8 Dimensions of Wellness

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The 8 Dimensions of Wellness

What is Wellness?

Wellness refers to complete health, rather than just your physical health. Wellness is not only being free of disease, illness, or stress but also having a purpose in life, being emotionally healthy, taking an active involvement in your work and in your leisure time, having joyful relationships and being happy.1 Wellness involves all aspects of your life beyond your physical health. To enjoy fulfilled and happy lives, it is important to take care of your well-being and to invest time in your wellness.

Wellness Definitions

Mirriam-Webster defines wellness as: the quality or state of being in good health especially as an actively sought goal

The Cambridge Dictionary defines wellness as: the state of being healthy

Dictionary.com defines wellness as: an approach to healthcare that emphasizes preventing illness and prolonging life, as opposed to emphasizing treating diseases

Wellness Synonyms

What are some synonyms of wellness? Some words with similar meanings are:

Wellbeing

Fitness

Wholeness

Healthiness

Soundness

Wellness encompasses the whole human being, their mind, body and soul, and all of the things that make a person whole. A healthy life is the result of wellness across all aspects of life, whether emotional, physical, spiritual, or other.

Integrating Wellness into Medical Practices

More and more primary-care-physicians offer wellness programs to provide holistic treatment.  Focusing on wellness can increase productivity, reduce healthcare costs, and increase earning potential.  87% of millennials and Generation Z’ers consider wellness programs as very important, so, medical practices need to integrate wellness programs to reach the majority of the current workforce.2 Many universities offer programs to increase college student wellness.

If you are searching for a doctor, you should ask if they provide wellness programs.

Why is Health and Wellness Important?

Wellness is important because it impacts the state of your physical health. For example, research shows that people who have mental disorders or are suffering from addiction tend to die years earlier than the general population.1 This is due to the negative impact of:

Smoking

Unhealthy weight

Substance use side effects

Lack of access to adequate health care

People with severe mental health disorders experience diabetes, hypertension, and obesity at 1.5 to 2 times the rate of the general population.1 Data shows that depression can increase the risk of stroke in women and trauma can negatively effect functioning and physical, social, emotional, and spiritual well-being.1 For example, trauma could:

Change the physical structure of your brain

Impact your ability to communicate

Affect the way that you experience emotions

Impact your ability to sleep

Focusing on all aspects of your wellness will help you improve the quality of your life, your health, and potentially extend your lifespan.

What is the SAMHSA Wellness Initiative?

SAMHSA stands for Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. SAMHSA has a wellness initiative that “pledges to promote wellness for those with behavioral health conditions by motivating individuals, organizations, and communities to take action and work toward improved quality of life, heart health, and increased years of life.”1

For people who struggle with substance abuse disorders or mental health issues, many aspects of their lives might be thrown into disarray because of their physical and mental health problems. The stress of their lives prevents them from developing healthy habits. For this reason, the wellness initiative focuses on helping promote the wellness of those recovering or working through substance abuse and mental health issues.1 To overcome substance use disorders or mental health issues, it is vital to focus on the wellness of the entire person, as often, substance use can be the result of problems within other areas of a person life.

Explaining the 8 Dimensions of Wellness

What are SAMHSA’s Definitions of the 8 Dimensions?

SAMHSA defines the 8 dimensions of wellness as follows:1

1. Emotional: Coping effectively with life and creating satisfying relationships

2. Spiritual: Expanding our sense of purpose and meaning in life

3. Intellectual: Recognizing creating abilities and finding ways to expand knowledge and skills

4. Physical: Recognizing the need for physical activity, diet, sleep, nutrition

5. Occupational: Personal satisfaction and enrichment derived from one's work

6. Financial: Satisfaction with current and future financial situations

7. Environmental: Good health by occupying pleasant, stimulating environments that support well-being

8. Social: Developing a sense of connection, belonging, and a well-developed support system

emotional_wellness

Emotional Wellness

Emotional wellness involves being able to cope effectively with the difficulties of life, being emotionally aware, and having healthy relationships with yourself and others. People with healthy emotional wellness are confident, have control over their feelings and behavior, and have good coping mechanisms for dealing with difficult situations. Building resiliency allows us to overcome the hurdles of life.

