The 8 Dimensions of Wellness: Where Do You Fit In?

Action shot of young woman happily jogging with dogWhat does wellness look like to you? When you envision someone who is “well” and “healthy,” what comes to mind? What factors do you think influence wellness?

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has identified eight dimensions of wellness to focus on to optimize health. The eight dimensions include: emotional, spiritual, intellectual, physical, environmental, financial, occupational, and social. Wellness can be compromised by lack of support, trauma, unhelpful thinking styles, chronic illness/disability, and substance use. The eight dimensions are described below and are accompanied by examples and ideas for improving each area.

1. Emotional

SAMHSA identifies emotional wellness as an ability to cope effectively with life and build satisfying relationships with others. People with healthy emotional wellness feel confident, in control of their feelings and behaviors, and are able to handle life challenges. Working through life challenges can build resiliency as we learn that setbacks can be overcome. Emotional health can be maintained or improved by engaging in regular leisure and recreational activities. Do activities that involve each of your senses: smell, taste, touch, sight, and sound. Listen to music, eat your favorite food, light your favorite candle, play with your pet, and watch your favorite movie or the sunset.

2. Spiritual

Spiritual wellness is related to your values and beliefs that help you find meaning and purpose in your life. Spiritual wellness may come from activities such as volunteering, self-reflection, meditation, prayer, or spending time in nature. Signs of strong spiritual health include having clear values, a sense of self-confidence, and a feeling of inner peace. To improve your spiritual health, it can help to create a quiet space for solitude and contemplation or a place of curiosity and playfulness. Maintaining a playful, curious attitude can help you find experiences that offer hope, purpose, and meaning.

3. Intellectual

Intellectual wellness is when you recognize your unique talents to be creative and you seek out ways to use your knowledge and skills. When you foster your intellectual wellness, you participate in activities that cultivate mental growth. Reading, doing challenging puzzles such as crosswords or Sudoku, debating issues with others who have opposing viewpoints, learning a new language or musical instrument, trying a new hobby, or teaching and tutoring others are all ways to maintain or improve your intellectual wellness. When you challenge yourself to learn a new skill, you are building your intellectual health. People who pay attention to their intellectual wellness often find that they have better concentration, improved memory, and better critical thinking skills.

4. Physical

Physical wellness is affected by physical activity, healthy nutrition, and adequate sleep. There are many examples of physical activity that range in levels of intensity from light to vigorous. Maintaining your physical health can include yoga, bike riding, jumping rope, engaging in sports, running, walking, jogging, skiing, dancing, tennis, and gardening. Many people use smoking as a coping tool. Unfortunately, this method of coping can lead to a number of physical health problems, including heart disease and cancer, and can increase one’s chances of premature death. SAMHSA states that smoking-related illnesses are related to half of all deaths for people diagnosed with a behavioral health condition.

Environmental wellness is related to the surroundings you occupy. This dimension of health connects your overall well-being to the health of your environment. Your environment, both your social and natural surroundings, can greatly impact how you feel.

5. Environmental

Environmental wellness is related to the surroundings you occupy. This dimension of health connects your overall well-being to the health of your environment. Your environment, both your social and natural surroundings, can greatly impact how you feel. It can be hard to feel good if you are surrounded by clutter and disorganization, or if you feel unsafe in your environment. Pollution, violence, garbage buildup, and water conservation are some of the factors affecting environmental wellness. Ways to manage environmental wellness include creating neighborhood watches, recycling, planting a personal or community garden, purchasing products with minimal packaging, avoiding littering, and conserving energy and water by turning off lights and water when not in use.

6. Financial

Financial wellness is a feeling of satisfaction about your financial situation. Finances are a common stressor for people, so being able to minimize worry about this aspect of your life can enhance your overall wellness. Options for managing financial wellness include having a household budget, starting a savings account and adding to it every month even if it is just a small amount, saving some of your income in an emergency account, cutting back or limiting unnecessary expenses, avoiding credit card debt, donating to a meaningful charity, shopping at thrift stores, utilizing the library for free books and DVDs, and cooking your own meals instead of dining out. Try tracking your spending for a month to see where your money is going and set goals based on what you find.

7. Occupational

Occupational wellness is a sense of satisfaction with your choice of work. Occupational wellness involves balancing work and leisure time, building relationships with coworkers, and managing workplace stress. An occupational wellness goal might include finding work that is meaningful and financially rewarding. Finding work that fits with your values, interests, and skills can help maintain occupational wellness. Consider your office culture and determine how supported you feel; if you discover you feel a lack of support, seek out support from others close to you and be sure to engage in recreational activities that can help balance out work stress.

8. Social

Social wellness is a sense of connectedness and belonging. The social dimension of health involves creating and maintaining a healthy support network. Building a healthy social dimension might involve asking a colleague or acquaintance out for lunch, joining a club or organization, setting healthy boundaries, using good communication skills that are assertive rather than passive or aggressive, being genuine and authentic with others, and treating others in a respectful way.

