The 8 Dimensions of Wellness
In the beginning of this month, we started our series on the 8 dimensions of wellness. As a quick review, the 8 dimensions of wellness are (in no order) social, emotional, financial, occupational, spiritual, intellectual, physical, and environmental dimensions (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2016). Some of the aspects of the 8 dimensions include:
Social: community, friendships, socialization
Emotional: feelings/emotions, exercising self-care, reducing stress
Financial: work, financial health (checking/savings accounts; retirement), debt
Occupational: work-life balance, work relationships, vocational accomplishments
Spiritual: beliefs, practices (meditation, prayer)
Intellectual: education, personal interests, intellectual conversation
Physical: a healthy body (nutrition, physical activity, sleep, routine health maintenance)
Environmental: home/work environment, changing scenery, caring for our earth
We went over the spiritual and intellectual dimensions last week. This week, we’re looking at the physical and environmental dimensions.
Wellness in the environmental domain is multifaceted and includes both our personal environment as well as the environment of our world. Areas to consider in the environmental domain include:
Environmental impact on the world
Achieving environmental wellness means being able to feel safe and be safe in our environment. For example, the ability to access clean water is a necessity for life but not everyone has that access. Considering out environmental impact on the rest of the world is important. We can participate in environmental wellness by recycling, making our home more energy efficient, limiting the amount of water we use, and looking for volunteer opportunities to support environmental wellness (beach clean-ups, supporting worthy causes that dig wells in other areas of the world, etc.).
Environmental wellness also means addressing our immediate environment, the one in which we live and work. Decreasing clutter in our home or workspace lends to an increased sense of environmental well-being. Routine cleaning and maintenance as well as updating our décor also lend to environmental wellness. Using colors to match our taste and surrounding ourselves with things that we love (without filling up so much space that everything is cluttered) are great ways to enhance our wellness in this domain.
Changing up our scenery and spending more time in different spaces also enhances our environmental well-being. For example, we might spend time at a local park walking on a nature trail or visit a local museum for a change of pace (we talked last week about the impact of art on mental health – see Week 3 of this series). Research shows that being outdoors improves memory and attention and enhances cognitive flexibility (Weir, 2020). Additionally, being outdoors allows us to get in some exercise and enhance our physical well-being.
The physical domain of wellness is important for obvious reasons. If our bodies are functioning at an optimal level, we are unable to fully participate in all other domains of wellness. The physical domain covers:
Alcohol, tobacco, illicit substance use
The physical domain asks us to consider many questions. As we address nutrition, for example, we ask if we have access to healthy food. We can’t attend to our physical wellness without access to the most basic components of physical health and access to healthy food is a fundamental aspect of physical wellness.
We might also ask ourselves if we are getting physical activity. For many of us working in an office setting, physical activity isn’t always easy. I know that I am sitting at a desk for 8-10 hours a day some days. Physical activity isn’t on the top of my list when I’m at work… doing my job is. It’s easy to get into the mindset when we’re faced with a seemingly endless to-do list and only a certain number of hours in which to tackle it. But we can take small steps like getting up from our desk at least once per hour and walking around the office for 10 minutes. Not only will it help your physical health but it will also provide a break for your mind, a little “reset” if you will. If getting away from your desk isn’t an option, why not try parking a little farther away from your office so you get those few extra steps at the beginning and end of your workday? You could also consider using the stairs versus taking an elevator or escalator. These small, intentional acts can build up over time and help improve our physical well-being.
Research in the last decade has shown links between sleep deprivation and behavioral health disturbances. While not always connected, sleep disturbances are often a result of environmental factors. For example, using a smart device at bedtime can interrupt our circadian rhythm (our “sleep-wake cycle”) and interfere with the production of melatonin (our natural “sleep hormone”) leading to difficulty falling asleep. While smart devices can most certainly impact an adult’s quality of sleep, children are twice as likely to be impacted by the effects of smart device use at bedtime (Okoye, 2021). Having a good sleep routine, including eliminating the use of smart devices for at least an hour before bed, is vitally important to our physical health
The use of substances impacts our physical domain in many ways, as well. I don’t think any of us have managed to go through life without hearing about the impact of tobacco use on the body. Many of us have most likely heard of the impacts of alcohol and illicit substance use as well. Some of us use these substances as a coping skill for dealing with stressors and may not be able to stop on our own. There are treatment providers that can support you in discontinuing the use of substances and medications that can enhance your recovery. If you’d like to stop on your own, remember to reach out to your medical provider to discuss the process for tapering and stopping use of alcohol or illicit substances. Remember, there are risks associated with the discontinuation of some substances. If you don’t feel alcohol or other substances are an issue OR you’re not ready to stop, consider the following:
How has your substance use impacted your life, job, or relationships with others?
Have you ever felt compelled to use alcohol or substances despite knowing that the outcome would be unhealthy for you or others?
Are you reaching out to family or friends or turning to substances when you are going through a tough time?
Are you able to identify triggers that make you want to use substances and do you have a plan that can help you avoid them?
Have you considered attending a support group or 12-step recovery group?
Preventive medicine and medication safety are the final components of physical wellness we’ll address. Preventive medicine includes routine health care such as an annual wellness exam, regular lab monitoring of your body functioning (blood sugar, kidney function, liver function, etc.), and routine dental care. In the event we need to take medication, ensuring that our medication is taken properly and stored safely are important components of wellness for us AND others. Part of the responsibility we have when taking medications means knowing what medicine we take, the doses, and the frequency of administration of the medication. We should always carry a current list of ALL our medications (including over the counter medications) and our current allergies. If there is an emergency and we are unable to speak for ourselves, doctors should know what meds we take so they can choose the most appropriate interventions for us. This might also include us wearing a medical alert bracelet, especially for allergies and chronic medical conditions such as diabetes.
Thank you for joining me in this series on the 8 domains of wellness. I hope that you’ve learned something you can implement in your life to enhance your overall sense of wellness. Feel free to reach out to me if there is a topic you’d like me to cover in a future blog post or series.
As a final thought, if you are struggling to cope and need professional help, please seek it out. If you’re not sure where to go and you’re in the United States, SAMHSA has a hotline you can call to find services in your area:
SAMHSA’s National Helpline: 1-800-662-HELP (4357)
This is a confidential, free, 24-hour-a-day, 365-day-a-year, information service providing resources and helping connect you to mental health and substance use disorder services (available in English and Spanish). You can also visit the SAMHSA service locator online:
As always, if you’re in crisis, call 911 or visit your local emergency room for a mental health screening. Other resources for mental health support are available, as well:
~ 24/7 Crisis Hotline: National Suicide Prevention Lifeline Network - call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) (Veterans, press 1) or visit www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org
~ Crisis Text Line - Text TALK to 741-741 to text with a trained crisis counselor from the Crisis Text Line for free, 24/7
~ Veterans Crisis Line - Send a text to 838255
~ The Trevor Project (LGBTQ youth focused) - 1-866-488-7386
~ SAGE National LGBTQ+ Elder Hotline - 877-360-LGBTQ+ (5428)
~ RAINN National Sexual Assault Hotline - 1-800-656-HOPE (4673)
~ National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline - 1-866-331-9474