The 7 Dimensions of Wellness: Improving Physical Wellness
Improving Your Physical Wellness
Your body has worked hard every day to keep you going and to help you survive. In what ways are you giving back to your body?
In case you didn't start with the original post, check out our article on The 7 Dimensions of Wellness. In that article, we deconstruct what each dimension of wellness is and how to measure it. Here we'll be learning how to improve our physical wellness.
It's important to remember that each aspect of ourselves is intimately entwined with all the other aspects. What affects one dimension, will likely affect the others. As we go through this exercise, allow yourself to be okay with not having the answers to everything or knowing where to even start making improvements. Continue being gentle with yourself and we’ll figure this out together.
To improve our physical health, we need to look at several different factors, such as our current physical conditions or limitations, our diet, how often we exercise, how much sleep we get, our sexual health practices, and alcohol & drug usage.
Assessing Your Current Physical State
Let’s begin by asking ourselves some questions to take a deeper look at how well our body is functioning.
Does your doctor have suggestions for how to manage your current condition or state of being?
Are there dietary or physical limitations to be mindful of?
Are you getting regular check-ups at the doctor's and dentist's offices?
Have you ever had blood work done?
How is your body feeling? Pay close attention to aches and pains in your body, as they are signals that something isn’t right.
Be mindful that allergies and medications can play a big role if you’re looking to change your current lifestyle. If you’re unsure about making changes to your current routine, ask your doctor for a professional opinion.
Healthy Diet Choices
Although we all have different preferences to what kinds of foods we eat, there are some general rules that apply to how much and how often we should eat certain things. The best way to know what works for your body is to practice intuitive eating. Have you been craving any foods lately? Usually, that’s a sign that your body has a deficiency in some vitamin or mineral and looking to fill that need. If you also pay attention to when your body is hungry and when it is close to being full, you know when to eat or when to stop. It can take practice learning how to read your body’s language, but it can make a huge difference in how you care for yourself.
Let’s ask some more questions to get to the bottom of our eating habits.
What are some small changes you can make to your diet to start adding healthier choices?
Am I getting the vitamins and minerals I need from my food, or should I be taking vitamins too?
When I finish a meal, how does my body feel? Fatigued? Light? Energized? Heavy?
There are a lot of online resources to help you find the best way to eat for your body and for your specific goals. Remember that changing your diet will take time and is really a lifestyle change, not just a trendy diet that gets exhausting to maintain. Don’t overwhelm yourself and celebrate the successes you have. (Yay for putting more veggies on your plate!)
If you know you have struggled with obsessing about your weight or body image in the past, be particularly mindful of triggers so that you don’t repeat those patterns. Improving your physical wellness does not have to be synonymous with punishing yourself. Your body is beautiful and wonderful as it is, any changes you make should add to your quality of life.
For more resources, check out our articles on Eating Well & Feeling Healthy and Dieting, Weightloss, and Finding Peace In Your Body.
Moving Your Body
What is your favorite way to get your body moving? Focus on movements that make you feel empowered and good! If it feels like a chore, you won’t find yourself able to be consistent with that movement, and consistency is key! Check out our article on the Benefits of Activity & Exercise to learn more.
If you’re looking to lose weight or build muscle, incorporating some form of weight lifting into your routine will help you burn more calories than you would by cardio alone. Be mindful of your body’s limitations. If you’re going to try a new workout routine, try looking up safety practices so that you don’t accidentally injure yourself. If something is painful, don’t push yourself. That being said, it’s normal to feel muscle soreness after working out (especially when you first start), but that soreness should decrease the more active you are. It’s always a good idea to talk to a medical professional before starting a workout routine if you’re unsure it’s right for you.
Again, exercise shouldn’t be about punishing yourself. If that’s your mindset, you’re going to have a very hard time sticking to it because it’s not about enjoyment, it’s about punishment. Try to re-frame physical activities into the mindset that you are proving to yourself that you can reach your goals and do anything you set your mind on. It should be about having fun and feeling great. Forget motivation. It’s about dedication!
