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Integral Theory

Integral Theory, originally uncovered by Ken Wilber (1997, 2005), is both a theory and a metatheory. Similarly, the theory is both simple and complex. Integral Theory aims to give voice and weight to every piece of information involved in an analysis of any concept, activity, person, group, planet or the cosmos. In utilizing this theory, the Circle of Balance website relies on validated guidance for wellness and workplace wellness in order to provide users with a resource that is both focused and simple, as well as comprehensive and grounded in proven theory.

Integral theory uses a 5-element framework for analysis consisting of (1) quadrants, (2) levels, (3) lines, (4) types, and (5) states. The interactive portion of the Circle of Balance website relies on all 5 of these elements in its design and utilization. For the user, the most obvious element for your interaction on the website will be the use of four equally important quadrants or what we refer to as facets. In the Circle of Balance these are: (1) mind, (2) body, (3) spirit, and (4) community. The planning process focuses on creating balance among all 4 of the facets.

According to Wilber (2005), all 4 quadrants need to be represented-through initial awareness as well as ongoing activities-in order to create balance and wellness for the whole individual. The quadrants are divided into a physical map that represents both the inside and the outside of each person and the groups or communities with which you are associated. Within each quadrant, growth or evolution is illustrated through "levels" which are represented by the Steps Towards Balance section.

The upper quadrants in the circle (Mind and Body) concentrate on you as an individual, while lower quadrants (Spirit and Community) concentrate on your associated groups or communities. Left hand quadrants (Mind and Spirit) focus on activities or concepts regarding the internal self and subjective concepts. At the individual level, this may include meditation or prayer. At the group level, this may include attending a meditation class or a religious service. Right hand quadrants (Body and Community) fothrough inicus on activities or concepts regarding the external self or objective concepts. At the individual level, this may include eating a nutritional, well-balanced diet. At the group level, this may include belonging to a weight/health support group or using their communal online APPs for tracking your food intake and exercise.

There are no "right" or "wrong" choices when selecting the activities for each facet. In fact, you determine whether your activities are helping to move you towards health and wellness based on your indications of how satisfied you are in each life aspect. It may be helpful to keep in mind that according to Integral Theory, if even one quadrant is ignored, then the individual is likely not engaging in a holistic experience of life (Wilber, 2005).

Click here for a detailed explanation of Integral Theory.

Steps Towards Balance - Based on Stages of Change Theory

Steps Towards Balance is a structured and beneficial 4 Step process that will guide you in understanding your life facets of mind, body, spirit and community, as well as exploring and developing them for great personal benefit. The steps used in this section of the Circle of Balance website are derived from the Stages of Change Theory (Prochaska et al., 1994; Prochaska et al., 2007; Prochaska & Norcross, 2001). By knowing the step you are on for each life aspect, you embark on the starting point for developing a richer and more fulfilling balance of mind, body, spirit, and community.

Change and growth does not happen all at once. Rather, they develop through a step-by-step, structured path. Some of these important life facets may be completely absent from our lives, and others may be integral and consistently maintained. As each of us becomes aware of these aspects and the step we are on for each, we take control of our own path to balance. We recognize that knowing what those steps are, setting goals, and being able to envision these steps makes your success much more likely.

Step 1: Pre-Awareness - Not considering this facet

When you aren't thinking about or even considering the need to develop a particular life aspect, then you are on the pre-awareness step. Simply choosing to explore this part of the site helps you gain awareness and move towards Reflection, as well as greater balance. If you have areas in the Circle of Balance that would be beneficial to your overall wellness, but your responses indicate that you are not yet aware of the way activities in the life aspect would benefit you, you may want to consider:

(Prochaska et al., 1994; Prochaska et al., 2007; Prochaska & Norcross, 2001).

Step 2: Reflection - Planning to Start

During this step, you are considering the benefits balancing your life facets and developing this life aspect in particular. You may be considering working towards balance in this life facet over the next six months or sooner. You are reflecting on whether it is worth your focus, time, and energy. Considering ways that this life facet will benefit you and visualizing your success can be a powerful way to become motivated! Focus on the positive outcomes, using your positive energy to move from this step to the next, Preparation.

To do this, you may consider:

(Prochaska et al., 1994; Prochaska et al., 2007; Prochaska & Norcross, 2001).

Step 3: Preparation - Taking Steps to Start

When in the Preparation step you have now planned your specific activities and have decided on a specific time period as well. As you reflect and re-evaluate, be sure to make a solid commitment to this facet.

You might consider:

(Prochaska et al., 1994; Prochaska et al., 2007; Prochaska & Norcross, 2001).

Step 4: Action - Currently Active

The Action step is the process of consistently developing a life facet. You may have just started or been doing the activity for six months, but the most important thing is that you are doing it. You have found a personalized way towards greater balance, and with your consistent effort you should see and feel visible changes in your life facet. It's important to know that this is the step that requires the most focused effort to stay on course.

