Sometimes when I get run down & tired, I reflect on the holistic idea of wellness & how I might better balance the often-competing pressures & priorities of a regular life.
In my world, I often prioritise work and financial dimensions, but can overlook the importance of other parts of my life like emotional, spiritual – and sadly – physical wellness. I wonder whether other people have a similar experience? What does well-being and health mean to you? How do we know if we are well or not?
Holistic approaches to counselling and wellness (Myers, Sweeney & Witmer, 2000) often sit central to my work with clients. Below is a brief summary of “The 8 Dimensions”, a very common holistic health framework. Interestingly, we often have different quadrants activated at different life stages. Ideally, an awareness of all 8 dimensions will best support people as they move beyond merely getting it done and into a space of thriving and optimum well-being.
Physical Wellness includes adopting healthy habits around sleep, diet, and exercise. It’s also about minimising risky behaviors like drinking alcohol and smoking tobacco. Most importantly, physical wellness is about discovering what healthy habits make you feel better and suit your lifestyle, level of mobility, and fitness.
Social Wellness focuses on connecting with your community and the people around you. It encourages taking an active part in improving your communities, connecting with others, establishing supportive social networks, developing meaningful relationships, and creating safe and inclusive spaces.
Emotional Wellness encompasses optimism, self-esteem, self-acceptance, and the ability to experience and cope with feelings independently and inter-personally. Emotional wellness includes practicing self-care; fostering inner resources and resilience; finding unique ways of coping with stress; creating satisfying relationships; empathising with others; and being realistic about expectations and time; and knowing when to ask for help.
Intellectual Wellness encourages participating in mentally stimulating and creative activities. It is the ability to think critically, reason objectively, make responsible decisions, and explore new ideas and different points of view. It also emphasizes life-long learning and inspires curiosity.
Vocational Wellness involves preparing for and participating in work that provides personal satisfaction and life enrichment that is consistent with your values, goals, and lifestyle. This dimension includes taking a thoughtful and proactive approach to career planning and assessing personal satisfaction and performance in one’s work.
Environmental Wellness inspires us to live a lifestyle that is respectful of our surroundings. It involves understanding the dynamic relationship between the environment and people (Reese & Myers, 2012) and recognising that we are responsible for the quality of the air, water, and earth that surrounds us and in turn, that social, natural, and built environments affect our health and well-being.
Spiritual Wellness involves seeking and having a meaning and purpose in life, as well as participating in activities that are consistent with one’s beliefs and values. It is more than just prayers and mantras. A spiritually well person seeks harmony with the universe, expresses compassion towards others, and practices gratitude and self-reflection.
Financial Wellness describes our relationship with money, skills to manage resources to live within our means, making informed financial decisions and investments, setting realistic goals, and learning to prepare for short-term and long-term needs or emergencies. Importantly, all people are different and our financial values, needs, and circumstances are varied and unique.
What I like to reflect on when thinking of wellness is the interesting interchange between the words well-being and wellness. I also like the idea that all aspects of wellness don’t necessarily need to be in absolute balance. Different components are going to take priority depending on what’s happening in your life – and that’s totally OK.
Myers, J., Sweeney, T., & Witmer, J. (2000). The Wheel of Wellness Counseling for Wellness: A Holistic Model for Treatment Planning. Journal of Counseling & Development, 78(3), 251-266.
Reese, R., & Myers, J. (2012). EcoWellness: The Missing Factor in Holistic Wellness Models. Journal of Counseling & Development, 90(4), 400-406.