Emotional wellness includes:3

Having healthy relationships

Being able to ask for help

Being resilient

Being aware of your feelings

Expressing your feelings to people you trust

Seeking support with upsetting emotions

Learning your strengths

Working on things you want to improve

The ability to express a wide range of emotions such as happiness, sadness, anger, joy, fear, frustration, gratitude, etc.

Developing assertiveness

Having a positive self-image

spiritual_wellness

Spiritual Wellness

Spiritual wellness is about having a sense of purpose and meaning in life that revolves around your personal beliefs and values. Spiritual health can involve a connection with nature, self-reflection, meditation, prayer, and more. Being spiritually healthy means you have strong values, a feeling of inner peace, and meaning in life.

Spiritual wellness includes:4

Making time for activities that enhance your sense of connection to yourself, to nature, and to others

Having a healthy relationship with nature

Discovering your values, principles, and beliefs

Being part of a like-minded community

Helping others who are in need

Accepting others for who they are

Having a greater purpose

Exploring your personal values

Searching for a meaning for your life

Being aware of how your values may differ from others

Religious or otherwise spiritual activities and practices

Taking time for yourself and embracing silence and solitude

intellectual_wellness

Intellectual Wellness

Intellectual wellness is about exercising the mind, learning new things, and expanding upon ones’ knowledge and skills. Being intellectually healthy can help you with mental growth which helps with your concentration, memory, and critical thinking skills.

Intellectual wellness includes:5

Using your creative abilities

Exercising critical thinking skills

Being a lifetime learner

Engaging in books, articles, or other content that interests you

Exploring public/community events

Focusing on your skills and learning new ones

Being able to develop, analyze, problem solve, and more

Challenging yourself mentally (e.g. challenging puzzles, learning a new language, learning a new instrument)

physical_wellness

Physical Wellness

Physical wellness involves eating a healthy diet, getting enough sleep, doing enough regular physical activity, and preventing and managing illness and health conditions. Not being physically healthy can lead to numerous health problems or diseases. Developing a healthy lifestyle and making healthy choices will improve your overall wellness.

Healthy behaviors and physical wellness includes:6

Getting regular exercise

Feeling comfortable with your body

Seeing your doctor regularly

Keeping your blood pressure at the optimal level

Eating healthy food

Being aware of how sleep and stress can affect you

Making your own choices about your physical health

Stress reduction

Developing healthy habits

Seeking medical care when appropriate

Being responsible with alcohol, cigarettes, and other substances

Sleeping enough

Taking any medications prescribed by your doctor

Understanding how your body works

environmental_wellness

Environmental Wellness

Environmental wellness refers to being in a nurturing and healthy environment as well as having awareness and respect for the environment around us. The environment around you can greatly impact how you feel. For example, people who live in countries that have a lot of rain and cloudy days might suffer from seasonal depression which will affect their emotional health, social health, spiritual health, and possibly more. Having a positive environment around you as well as doing your part to take care of the earth will help you to feel overall more fulfilled.

Environment wellness includes:7

Making sure your home is de-cluttered

Spending time outside

Using eco friendly products

Recycling

Having a peaceful home environment

Involvement in the community

Being aware of how you might contribute to pollution

Environmental awareness

Being aware of climate change and how human beings impact the environment

financial_wellness

Financial Wellness

Financial wellness refers to being financially literate, in charge of your finances, and responsible with your money. Struggling with finances and having an unsettled financial situation is a problem that can cause a lot of stress to you and your family. Staying on top of your finances is important for improving your everyday life.

