Live Well NAU: A holistic approach to wellness in the Lumberjack community

When one thinks about health and wellness, physical health usually comes to mind—what we eat, how much we exercise, how much we sleep—but the Healthy Campus Coalition at Northern Arizona University is hoping to change that.

In the midst of a pandemic that is affecting everyone’s daily routines, health and wellness is more important now than ever before. After a campus-wide needs assessment revealed the critical desire for a more cohesive and visible approach to wellness across campus, the multidisciplinary group Healthy Campus Coalition developed Live Well NAU, a framework to support the health and wellness of students, faculty and staff in hopes of cultivating a healthier—and happier—NAU community.

The coordinated, holistic wellness strategy of Live Well NAU promotes eight dimensions of wellness: physical, emotional, spiritual, environmental, intellectual, social, financial and occupational. These dimensions were identified by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) as key to optimal health. This overarching view of wellness recognizes that health is a dynamic concept, influenced by many interconnected factors. The Healthy Campus Coalition adopted this model and synthesized the concepts into a colorful graphic to help students, faculty and staff build awareness about the dimensions and increase visibility of wellness efforts, elevating the importance of wellness across campus.

“So many stakeholders were involved in the conceptualization, design and implementation of this initiative and that really highlights the collaborative and caring nature of our community,” said Heather Nash, director of Employee Assistance and Wellness and member of the Healthy Campus Coalition. “Consistent with our OneNAU mission and core values as an institution, Live Well NAU shines a spotlight on wellness for everyone and provides opportunities for more collaboration under the wellness umbrella.”

This collaborative effort is supported by Campus Health Services, Campus Recreation, Employee Assistance and Wellness and the Division of Student Affairs. Many key stakeholders from across campus from a variety of disciplines were involved in the creation of the final project.

Live Well NAU provides a foundation for discussing wellness with students, faculty and staff using a holistic approach. By centralizing campus resources into one easily-accessible website, the NAU community can use this site as a guide when having conversations about health and well-being.

“Everyone on campus has a role in supporting the overall well-being of students. By breaking down silos and working together, we can improve the health and wellness of not only the student body, but of faculty and staff as well,” said Megan Meyer, Campus Health Services’ registered dietitian and the co-chair of the Healthy Campus Coalition. “Wellness is much more than our physical health, and I’m incredibly hopeful that folks across campus will be able to utilize Live Well NAU to improve not only their own well-being, but that of the entire community.”

Staff and faculty interested in supporting students’ wellness can download the Live Well NAU Guidebook, which lays out a variety of ways the framework can be used and examples of actions that encourage wellness.

“After getting involved in the project, I decided it wasn’t enough to just say I supported student wellness. I wanted to take action,” said McKenzie McLoughlin, a public speaking instructor and digital communications coordinator. “I learned a lot from the Live Well NAU principles, like the importance of sleep hygiene. Now, I make assignments due at 10 p.m. rather than the normal 11:59 p.m. to encourage students to get their work done earlier so they could have more time to wind down before sleep.”

For those who want to identify which aspects of their own wellness need more support, a self-assessment found on the Live Well NAU page provides respondents the opportunity to develop goals for the areas they scored the lowest using the comprehensive resources found in the framework.

Campus programs and events that support a dimension of wellness will be marked with the color-coordinated Live Well icon to help attendees better understand how the event impacts their wellness. Paul Rehn, an assistant director in Campus Recreation and co-chair of the Healthy Campus Coalition, said he is excited about the centralization of these holistic resources the NAU community can easily access.

“With so many amazing programs and resources available on campus, it’s easy to miss a few,” Rehn said. He hopes the framework Live Well NAU provides will open up new opportunities for people across campus to take advantage of the available resources.

Nash, Meyer, Rehn and other members of the coalition hope NAU staff and faculty will not only use the wellness self-assessment, but take advantage of the calendar on the Live Well NAU site to tailor wellness programming, be inspired to include wellness in their department’s values and emphasize their dedication to wellness by including Live Well NAU materials into their departmental communications.

“As a recreation professional, I see a lot of folks concerned with their physical health when really wellness is so much more,” Rehn said. “It’s time we shifted the mindset to this more holistic approach, and Live Well NAU can help us do that.”

More information about the initiative can be found on the Live Well NAU website.