I am very interested in and often write about holistic health and wellness. But what exactly does that phrase mean? Is holistic wellness different from the pursuit of healthy life in general? Let’s dig into the seven dimensions of wellness and see how to achieve a good balance between all of them.
Holistic Health, Wellbeing, and Wellness
When you’re pursuing holistic health it means that you want to incorporate multidimensional aspects of wellness into your life.
Holistic health is a concerted effort to see an individual as a whole, multi-dimensional person. This means seeing health not only as an absence of illness, but instead looking to put into balance many aspects of a person’s life: physical, mental, emotional, and more.
Holistic health and wellness often look to ancient healing concepts and traditions which focus on prevention rather than intervention.
Achieving wellness is a life-long process that includes healthy life choices and wellness practices. This approach goes well beyond mainstream medical intervention when only the disease or the diseased part of the body is being treated.
Holistic approaches might include the use of traditional medical systems such as Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) or Ayurveda. They most likely look into mind-body-spirit connection and might incorporate energy healing like Reiki, manipulative approaches like massage, and body-based approaches like Yoga or cupping.
All these modalities are meant to address wellness on multiple levels, to be precise the seven dimensions of wellness.
The Seven Dimensions of Wellness
When I was going through cancer, pretty much the only thing on my mind was my physical state of health. Get that thing out of me and make my body inhabitable for any cancer in the future!
In general, people often think about health and wellness in terms of physical health. Staying away from illness, maintaining a healthy weight through proper nutrition and exercise, and so on.
But holistic health and wellness are so much more than that.
Aside from physical aspects, true wellbeing includes also mental, emotional, and spiritual dimensions. It means trying to achieve a state in which one can be the best kind of person that one can be for themselves and for others.
Wellness is a big topic recently. No wonder there are institutes for wellness popping out everywhere, there are wellness retreats, and “wellness Wednesdays” on Instagram and Facebook.
The Global Wellness Institute defines wellness as the active pursuit of activities, choices and lifestyles that lead to a state of holistic health.Global Wellness institute
I came mostly across Six Dimensions of Wellness, just as in the graphic above from the Global Wellness Institute.
However, I believe in adding one more dimension, which could be a subset of the “social” dimension but yet different from it enough to be granted its own place: relational wellness.
Here are the Seven Dimensions I consider paramount to balanced, holistic health and wellness:
- Physical: Developing a healthy body through proper nutrition and hydration, adequate sleep, and frequent movement
- Mental: Keeping the mind engaged by observation, learning, solving problems, and being creative
- Emotional: Keeping in tune with one’s emotions and being attentive to the emotions of others
- Spiritual: Being open to looking for a higher purpose and meaning
- Relational: Maintaining healthy relationships with loved ones
- Social: Staying connected to other individuals, communities, and cultures
- Environmental: Making meaningful choices when it comes to the environment
In order to live fully, one should pay attention to all these dimensions. What would be the point of being physically in top shape if one would suffer on the emotional front? Something would be missing from one’s life if their mental and emotional life was well-balanced but lacking in the social or relational dimension.
Must all the seven dimensions be equally balanced? Not necessarily. It is very probable that one or the other might be less important to you personally. The best approach is to aim for personal balance by paying attention to all dimensions but stressing the ones most important to us.
A Few Tips on How to Achieve Holistic Health and Wellness
Optimal physical wellness can be achieved through proper nutrition, quality sleep, physical activity, and safe sexual practices.
Everyone knows that staying physically active is crucial to maintaining health, both physical and mental. And yet, at least in the industrial countries of the world, we are becoming less and less active.
Whereas in the past, life, in general, included much more movement (walking, working, playing outside, etc), in the present we tend to spend more and more hours sitting in the car or at the office and lounging when not working.
Consider these suggestions when striving for optimal physical wellness:
- Maintain a healthy weight by eating a variety of nutritious foods and avoiding junk food and empty calories.
- Exercise daily. It does not have to be strenuous, but move your body in some way.
- Get adequate sleep.
- Drink enough water to keep yourself well-hydrated.
- Stay on top of your health by learning how to recognize early signs of diseases.
- Practice safe sex.
- Limit alcohol consumption.
- Do not smoke.
- Use sunscreen
Mental / Intellectual Wellness
Intellectual or mental wellness is more than just the absence of mental illness.
A great majority of the world’s population (upward of 85%) has never been diagnosed with mental illness, but this doesn’t necessarily mean that they are mentally thriving.
