True wellness is about more than drinking green juice or going for jogs. It’s about looking at every area of your life (relationships, spirituality, work, etc.) to make sure they’re all getting adequate attention and care.
In 1976, Dr. Bill Hettler, co-founder of the National Wellness Institute (NWI), purported that there are six dimensions of wellness that make up a person’s health (with the seventh dimension being added by researchers years later). While other wellness models vary slightly—some have five dimensions, some have 12—they are all designed to help you identify the core areas of your life that need tending to.
What Are the 7 Dimensions of Wellness?
- Physical wellness
- Emotional wellness
- Intellectual wellness
- Spiritual wellness
- Environmental wellness
- Social wellness
- Occupational wellness
What Is Wellness?
Before taking a deep dive into the many facets of wellness, it’s important to have a clear understanding of what it actually means. Based on a 2015 definition by the NWI, wellness is considered “an active process through which people become aware of, and make choices toward, a more successful existence.” It is a conscious, positive and self-directed process—one that focuses on treating the body in a holistic and multidimensional way.
Wellness goes far beyond any diagnoses or disease, and it’s not something that can necessarily be measured through lab work. Wellness is about a lifelong commitment to practicing healthy habits in order to elevate every area of your life. This extends past the physical body and into work, relationships, thoughts and behaviors.
Physical wellness is the act of taking care of and listening to your body. It’s generally first on the list when folks think about where to make improvements in their overall health, and while it’s certainly not the only factor in feeling good, a properly functioning body helps support all of your other wellness efforts. Physical wellness includes frequency of movement, diet, sleep, avoiding harmful habits, and keeping up with doctors appointments.
How to Improve Physical Wellness
- Eat a more nutrient-dense diet
- Get 7-9 hours of sleep a night
- Limit substances like cigarettes and alcohol
- Schedule annual checkups in advance
- Find a form of exercise you enjoy
Emotional wellness is about more than curbing anger problems or depression. It’s about your ability to handle stressful and unexpected situations (aka “life”) when they arise. It’s also about your capacity to love and be loved. This area of wellness is crucial because your emotional reactions have a ripple effect on relationships, work and self-image.
How to Improve Emotional Wellness
- Limit your intake of news and social media
- Seek therapy or some form of counseling
- Cultivate a meditation practice that includes forgiveness mantras
- Pay attention to your thought patterns and work to adjust them
- Reach out to friends for meaningful conversation
Intellectual wellness is the dimension in which we nurture and grow our mind through stimulating and enriching activities. It’s all about keeping your brain happy and active, which in turn keeps your emotional brain happy and active, too. Intellectual wellness encourages openness to new ideas, thoughts and opinions, and a commitment to keeping the pathways in your brain sharp as you age.
How to Improve Intellectual Wellness
- Learn a new language
- Check out local museums
- Start or join a book club
- Practice a new instrument
- Do crossword puzzles or other brain games
A foundation of spiritual wellness is crucial in order to achieve holistic wellness. No, that doesn’t mean you have to become super religious or connect with some sort of higher power. The idea of spiritual wellness is about identifying a set of morals and principles you use to guide your thoughts and actions. In times where physical and emotional wellness may waver, your spiritual wellness will see you through.
How to Improve Spiritual Wellness
- Find a hobby that connects you to your innermost beliefs (yoga, meditation, writing)
- Define your core principles and keep them written down somewhere
- Spend time in nature
- Get active at a local worship center if it aligns with your faith
- Volunteer within the community
Environmental wellness is all about your personal responsibility to the environment. Think of it as a pact you have with Mother Nature to treat her as respectfully as possible, keeping in mind pollution, waste and climate. It’s a commitment to cleaning up your side of the street (literally), and doing your best to stay in harmony with the planet. Many studies report that time in nature is correlated with a reduction in anxiety and rumination, which is why maintaining your connection to the outdoors is so crucial for wellness.
How to Improve Environmental Wellness
- Create a composting bin
- Schedule a regular nature walk
- Start a small herb garden
- Introduce eco-friendly products into your home
- Utilize reusable shopping bags
Social wellness encourages people to invest in their community and relationships, and develop skills like active listening and honest communication. It focuses on the idea that one cannot achieve holistic wellness without having some level of social interaction—whatever that means to the individual. Not only is social wellness crucial for your mental wellbeing, but it also improves self-esteem and confidence. Creating a network of support also ensures you have people to lift you up when stressful situations arise.
How to Improve Social Wellness
- Join a local sports league or hobby club
- Organize a family reunion over Zoom
- Send a hand-written letter to a friend
- Shop locally (farmers’ markets, craft fairs, etc.)
- Subscribe to the local paper
Occupational wellness (also known as vocational wellness) deals with your employment and work-life balance. It encourages growth and happiness at work, with a focus on pursuing opportunities and projects that light you up. It’s also about making sure you still have enough energy in the tank for your family, friends, and self once you get home (or log off). It’s about finding employment that sparks your interest, but doesn’t leave you feeling drained.
How to Improve Occupational Wellness
- Schedule a regular meeting with your boss to discuss career goals
- Sign up for an online training course to learn a new skill
- Take lunch outside (or at least not at your desk!)
- Create a work music playlist that makes you feel happy and motivated
- Implement regular stretching breaks into the day
Start a Career in Health & Wellness
If you’re interested in learning more about the principles of wellness, consider joining the Health Coach Institute for one of our popular coaching programs. You can Become a Health Coach or Nutrition Coach through our accredited six-month online program, where you’ll receive the skills and foundation you need to transform your health and the health of others. If you’re already a coach, take your skills even further by enrolling in the Coach Mastery program, a 12-month business-building course focused on sales, marketing and advanced coaching techniques.