The 7 Dimensions of Wellness
Understanding the Dimensions of Wellness
Let’s explore the many facets that contribute to our overall happiness and wellness, and how we measure up in each dimension. Remember: this isn’t about judging ourselves, but to help lead us to living more authentic and fulfilling lives.
Keeping tabs on where you are in your life
Between school, work, finding time for friends and doing the things you love, life can be busy sometimes. It can be hard to find a balance between all of the things going on in your life. That’s where it can be helpful to take inventory of how well you're dividing your time, energy and focus into the various aspects of your life.
The Dimensions of Wellness
Most people know it’s important to take care of their physical health, but it’s equally important to take care of all aspects of our being. Each aspect, or dimension, plays into our overall well-being and health. We can not experience true wellness without each of these dimensions playing their part in our lives.
Physical Wellness. We all know when we aren’t feeling physically well, so what does it feel like when we are? Our bodies can move with ease, we digest our food well, our skin and hair look and feel healthy, and we are feeling well-rested when we wake up.
Pay attention to what you’re consuming in excess, how much you’re moving your body, and how your body responds to the care and attention you give it. Eating well, exercising, getting enough sleep, and avoiding drugs & alcohol are essential to improving physical and emotional well-being.
Emotional Wellness. Everything we experience on a daily basis plays into our emotional wellness. Based on the perceptions we have of events going on around us, our emotions can easily change. Having a resilient mindset, personal accountability, confidence and good self-esteem will help you to regulate the emotions you experience. It’s also important to have healthy self-talk habits and to learn how to dodge common thinking errors. This will help you manage the perceptions and attitudes you have of things going on around you that play into your emotional wellness.
Intellectual Wellness. No, this isn’t about how smart you are or how well you do in school. This is actually about how much you work that brain of yours! Questioning what happens around you, problem-solving, learning about other people’s perspectives and experiences, and expressing yourself all play into intellectual wellness. When you start asking yourself why you have the beliefs you do, you either adopt updated beliefs on things or you strengthen the beliefs you already have. You can’t go wrong either way.
It’s also important to note that looking at things through a different perspective, thinking outside the box, or finding new ways to express your thoughts and feelings can stretch your creativity muscles. Creativity doesn’t only refer to painting, poetry, or playing the guitar; it also relates to finding innovative ways to solve a problem (combining logic with creativity). Embracing the unknown, allowing yourself to be vulnerable, and expanding your knowledge by finding curiosity in the world around you will help you improve your intellectual wellness.
Financial Wellness. For many people, talking about money is incredibly uncomfortable. We put a lot of value in money because that’s how our world operates. Money is one of the biggest stressors of Americans, and it’s understandable why. Our quality of life can drastically change if we don’t have the resources to manage our bills, access health care, have a roof over our heads, or to buy groceries. Maintaining financial wellness in today’s day and age isn’t an easy task, but doing what you can with what you have, spending your money wisely, and slowly building up savings can help you feel more secure in that endeavor.
Social Wellness. Surrounding yourself with supportive people that have similar values isn’t just good for your emotional health, but also your physical health. According to Dr. Robert Waldinger, a psychiatrist and director of the Harvard Study of Adult Development, "people who are more socially connected to family, friends, and community are happier, healthier, and live longer than people who are less well connected.” Finding authentic connections with others and building meaningful relationships in cultural and social arenas will help you feel supported when times are rough. Regardless of who you are or where you come from, there is a place for you to feel welcomed and accepted. Be mindful of the people you keep company with, as they can either lift you up or drag you down. Put your precious energy into the people that align with your values and treat you with respect. Life is too short to not be surrounded by people that make you feel good.
Spiritual Wellness. Regardless of your individual belief system, we all have a spiritual or ethical aspect of ourselves to tend to. It’s about asking yourself some hard questions, such as:
Who am I?
What is my purpose?
What beliefs do I have and are they in alignment with my values?
Am I being true to myself?
Asking yourself these questions helps you have a deeper understanding of who you are and how you want to move through the world. Sometimes you’re not going to have an answer to the deeper questions, and that’s okay. It’s important to remember that it’s okay to be unsure about things because we’re all on our own individual paths. There’s no rush in learning who we are.
Environmental Wellness. Each and every person on this planet holds responsibility for making sure our environment is being taken care of, as an environmentally well person wants to see the longevity of our world extended for the generations ahead. We all contribute to carbon emissions, water consumption, the depletion of fossil fuels, and producing trash. The least we can do is to minimize how much waste we put out (including wasted water and things that are non-recyclable), recycle what we can, put trash where it belongs, and use alternative travel methods (walking, biking, taking the bus, carpooling) when possible. Reduce. Reuse. Recycle.
