BioNeurix has identified 8 dimensions of wellness that contribute to optimal health and wellness.
Life is about balance.
No singular metric to measures your overall health. There are multiple aspects of our wellness, from the foods we eat to the social company we keep.
Our research has shown that there are eight dimensions of wellness impact our personal harmony. Learning to give each of these eight dimensions equal consideration is part of mastering self-care.
As you learn more about the different dimensions of wellness, their symbiotic nature will become more evident. You'll start to understand how everything is connected. Each aspect of our wellness has connections to all the others, and together they complete your overall wellbeing.
Physical wellness is the most straightforward dimension of wellness to quantify. You can accurately measure in grams of protein, hours of sleep, and calories burned on a treadmill. We can see these numbers clearly, and we have a solid understanding of how they affect our physical wellbeing.
Checking in on your physical wellness involves stepping back for a moment and genuinely taking a look at yourself. Have you been gaining or losing weight? Do you feel tired or lethargic? How does your skin look?
The top leading causes of death in the United States are heart disease, cancer, respiratory disease, stroke, and injury. Nearly half of these deaths are preventable1. Making positive dietary changes, exercising, and avoiding dangerous activities can help raise you to a higher level of physical wellbeing.
Dietary adjustments typically include eating more vegetables, cutting back on things like salt, avoiding sugary drinks, and other simple carbs. Remember that this doesn't mean you can't ever have a soda again, or that you need to commit to the ultimate super diet. Instead, you should strive to make smaller, more achievable, and sustainable changes in your diet. Try adding vegetables to a dish you already enjoy. Replace one unhealthy drink each day with water or tea.
Sedentary lifestyles kill. People who don't get enough exercise are prone to weight gain and various other health problems. Even if you're not overweight, a sedentary lifestyle could be raising your risk of heart disease2.
Living an active lifestyle means something different for everyone. Be sure to commit only to what your body can do. Inserting exercise into your daily life typically increases your odds of staying engaged and achieving consistent results than trying to schedule gym time. If "getting active" means going to the gym every day, that's great. If your version of exercise is taking your dog to the park, or gardening, that's just as good. The main goal is making a concerted effort to be as active as possible.
We can't protect against everything. There are no guarantees in life. However, you can mitigate your risks by avoiding dangerous practices like smoking (or secondhand smoke environments), binge drinking, and reckless behaviors like unsafe driving.
There has historically been less emphasis on emotional wellness when compared to physical wellness, but it is equally as important. Because the effects of poor psychological care are not always immediately visible, some people are quick to write off emotional health as imaginary. Yet emotional health has substantial impacts on our lives. For example, poor overall emotional health may leave us more susceptible to physical problems.
There are close ties between your emotional state, your physical wellbeing, and your immediate surroundings. Your environment, your diet, and your social life all play vital roles in maintaining emotional wellness.
Don't be fooled into thinking that emotional wellness boils down to either having a psychological disorder or being "normal." We all need to treat our emotions with care. Just like how healthy eating isn't only a concern for those who are obese, emotional care should not just be a serious consideration to those only who have diagnosable problems.
Emotions can be hard to control, but that doesn't mean you have no influence over your emotional health. Mental exercises, such as meditation, and the practice of positivity can help you improve and handle your emotions. It's not always about blocking or preventing negative emotions. You need to gain an understanding of how and why negative emotions affect you and learn to manage them.
Social wellbeing refers to the strength of your relationships with others. Social relationships can mean family, friends, neighbors, and anyone else with whom you maintain contact.
Social wellbeing is essential because our friends and family contribute to what keeps us grounded during difficult times. A close confidant can help you if you find yourself struggling. Sometimes just knowing you have a support network to fall back on can relieve chronic stress and give you the confidence to take risks and chances you might otherwise avoid, like moving into a new home or starting a new job.
Likewise, having poor relationships can be damaging to other areas of your health. Clinical research has shown that relationship stress correlates to a range of mental and physical health issues3. It's wise to take a moment to reassess your relationships and decide how they may be affecting you.
Wellness in this area looks different for everyone. You may not be a social butterfly, and that's okay. Social wellness is measured by how healthy your relationships are, not how many friends you have. Having one very healthy relationship can be more powerful than a dozen weak ones.
One question to ask yourself - are you stimulating your mind? Your intellectual wellness is not concerned with your IQ score or whether or not you completed a Master's degree. Our brains are like muscles. We need to use them to keep them in shape.
We call this "cognitive training," and research has shown that daily "brain training" can improve brain functions like motor speed and attention4. There's not a lot of data to help pinpoint which games or activities present the most benefits. Still, the takeaway is that giving your brain puzzles to solve or opportunities to think through challenging problems can be immensely satisfying.
Other benefits of intellectual wellness are tangential. For example, let's say you set aside ten minutes every day out of your busy schedule to do a sudoku puzzle or play a word game. Not only are you engaging your mind, but you are also allowing your body a rest from the stresses of work, commitments, and general life.
Your environmental wellness refers to how well you connect with the nature around you. Many busy people go days or even months without ever appreciating the marvel of nature and biology that surrounds them. "Stop and smell the roses" is an expression for a reason.
Taking the time to appreciate your environment, whether that's a walk through the park or cultivating your garden, is a powerful way to promote health and relieve stress. As noted by American Nurse Today, patients who walk outside experience nearly twice the reduction in depression as those who walk inside5.
Environmental wellness also extends to how well you care for the environment around you. The more you give to the earth, the more you'll receive in return. Calmness, health, and cleanliness abound in those who take the time to care for their environments.
