The term "wellness" has a sort of soft feeling doesn't it? As though what it stands for doesn't carry much weight. It seems to give off an airy and un-influential vibe that's easy to pass over in conversation. This seems particularly true when we pit it up against terms like "Fitness". Yeah, Fitness carries some weight. Fitness has clear, concrete value. When someone is fit, it's obvious (abs=excellence), but when someone is well, it's average and non-descript.
This is unfortunate. You see, your Fitness is a part of your Wellness. Which means that Wellness carries all the weight of fitness and more. Not less. At Dynamic Wellness, our view of Wellness is one that comprises a multitude of dimensions. Eight interrelated dimensions, actually. Those being:
1. Physical (herein lies Fitness)
We see this as pretty comprehensive; practically your whole life falls into these dimensions. Yes, the argument for other dimensions can be made but they seem to just be more or less combinations of the ones listed above.
The point being, Wellness doesn't receive the respect it deserves. It's been relinquished to costly scented things and personal pampering while it's lost it's connection to describing the overall quality of life of a person.
For example, when people are asked "How are you?" we'd like them to respond honestly by quickly taking stock of the 8 dimensions of their life and responding accordingly. If, indeed they are "Well" across all eight dimensions then, gravy, they get to respond with "I'm well. Thank you."
On the other hand, if they were just diagnosed with high blood pressure (struggling with their physical wellness perhaps) then they could respond by saying "I could be doing better physically, thank you for asking." Or if they were struggling to find purpose in their lives and wondering what's the point (spiritual wellness) maybe they could say "I'm a bit lost in the dark, thank you for asking".
A better state of Wellness is really what most people are after, and that general feeling of unwellness we often experience is a sign of something missing. This is unclear to most people because it's hard to wrap ones head around all the factors that contribute to it. But this also explains why you can be so awesome in a few dimensions and still feel unsatisfied. That's because you might be lacking in one of the other dimensions. Let's work to establish Wellness as the powerful term it deserves to be.
So, if you've made it this far you are keen on taking responsibility for your state of wellness, or wellbeing. And perhaps you are interested in mapping it out better so you can better solve problems as they inevitably come up. That is the purpose of this article, to provide an overview of the 8 Dimensions of Wellness that contribute to and define your state of wellbeing.
Before we delve into each dimension individually, it's worthwhile noting that most people will value each dimension differently. With some being more important, or most important while others are less important or nearly unimportant. To each his own. There's no need to say with unwavering certainty that any one is more important than another, however, we will make a case for which dimensions provide the most return on investment and might be the best place to start. You can get a lot from any one dimension, but being able to get all you need from one dimension does not seem possible.
Here we go.
The Physical dimension of wellness comprises your bodily health and how well it functions. The Physical dimension is why Dynamic Wellness exists. More on that later. The three factors that are most significant and controllable when it comes to your physical well-being are Exercise, Nutrition, and Sleep. The paramount importance of these 3 factors is undeniable. The evidence supporting the need for physical activity, proper diet, and adequate sleep is incontrovertible. Meaning, you can't expect to be well while utterly neglecting any one (or more) of these factors. For us, this is the most immediately actionable dimension, particularly the exercise bit. Physical activity is universally accessible and has zero cost. You can get on that any time any place. You should not assume that you have to pay for it. Exercise, eat what you need (as opposed to what you want), and sleep enough.
Who to see: Personal Trainer, Registered Dietitian, Sleep Specialist
The Spiritual dimension is a tougher one to navigate. Many people won't even consider themselves spiritual beings despite the fact that neuroscience and psychological research has shown spiritual experience as a legitimate phenomenon that has real measurable impacts on a person. The importance of Spiritual wellbeing to us is clear. We tie spirituality directly to sense of meaning. If you feel that what you are doing, or how you are living, is meaningful, then you are likely doing well spiritually. However, if you find yourself in a nihilistic void and every action demanded of you feels meaningless, then perhaps you are spiritually unwell. It's important for us to be clear on the fact that we are using the terms spirituality and meaning very generally. We are not advocating for any specific way of achieving a sense of meaning as this tends to be intensely personal and cultural. There are many ways to cultivate meaning in your life. Know that the degree to which you find what your life meaningful is a good indication of your spiritual well-being.
Who to see: Psychologist, Psychiatrist, Life Coach, Shaman
The Emotional dimension relates the importance of understanding how to navigate how you feel. That is recognizing how sensitive your behavior is to how you're feeling (your emotional state). It is also acknowledging our very human emotions are sensitively dependent on many factors; physical health, personal history, current relationships etc. We can exercise direct control over our actions despite our emotions through discipline and we can exercise indirect control over our actions by managing the factors that influence how we feel. Emotions are literally physiological motivators; they exist to get us to do something. Fear to flee, anger to confront, sadness to grieve, joy to express. That's not to say that emotions are intended to motivate a specific action (that would be too easy) nor is it to say that you only feel one emotion at a time (mixed emotions are a hoot). The positive influence that well navigated emotions can have on your life is astounding.
