January 7, 2022
What is the key to wellness? The simple answer…is that there is no simple answer.
Many different factors contribute to how well you feel. Your personal values, current situation, and the choices you make are just a few of the determinants that influence how complete your sense of wellbeing is at any point in time.
Although everyone’s needs are unique, the major elements that help us thrive can be broken down into eight categories. These are called the 8 dimensions of wellness. They include physical, emotional, social, intellectual, financial, occupational, spiritual, and environmental wellness.
These dimensions make up a model that you can use to map out a clearer path to becoming a healthier, happier version of you.
First, let’s take a look at an overview of each dimension. Then we will go over how to move from a new (or renewed) sense of awareness to action.
Often, our physical state is the first thing that comes to mind when we think of the word “wellness.” We also tend to think of physical wellness as the lack of illness, but it’s more than that. Physical wellness is all about caring for your body to stay as healthy and energetic as possible throughout your life. This dimension of wellness requires that we adopt healthy habits and sustain them in the long run.
Healthful nutrition is essential for our bodies to function and feel well, as is getting regular exercise that’s appropriate for your lifestyle and fitness level. Avoid substances like tobacco, alcohol, and drugs and steer clear of risky situations. Listen to your body, keep up with your medical appointments and inoculations, and get plenty of sleep. You only have one body – prioritize taking care of it!
Emotional wellness involves observing your feelings, behaviors, values, and attitudes and developing an understanding and acceptance of them. It also includes managing your emotions well and acknowledging the feelings of others. Getting in tune with emotions takes practice but building this skill can help us gain control and bounce back when faced with life’s difficulties. Consistently practicing self-care, establishing realistic expectations, using beneficial and healthy methods for coping, and nurturing relationships with others can add to our emotional wellness and overall resiliency.
It’s worth mentioning here that emotional and mental wellness are sometimes used interchangeably. They are connected, but not one and the same. Part of mental wellness concerns how well your mind processes experiences and information. Emotional wellness relates to how those thoughts and feelings are expressed. The interplay between mental and emotional health can be complex, so it’s important to ask for help when needed to keep a positive momentum as you work on building wellness.
Social wellness includes forming positive relationships with others, connecting with your community, and making positive contributions to society. This facet of wellness begins with an awareness of your own preferences and background. For instance, it’s likely that the type, amount, and frequency of socialization you prefer might be different from those of others.
To be socially well, we must also be sensitive and open to others’ social and cultural backgrounds and respect diversity. This means that we should anticipate differences and be tolerant of them. Creating and maintaining safe, supportive, inclusive, and positive interpersonal and group relationships is necessary for true social wellness. Enjoying connecting with others, forming lasting friendships, and having healthy intimate relationships can all contribute to feelings of belonging and social wellbeing.
Being intellectually well relates to cultivating skills like critical thinking, objective reasoning, problem-solving, and decision-making. Intellectual wellness is marked by having a healthy curiosity, taking an interest in learning, and approaching intellectual challenges constructively.
Those who are intellectually well are lifelong learners. They welcome experiences to expand their knowledge by pursuing educational, professional, and personal advancement. Involving yourself in creative, artistic, or inventive activities and hobbies play an important role in intellectual health. Sharing knowledge via teaching or mentoring others also reinforces this dimension of wellness.
Financial wellness involves attentively managing your funds and resources. Central to financial wellness is budgeting and learning how to live within your means. Good money management skills can help you provide for your immediate and long-term needs, meet financial obligations, and reach realistic financial goals. Other financial considerations include making informed investment decisions and planning for emergencies. Well-managed finances can reduce stress and worry by offering a better sense of stability and security.
What is your relationship with money like? How someone feels about money can be influenced by their values, beliefs, upbringing, culture, and many other factors. Keep in mind that financial needs and circumstances can vary. Financial wellness is not about wealth, it’s more about building practical skills and taking useful action to fit your goals.
It’s true – sometimes a job is just a job. What we do for a living is not always by our own design, but something done out of necessity or circumstance. Being gainfully employed is a worthwhile undertaking because it helps provide for your care and survival. But occupational wellness goes beyond having your basic needs for food, water, and shelter accounted for. It has to do with taking pride and satisfaction in your job performance and progress.