Financial wellness involves:8

Maintaining a budget and monitor your spending

Seeking out professional financial help if needed

Exploring ways to save money

Being financially responsible

Paying bills on time

Reviewing credit reports and bank statements

Being financially literate

occupational_wellness

Occupational Wellness

Occupational wellness involves having a fulfilling and enriching occupation, whether that be professional work or academic work. A common cause of stress for many Americans is their jobs and the demands that come with it. Having a work-life balance is extremely important to your overall health and wellness. The first step to achieving this is having a job that you enjoy and are passionate about. It is also important to have a positive work environment and be surrounded by people who support you and your goals.

Occupational wellness includes:9

Taking personal satisfaction in your occupation

Having a good balance of work and leisure

Learning to communicate effectively with other people

Developing good work habits and job-related skills

Exploring career opportunities or volunteer opportunities that you are passionate about

Setting career goals

Learning mistakes and moving foward

Challenging societal expectations and fighting against barriers (e.g. barriers for women in the workplace)

social_wellness

Social Wellness

Social wellness involves having a strong support network, feeling connected to other peoples, and having a sense of belonging. Feeling isolated, lonely, or disconnected from others can lead to negative physical and mental health outcomes. Healthy relationships we make with family and friends are essential to our wellbeing, both social, emotional, and spiritual.

Social wellness includes:10

Take part in a club, social group, or volunteer group

Focus on maintaining social connections by keeping in touch and staying connected with others

Being able to interact with a diverse group of people

Being aware of your impact in your community

Understanding sex and gender roles and stereotypes surrounding them

Being able to draw boundaries with yourself and others

Having a strong support network of family, friends, co-workers, and peers

Developing positive relationships

Having good communication skills

Being able to reach out to others for support and ask for help when needed

The Wellness Wheel

What is a Wellness Wheel?

A wellness wheel is a wellness model that represents eight dimensions of wellness: spiritual, emotional, intellectual, physical, social, environmental, financial, and occupational.11 All of the eight aspects of a wellness wheel are necessary to have a balanced and happy life.11

To experience optimal health, all eight areas of your well-being must be healthy and tended to. All areas are inter-connected and being fulfilled in one area will affect other areas as well. While the eight aspects mentioned are core areas of wellness that need to be focused on, wellness wheels can differ from one person to another depending on your personal needs. While a wellness wheel serves the same purpose for everyone: making sure that your health values and needs are met, every person’s wellness wheel may differ slightly.

What Can a Wellness Wheel Tell You?

A wellness wheel can help you to identify what your core health values and needs are, and the things that you need to live a fulfilled and healthy life. A wellness wheel can help you to identify the things that you need to do to be fulfilled emotionally, intellectually, physically, socially, environmentally, financially, occupationally, or whatever other needs you have.

For example, to be fulfilled socially, you need to have a strong support network, make time for family and friends, and nurture your relationships. Identifying exactly what practices, habits, and activities help you to feel fulfilled in all aspects will help you to have a healthy overall lifestyle. Focusing on the aspects of your wellness wheel can help you to prioritize your wellness and be aware of your needs, and how they are to be met.

How Does the Wellness Wheel Help?

It helps you to identify what areas of your life are fulfilled and healthy and what areas need improvement and attention.12 For example, you might be financially fulfilled and fulfilled within your work life, but you may be lacking social relationships and socialization. You might need to work better at communicating your feelings. Identifying this can allow you to prioritize your social needs and work towards balancing your lifestyle.

Find Your Balance

Wellness involves balance across all aspects of your life. If you put too much time and energy towards certain aspects of your life, others may suffer. This is why it is important to make sure that all aspects of your life are healthy and fulfilled. It is also worthwhile to think of specific ways that you can enhance aspects of your life.

Example - Improving Your Social Life

With the example of improving your social life, you can schedule meetings and hang-outs with a friend, schedule time to face-time, and catch up with friends or family, you can make an effort of asking your friends how they are doing and communicate to them how you are feeling and more. Making a list of things that you can realistically do to improve on your social life will help you to channel your energy towards that and help to balance your wellness.