To stay motivated, you might consider:

Whether you are beginning a life aspect at the Pre-Awareness step or at the Action step, you are more likely to succeed if you know the step you are on and make a structured effort towards your goals. It's important to know that as you maintain your goals for each activity research shows that people who are self-changers typically progress through the steps towards balance in a spiral manner. For example, you may progress to being "Active" with a certain activity or facet, and then find yourself not practicing and back at the Reflection step. This is a normal part of the process. What is most important is that you recognize the change in your behavior, identify your goal, and then continue once again to work through the steps of Pre-Awareness, Reflection, Preparation and Action. Along the way, Circle of Balance provides you with mind, body, spirit, and community resources to help you gain the balance you seek! For more on the Stages of Change Theory, you may want to read Changing for Good: A Revolutionary Six-Stage Program for Overcoming Bad Habits and Moving Your Life Positively Forward by Prochaska, Norcross, and DiCelemente.

Wellness Theory

While there is no one "right" definition for wellness, here are some of the definitions relied upon by many:

Wellness Dimensions

Wellness is commonly measured using dimensions, referred to as Life Aspects in this research. Measurement facilitates the wellness planning process. Many models of wellness dimensions have been created and most have some level of proven effectiveness. This research integrates all of these models to some degree. The general concepts from the models utilized to improve the effectiveness of the Circle of Balance wellness planning process include:

The table below presents all of the different wellness dimensions addressed by these wellness assessments. Using Integral Theory, all of these dimensions were considered when creating the Life Aspects for the Circle of Balance wellness planning process:


Wellness Dimensions






Physical/Moving /Breathing





Purpose/Finding Meaning/Spirituality



























Social/Intimate Relationships




























Gender identity



Culture identity



Problem-solving and creativity



Sense of humor



Realistic beliefs


Workplace Wellness "Theory"1

Workplace Wellness Background

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) supports wellness in the workplace as an approach for decreasing chronic illness, improving health, and limiting health care costs. The ACA supports programs that are non-mandatory, nondiscriminatory and evidence-based, meaning the program must be based on research-validated studies. If a workplace wellness program meets these criteria, the ACA provides economic incentives that can be passed on to employees.

You may have seen this in your own workplace when you received a health insurance rebate for completing an online health screening, which is just one example of how employees can benefit from participating in a workplace wellness program. Depending on the content of your workplace wellness (WPW) program, the other ways that you may be able to benefit include experiencing less stress and/or improved stress management, more balanced emotions (i.e. less anxiety and/or depression), and improved pain management among others.

Effective Workplace Wellness Strategies

Researchers have found 5 common practices among organizations that claim to have high employee participation in WPW programs (Mattke et al., 2013; Berry, Mirabito, and Baun, 2010). These practices include:

  1. Communicating the workplace wellness offerings effectively
  2. Making programs convenient and accessible to employees
  3. Obtaining support for the programs from senior and middle managers
  4. Incorporating existing resources and relationships, such as an organization's health insurance plan, into the program
  5. Obtaining continuous feedback from employees and using that feedback to improve the program on an ongoing basis. If you are aware of your organization's WPW program, perhaps you can rate it according to these 5 criteria.

Types of Workplace Wellness Program

Each organization determines the content of their workplace wellness program. Researchers have identified 3 types of activities that are commonly offered in these programs:

  1. Health risk assessments (HRAs)
  2. Prevention interventions
  3. Health promotion activities

(Mattke et al., 2013)

Health risk assessments. HRAs are the most common type of workplace wellness activity. They involve the use of screening to identify health risks that you may have or be likely to have given the results of the screening as well as your responses to web-based questionnaires. Questionnaires may involve reporting on your physical activity, nutrition, safety, and mental and emotional awareness (Centers for Disease Control, 2013). Depending on the results of your HRA, you may be informed about prevention and/or health promotion as a way to improve your health, such as health coaching or stress management programs.

Primary and Secondary Prevention. Primary interventions address newly identified health risks that could lead to chronic disease such as obesity or high blood pressure (Mattke et al., 2013). Examples of primary intervention include weight reduction or blood pressure stabilization. Secondary prevention addresses the control of existing chronic conditions and may be referred to as disease management programs (Mattke et al., 2013). Some of the more common disease management programs focus on diabetes, heart disease, and depression (Centers for Disease Control, 2013). Interventions may include working with you to ensure compliance with medications, testing, and physician office visits (Mattke et al., 2013).

Health promotion. The focus of health promotion programs is to promote healthy behaviors (Mattke et al., 2013). These programs commonly include healthy food options in cafeterias, fitness, and educational programs (Mattke et al., 2013). The C. Everett Koop National Health Award (2013) recognizes exemplary WPW programs. Recent C. Everett Koop National Health Awards went to employers who offered activities such as onsite fitness centers, walking paths, health coaching, stress management, meditation, yoga, educational and physical activity interventions and wellness coaching (C. Everett Koop National Health Award, 2013).

1The term theory is in quotes here because the research on wellness and workplace wellness has not yet been fully developing into a comprehensive theory. Instead many theories are united to form the core for best practices in wellness and workplace wellness.


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