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The 8 Dimensions of Wellness

Guest blog by Dr. Li Ping Su-Kubricht, RMUoHP Student Affairs Counselor

Being engaged in work and graduate education which develop professional and personal skills is rewarding, but certainly not easy. Balancing these responsibilities requires seemingly endless time and energy. And, academic and professional workloads may conflict with other personal roles, including family and community obligations. At times, the stress you encounter juggling these hats may have a negative impact on your overall health and wellness.

Holistic Approach to Wellness

Although people often think about wellness in terms of physical health, wellness is multi-dimensional and holistic integration of body, mind, and spirit. Wellness generally includes the interconnection of various dimensions such as physical, emotional, intellectual, social, spiritual, etc. Problems in one dimension can impact the other dimensions as well (Roddick, 2016).

The multi-dimensional wellness approaches have been adopted in mental health practice over the last few decades (Copeland, 2002; Copeland & Mead, 2004; Hutchinson, 1996; Moller & Murphy, 1997; Swarbrick, 2006; Swarbrick, 1997). Rather than focusing on the problems and issues, the wellness approaches emphasize positivity and internal motivation to increase your active participation in managing problems and life stress to prevent crisis situations. This notion also shifts your focus on illness and dependence to a sense of empowerment and optimistic belief in your capacity in managing total health needs. Additionally, these approaches offer a holistic framework in viewing the person as a whole and promote setting wellness lifestyle goals in various dimensions (Swarbrick, 2006).

Dimensions of Wellness

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has identified eight dimensions of wellness to optimize an individual’s overall, holistic wellness:

  • Emotional
  • Physical
  • Spiritual
  • Social
  • Intellectual
  • Occupational
  • Environmental
  • Financial

Maintaining and balancing each dimension of wellness is a vital component to your overall health.

1. Emotional Wellness

Emotional wellness involves your ability to cope with life stress, express emotions, and feel positive about your life. It includes being aware and accepting your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors by managing them in a healthy way. Emotional wellness also includes awareness of your strengths while recognizing individual areas for improvement. Being emotionally well allows you to express your feelings without restraint and increase your capability of forming healthy connections with others.

2. Physical Wellness

Physical wellness consists of healthy habits towards nutrition, sleep, exercise, appropriate health care, stress reduction, and overall physical health. Physical wellness also includes developing body awareness and personal stewardship towards attending to your own health. This also includes self-awareness regarding the ability to learn to listen to your body while creating physical activity routines that are balanced with daily needs and responsibilities. Maintaining an optimal level of physical health allows you to nurture the other dimensions of wellness.

3. Spiritual Wellness

Spiritual wellness consists of personal beliefs and values that provide a sense of meaning and purpose in life. Spiritual wellness includes recognizing your needs for discovering meaning and purpose in human existence while also developing an appreciation for life and connection with something larger than yourself in the universe. It is important to know that spiritual wellness does not require you to participate in religious practice, although religion can be one route to increase your spiritual wellness.

4. Social Wellness

Social wellness consists of having positive, healthy, and meaningful relationships with friends, family, and the community. Social wellness includes using healthy communication skills, respecting yourself and others, and showing interests and genuine concern for those in need. Maintaining social wellness also facilitates establishing a support system and increasing your sense of belonging, self-esteem, and assertive skills.

5. Intellectual Wellness

Intellectual wellness encourages interacting in creative and stimulating activities to expand your knowledge and skills as well as understanding diverse points of view. Intellectual wellness includes discovering your own potential for sharing your talents and perspective with others and taking differing perspectives into consideration. Maintaining an optimal level of intellectual wellness does not only give you the ability to develop your creativity and growth mindset but also strengthens your concentration, memory, and critical thinking skills.

6. Financial Wellness

Financial wellness consists of finding an equilibrium among the psychological, physical, and spiritual aspects of your relationship with finance. It includes understanding financial processes related to savings, income, and debt, while utilizing resources to achieve long-term goals towards future financial objectives. Financial wellness also includes learning to live within your means, making informed financial decisions and investments, and setting short and long-term goals. Learning and developing financially smart habits during graduate school can reduce stress and prepare you to achieve your future goals.

7. Environmental Wellness

Environmental wellness promotes physical and emotional safety in all of your surroundings. Environmental wellness includes respect and preservation of nature. This includes the environment in which you live, work, and learn to ensure these areas are pleasant and support your well-being. The dimension of environmental wellness also includes self-awareness towards the impact of personal interactions with the environment and taking action to protect yourself from environmental pollutants while promoting a healthy environment that supports your overall well-being. Environmental wellness does not require your participation in a movement or organization, but it encourages you to adopt practices that promote a safe and healthy environment.

8. Occupational Wellness

Occupational wellness consists of exploring and determining activities that align with your individual purpose and meaning that mirrors personal goals, belief systems, lifestyle, and values. Occupational wellness includes being self-aware of balancing work requirements with personal time, building relationships with colleagues, exploring various career options, and engaging in ongoing training opportunities. Maintaining an optimal level of occupational wellness allows you to develop unique skills and talents that are both personally and professionally rewarding.

Impact of Wellness on Giving & Receiving Quality Healthcare

For healthcare professionals, wellness is both a personal and professional responsibility. To ensure high-quality patient service, providers have an ethical obligation to attend to their own health and wellbeing (Stoewen, 2017). There is a correlation between a healthcare provider’s own physical and mental health and patient care, including successful treatment outcomes and a positive patient-clinician relationship (Beutler et al., 2004; Jones et al., 1998). On the other hand, the healthcare provider’s deficiency in wellbeing has been shown to elicit negativity in their patient care (Henry, Schact, & Strupp, 1990; Wallace, Lemaire, & Ghali, 2009). Therefore, it is important for you to maintain personal wellbeing for your professional effectiveness and realize that the therapeutic effect can decrease when the level of personal distress increases.

Wellness & Personal Harmony

The goal of your overall wellness is to strive for personal harmony, not necessarily equally balanced in all dimensions. As you set goals to achieve holistic personal wellness, incorporate your own priorities, approaches, and aspirations. Additionally, you should consider your view of what it means to live life to its fullest.

For additional tips and strategies ideas to improve your overall wellness, visit RMUoHP Health and Wellness Resources.


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