Duke Student Wellness

What is Wellness?

Wellness Tree

"€œA tree uses what comes its way to nurture itself. By sinking its roots deeply into the earth, by accepting the rain that flows toward it, by reaching out to the sun, the tree perfects its character and becomes great."
Deng Ming-Dao

Duke University advocates through DuWell that an individual's overall Wellness is an integration of many aspects of life.  DuWell's model of wellness is represented by the image of a tree, which includes the roots of a person, the trunk of self-care, and the branches representing the 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 model of a wellness tree is applicable to any person who wants to focus on health and wellness in her or his life, no matter what the current state of health is. Each tree (person) is different and requires different levels of care in order to maintain optimal health. 

(Adapted from the Duke Integrative Medicine Model, 2010)

Identity, Values and Choices

The system of values, choices and opportunities, 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.


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.

Environmental 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.

  • Clear out the Clutter
    • Take time each week to get rid of clutter in your residence hall room- especially on the floor so you limit the chance that you will trip or fall.
  • Throw Your Trash Away (or Recycle!)
    • Be courteous to others make sure your trash/recyclables make it to the right receptacle.  Especially at parties~this will help everyone out in lowering costs for the event
  • Walk When You Can
    • Save the ozone AND get some exercise!
  • Be a Good Neighbor
    • Be conscious of excessive noise at outside or inside events and make sure to notify neighbors ahead of time if an event is to occur.  This will lower your risk for potential conflicts to occur.
  • Be an Advocate, Not a Whiner
    • Something about campus or the community bugging you? Don't just complain to your friends, stand up and take action!  Finding a way to get involved and make a difference on campus will not only create positive change for everyone, but allows you to leave a legacy you can be proud of. One option: consider getting involved with It's Your Move.
Financial 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.

  • You Reap What You Sow
    • A little bit of time spent planning and setting up good spending habits will help you build a stable financial future.
  • Be Authentic With Yourself
    • Are you a shopaholic?  Its ok! Just be honest with yourself on what you like to spend on.  Once you do that, budgeting can be a lot easier.
  • All Things in Moderation
    • Sure we may like to go to every new movie that comes out this year, but that can get pretty expensive.  Spend on experiences you enjoy in moderation otherwise, you may spend too much on fun and not enough on what matters.
  • Create A Budget
    • Think about how much you realistically spend each month and hold yourself accountable, this will help you to integrate discipline and balance into your life.
  • Money Is a Tool, Not the Key to Well-Being
    • Money helps us get to where we want to go. It is a transaction. So don’t worship it.
  • For more tips on Financial Wellness, visit the Personal Finance @ Duke website.
Intellectual 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 Wellbeing.

  • Explore Yourself
    • Take a class or try out an organization on something that interests you but you’ve never tried before
    •  Build connections with professors from a variety of departments- schedule a meeting to ask them questions about their field, career path, etc,
  • Time Management
    • Remind yourself, "There is always enough time for the important things." If it is important, you should be able to make time to do it.
    • Plan your day each morning or the night before and set priorities for yourself.
  • Take a stand against perfectionism
  • Organize Your Life
    • Backpack Dump! Clean out your backpack. Dump everything out and go through each item one by one. Separate everything into a keep pile important papers and information you'll need  to use now or to study for future tests - and a dump pile - things you no longer need, like old   homework and last months sports schedules.
    • Hit the delete button. Stay on top of your inbox to reduce e-clutter. Make a hard fast decision about each email before moving on to the next one- either reply, delete, or put it in a  folder.
Mind-Body 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.

  • Sleep
    • Try and get at least 8-10 hours of sleep each night.  Does that seem impossible? Try to fill in nights you can't get the recommended sleep dose by taking naps- pencil them into your schedule to make sure there's time!
  • Nutrition
    • Well timed, well balanced, meals and snacks can keep you alert and energized throughout the day, while also helping to maintain an optimal weight. For more information on these topics and others, as well as the nutrition services available to you, please visit https://studentaffairs.duke.edu/studenthealth/nutrition-services.
  • Take a Break!
    • Take time to laugh, snooze, take a walk, etc., especially during the times of year you feel like you have the least time to spare- your body and mind will thank you for it!
  • Listen to your body.
    • Love and respect it, and it will be good to you, as well.  Learning to say "no" to the outside world and listen to yourself is often challenging, but can help you balance life's demands.
  • Don't Be Afraid to Disconnect. 
    • Step away form your phone, computer and anything else electronic for 15 minutes each day.  Don't worry- it will all be there when you reconnect.
  • Consume Responsibly.
    • If you choose to drink alcohol, set limits for yourself and stick to them.  For more information on reducing your risk while drinking, click here.
Spiritual 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.

  • Trust Your Intuition
    • Take the time to stop and listen to the voice inside of you- it often will help you find your direction, make choices, or let you know when something isn't right.
  • Explore what spirituality means to you.
    • For some people, spirituality has to do with faith or religion. For others it is more   about finding purpose and meaning in life. Explore what spirituality means to you by   visiting various cultural centers around campus and trying out practices to enhance   your own self awareness, such as meditation.
Social 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 Wellbeing.

  • Develop Relationships
    • Take the time to communicate and spend time with those your care about so you can develop relationships of mutual respect and support.
  • Get connected
    • Join one or two clubs or organizations that you are interested in, become involved and get connected to the Duke and Durham community.
  • Give Your Friends Time
    • Manage your personal time as well as commitments to school and work.
  • Respect and Honor Diversity
    • Develop an understanding and appreciation of human differences.
  • Do it Sober
    • Explore all the things there are to do on campus and in Durham with your friends.

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 '€œright 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.