Research indicates that maintaining balance among the seven dimensions of wellness is the optimal way to lead a more satisfying life. We inadvertently maintain this balance through the feedback mechanisms naturally instilled in us, however, life can sometimes feel overwhelming if the circumstances we experience cause us to neglect any of these dimensions. COVID-19 is a prime example of a circumstance capable of shaking the very foundation of these feedback mechanisms.
What are the Seven Dimensions of Wellness?
Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine once said, "Even when all is known, the care of a man is not yet complete, because eating alone will not keep a man well; he must also take exercise. For food and exercise, while possessing opposite qualities, yet work together to produce health."
Whether you consider yourself a spiritual person or not, your body is your temple. If your body is not functioning the way you are used to, you feel it right away. Neglecting your physical wellbeing impacts the other six dimensions of wellness in the most obvious ways. Understanding the physical dimension of wellness requires an understanding of the need for quality nutrition and the need for consistent physical activity. It discourages the use of controlled substances and excessive alcohol consumption, or other things that may impair your physical health.
Taking control of one's physical wellness requires the acceptance of the personal responsibility to care for oneself. This includes monitoring your body and addressing areas of concern, protecting your body from diseases and physical harm, and seeking medical attention when it is required. Physical fitness also helps to boost energy levels, self-confidence, self-esteem, and allows you to gain a general sense of direction in life by boosting mental clarity. Ways to improve your physical health:
Drink more water!
Fuel your body with healthy foods.
Just move! The more you move the easier it gets.
Find healthy foods and activities that you enjoy. Nothing is harder than faking the funk.
"Spiritual health is a state of complete harmony of the body, mind and spirit." - BKS Iyengar
Religious views aside, spiritual wellness is the recognition that there is purpose in human existence. Unraveling your own purpose can be challenging but is ultimately the most rewarding journey you will encounter in your lifetime. Spiritual wellness is the path to inner peace regardless of the circumstances occurring around you. It is the acceptance that while you cannot change the things that happen outside of you, you are in control of what happens within yourself.
The spiritual journey is unique to everybody but ultimately encompasses the same core components: spending time alone to ponder the meaning of life, prayer or meditation of some kind, curiosity about the natural world, abiding by a certain set of principles and understanding that the challenges we encounter in life are meant to be learned from. Ways to improve your spiritual well-being:
Explore your spiritual core and seek out deeper meanings.
Emotional wellness refers to one's ability to feel and express their emotions in a healthy way. Many people have this idea that the purpose of life is to be happy. This is far from the truth. A healthy human experiences a wide range of changing emotions on a regular basis and this is not a sign of weakness. This is a sign that you are working exactly the way you were designed to.
Emotions demand to be felt and anything that inhibits the full extent of "feeling" only masks
the emotions that are there for a reason. Furthermore, emotional wellness involves acceptance of our emotions as they arise and the ability to healthily cope with the stressors in our daily life. It is okay to feel negative emotions such as anger, sadness or fear, as this is what contributes to our emotional feedback loop. It is the ability to remain optimistic about life even in times of great suffering. This doesn't always happen automatically, sometimes it takes work. Below are some things you can do to maximize your emotional wellness:
Reflect on your own life through meditation or journaling.
Cultivate a growth mindset.
Understand that feelings are meant to be felt and that they are only temporary.
Be compassionate toward yourself and others.
Learn how to manage your time.
Breathe! (Ujjayi Pranayama)
Most importantly, know that it is okay to seek help when necessary. Whether it is in the form of a conversation with someone you trust or with a meeting with a licensed therapist, addressing an unhealthy emotional state can potentially save a life.
Social wellness refers to ones ability to connect and relate to others. Maintaining positive and healthy relationships with other people such as friends, family and colleagues contributes to your social wellness. As a not-so-social person myself, I can attest that maintaining relationships is difficult, especially when you have a thousand things happening in your life. But make no mistake, these relationships are important. Friends and family can serve as a source of encouragement and support during challenging times. Furthermore, understanding that you are important to other people can vastly impact your own self-image. Cultivating healthy relationships can improve the quality of your life. Similarly, it is also important to recognize when a relationship has become unhealthy. Toxic relationships can have a lasting impact on your own wellbeing and can be the source of your depleting energy. Identify and address these relationships accordingly. Some things you can do to improve your social wellness:
Don't criticize, judge or blame others. Everyone is on their own journey.
Get involved with your community. Give back!
Address your social anxiety.
Force yourself to communicate on a regular basis.
Make and keep your plans.
Express appreciation for others.
For most people, our external environment has an impact on our state of mind. Personally, when I am feeling off, the first thing I do is clean up my space as this is one of the few things I can control. I find that a decluttered space is the precursor for decluttering my mind. Environmental wellness requires taking personal responsibility for your environment whether that is your room, your home, your property or the earth in general.
The environmental dimension of wellness is a tricky one because there is a limit to how much you an control about the things around you. For example, I was born and raised in New York City, a city with a growing population of about 8.5 million people. It wasn't until I moved away from the city into a much smaller city that I realized that a high volume of people triggers my anxiety. Here I was, taking the train with thousands of New Yorkers multiple times a day or driving through an obscene number of vehicles on any given street not realizing that I am much more functional in a place with less people. Sometimes, a change of environment is what you need to address some of your issues, even if it is just temporary. Things you can do to address your environmental wellness:
Incorporate plants into your surroundings.
Submerge yourself in nature.
Travel for a change of scenery.
Reduce waste and recycle
Use natural products.
Conserve your resources.
Intellectual wellness involves regular engagement of the mind. It encourages stimulating mental activities and fostering creativity. When we are born, there is nothing but the unknown. Our job as we grow and develop is to soak up the information around us and make sense of it. While it is true that maximal learning is done during childhood, it is important to remember that the learning never stops, it just builds upon itself. Like the body, the mind must be exercised and neural connections grow stronger in response to stimuli. Critical-thinking, problem-solving and adapting to change all contribute to intellectual wellness. The pursuit of knowledge is the acceptance that we are life-long learners who must continually seek challenges to grow. Things you can do to develop intellectual wellness:
Communicate with people who pose intellectual challenges.
Read as often as possible.
Write down your thoughts.
Learn to appreciate cultural diversity.
Attend museums and other cultural centers.
Seek higher education.
The vocational dimension of wellness encourages living with purpose. The things that we do daily must be fulfilling in order for us to feel personally satisfied. If you lack a clear vision as to what your purpose is, chances are you are lacking in vocational wellness. Understanding that every individual possesses unique gifts and learning to identify what these gifts are, may be the first step in understanding your purpose. Patience is key for this one. Most people don't fall into a career path that they love immediately. You might go through ten jobs before you find one that personally satisfies you. Understand that this is normal and that eventually, as you get to know yourself, your path will appear much clearer. Some things you can do to improve your vocational wellness:
Create a vision board.
Reflect on the things that make you feel satisfied.
Learn new skills and master the skills you already have.
Be kind, and be patient with yourself. Nobody, and I mean NOBODY on this planet has mastered these seven dimensions of wellness. The truth is that the journey to self-fulfillment is the destination (as cliché as that may sound). Aspire to be better everyday and understand that when you fall, the next step is to get back up and keep it pushing. Sure, you might fall again, but the beauty is that as long as you are alive, you get unlimited changes to try again. Be well and remember to breathe!
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