Wellness and Environmental Stewardship
The following is a copy of the speech given to the honor society Phi
Theta Kappa on March 28, 2003, the evening they inducted new members. The
speech was written and delivered by Dr. Diane Resides.
Wellness and Student Success
Thank you. I am honored to be here today to share my thoughts about
wellness and student success. Congratulations to all of you for your
academic accomplishment. What a challenge to put into 15 minutes a topic
that could take days to discuss. At this time in our history when we
face uncertainty, we face conflicting values of materialism versus
environmentalism, and we are living longer, it seems imperative to think
about an improved quality of life. According to author Susan Witting
Albert, "To be whole and healthy, we must work with our hearts, not
just our hands and our heads. We must work for others, not just for
ourselves, for in the shrinking world of the future there will be little
room for individualism. Right livelihood is chosen thoughtfully,
mindfully, with a full understanding of our needs, the needs of those we
care for, and the needs of the earth."
I will begin by defining key terms and proceed with thoughts on
wellness and then end with a focus on society and what role we can play
to make this world a better place for all.
What is Success? I am looking at success from the perspective of
quality, not quantity. When one looks in the thesaurus for the word
success, you will come across words like achievement, thriving, arrival,
and noteworthy. Notice, none of these words denote money, riches, or
wealth. It is not how many possessions one has, how much money one has,
but rather one's quality of living that is important. Success will be
defined as attaining an improved quality of life for self, others, and
David Orr, an ecologist, states " The planet does not need more
successful people. But it does desperately need more peacemakers,
healers, restorers, storytellers, and lovers of every kind. It needs
people who live well in their places. It needs people of moral courage
willing to join the fight to make the world habitable and humane. And
these qualities have little to do with success as our culture defines
The following are Qualities of Wellness:
· committed to a cause outside oneself
· caring and loving and a support system for others
· have a clear sense of purpose and direction
· intellectually sharp
· able to accomplish lots of work
· able to live in and focus on the present
· ability to experience full range of emotions
· accepting one's limitations
· ability to take charge of one's life
The handout you received provides a model for personal wellness and a
sustainable society. To achieve personal wellness one needs to achieve a
balance in all the different dimensions of the model. I will review each
of the areas in a minute but first let me define the term wellness.
Wellness is a lifelong process of becoming more aware of and making
choices toward a more fulfilling life. It means engaging in behaviors
and attitudes that improve one's quality of life. There are many models
of wellness and I will draw largely on the wellness model espoused by
the National Wellness Institute. I am going to talk about two levels of
wellness - that is, personal wellness (the 7 interdependent parts that
influence and impact our overall quality of life) and societal wellness
(quality of life for all). I believe there is an interdependence between
individuals and society. In other words, our personal wellness
influences and impacts how we interact with society and society also
impacts our personal wellness. For example, if we pollute, it causes
damage to the Chesapeake Bay, decline of species, lack of good drinking
water, and in the same token, poor air quality can exacerbate illness
such as asthma and allergies.
Let's now take a look at each of the seven dimensions of personal
Social This means relationships with and care for others;
interacting with others from diverse backgrounds; interdependence one
has with others including those within and outside one's family. A 1995
national survey examined American's views on consumption, environment,
and values of society. 66% of those surveyed said, "if I was able to spend
more time with family and friends I would be more satisfied with my
life." Do it now. Don't wait. Take time to have fun and spend time with
those you care about and love.
Spiritual Striving for the meaning and purpose of one's life; a
sense of awareness and direction; and clarifying one's values. An
appreciation and understanding of the interconnectedness of life. In the
words of Clarissa Pinkola Estes, strength does not come after one climbs
the ladder or the mountain, nor after one "makes it." It is
attention to and devotion to the nature of soul that represents
quintessential strength. This strengthening, whether with words, prayer,
contemplations of various kinds, or by other means, comes from a
greatness that rests at the center of the psyche and yet is greater than
the whole of the psyche. Mindful meditation has been shown to be helpful
in treating or preventing medical illnesses. Take time out to meditate,
pray, practice yoga, spend time in nature, or whatever means you find
that helps you to be still and silent. Spend time in solitude.
Intellectual Obviously this is an area in which you have already
demonstrated strength. It means to be mentally active, develop critical
thinking skills, become a lifelong learner - have a zest for knowledge.
The challenges of the 21st century, such as war on terrorism, ever
widening gap between rich and poor, decline in natural resources, global
warming, etc., require us to be creative, innovative, flexible, to think
holistically, see things as interconnected. Learn to see patterns. It is
seeing the 3rd and 4th dimension of things as opposed to seeing things
two dimensionally. You may have heard the expression, "think
outside the box" - this is what is required to be successful in
today's workforce and to help solve today's challenges.
Occupational This means finding work that uses our talents and
strengths and provides personal satisfaction. I challenge you to choose
work that is your calling so to speak as opposed to finding a job. A job
is often taken for material gain, to earn one's keep, or a way to build
up our resume, to support a lifestyle that takes more than it gives
back. In contrast, a calling has more to do with finding work that fits
with ones' values, larger purpose, and the gift one wishes to give to
Physical This is the dimension of our wellness that is most
familiar and whether we spend time attending to it or not we usually
think about it. It means we need to exercise regularly, get adequate
sleep (i.e., 7-8 hours per day), eat food that is organically and
locally grown and nutritionally balanced. Take time to breathe. No,
seriously, yes, we all breathe but many of us don't practice proper
breathing, which helps to reduce stress and helps us to relax.
