The road to greater health can seem complicated, fraught with confusion, and downright difficult to reach. Thankfully, however, the dimensions of wellness can help. The dimensions of wellness is a school of thought about how to achieve overall health.
It’s designed to help people see how interconnectedness their whole lives are, and when used correctly, can lead to greater peace and happiness. We’re sharing our ultimate guide to the dimensions of wellness with you today, including an explanation of the dimensions most people include as well as steps to achieving optimal health in each.
Let’s get started!
How Many Dimensions Are There?
That’s a great question, and it varies by the institution explaining the concept. Some people count 7 dimensions of wellness, some count 8 dimensions of wellness, and others count six or even ten!
We’re going to start by reviewing the six that are the most common; then we’ll explain some of the other less-common dimensions.
The Circle of Wellness
First, however, we should explain that the dimensions are usually envisioned as a circle (think: a color wheel) to help people picture how interconnected each dimension is with each other. In fact, most people find that an increase in health in one dimension will lead to an increase in another area.
The reverse, however, is also true. The purpose of the dimensions of health is to help people get a better idea of what is wellness. Wellness, most experts believe, is highly personal and even subjective. While there are standards and ideals that are generalized to all people, there are other objectives that only you can set and determine.
It’s Up to You
That’s part of what makes the dimensions of wellness so important and so user-driven. No expert can tell you exactly what to do; it requires you to take the ultimate responsibility for your life and your health.
The Six Most Popular Dimensions of Wellness
Physical wellness is an extremely important dimension and one we think of frequently when we think of wellness. It involves building strength in your body, as well as endurance and flexibility. Plus, it involves gaining an understanding of nutrition and learning what kinds of foods, drugs, and alcohol nourish your body and which harm it.
Experts understand today that physical wellness includes solid eating habits and regular exercise. If you’re not already including both in your life, here are some tips to get started:
- Visit a doctor for a physical; he or she will help you understand risks and health concerns and where to get started
- Healthy changes that last are not about stringent diets; instead, they’re about changing your lifestyle
- Make this process fun and rewarding for yourself by doing things like trying new foods and new sports
- Small, gradual changes are more sustainable than trying to change everything at once
As you gain knowledge and experience with physical wellness, you’ll begin to better appreciate the connection between how your body looks and feels and how you take care of it. You can expect benefits like better self-control and self-esteem as well as greater health and more happiness.
Social wellness recognizes our need to be part of a community and to both experience the support and camaraderie of a personal relationship and learn to offer it, in return. As we grow in dimensions of wellness, this is an important one that cannot be neglected.
Past relationship trauma, physical or mental unwellness, or social issues can make it difficult to embrace this dimension, but overcoming these issues can mean a greater intimacy with other people and a strong network of family and friends, something that’s vital to our success in life.
One of our best tips, if this is an area in which you struggle, is to see a professional. A licensed counselor can help you understand why you struggle and find ways to overcome your negative beliefs.
In addition to seeking help, one of the best ways to connect with people is to join some kind of group that has a common purpose. Consistency and a shared purpose are two important factors in building friendships and joining a group–whether it’s a softball league, a book club, or a volunteer effort–help to create just the right atmosphere.
You’ll know that you’ve grown in this area when you experience a greater sense of belonging.
Next in our study of the dimensions of wellness is the intellectual dimension. Intellectual wellness means a recognition that challenging and growing your mind through creative and intellectual pursuits is preferable to becoming unproductive or self-satisfied.
In other words, learning to proactively deal with potential problems is an important part of overall health and wellness.
Whether it’s through formal studies in a classroom or fostering an informal love of learning in your everyday life, becoming an active problem solver and a creative person will contribute to your overall intellectual wellness as well as your wellness in the other five (or more!) dimensions of wellness that you choose to recognize.
You can read, take a class, visit a museum, or make a friend whose intellectual pursuits stimulate yours.
Similar to the social dimension, spiritual is an oft-ignored aspect of wellness that has tremendous implications for our health, peace, and happiness. It’s not uncommon for people to immediately grow frustrated with this dimension. However, the problem is usually a narrow definition of spiritual.
Spiritual wellness, in fact, does not mean going to church. For some people, it does mean attending religious services and being part of a religious community and tradition, but what it means is acknowledge the deep yearning in your inner self for something “other.”
Achieving spiritual wellness means that you’ve recognized that it’s better to wrestle with the meaning of life as a personal pursuit than to be intolerant or judgemental towards others who are doing the same, and that adopting a worldview in which our actions match our thoughts is a way to be true to ourselves.
Unlike spiritual or social wellness, occupational wellness is difficult to ignore, simply because most of our lives are filled with work. While we often view this as a bad thing, occupational wellness posits that a work that values us and our unique offers and utilizes our skills and talents is one that contributes to our wellbeing.
The pursuit of occupational wellness involves understanding our strengths and weaknesses and finding a career that matches who we are. It also involves bettering our skills and talents, making them more functional and useful.
Occupational wellness understands the importance of work in our lives and seeks to integrate itself carefully into every area of our lives. Instead of, say, choosing an occupation that will conflict with our spiritual selves and worldviews, occupational wellness encourages us to continue our search till we find work that is not in conflict.
All dimensions of wellness are closely linked to each other, and emotional wellness is no exception. An emotionally well person is not afraid of his or her emotions. Instead, he has learned that awareness of them is healthier than denying them. She also strives for an optimistic approach to life, learning to be enthusiastic about herself and her life.
Emotional well-being also involves learning how to express and feel emotions appropriately, in a manner that’s not destructive to the self or others around you. An emotional well person can have strong feelings while still being able to make smart, responsible decisions.
In fact, instead of shying away from challenges, conflict, or situations that will cause deep feelings, you’ll have the tools to cope with those situations, reaping the benefits of the things you might have previously avoided.
As you work to gain optimal emotional wellness, here are some things you’ll learn and grow in:
- Accepting and forgiving yourself
- Forgiving others
- Learning to better manage your time
- Learning to cope with stress
These six dimensions, as we’ve explained earlier, are not the only dimensions recognized today. Other experts and institutions include dimensions such as environmental wellness, which involves a greater awareness of our relationship with the earth.
Other dimensions include financial planning and medical. Whichever dimensions you choose to recognize, what’s important to understand is their integrated nature and their importance on your overall wellbeing.
It’s also important to understand that these dimensions are not simply intellectual pursuits, and will require what can sometimes be very challenging growth. As you strive for greater health, however, you will reap the benefits!
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