And yet, so many of us have been plagued by stress or worry at some point in our lives.
Another problem might be lacking mental stimulation that leads to expanding the intellect and sparking creativity and other aspects of intellectual growth.
The mind should be continually exercised just like the body. How to achieve this? Here are a few tips.
- Seek out people who challenge you intellectually.
- Sign up for a course, webinar, or workshop in-person or online
- Learn or perfect a foreign language
- Join a reading club or read on your own
- Visit museums, theater and music performances, and art exhibitions.
Being emotionally well means being aware and accepting of feelings and emotions that arise in the course of life. Healthy expressions of happiness, sadness, grief, anger, hope, love, joy, and more are key to self-acceptance and personal resiliency.
When going through cancer, I was bombarded with so many emotions and it was a difficult task to learn how to cope. What I found very helpful was the multitude of online resources such as guided meditations, breathing techniques, and other relaxation methods.
Joining a group of people who deal with a similar situation has also been of tremendous help.
Here are s few tips for emotional wellness:
- Welcome all emotions, good and bad, rather than running away from them
- Explore relaxation and emotional relief techniques, such as breathwork and meditation
- Join groups to discuss your feelings
- Practice gratitude
- Seek professional help when it gets to be too much
- Take medication, under the medical team’s supervision, if needed to help you cope
This dimension of wellness is about our ability to create and maintain meaningful relationships with people partners, spouses, and family members.
Relational wellness also includes spheres of intimacy, independence, and interdependence. Learning to set boundaries, accepting others’ boundaries, and not being afraid to say “no” are part of relational wellbeing.
A few tips for maintaining healthful relationships.
- Know your boundaries when it comes to relationships.
- Communicate with your partner about your and their boundaries early on in the relationship.
- Learn to accept and love yourself.
- Respect, respect, respect. Yourself and others.
Social wellness is about connections with other people in the world – friends, acquaintances, and co-workers. The social dimension of wellness reminds us of our place and importance in society as a whole.
Social wellness can also encourage us to be active participants in society and to make meaningful choices to contribute to that society. An important part of social wellness is also the interest in and respect for other societies and cultures.
How to achieve optimal social wellness?
- Get involved and contribute to your community
- Volunteer your time and/or resources
- Share your skills with the world
- Be open to new friendships and cultivate old relationships.
Spiritual wellness is about our connection with the sense of higher purpose. This aspect of wellness does not require you to be religious as spirituality is so much more than a set of dogmas of one particular faith.
To achieve spiritual well-being it is crucial to connect to a greater sense of purpose and meaning. Such connections can include religion, moral beliefs, values, and principles.
Spiritual wellness makes us able to find peace, harmony, and a deeper connection with the universe.
A few suggestions for spiritual wellness:
- Get to know what your spiritual core is (your innermost core of values and beliefs).
- Stay present in the moment.
- Learn to meditate or find other forms of stillness and connection with your inner self.
- Allow your intuition to guide you in daily decisions.
Our ability to connect to the dynamic relationship between ourselves and our environment, including our immediate environment, the community, and the natural environment.
Our planet is the only home we have and this last dimension of wellness is about caring for the earth by protecting its valuable but limited resources.
To be environmentally healthy mean to be fully aware of one’s own footprint on the planet and to take on the responsibility for the health of the planet.
It is about making choices that preserve Earth’s resources and striving toward a lifestyle that minimizes the harmful impact on the environment.
It’s easy to think that one person’s choices cannot contribute all that much to the health of the planet. But, in fact, every little action counts.
Consider these few small, but impactful steps.
- Conserve water and other resources.
- Opt for less packaging.
- Stop junk mail.
- Limit plastic and non-reusable containers.
- Avoid chemicals and chemical waste that harms the earth.
- Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.
One more aspect of wellness is important to mention. As they say, money won’t make you happy, but lack of it can certainly make life very difficult.
Financial wellness is defined as the overall financial health of an individual. As researchers at Gallup cite, financial wellness is how you manage your economic life. As your financial wellness increases, so should your quality of life.betterUp
I’m certainly not even close to being an expert in this area, LOL, but you can find lots of resources on how to better your financial wellness online.
There you have it! Seven (or eight) dimensions of wellness defined. Are you balancing them? Do you need to work on it? Let me know in the comments or drop me an email. I’d love to chat.