach & Wellness Coordinator) offered The Science of Sleep workshop for physical wellness
I am excited to continue to seek and find new partnerships and opportunities for this creative programming. It truly has allowed our staff and district to expand their creativity! Personally, I would love to partner with a local artist to offer a mandala workshop for spiritual wellness and partner with local social workers or therapists for conflict resolution workshops for emotional wellness in coming seasons.”
What kind of community response have you seen so far to this variety of wellness programs? Do you feel that they are bringing in new participants to UPD programming?
“The community has been receptive to this programming thus far. Our ability to form successful partnerships to offer some of this programming has allowed us to expand our audience. For example, our Brain Teasers and Treats game nights for intellectual wellness that we have done in partnership with Urbana Free Library have allowed us to combine our normal audience with new participants who were Urbana Free Library participants. Overall, patrons are eager to see what wellness programs we are offering each season!”
Tell me a little about programs you have been most excited about so far. Going forward, what do you anticipate needing to build up to expand?
“I have been the most excited about creative new collaborations because of our wellness workshops. Some of my personal favorite workshops have been:
- The Science of Sleep (physical wellness) done by myself, Ashley Dennis, and Jacob Johnson
- Desk to Downward Dog (physical and occupational wellness) done by local yoga instructor Jodi Adams
- Candlelight Concentration (physical, emotional, and spiritual wellness) done by local yoga instructor Jodi Adams
- Sip, Savor, and Science (physical and intellectual wellness) done by local registered dietician Leia Flure
Moving forward, we are continually looking to expand our bank of program leaders/partners to keep our wellness programming fresh, fun, and relevant.”
To learn more, visit the Urbana Park District website for news on upcoming wellness programming.
Additionally, learn how the Urbana Park District is working with the Urbana Parks Foundation to build a comprehensive indoor health and wellness facility at https://www.urbanaparksfoundation.org/campaign/. Together, we are eager to share our project plans with you as we embark on this amazing opportunity to improve personal health and wellness outcomes today and for generations to come.