What is Wellness?


Duke University advocates, through the Student Wellness Center, that an individual's wellness is an integration of many dimensions in one's life. 

Our model of wellness is represented by the image of a tree; the roots depicting our core values, the trunk representative of self-care, and the branches a depiction of the larger dimensions of wellness. 

All parts of the model are interactive and interdependent.  The graphic depicts the parts that are involved in keeping the tree (person) alive and healthy. Each dimension of wellness is essential in maintaining harmony and balance in our lives.

The wellness model is applicable to anyone wishing to focus on their health and wellbeing, regardless of their current state of health. Each person is different and requires different levels of care in order to maintain optimal health.


The system of values, choices and identity support and feed the tree.

  • Values. We generally establish values based on our family, culture, religion, tradition and life experiences.  Values help us make decisions in life. The first step in wellness is to identify and name what we value in life.
  • Choices. Choices take our values and convert them into action.  We make decisions about our wellness self-care goals based on our values and our choices.
  • Identity.  Each person has different possibilities in life that can impact personal wellness based on country of origin, culture, family, SES and many other factors.  Identity impacts wellness.

Optimal growth and wellness occur, when values, choices and identity are aligned. Contradictions between values and choices and identity may lead to discontent.

Are the primary agents in our health and wellness. The most important actions and behaviors that contribute to wellness happen outside of health care providers' offices. Self care includes our lifestyles and how we relate to others and our world.  When values, choices and opportunities are aligned, we practice self care. This allows for our optimal growth, flourishing and wellness.

Our surroundings influence how safe, comfortable, and healthy we are where we live, work, and study. The campus and community environment (noise, safety, social culture, cleanliness) also have an impact on an individual's health. Practice Your Environmental Wellness.

The incorporation of financial security and access to resources.  Elements can include funding for basic needs, managing debt and saving. Practice Your Financial Wellness.

Integrates academic and personal pursuits with a drive to learn about and explore the world. When we make health choices that do not care for intellectual capacity, cognitive ability may be compromised temporarily or permanently. This can affect academic and career aspirations and life-long learning. Practice Your Intellectual Wellness.

In order to optimize health, performance and life mind-body practices can help reconnect body and soul. Caring for the body’s physical and emotional health through exercise, nutrition, rest, meditation, breathing techniques, muscle relaxation and other methods can reduce the harmful effects of stress. Practice Your Mind-Body Wellness.

Gives the opportunity to focus on the importance of relationships.  Positive social relationships with family, friends and coworkers can serve as social supports. Social wellness also incorporates the social skills one needs to relate to others and engage in the campus community. Practice Your Social Wellness.

Developing a sense of purpose and meaning in life.  There are many ways to practice spiritual wellness and are often based on our beliefs and cultures. Practice Your Spiritual Wellness.

There are times in our pursuit of wellness that professional care providers can serve as catalysts and support, educate, treat, reassure or assist us. The type of care is dependent on the wellness dimension being addressed.

In summary, when we as community members are actively caring for ourselves, the community becomes strong and healthy.  There is no right way of wellness that can be applied to all people.  But, there are common elements in each wellness branch. The goal is for the Duke community to be one that encourages caring for each of our members.