Wheel of Health

Most of us are striving to improve our health; we exercise, take supplements, adjust our diet, and of great importance, add some kind of relaxation or stress reduction activities. We have heard of the mind-body connection and its importance to living a balanced life. But what does mind-body connection really mean and how can we best use it? A really wonderful tool is the wheel of health. It is used in different forms in major hospitals like the Mayo Clinic and Duke’s Integrative Medicine programs, just to name two. The purpose of these programs is to help individuals to remain balanced and to develop proportionally the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual parts of the wheel. Imagine it is a bicycle wheel and when you have developed all four quadrants equally, the ride will be very smooth. If one or more of the quadrants is neglected, the ride will be rocky and uneven, the bicycle wheel not being in balance.

The medicine wheel has a long and rich history, dating back to aboriginal medicine. It is used in present times in integrated medicine and other holistic programs, permitting a better understanding of how everything is connected and the process for achieving and maintaining better health.

To demonstrate our interpretation of the wheel of health, and to provide an illustration of points covered in the interview with Dr. Larry Bergstrom of the Mayo Clinic, and which will be posted in a Spotlight by end of June 2013, we have developed the following chart. It is a simplified interpretation for easy adaptation into our daily lives. We also have added two links with additional information in the “Did You Know” below. 

Did You Know Medicine Wheel
Duke Integrative Medecine

Wheel of Health

Physical Health
  • Treat disease
  • Conventional western medicine
  • Based on measurements (blood, X-ray, examination)
  • Name and treat disease
Emotional Health
  • Sympathetic nervous system (commonly identified with fight or flight)
  • Causes us to respond to threat with stress hormones (adrenaline, cortisone)
  • Changes heart rate, blood pressure, immune system, clotting factors and other important factors to help your "fight" or "flight"
  • We have many of these stresses in our modern lives
  • Best addressed with mind-body techniques (prayer, meditation, yoga, breathing, biofeedback, and more)
Mental Health
  • Chemistry of the brain
  • Essentially the area of psychiatry
  • Examples include problems like depression and the symptoms which accompany these conditions
  • Best addressed with medications and addressing the issues causing the condition
Spiritual Health
  • What gives us a sense of meaning and purpose
  • It is what defines you as a person (faith, work, family, hobbies, etc.)
  • When ill, many of these things may go away
  • There must be a "robust meaning to one's life"
  • To become well we must substitute for those things we have lost, but within our scope of capability

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