Wellness is the act of being in good health, but that’s a somewhat simplified definition. To fully understand the whole picture of good health, we must examine the different facets that contribute to overall wellness.
The Eight Dimensions of Wellness provide a more holistic model that breaks down the main areas of well-being. When we consider all eight areas, it becomes easier to see where something is lacking, make changes, and achieve overall wellness. Noticing where something is missing and working to meet that need is an integral part of maintaining recovery and finding new ways to thrive.
The Relationship Between Wellness and Recovery
The paths to wellness and recovery from substance use are inherently related. A lack of balance in one or several areas often leads individuals to use drugs or alcohol to feel better. However, regular substance use can quickly lead to substance use disorder, further reducing an individual’s wellness in multiple dimensions.
The choice to enter recovery can halt this vicious cycle; a substance use treatment program can boost wellness for someone seeking recovery. However, the road to wellness doesn’t end with a treatment program – wellness is an ongoing choice, and for someone in treatment, this road is bound to change over time.
Each of the Eight Dimensions of Wellness represents an integral part of life. By examining these areas in your own life and looking for ways to improve wellness in each dimension, you can continue to increase your health and happiness. By proactively recognizing where there may be a deficit, people in recovery can take steps to avoid relapse and continue to build a fulfilling life.
The Eight Dimensions of Wellness:
1. Physical Wellness
Physical wellness includes, of course, physical health, but it’s so much more than that. At a baseline, physical wellness refers to being free of illness and dependency on substances. It also includes:
- Eating a healthy, balanced diet
- Getting enough sleep
- Engaging in physical movement or regular exercise
- Practicing personal hygiene
- Engaging in safe sex
- Responding proactively when health issues arise
Physical wellness involves tending to all areas of the body’s well-being. Physical self-care also involves avoiding situations and activities that put undue stress on the body. Taking a proactive role in caring for physical health is crucial for achieving overall wellness.
The body is a vehicle for our thoughts, emotions, and actions. By proactively maintaining your physical wellness, you can lay the groundwork for achieving balance in all Eight Dimensions of Wellness.
2. Emotional Wellness
Emotional wellness is just as essential as physical wellness. Emotional wellness refers to a general ability to cope with life using healthy behaviors. Those who struggle with substance use disorder can often experience difficulty with emotional wellness. While drugs and alcohol may provide a quick way to change or numb difficult emotions, they can cause long-term damage. Healthy coping skills can be the foundation of effective, long-term emotional regulation.
Emotional wellness has many elements. It can include the ability to:
- Identify and understand emotions
- Build healthy coping mechanisms for dealing with difficult emotions
- Communicate feelings to others effectively
- Develop emotional control
- Develop a sense of self-respect and self-esteem
- Show respect and consideration for others’ feelings
- Manage stress effectively
Understanding and dealing with your emotions is the basis of emotional wellness. Managing challenging emotions and setting healthy emotional boundaries are central to maintaining long-term recovery.
It’s worth noting that the Eight Dimensions of Wellness do not include mental health explicitly because multiple dimensions of wellness impact mental health. When you seek wellness in all dimensions, you can support your mental health from various angles.
3. Spiritual Wellness
Spiritual wellness, or “existential wellness,” involves making meaning of life and our role in the world. Spiritual wellness can include religious or spiritual beliefs and practices, and those in recovery may be familiar with references to a “higher power.” However, spiritual wellness does not have to involve organized religion.
Spiritual wellness can be difficult to define for those without spiritual beliefs outside of organized religion. It can help to view this concept as one concerned with personal values. Whether spiritual beliefs exist or not, spiritual wellness can include:
- Having a sense of ethics and morals and living by them
- Developing and understanding a sense of identity
- Showing respect for life and the well-being of self and others
- Appreciating the significance of one’s role in the world
Spiritual wellness is a crucial part of overall well-being, and it does not require religious beliefs or the belief in a higher power. It includes how you choose to live, your awareness of your experience, and your perception of your role within humanity.
4. Social Wellness
Social wellness includes our relationships and our role within the larger community. Building and maintaining healthy relationships is a key element of wellness. For those in recovery, social wellness is particularly important.
