Updated: Aug 20
Our overall wellbeing depends on several different facets of our lives functioning in a healthy, balanced way. It can seem very overwhelming to consider that when we are not feeling our best, it is not just our mental health that we need to focus on, but several other areas as well. However, the benefits of working with a therapist can positively impact more than just our emotional wellness. Understanding the 8 dimensions of wellness and how to best fulfill your needs in these dimensions is crucial to long-lasting and positive change.
Emotional: This dimension is likely the first to come to your mind when you consider seeking mental health services. Our emotional wellness depends on the ability to feel, express, and process emotions in a healthy way, whether those emotions be positive or negative. It involves accepting that difficult times are paired with difficult emotions, and a willingness to reach out to others for support or to utilize coping skills when our emotions become very strong, even overwhelming. Practice identifying where in your body you feel an emotion. Name it, and consider what action that emotion makes you want to take, and if that action is helpful to your wellbeing. Journaling, artistic expression, and talking with those you trust can be great ways to process and examine your emotions.
Physical: Our physical wellness is frequently acknowledged by us as important, but as insight and awareness does not always lead to change, it's worth examining to see if we are taking adequate care of our body and how that can impact our overall wellness. Regular exercise, a balanced and nutritious diet, and restful sleep all go a long way in affecting how we feel. If you are noticing your wellness beginning to decline, take a look to see how these three areas can be improved. Small changes can make a big difference, such as a 20 minute walk, a healthy breakfast, and heading to bed a bit earlier at night.
Social: Whether you're an introvert or extrovert, finding a way to connect with social supports is very beneficial to us all. Social wellness involves having trusted family and/or friends to engage with; it's an opportunity for us not just to feel held and comforted by others, but to offer that same consolation. Maybe that comes in the form of small get-togethers with your friend group, or maybe being part of a local community group. Even if you're just connecting with a friend or relative over the phone, make an effort to check-in with someone daily. The stressors and hardships we face may lead to us feeling the need to withdraw and isolate from others, but just as before, we must consider how helpful this is to our wellbeing, and consider doing the opposite action instead: reaching out to someone.
Spiritual: Spirituality can mean many different things to people. Maybe it's engaging in worship or prayer; maybe it's practicing yoga, guided meditation, or mindfulness techniques; maybe it's interpreting your place in this world and what meaning your existence can have to yourself and so many others. However you choose to fulfill spiritual wellness, this can result in a more thoughtful and reflective experience of yourself and the life you lead.
Financial: It's no secret that one of life's biggest stressors involves finances, and while having more money can definitely solve a slew of problems, true financial wellness is achievable via construction of a healthy budget - and sticking to it. Utilize resources like consultations with your bank to determine where your expenses are going each month, and which of those expenses are necessary vs. unnecessary and causing additional stress. Partner with your therapist regarding community financial resources, so that they can help connect you to what you need.
Occupational: Sometimes, the work we do is a means to an end - a job that pays the bills, for the time being. However, occupational wellness hinges on engaging in work that we find personally fulfilling, something that we love doing and that fosters happiness and personal growth within us. It's helpful to think of what steps you may need to take in order to achieve occupational wellness, such as: earning a degree or certification, taking an exam, all the way up to applying for the career of your choice and making the transition. Or maybe you're currently in an occupation you love but feel burnt out, and need to seek ways to manage/lighten your workload, take a vacation, and/or re-focus on why you are in the field you've chosen, in order to recalibrate that wellness. If possible, give volunteer work a serious thought, as even if you're unable to work in the field of your choice at the moment, helping and contributing to others is a worthwhile pursuit at any time.
Intellectual: Engaging in mindless hobbies can be fun and relaxing, and we all do it from time to time - such as watching TV or checking Twitter - but be sure to balance this out with some intellectually stimulating hobbies as well, to really engage your brain in what it craves. Learning a new skill is a great way to feel accomplished, productive, and proud; reading a book can spark our creativity and increase our knowledge about the subject matter; attending a museum or art gallery, or creating our own art, invites us to interpret pieces in unique ways. You'll never walk out of experiences like these with less than with what you entered.
Environmental: We can do everything possible to make sure we are feeling well internally, but if our external environment is toxic and harmful, it is that much harder to consistently keep our other dimensions of wellness in check. Take note of your surroundings - are they safe? Do they encourage positive or negative behaviors? Do you feel comfortable and secure, with the ability to take a breath of fresh air, or is your environment suffocating and stifling? Focus on what about your environment you can control in order to improve how it helps you function.
As previously stated, collaborating with your therapist around how to achieve wellness in all 8 dimensions can be a great way to receive support in an endeavor that requires a lot of self-reflection, consideration, and planning, but is ultimately a rewarding, invaluable investment in yourself.