Dimensions of Well-being and the Role of Leisure

Quote by Mary Oliver

Leisure is a powerful force for positive change in an individual’s life and a source of well-being for many. Leisure offers diverse choices for participation in activities that evoke enjoyment, and provides the opportunity to experience positive emotions that directly link health and well-being. It also provides meaning to life, and fulfills the need for creative expression which leads to self determination and personal development. Many theorists have emphasize that positive emotions creates unconscious motivation for wellness behaviours that are rooted in manifesting biological changes. Wellness behaviours may include (but are not limited to!) physical activity, relaxation, expressing gratitude, healthy eating, socializing, building sustainable relationships, and getting proper amounts of sleep!

The Flourishing through Leisure model is a service model that builds around a person’s unique strengths, goals, aspirations and dreams. It encompasses five dimensions of well-being:

  1. Physical– Physical activity has been shown to be one of the most effective contributors to happiness and well-being as it can elevate mood, reduce stress, reduce blood pressure, and improve cardiovascular health. These activities encourage participants to “act” and “do,” by engaging major muscle groups. Activities include walking, jogging, swimming, sports, or geocaching.
  2. Psychological/emotional– Psychological and emotional wellness determines how we perceive the world around us and how we regulate our emotions. Nurturing this domain helps a person feel in control of their life, and experience feelings of happiness. Activities that promote psychological and emotional well-being focus on cultivating calmness, relaxation, and self awareness. This may include qigong, tai chi, meditation, yoga and art.
  3. Cognitive– Cognitive wellness focuses on how we learn and think. Someone who experiences cognitive well-being will be able to focus, problem solve, and eagerly learn. Activities primarily aim at improving focus and memory. Reminiscing activities such as scrap-booking, music , and story telling are great activities that may provoke memory.
  4. Spiritual- Spirituality is defined as having a strong and coherent belief of a higher purpose and meaning of life. Spiritual well-being nourishes a sense of connectedness and cultivates hope. Spending time in nature or green space is a wonderful way to deepen your spiritual connection, as well as meditation, yoga, prayer, and practicing daily gratitude.
  5. Social– Social well-being helps us relate to others and become valued members of groups. Leisure provides a natural settings for the development of social connections and community inclusion. We are social creatures that crave a sense of belonging which plays a major role in our over all health as feelings of disconnection from ones environment may lead to potential health issues.

When these domains are facilitated within a person and their environment, an enjoyable leisure experience has the power to motivate a participant toward personal well-being, fulfilling leisure, community engagement, and a flourishing life. Healthy leisure can be used a disease prevention measure, help participants transcend negative life events and develop helpful coping strategies. Leisure is associated with increased positive mood, improved life satisfaction, less stress, better coping, and enhances physical health.


Anderson, Lynn S, & Heyne, Linda A. (2016). Flourishing through leisure and the upward spiral theory of lifestyle change. Therapeutic Recreation Journal,50(2), 118.

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