The essential part of environmental wellness is merely increasing your awareness. Learning more about environmental issues and how humans can strive to be better planetary custodians is the first step. From there, you can find activities and practices that help the planet and give you personal closure. Planting and caring for one small tree on its own may not be enough to stop climate change, but it will bring you closer to your environment. You will connect to the earth in a way you hadn't before. Most importantly, you'll feel a more profound sense of purpose.
Jobs can be a great source of stress and pain. When we are overworked or underappreciated, our occupational wellness suffers. Your job is more than a paycheck. The work you devote yourself to should be engaging and satisfying. You should feel secure and accomplished in what you do. Good occupational wellness does not mean that conflicts or problems never arise, but rather that you can healthily work through them.
Not everyone has the luxury of up and quitting their job in pursuit of a more satisfying one. Many people are stuck in menial positions while their dream jobs remain out of their reach. If you have the resources to go after the career you want most, be thankful for that opportunity.
If you feel like you'll never be able to land the career that you most want, try to find ways to incorporate elements of your dream job into the position you have now. What is it that draws you to the career of your dreams? Try to identify skills or responsibilities that you find attractive and then speak with your current boss. There may be a way to adjust the position you have right now to better align with your needs.
You can't control your coworkers or supervisors, but practicing good emotional wellness can help you better handle situations that come up. You should never dread going to work. If you are miserable at your job, other areas of your life will start to suffer, as well. According to the Harvard Medical School, there are direct links between work stress is and major depressive disorder and generalized anxiety disorder6.
The world revolves around money. Even if we don't like this system, there's little anyone can do to break free of the hold our bank accounts have over our lives. We need money to survive. We need even more money to be both happy and healthy. That's not to say that money is more important than personal relationships. Still, the ability to pay for medical care, purchase healthy food, and live in a safe neighborhood are all vital to our wellbeing.
Money problems can cause stress, as well. According to the American Psychological Association, money trouble is one of the most common forms of chronic stress, which can cause a myriad of health problems7.
Unfortunately, there's no magic money trick that will propel you into a higher income bracket. Many of the most hardworking people don't have access to the same resources as others. That said, you are not helpless in this situation. Getting money smart and improving your overall financial wellness is within your grasp.
Learning to establish a proper budget is an important life skill that many overlook or avoid doing. It's essential to research and learn the ins and outs of various types of investments, money management, and establishing good spending habits are all extremely helpful.
Like all areas of life, you don't have complete control over your financial wellness. For someone who is struggling under excessive medical debt, simply being told to "budget better" is not good advice. You can't control when your car will break down or if your home will flood. However, a healthy relationship with money and good saving habits will give you the best possible shot at financial stability.
Spiritual wellness is perhaps the least tangible dimension. It's all about getting in touch with your spiritual self and defining your life's purpose. Finding meaning in our lives through introspection and self-reflection is an essential piece of our wellness puzzle.
You don't have to be religious to care for your spiritual wellbeing. The Pew Research Center tracks how people describe their spirituality, and the numbers for "spiritual but not religious" have been on a steady rise 8. For some people, prayer and religious community may be significant parts of spiritual wellness. However, you can have a strong sense of spirituality without adhering to any specific religion. Meditation is a great way to care for your spirituality.
Your life doesn't change all at once. The journey to improved self-care and better wellness is a slower, more consistent one. You have to change your habits before you can change your life.
Set yourself up for success by identifying self-improvement strategies that are likely to work for you. Simply copy-pasting someone else's wellness routine onto your own life may not get you the consistent, desired results that you're likely seeking. You are an individual, and your approach to holistic wellness should be as unique as you are.
A new habit takes, on average, over two months to fully form. For many people, establishing a healthy habit is more challenging than breaking a bad one. It may take employing multiple strategies to let a new, healthy practice become a habit. Enjoy pairing activities with like-minded individuals, establish reward incentives, invest in supplementation, and take up organized scheduling. The "current you" wasn't built in a day, don't expect the new you to come out in a week.
The smallest changes are often more manageable. Don't discount the worth of a change based on its size. Usually, it's the more modest healthy changes we make that have the most significant long-term impact. Small changes are also more sustainable. That weekly yoga class will do you much more good than the daily one if it means you keep up with it for more than a month.
So get out there and start bettering yourself. You'll find that each small change makes the next transition that much easier. Don't try to do it all at once. Give each dimension of wellness the time and attention it deserves. Your mind, body, and soul will all thank you for your efforts.
(1) Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2014 May) Up to 40 percent of annual deaths from each of five leading US causes are preventable
(2) Harvard Heart Letter (2018 Mar) The many ways exercise helps your heart
(3) Umberson D, Montez JK (2011 Aug) Social Relationships and Health: A Flashpoint for Health Policy
(4) Al-Thaqib A, Al-Sultan F, Al-Zahrani A, Al-Regaiey K, Iqbal M, Bashir S (2018 Apr) Brain Training Games Enhance Cognitive Function in Healthy Subjects
(5) Amaya M, PhD, CHES; Melnyk BM, PhD; Neale S, MFA (2018 Sept) Environmental wellness
(6) LeBlanc N, MA; Marques L, PhD (2019 Apr) How to handle stress at work
(7) Gallo L, PhD (2019 Nov) Speaking of Psychology: The stress of money
(8) Lipka M, Gecewicz C (2017 Sept) More Americans now say they’re spiritual but not religious
Written by BioNeurix Editorial Team
Originally published 2/21/2020
Last updated 3/14/2021