Understanding the 7 Dimensions of Wellness
We all seek to experience positivity, pursue happiness, and maintain overall wellness. How each person reaches this state is a subjective experience, which makes it difficult to conceptualize in concrete or standard terms. Each of us is likely to place more importance on some aspects that bring us joy such as engaging in physical activities, meditating, listening to music, socialising with friends and family, or even activities as simple as reading a book.
Wellness for some may involve external factors such as having a stable income and permanent housing, while others may choose to focus on more internal factors such as resilience and self-esteem, and both are valid aspects of wellness.
What does wellness mean to you?
Generally, when we first think of wellness or wellbeing, we usually think that it mainly consists of our mental wellness and our physical wellness. The definition of wellbeing is generally broad: “the experience of health, happiness, and prosperity. It includes having good mental health, high life satisfaction, a sense of meaning or purpose, and the ability to manage stress. More generally, well-being is just feeling well”, which makes it more difficult to fully grasp the concept. While wellbeing does involve mental and physical wellness, it includes several other factors that can contribute to our overall contentness.
Introducing the 7 Dimensions of Wellness, and ways to achieve them:
- Physical Wellness
One of the first dimensions we often think of when defining wellness is our physical wellbeing. This aspect entails several lifestyle choices such as getting enough exercise, having a healthy diet, and refraining from harmful substances such as drug use. It also involves being aware of and maintaining healthy habits that help you lead a long and healthy life such as having a healthy sleep schedule, regularly attending medical checkups, and trying to prevent disease or injury.
Tips to improve physical wellness:
- Prioritize exercizing regularly
- Maintain adequate and consistent sleep
- Maintain a healthy diet and nutrition plan
- Be aware of the different signs of illness
- Emotional Wellness
Our emotional wellness revolves around our ability to feel and express our emotions healthily. It involves being aware of our different emotions, why and when we experience them, and how we cope with intense and difficult emotions. Having a set of healthy coping strategies to help us face life’s daily challenges, being able to authentically express how we feel, and being aware of what helps to bring out positive emotions can help us effectively cope with stress. Emotional wellness also includes self-esteem, self-acceptance, resilience, and gratitude.
Tips to improve emotional wellness:
- Keep a journal of your thoughts and feelings
- Seek out and give out support
- Practice gratitude and acceptance
- Learn stress management activities
- Intellectual Wellness
Intellectual wellness involves stimulating our creativity and engaging in (different) mental activities that help keep our minds active and interested. Just as we exercise our bodies, we need to do the same for our minds. It’s then important to actively continue to learn, expand our knowledge, challenge and question our beliefs, develop new skills, and learn new perspectives.
Tips to improve intellectual wellness:
- Take a new course or workshop
- Read or watch educational videos
- Have conversations with those who challenge you intellectually
- Learn a new language
- Social Wellness
Interacting with our family, friends, neighbours, or coworkers is important to maintaining social wellness. It’s also important to be able to use communication skills to build a reliable support system and stay connected to our society. This helps foster a sense of belonging and attachment to those around us. Social wellness also includes showing respect for others as well as having respect for yourself and your boundaries.
Tips to improve social wellness:
- Develop healthy relationships and friendships
- Talk to and be honest with your close friends regularly
- Contribute towards the betterment of your community
- Set out time to meet with your friends and family consistently
- Spiritual Wellness
Spiritual wellness is our ability to hold onto certain beliefs, principles, or values that help guide us throughout our day-to-day life. It can help give us a sense of direction and deeper meaning and purpose through faith, hope, and commitment to these values. One’s spirituality cannot be materialised and can only be understood from within that person. It’s also important to note that though it may be a big part of it, spiritual wellness doesn’t simply revolve around religion. Spritual wellness speaks to a connectedness to something bigger than ourselves.
Tips to improve spiritual wellness:
- Spend time meditating
- Live by your principles
- Be present in everything you do
- Environmental Wellness
Being aware of the current state of the earth and the health of our environment, taking daily actions that contribute to the betterment of our environment’s health, and living life in a way that consciously connects us to the environment is a part of environmental wellness. It also includes participating in socially responsible activities that aim to protect our world. The main goal is to feel connected to your environment which in turn positively affects your wellbeing by bringing a sense of personal responsibility, and peace.
Tips to improve environmental wellness:
- Be conscious of the amount of water and other resources you use
- Reduce, reuse, recycle as much as you can
- Try to minimize your daily waste
- Eat locally produced food
- Occupational Wellness
Occupational wellness consists of putting your skills and talents to use for you to prosper in your career, development, and overall happiness. When you’re committed to further developing your skills and ultimately performing better at work, you then are able to achieve greater, more meaningful success and personal fulfilment, and therefore gain occupational wellness.
Tips to improve occupational wellness:
- Have a vision for your professional future
- Choose a career that meets your needs and interests
- Be open to change and to learning new skills
- Maintain a good work-life balance
It may seem idealistic to want to balance every single dimension of wellness and to always have these needs met but it’s also unrealistic to be able to do so. It may feel like a failure if you’re not tending to every area of wellness every day; however, this type of thinking is tremendously overwhelming and sets us up for disappointment.
It’s okay to focus on particular dimensions at a time, allocating time and energy into aspects of wellness that don’t necessarily come as naturally to you. It’s okay to prioritize some dimensions more than others, and that doesn’t mean that you will never be completely well. It means you are being intentional and mindful of the aspects of wellness you need to focus more on.
Pursuing wellness in every dimension all the time is hard; instead consider tending to each one with small actions, for example texting a friend for your social wellness, or stretching for 5 minutes for your physical wellness. Your actions don't need to be a huge declaration of time and energy in order for you to be invested in them, it simply means a commitment to understanding your complexities, and a lifelong resolve to value wellness in every aspect of your life.
Though wellness cannot be quantified necessarily, if you’re interested in assessing your wellness and gauging where you are at generally, here is a tool that might help: https://umatter.princeton.edu/sites/umatter/files/media/princeton-umatter-wellness-self-assessment.pdf