Emotional The ability to recognize, understand, and accept one's
feelings. Relates to our ability to understand other's emotions and
maintain intimate relationships with them. Our ability to adapt to
change and to cope with stressors. It is the element that includes how
positive and optimistic we are about life. When we are emotionally well
we experience a deep happiness within. Express your feelings either
through talking with others or writing down your feelings.
Environmental The quality of air, water, food, working conditions,
and personal safety. A healthy environment is key to success of our
future as a species.
S. J. Gould writes, "We cannot win this battle to save species and
environments without forging an emotional bond between ourselves and
nature as well - for we will not fight to save what we do not
love." We can help in small ways by recycling, cleaning up trash,
driving more environmentally friendly cars or better yet walking or
biking whenever it is safe to do so.
To put all these various dimensions together I will use the metaphor
of a kaleidoscope. If you've ever looked in a kaleidoscope you know that
there are many moving images and one twist of the kaleidoscope changes
the image. Liken that to your wellness; a change in one of the aspects
of yourself causes changes in the other areas. It is a challenge to
maintain a balance in all areas but necessary in order to maintain a
state of well being. It is through learning (i.e., gaining awareness of
self and resources, acquiring knowledge and skills) that one takes
responsibility and makes informed choices, which ultimately leads to
fulfillment of your educational and career goals and therefore, success
and improved quality of life.
I would like to turn now to societal wellness. For as Catherine
Bateson in the book, Composing a Life, states, "All the forms of
life we encounter - not only colleagues and neighbors, but other
species, other cultures, the planet itself - are similar to us and
similarly in need of nurture, but there is also a larger whole to which
we all belong. The health of that larger whole is essential to the
health of the parts. Our actions impact the wellness of society and much
the reverse the state of society impacts our individual wellness. How we
see the world shapes the world and this in turn shapes us."
In society, there is pressure/focus on materialism and individualism,
but there is a critical need for another way of living. That is, a way
that includes others, thinks about the impact on our communities, and
the larger world in the choices we make. For example, America comprises
only 4.5% of world's population but we consume 30% of world's resources.
We can all help to create a sustainable society. What do I mean by a
sustainable society? I mean one that meets the needs of the present
without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own
needs. It means meeting the well-being of people, nature, and the
economy over the long haul. A society in which there is a responsible
use of energy and consumption of food and where all people are treated
with respect and dignity. A sustainable society focuses more on quality
improvement than quantitative growth. It means using resources at a rate
that is equal to the rate of regenerating them. So, in order for us to
continue to live quality lives, we must care about our environment and
the world we live in.
Even though we may not think of this much, there are limits to
natural resources such as land and water. We need to think in terms of
"enough" versus always wanting more. It means we need to be
responsible stewards of the earth, caring for those around us, and the
environment. It means caring for the creatures around us…it should
matter to you that 11% of bird species are threatened with extinction
and 34% of fish species. One quarter of species are in danger of being
lost by the year 2025.
Why is this important? Why should we care about the environment and
nature? One example is the benefit of it. As noted in the American
Journal of Preventive Medicine, there are health benefits from walking
in the woods, working in our gardens, and petting our cats and dogs.
Contact with the wilderness can reduce stress and improve overall
Terry Gips, in his book Breaking the Pesticide Habit,
you really understand how nature works, and how cells function, you see
that there's a total connection between the health and wellness of
plants and the health and wellness of human beings, and health and
wellness of the environment. And the truth is that you look at things
from the standpoint of a cell, you have to go to the molecular level to
find any difference between the cell of a plant, of a person, or of
another animal. They're almost identical. The primary difference between
our cells and plant cells is the ability of plant cells to do
photosynthesis. So if you start seeing a problem with plants, or with
certain animals, pay a lot of attention. Because it ultimately will
probably show up with human beings."
This means that our health and wellness depend on a well society and
vice versa. There are some simple behaviors we can follow that will help
us leave less of an ecological footprint.
In closing, I offer you a few challenges for success that are in
keeping with the tenets of Phi Theta Kappa:
SCHOLARSHIP - USE YOUR KNOWLEDGE AND GIFT OF INTELLECT
to live a
better quality life for self and improve society for all.
LEADERSHIP - MAKE ETHICAL CHOICES - be a leader and role model for
others -- reduce, reuse, recycle, buy recycled products. We can walk or
cycle instead of drive when it is safe to do so and we can buy and drive
vehicles that are environmentally friendly. We can buy energy efficient
products, and make informed and well thought-out decisions that will
benefit self, others, and society.
SERVICE - Be a steward and take time to participate in a college or
community project. Give of your time and self to help others and the
environment. For example, participate in Earth Day activities, as a
group complete a service learning project, or do some good deed for
someone else that will make a difference in his or her life.
FELLOWSHIP WITH OTHERS AND WITH NATURE - Experience the joy and
wonder of nature. We can spend time in nature and get to understand our
dependence on nature and its dependence on us. Listen to the birds sing,
watch a squirrel play. Just sit, be still, and observe.
I wish for you much continued success.