This dimension also encompasses a special appreciation for work that is enriching and personally meaningful. Occupational wellness is sometimes referred to as vocational wellness to highlight this distinction. It is important to take initiative throughout life to assess and reassess how you feel about your work. Aim for career paths that you feel enthusiastic about and prepare (through education and work experience) to participate in work that utilizes your skills and gifts in a way that is significant and rewarding by your own measure.
Spiritual wellness can be described as seeking inspiration, inquiring into the meaning of life, or living life with purpose and intention. This is a very personal pursuit that rests on an individual’s beliefs and values. It may or may not include prayer, religious practice, belief in a higher power, sacred rituals, or cultural traditions. Some find peace through meditation, yoga, or mindfulness.
Others find harmony by connecting with nature. Still others find spiritual wellness through introspection, self-reflection, by expressing gratitude, or by living life with benevolence and compassion. Spiritual wellness guides us in the actions we take and helps us develop a clear sense of right and wrong. Working on the spiritual dimension of wellness deepens our inner fortitude and helps us approach life with grace.
Think about how your surroundings affect your wellbeing, and how your own presence may impact your surroundings. To understand environmental wellness, we need to look at all the spaces we occupy and enjoy. This dimension consists not only of the natural environment, but of the social atmospheres and structural surroundings that set the stage of our daily lives. The dynamics between these environments and unique aspects of your life may influence how you construct your perceptions and opinions about the world.
To illustrate this, here are a few actions you might take to support environmental wellness: Recognizing your relationship to the earth might inspire you to recycle or reduce your carbon footprint. Understanding your social environment could help you avoid damaging “fat talk” pertaining to yourself or others (as in over-focusing on weight loss, fat shaming, or equating worth to weight). You can also manage environmental wellness by getting involved in local organizations to improve your community.
You can expect that certain aspects of your wellness will transform over the course of your life. Change is inevitable! You might notice that some of the things listed above are well within your control, but others may not be as flexible. You might feel like you are at a standstill at times. However, your input and consistent actions still count.
Awareness is a gateway. You have to realize there’s an issue (or anticipate that one might come up) before you can really do anything about it. The 8 dimensions of wellness can help you figure out which batteries might be running low so you can plug in and recharge…or decide when it’s time to replace spent batteries entirely.
The 8 dimensions of wellness are interconnected. They tend to influence and support each other to create a more complete feeling of wellness. So, while none of the dimensions should be neglected, trying to achieve a perfect balance is unnecessary.
There is no timeline or due date. But the sooner you become aware of how each dimension of wellness impacts your life, the sooner you can take action. You can consciously choose your path knowing that each step you take is an opportunity to elevate your wellness.
Reflect on what aspects are most valid to you, create a plan, and begin to work on the areas that you feel need the most attention. You need to commit to doing the work, but you can go at your own pace. It’s all about living well and becoming more resilient! It is an ongoing process, but it is worth it.
Consider the information presented here as a spark of awareness – a reminder that it’s never too late to work on your wellness. Please consult your doctor, contact your therapist, and speak to other advisors for professional guidance to improve the specific dimensions of wellness affecting your overall wellbeing.
Did you know? The 8 Dimensions of Wellness were originally developed by Dr. Peggy Swarbrick, who is a research professor at Rutgers University. You can start mapping out your wellness journey right away by checking out SAMHSA’s free guide and worksheets here: Creating a Healthier Life: A Step-By-Step Guide to Wellness
At Andrews & Associates Counseling, we provide holistic and collaborative counseling solutions to help you achieve mental, emotional, and relational wellbeing. We think systematically as we help you come up with a customized plan to reach realistic goals that are right for you. We also understand that your life is multifaceted. Several relationships and dimensions are part of your life.
We believe that people are more than their problems. Whatever you are facing, healing and change are possible. You are not alone. Contact us – we are here to help. ⯁
As the Director of Marketing and Communications at Andrews & Associates Counseling, Liza enjoys connecting clients to the information, services, and resources they are looking for. Liza’s favorite pastimes include lifting weights, cross-country mountain biking, and exploring the outdoors with her two rescue dogs.