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The Five Dimensions of Wellness: Intellectual Wellness

“Intellectual wellness encourages us to engage in creative and mentally-stimulating activities. These activities should expand your knowledge and skills while allowing you to share your knowledge and skills with others. This dimension can be developed through academics, cultural involvement, community involvement, and personal hobbies. As it develops, you are able to develop personal resources that work together with the other realms of wellness in order to achieve a more balanced life.”

-Life of Wellness Institute


What is Intellectual Wellness?


Intellectual wellness is the creativity and mental growth that we developed through school, but about topics, we pick. Meant to expand our knowledge and skills, cultivating intellectual wellness can feel like school, but working past these feelings and keeping in mind that you’re in control of what you learn can keep those feelings at bay. Intellectual wellness can come from learning more about your culture (or respectfully learning about another culture), getting involved with your community, or from personal hobbies. Working to develop this wellness can help you think of things in new, creative ways and find different solutions you may previously not seen. Developing intellectual wellness, while also developing the other areas of wellness can help you achieve a more balanced life.


Why is Intellectual Wellness Important?


Intellectual wellness is learning and exploring new ideas, learning to come to new understandings and to become well-rounded individuals. Intellectual wellness helps to stimulate creativity and curiosity as well, which helps us to keep interacting more with the world around us. Curiosity helps us to be open to new things and new experiences.


Our brains are made up of over 100 trillion neural pathways, throughout our life we prune some of these away as we stop using them. This is why children retain so much when they are young and as they grow up they start to forget. We all experience this; our brains prune things that we do not use daily. For example, we may remember the mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell, but have no idea what the rough ER does (it produces proteins for the rest of the cell). Working on our intellectual wellness helps to create new neural pathways that we can use in new ways.

For example, if you are baking a cake from scratch for the first time, but you find your milk is bad, you may google ways to substitute milk in the recipe or you may go to the store to get more. You have to weigh the pros and cons and make a decision to solve this problem. This process creates or strengthens neural pathways, giving our brains another pathway to use in different situations. This can make it easier to handle stressful situations as they arise.


The Route to Intellectual Wellness


To better our intellectual wellness, it's best to stay open-minded. Being open to new ideas, knowledge, skills, cultures, helps you to understand how things interact with each other and help you determine what you want to learn more about. This also improves problem-solving, critical thinking, learning, and creativity.


Our brains work in similar ways to other muscles, and our intelligence is something we can always be “flexing” and working out. If we stop using it, it starts to go away and fade. Working on our intellectual wellness can help to keep our brains working.


We can oftentimes think that social media and the internet are doing enough to fulfill this area of our lives, and while it does help; there are ways to do more. Reading about things online can limit the depth of the information we have available, websites and blogs want you to come to their page and stay there. If they put too complex of information you are more likely to go back and look for a different website. When we read books, our options are more limited. The author has your attention and can give you the information in a way you will be able to understand. Learning information this way can help you foster new connections in your brain, create a deeper understanding, and sharpen up critical thinking skills.


This is not to say the internet is bad and we should only read books, but the combination of the two can help improve intellectual wellness. Improving intellectual wellness helps to build up our overall wellness, and this helps us be more resilient and better able to cope when stresses begin to pile up in life.


If how you’re nurturing your body, if how you’re parenting, or how you’re interacting with your hobbies, if something isn’t bringing you fulfillment, re-examine it. Figure out how you can interact with it better and learn more. We are worthy of the effort it takes to put into these areas and roles in our lives. Wanting more knowledge and learning shouldn’t be shameful, no one knows everything all the time, and have the ability to work in that discomfort helps us continue to grow and grows the love we have for ourselves. Sometimes we just have to give ourselves permission to not know everything.


Possible Goals:

  • When curiosity strikes, follow it.

  • Strive to be open to new experiences and ideas in all areas of your life

  • Expand your ability to create, develop, analyze, critique, concentrate, understand, evaluate, problem solve, predict, comprehend, etc.

  • Feel competent in intellectual and academic activities by improving your skills in academics, studying, time management, stress management, note-taking, listening, and public speaking.

  • Develop a love for learning and philosophy for “life-long learning”


Tips for Intellectual Wellness:


Practice active listening. Podcasts are a great place to practice this. Paying Attention, withholding judgment, reflecting, clarifying, summarizing, and sharing are some of the many ways to be an active listener.


Pick up a hobby. Hobbies are great ways to increase your skillset.


Plan a trip. The best way to gain knowledge, as well as an appreciation for another culture, is to experience it yourself (having something to look forward to post-pandemic also helps wellness).


Express your creative side by exploring different avenues of creativity and artistic expressions.


Do something on zoom with friends. Host a non-serious debate night on zoom, everyone can make a PowerPoint; topics can include (i.e. who really did frame Roger Rabbit which of your friends has the best pet, who is which comfort food).


Remember, Jefferson Center’s Colorado Spirit team is here for you. Offering free and confidential support, we can help you with counseling tips and strategies to cope successfully and referrals to additional mental health resources. Call us if you need to talk at 720-731-4689.


If you or someone you know is in a crisis, please call 1-844-493-8255 or visit our 24/7 crisis walk-in center at 4643 Wadsworth Blvd, Wheat Ridge, CO 80033.

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