My keyboard. (Photo by Ashlyn O’Hara)

My keyboard. (Photo by Ashlyn O’Hara)

Wishing y’all well

I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to be “well” lately. Like, what does that actually mean? Is it realistic for someone to strive to be “well” in their lives? Is that something that is achievable? Certainly wellness means different things to different people. Maybe some people feel “well” when they are physically healthy. To others it may feel like success at their job.

Someone told me recently about the “wheel of wellness.” The wheel is visually represented by a circle divided into equal parts, like a pie. Each “piece” is labeled with a different element of wellness: occupational, spiritual, intellectual, physical, emotional, environmental and social. The idea is that all of the pieces are equally important to a well-rounded lifestyle.

While it is maybe not realistic for someone to be actively trying to improve every piece of their wellness wheel at the same time, I find the exercise of identifying areas where I’d like to improve helpful. To say that the last year has been rough is an understatement. There have been many days where I find it difficult to get out of bed in the morning and feel crippled by a sense of hopelessness and lack of purpose.

In considering my own wheel of wellness, I am able to take back a sense of control over the direction of my life. One of the biggest things I’ve taken away is that investments in different pieces of the wheel do not need to be major. There are small, manageable tasks that I can introduce into my daily life that I’ve realized can help make things feel less overwhelming.

I’ve tried making a conscious effort to invest in activities that have brought me joy in the past: being outside, watercolor painting, reading new books, playing the piano. The act of picking out paint brushes, loading down a basket with used books and buying a keyboard on Facebook Marketplace, all make me feel like I’m taking actual steps to introduce more joy into my life.

I think it’s working. Visually, I picture the “intellectual” and “emotional” pieces of my wellness wheel filling up, albeit slightly, with each new chord learned and novel finished. Maybe I can’t control how the COVID-19 pandemic has restructured my lifestyle, but I can control how I spend my weekends.

I think it’s easy for investments in a person’s emotional and intellectual pieces to come secondary to their occupational or social wheels— maybe they feel less urgent. The equity inherent to the imagery of the wheel, however, means that no one aspect is more important than another. All are equally deserving of attention.

Some of the things that have made me feel joyful: Kurt Vonnegut’s “Bluebeard,” painting Kachemak Bay, discovery hikes with the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, going to bed earlier, long drives on the coast.

The point is this: In a world with a lot of uncertainty, there are small things people can do to feel more purposeful in the areas of their life that are necessary to achieve some semblance of wellness.

Reach reporter Ashlyn O’Hara at

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