The 7 Dimensions of Wellness

For many of us, the word “wellness” can sometimes feel too broad to know if we are “achieving it”. Am I well if I just feel good in my body or do I have to reach some physical fitness pique? Is wellness having a good group of friends I can trust? Or, am I well if I have a healthy spiritual relationship with a higher being? The answer is yes to all of the above, but there's more to being well than just one thing. In fact, it’s been said that there are 7 dimensions that play into the overall picture of what “wellness is”. The 7 dimensions of wellness are physical, emotional, intellectual, spiritual, social, occupational, and environmental. Let’s go over each one to piece together the grand picture of what health and wellness is. 

1. Physical Wellness

Physical health is likely the first thing you associate with wellness, and it’s true, getting adequate rest, exercising, proper nutrition, and limiting toxins – like cigarettes and alcohol – are all important to physical wellness. Properly supporting the systems that make up your physical self (your digestive system, muscular system, nervous system, and circulatory system) all need proper support. But one system that is consistently left out of most conversations about wellness is an extremely important one, and it’s called the endocannabinoid system (ECS).

The ECS is comprised of receptors throughout the body. These receptors just so happen to be the most abundant type of neurotransmitter receptor in the brain but are also located throughout almost every other system in your body (1). To put it plainly, neurotransmitters help the brain communicate with the other organs and their functions in the body. One reason why you may be seeing a rise in the use of diverse products for pain management is that cannabinoids found in some fit like a key into the lock that is the ECS, supporting the other systems in your body to do their jobs. New research is being conducted every day, but so far, existing studies regarding similar products have shown promise in the reduction of anxiety, reducing the frequency and severity of seizures in epileptic patients, reducing inflammation, and much more (9).

2. Emotional Wellness

Our emotional wellness is just as important as our physical wellness. Emotional wellness is the ability to process and express our emotions. In addition, the ability to return to optimism, develop a sense of self-confidence or self-esteem, and to accept and forgive yourself play leading roles in emotional wellness. These things don’t always come easy, and it fluctuates throughout our lives.

We can strengthen our emotional wellness by talking through our feelings with a mental health professional, developing a meditation practice, taking time for self-care, journaling, or tapping into scholarly resources – like Brené Brown’s work on shame and guilt (4)– to learn more about ourselves.

3. Intellectual Wellness

Learning is not only important to overall mental health, but can even aid in preventing degenerative disorders of the brain like dementia (5). Challenging your mind can lead to self-improvement, learning new skills, honing an existing skill, or becoming the master of a trade. Being creative changes the way our brain fires, by using the “Big 3” brain networks together, instead of utilizing just one at a time (7). The stress-relieving and confidence-boosting properties of learning or being creative can be practiced through taking a class, reading, learning a new skill through mentorship, trying a new artistic outlet, or learning a new language.

4. Spiritual Wellness

A spiritual connection doesn’t necessarily have to mean having or practicing a religion. Spirituality is the sum of guiding moral pillars in your life, and it’s the commitment to those personal beliefs that also gives you a sense of purpose. Spirituality can hold great power for wellness and is even used in 12-step programs aimed at ending addiction by encouraging a relationship with a “higher power” (6). A spiritually well person allows themselves and those around them be exactly who they are and surrenders the need to control internal and external situations. Ways to tap into your spirituality include meditation, reading scripture or guiding literature, seeking harmony in chaos, or spending time being inquisitive.

5. Social Wellness

Humans were made to be in community. Our social wellness lies in our ability to cultivate relationships with family, friends, or romantic partners and includes showing respect for others and yourself. It’s important to balance the give and take – the ebb and flow – of the relationships you engage in. One way we do that is by setting healthy boundaries and managing our expectations of others. Contributing to your community can have a significant impact on overall wellbeing (8), and has the potential to end the isolating feeling of loneliness. Strengthen your social wellness by investing more time in existing healthy relationships, joining a club or group, participating in a support group, or volunteering.

6. Occupational Wellness

Your career doesn’t have to just be a paycheck or a way to build wealth. Someone who has occupational wellness has a positive outlook toward their role, employer, and has healthy relationships within their workplace. If you can’t relate, it’s time to create a vision for your future and take steps toward a new career opportunity. Finding a role that fits your talents and personality could be the difference between hating Mondays and having a job that doesn’t feel like one. At the same time, occupational wellness is not assigning all your worth to your job. If you haven’t found occupational wellness, set new goals, invest time in your skills, attend a class, get a certification, or explore new avenues that tap into your talents instead of what will make you the most money.

7. Environmental Wellness

Environmental wellness is the relationship we share with our planet and the ways in which we impact it. This relationship with the environment can show up in many areas of our lives through our choices every day – from the products we buy to the food we eat. It’s our duty to protect the planet that we all share, and by participating in protecting it, we also benefit from its longevity and health. Enjoying the great outdoors is a simple way to relieve stress and create a sense of how great in size our planet really is. Ways we can practice environmental wellbeing include picking up litter, buying “green” products, reducing our carbon footprints, changing our preferences from mail to online, choosing locally sourced goods and services, and of course reducing, reusing, and recycling.
These 7 areas of wellness encompass the intricate web of our physical being with the ways in which we show up to the world, to our workplace, and to ourselves. There’s no scorecard or grade to achieve in wellness. Just the opportunity to better understand who we are and treat ourselves with a little more empathy along the way.

  1. Cannabinoid Receptors and the Endocannabinoid System: Signaling and Function in the Central Nervous System
  2. Endocannabinoid System Components: Overview and Tissue Distribution
  3. Brené Brown – Website
  4. Shame Resilience Theory: A Grounded Theory Study on Women and Shame
  5. Learning may provide neuroprotection against dementia
  6. Define Your “Higher Power” In Drug and Alcohol Rehab
  7. Your Brain on Creativity - Neuroscience research reveals creativity's "brainprint."
  8. Why Is Community Important To Mental Health?
  9. Cannabinoid Receptors and the Endocannabinoid System: Signaling and Function in the Central Nervous System