Given the unrest in the world around us, it probably isn’t surprising that our well-being is declining. Most of us are probably aware of when we feel good and when we don’t. But, have you ever considered why you feel good and how to intentionally place yourself in that zone more often? 

Well-being is about feeling good and functioning at our best. When well-being is low, our work, relationships, and physical and mental health can suffer. For a more definitive description of well-being, check out this article from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website.

The practice below describes the SPIRE approach to whole person well-being. It will help you discern different aspects of your well-being and identify steps you can take to shift it upwards. If you’re feeling out of sorts, but unclear why or what to do about it, this practice is for you.

The Inspiration

Co-created by Dr. Tal Ben-Shahar, a former positive psychology lecturer at Harvard and co-founder of Wholebeing Institute; Megan McDonough, Co-Founder of Wholebeing Institute; and Dr. Maria Sirois, faculty at Wholebeing Institute, the SPIRE approach reflects that the body, mind, and spirit interact together to create an overall state of being.

When it comes to feeling and functioning well, it’s important to acknowledge the 5 elements of well-being and do our best to find balance among them. These 5 elements form the acronym SPIRE, which stands for:

  • Spiritual
  • Physical
  • Intellectual
  • Relational
  • Emotional

When one element is too high or too low, it impacts the whole. For example, spiritual well-being might be high, but physical well-being might be low due to stress. Feeling aligned as a whole person spiritually, physically, intellectually, relationally, and emotionally plays an important role in enhancing well-being in everyday life, and in the face of adversity.

The SPIRE check-in is simple and effective. Please refer to the model below for assistance in this practice.

Completing a SPIRE check-in helps me understand which element of well-being is in need of a shift. For instance, I recently realized that my body (P) felt weary from sitting in a chair and staring at a computer screen. The lack of movement impacted my ability to concentrate and think clearly (I), thus impacting the timeline on a work project. Last month, a problematic relationship (R) caused sadness that increased my emotional distress (E). You can begin to see how the elements are interconnected. When one element is too high or too low, it impacts the whole.

With the aid of the SPIRE check-in, I identified and took a few actions to boost my well-being. First, I started a short daily yoga routine to ease my aching body, which boosted the physical (P) element. The yoga practice also increased my blood flow, energized my mind (I), and lifted my mood (E).  

I also reached out to the person with whom I was conflicted (R) and had an honest discussion. I felt brave and authentic rather than sad; it lifted my spirits considerably (E). Relationships don’t always immediately improve, but that one took a turn for the better in that moment. 

We may not be at our best 100 percent of the time, but we don’t always stop to acknowledge that we have control over how we feel and perform. Often, it’s just a matter of taking one or two actions to move us in the right direction. Not always, but often. 

Think about it. It’s likely that you’ve cultivated these elements of well-being in the past. What steps did you take? This type of reflection helps create conditions that bring well-being to the forefront. 

Ready to shift toward whole person well-being? Give it a try!

The Practice

  1. Download, print, and follow the instructions on this worksheet.
  2. Use your summary scores to identify which elements are in need of a boost.
  3. Decide on 1 or 2 things you can do to lift these elements, and put them into action.
  4. To better understand your results, refer to the questions in the reflection below.

Deciding which actions to take can be a daunting feat. If you don’t know where to start, I invite you to use this SPIRE example sheet as inspiration to kick-start your practice. 

If you complete this practice and you can say life is good, and there isn’t much that can make it better at this point, great for you! Enjoy that peace and keep doing what you’re doing. Otherwise, try a weekly SPIRE check-in to observe which actions are helpful, and how they affect your well-being over time.

Please note: The goal isn’t to achieve a top score in all elements. The goal is to identify the elements that are in need of a boost and implement actions that will result in a boost to your well-being. 

The Reflection

Now, how can you reflect on your SPIRE worksheet summary scores? The following questions will help guide you:

  1. In which element(s) are you feeling strong and engaged?
  2. Which element(s) could use more attention?
  3. What is one action you can take to strengthen the element(s) in need of attention

If you’re interested in knowing more about the SPIRE approach, this short video of Dr. Tal Ben-Shahar describes how it was developed and how it can benefit education systems, businesses, and governments. 

In the meantime, may you feel and function well through all your days, 
Jane