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So, What Does "Quality of Life" Mean Anyway?

Updated on January 27, 2016
Photo by Tran Quoc Duong
Photo by Tran Quoc Duong | Source

Quality of life (QOL) Defined

Have you ever asked yourself, "What does Quality Of Life mean"? I have heard it spoken under various terms; medical, physical, spiritual, emotional. The World Health Organization even has their own specific measurement for it. [1]

Quality of life is defined in the Collins Dictionary as: "the general well-being of a person or society, defined in terms of health and happiness, rather than wealth" [2]

There are many conceptions and measurements of QOL though most agree on its main content. [3]

The Five Dimensions of QOL
Physical Wellbeing
Material Wellbeing
Social Wellbeing
Emotional Wellbeing
Civic Wellbeing

My Experience

I first heard this term "QOL" when I was in the thick of my battle with Gastroparesis. I naturally associated it with how my health affected the other components of my life. I was partly right.

Bound and determined to protect my quality of life, I set about trying various activities and methods of improving upon it.

  • Kundalini Yoga - This was fun, exciting, spiritual and unfortunately at the time too physical. But I never stopped completely. Kundalini Yoga is now a nice treat I give myself a few times a year.
  • Yin Yoga - A life saver for me when I really wanted to get some practice in but had very little energy. Yin is a form of Yoga in which, you don't flow but rather hold a pose for several minutes.
  • Ayurveda - Some of which, was too powerful and made me feel a little sicker than I already was. But other aspects of Ayurveda, like the tongue scraping, is extremely beneficial.
  • The Way of the Happy Woman Fall Retreat - Up at the Shambhala Mountain Center in Red Feather Lake, CO. Who wouldn't benefit from a mountaintop experience? Sara Avant is a Women's guru like no other. Her book was a monumental tool in getting my life in a better place. She introduced me to Yin Yoga, meditative journaling, walking meditation, and loving myself where I am in the moment.
  • Walking the Dogs
  • Painting and drawing Mandalas
  • Mindfulness and organic eating
  • Communicating with my husband - essential.
  • The Serenity Prayer

All this was imperative in my quest for keeping and maintaining a quality of life. But wait! There's more!

Reviewing the 5 Dimensions of QOL

Physical Wellbeing

First and foremost, am I taking care of my physical body? This would include eating properly for the body I have been given. When I had Gastroparesis, this meant, I ate what I could and that was not necessarily what I liked. When I got into remission, I was extremely careful until I found that I could eat just about everything.

It wasn't long before I had to reel it in and do some self-discovery on what I should or should not be eating. Sugar at one time had been my largest source of calories and now had become my worst enemy. Nowadays, most of my sugar intake is from fruit. We all have something or somethings in which we cannot partake. We just have to invest the time into finding out what it is.

Similar to nutrition, fitness is also an individually designed part of our physique. My husband is an athlete, a runner. I have very little lung capacity. I love Yoga and Martial arts. My husband has very little flexibility. We balance each other. So it is best to find what type of fitness you enjoy and have the physical capability for. It must be fun or it will not be sustainable.

Material Wellbeing

Are your material needs being met? Do you have a home you feel safe and sheltered in, furniture that provides rest, clothing to keep you warm in the winter and comfortable in the sweltering heat of summer?

We might benefit to write a list of our material needs and then take an inventory of what we have, want, need or no longer need/want. Then we can set about a plan to let go and attain the necessary items for our material well-being.

Social Wellbeing

This can easily get out of whack especially in the cold dark months following the Holiday Season. We were in social overload. So we might seek to do a little hibernating by binge-watching some shows. The next thing we know, we are flipping the calendar to March.

At any time of the year, we can practice what the Danish refer to as 'hygge" (pronounced hooga). "In essence, hygge means creating a warm atmosphere and enjoying the good things in life with good people." [4] Think fireplace in the winter, bonfire in the summer!

You might not be a social person. You might just want to grab coffee with a friend. This is good enough. Bake a cake, brew some coffee, light a fire and have someone over.

For those of you who are very social, brew a lot of coffee....or homemade beer. Have some friends over for game night, it doesn't have to be formal. Enjoy!


Emotional Wellbeing

When I first received my Gastroparesis diagnosis I did a lot of research. Much of it was scary. Not knowing what was happening to my body was scary. My anxiety and panic attacks returned. I met with my doctor, who agreed to put me on medication as long as I was willing to see a therapist. "Your Gastroparesis is causing anxiety and the anxiety is making the Gastroparesis worse. I want you to get to the point where you are coping.", he exclaimed. I agreed.

When we are vigilant over our emotions, we develop a strong barrier around them to protect ourselves as a whole. I am not saying we build walls. No, I tried that and it doesn't work. But there are times when we have to excuse ourselves from the gossip circles.

Or it might be time to let go of a toxic, negative friend who insists on dragging us into their drama. I was once married to a man who could not suffer insomnia alone. He would wake up the whole house because he was positive that my son had stolen his pillow. That is quite extreme but really, if your friend or loved one will not let you have peace, it might be time to take a break from them.

It could possibly be a bad work or home environment. If it is time for a change, take the necessary steps to make it.

Civic Wellbeing

This one is quite fascinating. Just take a gander at the short video "Epigenetics" below.

There is a saying in real estate: "Location, Location, Location." The environment in which you live quite possibly affects not only your quality of life but also those of your children and your children's children!

If you reside in a neighborhood that provides for all of the above dimensions, you have a better chance of acquiring a strong quality of life. So does your tribal future. So be picky when purchasing your home. You won't regret it!

Epigenetics - Portland State University

Top 5 Quality of Life Places to Live

Ranking Number
US States
New Hampshire
United States
North Dakota

So What Does Quality of Life Mean to You?

After all this, I have determined that QOL means something different for each person. It all comes down to those five dimensions and what they mean to you personally. I can't decide if another person's life is quality or not.

Review the above. Ask yourself some questions - honestly. If you feel you fall short, you are now ready to improve upon it, one step at a time. If you feel you are in the sweet spot, then make a continual effort to maintain it.

Be good to yourself in this process of review. For you will need your own kindness to develop and sustain a good Quality of Life.

Which Dimension do you feel the need to give more attention to?

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