Who to see: Psychologist, Psychiatrist, Mom
The Social dimension may be the most underrated dimension of all. The right people together are favorably unstoppable. The wrong people together can be catastrophically unstoppable. Who you engage with on a regular basis have a very real impact on your wellbeing. We only have to look at people who have lived in prolonged isolation to understand what the lack of social connection can cause. We also only have to look at how far people can go when they have the right people around them. There is a terrible theme in the modern self help movement that suggest all your problems are your own, and your own to sort out. Just by adding the right people to your life you can make a very positive impact on your wellbeing. It's becoming clear that humans benefit hugely when they have regular face to face, voice to voice (conversation), or body to body interaction (dance, and other fun activities). It is as though we depend on interaction with others to regulate our own bodily state. Like, we can't know we're safe unless we see safety in the expression of someone else. Who you are in isolation is not your true self. Take stock of your social network (the ones you see face to face) and see what's missing. And remember, you may be an important person in someone elses life.
Who to see: Social Worker, Psychologist, Psychiatrist, BFF
The Environmental dimension speaks to the importance of what the space around you is like. This includes your home, commute, work, neighbourhood, etc. If the environment is inherently unsafe; think crime ridden dejected housing projects, then it will have a negative impact on your wellbeing, even indirectly. How? By making you feel unsafe. Feeling unsafe is a truly stressful physiological state. The longer you are in that state the worse on your health and wellbeing it is. This is how environments consistently hold people back. Conversely, the right environment makes you feel safe. Safe enough to confront other challenges (in other dimensions). You're more likely to go out for a walk when you feel safe to do so. The right environment also inspires creativity, problem solving, and action. Better environments tend to be more orderly (clean and organized). Have a look at your home or work environment. Is it safe? Is there anything you can bring order to? Again, you also have an influence on the environment of others (don't litter).
Who to see: Self, Landlord, Local MP
The Intellectual dimension does not relate to "how smart you are" but rather how educated you are. And by educated we don't mean "how much schoolin' you got" but rather have you taken the responsibility to educate yourself by any means necessary on any topic. Do you read? Do you ask questions? Do you explore? School or University can be a great way to become educated, but they are certainly not the only way, and may not even be the best way. What you educate yourself on doesn't even have to be all that specific. It seems to us that there is something uniquely powerful about people who are educated regardless of what they have studied, be it Tardigrades or Shakespeare. Education serves to help us understand the world around us. Magnitude of Intelligence may very well be what sets us a part from every other living thing on the planet, and education is how you take care of that. Everyone can become educated.
Who to see: Academic Advisor, Guidance Counselor, Librarian, Google
The Occupational dimension isn't concerned with how much money ya makin' or even what your job title is. It is concerned with what you occupy yourself with and how well you apply yourself. Frankly, you are always doing something. Even when you are doing "nothing" you are resting, or time wasting, or would rather not be honest about how unproductive you've been and feel guilty about it. There are things you can choose to apply your efforts towards for some form of compensation (a job). That's what most of us spend a good deal of our week doing. What are your actions producing? That's what your occupation is. Did you know that you are fully permitted to apply yourself as you choose and for the cause of your choice? Chew on that.
Who to see: Occupational Therapist, Employer, Job Bank
The Financial dimension isn't exactly based on how much money you have but rather what you economic situation is like. In the West we live in a predominately capitalist state. That is a free market system. One might venture to say that that is also our political state seeing as how much money can buy you once you get enough of it. Now, capitalism is a powerful tool to some and an oppressive weapon to others. Both of which are true. However, it is integral to our society and not going anywhere anytime soon. So, best we learn how to play the game. You have financial needs. Figure out what they are. You have financial resources. Figure out what they are. Compare your needs to your resources. Is how you are living sustainable? The truth is, being financially uncertain is harmful to your wellbeing. Having to concern yourself with the cost of every grocery trip, every car repair, and every indulgence over long periods can be debilitating. This is where knowing how much you can spend on these things can be a relief. Be honest and clear about your situation rather than uncertain (worse than being in a bad situation). Tally it up.
Who to see: Bank, Bank Account, Wallet/Purse, Financial Advisor
There you have it. It's pretty evident where each dimension relates to the others, such as occupational to financial, or social and emotional. And, to say it again, you can take stock of the 8 dimension and sort out what ones you are strongest in and which ones you are struggling with. And if your heart so desires it, you can try to make a change in one or more. Know that you have the most to gain from the dimensions you aren't doing the best in but that the solution to one dimension's problem might be found in another dimension altogether.
You can take action on this today. Consider doing the following;
Physical: Go for a walk, eat a salad, get to bed at a reasonable hour.
Spiritual: Ask yourself what you are living for?
Emotional: Explain to yourself why you feel the way you do.
Social: Talk to a friend for 30min
Environmental: Clean your room.
Intellectual: Read for 30min.
Occupational: Prepare your tasks for your next work day.
Financial: Find out how much you are making and how much you owe.
The order that we related these in is, generally speaking, the order of priority for us. That is based on available evidence and actionability. We know for a fact that exercise is immensely powerful tool for our overall wellbeing and we know for a fact that you can do something about that right now.
Improving your wellbeing over the long term ain't gonna be easy. Perhaps it all seems a bit simpler now, but let's not confuse that with easy. Fortunately people are damn capable of putting their life together when they confidently commit to a plan of action that's within their ability.
In closing, the title of this article is 'A Road Map to Wellness?' Unfortunately, with wellness being so personal and unique from one person to the next, no one road map would suffice. But what we can do is tell you what the terrain is like, what you might expect to come up against along the way, and that you are capable of overcoming any obstacle that comes up. As for the path, that's up to you.