Environmental wellness also relates to how well we respect our personal surroundings, such as having a space that is clean and well taken care of. The next time you clean your bathroom, notice how you felt before and after the mess was cleaned up. Research suggests a messy environment can increase stress—all the more reason to clean up as we make our messes.
Not only is it important to see our world thrive around us, but it’s also important to make sure our immediate environment is safe for us to live in. Living in a home or around people that do not make us feel safe is not okay. We deserve to exist freely in our homes with our boundaries being respected and under a roof that we can feel comfortable in. If you’re feeling unsafe at home, talk to a trusted adult who can help you. If you’re in immediate danger, call 911. Some other options might include going to:
A friend’s house
A relative’s home
A youth shelter
A library or other community space temporarily
It may also be good for you to speak with a counselor or therapist that can help you manage your feelings of being unsafe after the trauma or incident has passed. It's not abnormal to experience paranoia or disorganized thoughts relating to past experiences. A therapist can help you learn to feel safe again.
Above all else, your safety matters. It is intimately entwined with all the other dimensions of wellness, and without it, the other dimensions cannot reach their fullest potential. If you’re interested in learning more, check out our article Staying Safe. Find your inner strength and get the help you need if you're not feeling safe. Safety is your right.
Measuring the 7 Dimensions of Wellness
Now that we know a little more about the 7 dimensions of wellness, how do we figure out how "well" we really are? As with most problem-solving, it starts with asking ourselves some hard questions followed by some honest answers. Try not to judge yourself too much for the answers you come up with. You may be learning new things about yourself or thinking about things you’ve not given much conscious thought before. Just try to be gentle and compassionate with yourself.
What am I fueling my body with?
Am I drinking enough water?
Am I getting between 7 and 10 hours of sleep a night?
How often am I moving my body and getting my heart rate up?
How much am I drinking alcohol or using drugs?
How is my immune system doing?
Am I making responsible choices for my sexual health?
What concerns does my doctor have for my health?
How often do I hold myself accountable for what I say and do?
What do I think of myself? Do I like who I am?
Am I communicating my boundaries with others?
How do I cope with stress?
Do I flee to escapism when things are tough?
Do I confront the feelings I have or do I shove them down?
Am I expressing my emotions with others in an appropriate way?
Is it difficult for me to manage my emotions?
Am I resilient? Can I bounce back from hard times easily or do I let it drag me down?
How often do I question my beliefs and actions?
Do I develop my own opinions or do I adopt the opinions of those around me?
Am I making enough effort to understand other people’s cultures?
Do I spend enough time learning new skills?
In what ways am I being creative in my life?
Am I stimulating my brain enough through puzzles, problem-solving, or philosophical discussions?
Am I budgeting my money properly?
Do I feel good with how much money I have?
In case of an emergency, do I have the resources to handle that?
Am I satisfied with where my future finances will be based on where I am today?
Where does most of my money go?
Am I confident with my money management skills?
When I’m hanging out with my friends, do I feel like I belong?
Are there people in my life that support me?
Do my friends share the same values as me?
Do I tend to isolate myself from family and friends?
Am I making time for the important people in my life?
Do the people in my life want me to succeed?
Am I making more effort in my relationships than they are?
Are my relationships stable or unstable?
How often do I feel alone or lonely?
Am I invested in my own self-improvement?
Am I satisfied with where my life is going?
How often do I try to help others?
Do I have meaningful values that contribute to a better world for everyone?
Am I in alignment with my values and beliefs?
How often do I practice gratitude?
How do I feel about littering?
What do I do to protect and preserve the earth?
Am I being mindful of how much waste I’m creating?
Is my environment safe to be in?
Do I feel like I can live freely where I am?
Am I afraid to be myself?
Is my neighborhood safe for me?
Has my home been taken well care of?
How much importance do I put on having a clean space?
Once you ask yourself these questions, it’s time to see where we measure up! Take a look at the example below and then let’s create one of your own.
As you can see, there are many ways you can measure the dimensions of wellness. Sometimes it’s easier to see where you are when you have a visual aid to help you see where your strengths are and where you need to spend some time setting goals to help you improve. Either draw out a chart of your own or print out one of the blank charts at the bottom of this article. Rate how well you’re doing in each dimension on a scale of 1-10; imagining the center of the chart is 0 and the outside is 10. With a colored pencil or marker, mark each dimension accordingly.
You now have an idea on where your strengths lie and what needs a bit of improving. You’ve sat with yourself and really taken a deep look at what’s going on in your life, who you are, and what is important to you. Treat yourself to some self-care after all that, because you deserve it. Even if you feel like you’re lacking in a lot of these dimensions, that’s okay! We’re all on a different journey and learning at our own pace. Regardless of what your chart looks like, just keep doing your best and you’ll never disappoint yourself.
To learn how to make specific improvements for each dimension, keep an eye out for upcoming articles!