What dimensions do you feel are your strongest? What areas would you like to work on? If you have areas you would like to improve, seeking out support can be helpful, whether it’s from a friend, family member, or counselor. What would life be like if you optimized all eight dimensions? Setting goals for yourself in each area can help you feel more fulfilled and optimize your health.

Reference:

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). (2016, April 28). The Eight Dimensions of Wellness. Retrieved from http://www.samhsa.gov/wellness-initiative/eight-dimensions-wellness

© Copyright 2016 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Marjie L. Roddick, MA, LMHC, CTTS, therapist in Vancouver, Washington

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Logan

    Logan

    May 27th, 2016 at 9:30 AM

    I used to only think of wellness as being physical health, never understanding that there were so many other factors that go into me being happy and healthy. I think for me a biog thing was once I got the finances on track, wow, what a weight was lifted for me and I began to feel better about life overall. I know that that sounds stupid but when you are overburdened with things you can’t pay, that weighs pretty heavily on you and impacts your overall quality of life too.

  • Marjie L Roddick, MA, LMHC, CTTS

    Marjie L Roddick, MA, LMHC, CTTS

    May 27th, 2016 at 12:47 PM

    Hi Logan, thanks for commenting! I don’t think it sounds stupid at all that you felt better once you got your finances on track! Financial burdens can be huge stressors for people and can disrupt other areas of wellness. I’m glad you reached a place where you feel better about life now!

  • Myra

    Myra

    May 27th, 2016 at 1:37 PM

    There is also a misconception that you have to be all of these at once. No, that isn’t true, but once you are strong and have your feet on the ground in one area, that sure does help you balance it out in all the others.

  • lindell

    lindell

    May 28th, 2016 at 9:58 AM

    Oh yeah I know all these people that I go to the gym with who granted look terrific on the outside because they are taking care of working out and probably eating right and all the stuff like that but how am I to know if they are really healthy because they could be dealing with all this other stuff on the inside that I know nothing about?
    There are multiple parts of us tat are important and I have come to believe that not one is really more important than the other. But I do believe that once you stat paying attention to the whole picture versus the parts that you dedem to be the most important then you will find more happiness.

  • Sutton

    Sutton

    May 28th, 2016 at 5:55 PM

    I am having a pretty hard time at my job right now, basically I wish that I could just leave one day and not go back but like for many others this is not a possibility for me. I am wondering how I can make peace with the fact that this is not my dream job and how I can do other things so that will stop negatively impacting the other parts of my life?

  • sully

    sully

    May 29th, 2016 at 9:51 AM

    There will be times when there are areas that are more important to you than are the others. Ia m not sure that there will be those times when feel like all of your ducks are in a row, but just knowing what they should all be is enough for many of us to establish some goals and to know what we should be working toward.

  • Tabitha

    Tabitha

    May 29th, 2016 at 2:47 PM

    I finally up and moved away from all of my stresses, left my hometown and started over somewhere new. They may not even have my address now and I don’t really even care. I feel better healthier than I have in years. And I did something solely for me.

  • Lesa

    Lesa

    May 30th, 2016 at 6:49 AM

    When I get my workout in at the end of the day, never do I once feel bad about it. It makes me feel good and it helps keep me healthy. What more could I ask? I have the ability to do it and should be thankful for even that. I think about the men and the women who would love to be able to do the things that I can and it sort of stuns me into appreciation for all that I have. That in a nutshell is my lesson in wellness and happiness.

  • Jonathan F

    Jonathan F

    May 30th, 2016 at 9:56 AM

    Every day is a winding road you know? There are those times when you just feel good about life and everything seems to be in place; and then there are other days when things aren’t quite as bright, and so be it. But taking the time to get something new from each of those days, and having that opportunity, now that is a blessing.

  • Harris

    Harris

    June 1st, 2016 at 2:11 PM

    I know that my boyfriend absolutely hates his job and it really is a buzz kill to the rest of our relationship. I hate that for him because I like mine and I hate to even talk about it because it makes me feel so bad for him.

    We have talked about him finding something else but the market just seems so tight right now with nothing new opening up. He just gets discouraged pretty easy and it is starting to take a toll on us I think.

  • Nousha

    Nousha

    December 24th, 2016 at 10:39 AM

    Where does relationships with a partner or marriage fit into the eight dimensions (social/emotional?) – surely that’s important to have a balanced life? And also Creative Wellness, other sources mention it as the ninth dimension of wellness?

  • Karen

    Karen

    August 3rd, 2017 at 3:42 AM

    I am looking for a SAMHSA-approved tool to measure wellness in my care management patient group. I’ve created my own tool of questions that could be used to establish a baseline Wellness Score, that could be used to measure progress, but I’ve not found an accompanying tool developed by SAMHA. Has anyone else seen or used such a tool?

  • Chaitanya T.

    Chaitanya T.

    December 25th, 2018 at 8:42 AM

    Are you sure about this post?

  • Krishnendu

    Krishnendu

    July 17th, 2019 at 2:04 PM

    Dear website owner your article so informative and helpful. thanks for shear.

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