In recovery, seeking social wellness means repairing damaged family relationships and building new, meaningful relationships with others who live a substance-free lifestyle. Social wellness can also include:
- Building a support system
- Reaching out to a friend instead of isolating
- Seeking community from others in recovery
- Avoiding social situations that might lead to relapse
- Understanding your own identity and respecting others
Social wellness can also extend to your ability to cooperate with others and manage conflict in healthy ways. Humans are social creatures. Social wellness means finding ways to interact with others that contribute to your quality of life.
5. Financial Wellness
Financial wellness is a huge contributor to overall well-being. In fact, having the time and motivation to seek wellness at all is often predicated on financial wellness. Financial wellness includes affording basic necessities and having healthy financial attitudes and habits.
Financial wellness might include:
- Maintaining consistent employment
- Taking responsibility for your financial obligations
- Paying bills on time
- Avoiding debt or building a plan to get out of debt
- Refraining from gambling
- Not engaging in emotional spending
- Following a budget
- Having a healthy relationship with money
Financial wellness may not take up as much time and energy as other dimensions of wellness. Still, it’s an important part of building and maintaining a solid foundation for a healthy lifestyle. Financial wellness may be a significant barrier for some people who struggle to develop wellness in other areas.
6. Intellectual Wellness
Intellectual wellness is a central part of feeling happy and fulfilled. It refers to applying your creativity and intellect in a way that helps you learn and grow.
A lack of stimulation or routinely feeling understimulated can create a lot of boredom and anxiety. Someone who struggles with intellectual wellness may experience a lack of fulfillment may. Prioritizing intellectual wellness can have a huge positive benefit for those who wish to avoid relapse.
Examples of fostering intellectual wellness can include:
- Learning a new skill
- Enrolling in college
- Volunteering in your community
- Connecting with your culture or exploring and appreciating other cultures
- Reading a book
- Doing a puzzle
- Engaging in a creative outlet: journaling, painting, dancing, singing, crafting
- Participating in a stimulating conversation
Intellectual wellness can look very different for different people because everyone has different intellectual needs. What’s important is to recognize your own needs and find ways to create meaning in your life and increase your sense of fulfillment.
7. Environmental Wellness
Environmental wellness has to do with how your surroundings support your well-being. As with intellectual wellness, this can look very different for different people. One person might decorate or paint a room to foster environmental wellness, while another might move to another city.
Environmental wellness has some elements that apply to everyone. These include living in a clean and safe environment, free from violence and other health and safety risks. Noticing how your environment impacts your physical, mental, and emotional health is key.
Taking stock of environmental wellness means becoming aware of how your surroundings add or detract from your well-being and taking steps to make positive changes.
8. Occupational Wellness
We often don’t discuss occupational wellness as much as the other dimensions of wellness, but it is imperative to our quality of life. The average adult spends 40 hours a week at work. Occupational wellness involves:
- Working at a job you enjoy
- Finding meaning or belonging at your place of employment
- Doing work that is consistent with your values
Increasing occupational wellness can mean leaving a toxic work environment for a healthy one, or it could mean undertaking skill training to pursue a career you’d like. Finding a sense of meaning or enjoyment from your occupation is an integral part of building a life that inspires you to stay in recovery and focus on increasing wellness in all dimensions of life.
Balancing the Dimensions of Wellness
Whether you’ve just started treatment or been in recovery for years, the Eight Dimensions of Wellness model can go a long way toward preventing relapse and helping you continue to find purpose and happiness beyond substance use.
Wellness isn’t a destination — it’s a lifestyle. It takes work to find a balance, but the outcome is worth the effort. It’s normal for the dimensions to shift in different stages of life and for wellness to evolve as time goes on.
At All Points North, we want to support you in every dimension of wellness, both during treatment and well into recovery. The treatment environment at All Points North Lodge is the perfect opportunity to examine your needs and find a better balance. For more information, call us at 855.232.8217 or fill out our contact form today.
- Kobrin, Mel. “Promoting Wellness for Better Behavioral and Physical Health.” SAMHSA, U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, https://mfpcc.samhsa.gov/ENewsArticles/Article12b_2017.aspx.