Getting Adequate Rest
Are you getting between 7 & 10 hours of sleep a night? Depending on your age, it’s important that you get more than 7 hours of sleep a night. I know, I know. Sometimes it’s hard to shut down your mind at night, and if you’re a night owl, it can certainly be challenging winding your energy levels down enough to get to sleep. Not to mention how cramming for an exam can really cut into your sleep! However, it’s incredibly important to try your best and get your body onto a sleeping schedule.
Sleep affects your body’s ability to repair itself, memory and learning capabilities, weight, and mood. To reap the most benefits, try finding a way to get on a regular sleep schedule. When your body is used to going to bed at a certain time of night, you’re more likely to get tired naturally around that hour as your energy levels dwindle.
If you have a hard time falling asleep, meditating, listening to white noise, incorporating aromatherapy into your bedtime routine, or talking to your doctor about medicinal or natural sleep aids may help. You can also check out our article on Insomnia and Sleeping Difficulties for alternative solutions.
How educated are you on safe sex practices? Are you engaging in risky sexual behavior? Talking about your sexual history, other sexual partners you have, your current status on sexually transmitted infections (STIs), when you were last tested and what forms of protection you’re using with your partner(s) is essential to keeping everyone safe. It’s important to talk about these things before any type of sexual contact happens because it’s much harder to talk about when you’re in the moment. It’s also relatively easy to transmit some infections and diseases through sexual contact alone, so you need to know what barriers you should be using to reduce the risk of it spreading. Do your research about how to practice safe sex for your lifestyle and what form of birth control or barriers you need.
Your health is important! If your partner says they’re on birth control and therefore you don’t need a condom, know that you can still transmit STIs and there may still be a chance of pregnancy. If your partner says they don’t like condoms and don’t want to use them, be mindful that the “pull out” method is not 100% effective for birth control, either. A smart habit of getting into is getting tested regularly and when you have a new partner so that you can make adjustments to your safe sex practices as necessary.
Communicate your boundaries! You have a right to them and your partner needs to be informed and educated on those. It’s okay to say no if you’re not feeling it, and your partner needs to respect your decisions about your body. Same goes for them, too. Being rejected can sting, but you wouldn’t want to push their boundaries and make them feel unsafe or like they can’t trust you anymore. Communicate clearly and effectively and don’t be afraid to state your needs. You have every right to share those.
Are you responsibly using the substances you’re putting into your body? What changes would make your body happier? The definition of a drug is any substance that alters your brain chemistry or affects your body after being introduced to your system. Under that definition, we aren’t just talking about weed, alcohol, or any other number of recreational substances. This also means sugar and caffeine, such as energy drinks, soda, and coffee. All of these affect your body in some way. Have you ever noticed how sugar and caffeine can get your heart racing? Limiting your consumption or taking a break from them can help you feel more clear-headed, grounded, and lighter.
Ask yourself why you’re using the substances you do. Is it a habit, numbing agent, for fun, or some other reason? Knowing the motivation behind it can help you decide whether it’s aiding or hindering your life. If drugs or alcohol are having a negative impact on your life (socially, academically, legally, etc), change how and when you’re using the substance, find support from those that have been where you are or are removed from that scene, or talk to a counselor or therapist with experience in addiction.
Treat your body right!
Remember to express gratitude to your body. Everyday our body is carrying us through life; it deserves the love. It might not reflect us perfectly, or be able to handle everything we put it through, but it's the only body we have and that's special. Here are some ideas to give it some extra love:
Give yourself a massage (or pay someone else to do it)
Take a bath using a bath bomb, salts, or moisturizer
Add oil or lotion to your skin after a shower or bath
Spend some time stretching throughout the day, and especially after working out
Keep the body hair if it makes you comfortable, society shouldn't have a say in what you do with it
Look in the mirror and tell your body something kind, or simply say "I love you"
Have that sweet treat or smoothie bowl you've been eyeing as a little reward
Get dressed in something cute—just because!
All of our bodies are different and none are better than others. Embrace the stretch marks and scars, the hair you grow, the soft and firm bits, and every part in between. Celebrate the skin you're in with radical self-love. You deserve it.