When we think about wellness, we’re most inclined to think first about physical fitness and nutrition. We think about how we need to eat better or exercise more, we think about how we need to drink more water and buy organic. We criticize ourselves for the things we’re not doing enough of, our bad habits and our vices.
I think, though, we have a culturally limiting view of wellness and an obsession with physical health. The wellness industry is ripe with happy, skinny white women and ripped white men aiming to inspire others on Instagram with their deep inspirational revelations, urging us to adjust our diets, up our exercise, push a little harder, deny ourselves what we want and live our best lives. It’s exhausting and off-putting, unless this is an area where you’re thriving.
Not to mention, our cultural definition of beauty is interlocked with the wellness industry, profiting off the idea that if we do what they say, not only will we be healthy, we’ll be sexy, desirable winners.
While exercise and nutrition are absolutely a part of wellness, if we think of wellness as just those two factors, it’s an incomplete definition. In fact, there are seven dimensions of wellness, and exercise and nutrition are only a part of one of those dimensions. The seven dimensions of wellness are: spiritual, physical, emotional, career, intellectual, environmental and social. Each dimension is dynamic, our status is never fixed. We’re in a near constant state of fluctuation, and each factor impacts others. Complete and perfect wellness, if achieved, is in constant need of maintenance. What we’re really after is balance.
If we begin to shift our understanding of wellness to one that is inclusive of each of these seven dimensions, we have an opportunity to free ourselves from the guilt trip we’re prone to giving ourselves for our deficits. We have an opportunity to celebrate the areas of our lives where we are experiencing optimal wellness, and we have the opportunity to identify where our lives need to improve.
We’re living in a difficult time and we all know it. And, while this past year has been hard for everyone, it won’t be the last difficult time we live through. What’s made this year so unique is that we’re all experiencing it together to varying degrees.
Conflict and grief have a negative impact on our overall wellness. We expend energy to process the adversity, rather than using that same energy to pour into ourselves or others. When I reflect on how I felt during the first lockdown last year, the shock, the fear and the grief of it all took me out for weeks. I don’t know how obvious it was to others, but my wellness in every one of those seven dimensions took a hit during that time.
When we consider the seven dimensions of wellness as our paradigm for understanding our overall wellness, however, we can systematically address the areas where we are struggling the most and begin to find some balance.
In what areas are you feeling the most fulfilled, and what’s contributing to that?
In what areas are you feeling the most depleted, and what’s contributing to that?
What’s one small action you can take to improve an area of deficiency?
Is there someone who could help you through either guidance or accountability in that area?
Our wellness in each dimension will fluctuate throughout our lives. When we shift our narrative of health from one focused only on physical wellness to one inclusive of each of the seven dimensions, we have a far better chance of improving our overall wellness and leading a happier life.