Key Takeaways 

The important takeaways about wellness are that it is important to nourish and focus on all eight dimensions of health: emotional, spiritual, intellectual, physical, environmental, financial, occupational, and social. All of the aspects of your wellness are connected and impact each other. When one dimension suffers, others suffer too. When you thrive in one area, other areas will thrive too. To be healthy, happy, and fulfilled, it is important to identify your wellness needs and work towards making sure that they are fulfilled.

Wellness Wheel Worksheet

We’ve provided a blank wellness wheel for you to print and fill in. Think about the sample questions we’ve given you below, or any others you believe to be helpful. After thinking about those questions, rate your current level for that dimension.

Fill in the sections of the wellness wheel using a scale of 1-5 with 1 meaning you are fully content with that dimension, while 5 means you think that dimension needs immediate improvement. The idea is that you will be able to visualize the dimensions that need work by those sections extending toward the outside edge of the wheel.

Questions you might ask yourself when including your needs on your wellness wheel are:12

Physical

  1. Do I eat a balanced nutritional diet?
  2. Do I exercise at least three times a week?
  3. Do you use alcohol or other substances safely?
  4. Am I generally free from illness?
  5. Am I a healthy weight for my height?

Financial

  1. Do I have a budget and am I able to save money?
  2. Does my behavior reflect my beliefs and values about money?
  3. Am I using my money wisely?
  4. Do I have financial goals and plans for the future?

Intellectual

  1. Do I strive to learn new things and exercise my brain?
  2. Do I engage in mentally stimulating activities?
  3. Do I learn new skills?
  4. Do I have positive thoughts?
  5. Do I spend time on personal and professional development?

Emotional

  1. Am I able to express and communicate my feelings?
  2. Do I have control over my emotions?
  3. Am I able to adapt to change?
  4. Am I independent?
  5. Am I emotionally stable?

Social

  1. Can I resolve conflicts in all areas of my life?
  2. Am I perceptive of other peoples’ feelings?
  3. Do I communicate well with others?
  4. Do I have people in my life that I can trust?
  5. Am I able to set boundaries?
  6. Do I have a sense of belonging?

Spiritual

  1. Do I have a sense of meaning and purpose in life?
  2. Do I trust other people?
  3. Am I able to forgive myself and other people?
  4. Do I have values and beliefs that I base my life around?
  5. Do I have a feeling of inner peace?

Environmental

  1. Do I try to do my best to be environmentally friendly?
  2. Am I conscious of the impact that I have on the environment?
  3. Am I comfortable in my environment?
  4. Does the environment around me enrich my life?

Occupational

  1. What tasks at work or school do you enjoy?
  2. What tasks do you dislike at work or school?
  3. Do you communicate well with co-workers or other students?
  4. Have you set realistic career goals?
  5. Are you making progress toward your career goals?

Resources

    1. https://store.samhsa.gov/product/SAMHSA-s-Wellness-Initiative-Wellness-Community-Power-Point-Presentation/sma16-4955
    2. https://www.benefitnews.com/opinion/job-satisfaction-and-wellness-programs-cause-and-effect
    3. https://www.nih.gov/health-information/emotional-wellness-toolkit
    4. https://www.lhsfna.org/index.cfm/lifelines/september-2016/spiritual-wellness-what-is-your-meaning-and-purpose/
    5. https://news.illinoisstate.edu/2014/03/seven-simple-steps-increase-intellectual-wellness/
    6. https://www.rtor.org/2015/07/09/physical-wellness/
    7. https://iwellness.uwo.ca/environmental/index.html
    8. https://www.consumerfinance.gov/about-us/blog/get-money-smart-25-tips-improve-your-financial-well-being/
    9. https://www.studentwellness.iastate.edu/ocupational-wellness/
    10. https://www.washburn.edu/student-life/recreation-wellness/employee-wellness/documents/EW-SO-Social-Wellness.pdf
    11. https://www.clarion.edu/student-life/health-fitness-and-wellness/office-of-health-promotions/wellness-wheel.html
    12. https://thriveglobal.com/stories/finding-balance-going-through-it/