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Eight Dimensions of Wellness


What are the eight dimensions of wellness?

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has identified eight dimensions of wellness that can optimize health and quality of life. Wellness is more than the absence of illness or stress; you can still strive for personal wellness in the midst of challenges. If you, or someone you know, is struggling with addiction, it’s likely that one or more of these eight areas are being neglected. Incorporating the eight dimensions of wellness into daily life will improve mental and physical health for those struggling with addiction, making the journey a little bit easier.

On the path toward recovery, finding an overall sense of wellness is just as vital as abstaining from drugs and alcohol. Recovery is essentially breaking free from harmful behaviors and building a meaningful life. A meaningful life is created through mental and physical well-being, both of which influence each other. SAMHSA breaks “wellness” down into eight smaller, distinct categories, making it easier to set and achieve goals in each area.

  1. Emotional. Emotional wellness is being able to cope effectively with life and create satisfying relationships. It will allow you to manage stress and build resilience toward temptations and setbacks. It will also enable you to think clearly and evaluate where you stand on your path to recovery. People who are strong in this dimension are confident, in control of their feelings and behaviors, and able to deal with challenges. Emotional wellness does not mean that you will feel happy, or even content, all the time. It does mean that you will be able to understand your feelings, process emotions, and work through problems in a healthy way. Emotional wellness can be achieved through leisure activities, exercise, and taking time each day to de-stress. Therapy, journal writing, or honest and open conversations with people that you trust are other good ways to improve emotional health.
  2. Environmental. Environmental wellness involves occupying pleasant, stimulating environments that support well-being. Your natural surroundings impact how you feel. Ensuring that you have clean, organized, safe conditions to live in will impact your environmental wellness. Spend as much time as possible in safe, comfortable places. Especially during recovery, your physical environment can play a big role. Avoiding places or situations where you could be tempted or pressured is essential to your success.
  3. Financial. Financial wellness is feeling satisfaction with your current and future financial situation. Finances are a common stressor, regardless of who or where you are. Reducing or controlling that stress as much as you can will improve your overall wellness. Having, and sticking to, a budget, starting a savings account or emergency fund, avoiding credit card debt, shopping at thrift stores, cooking your own meals, and bargain hunting are all things that can help you keep your finances on track. Take time to understand your spending habits and evaluate your needs. Set realistic financial goals for yourself and then do your best to stick to them.
  4. Intellectual. Intellectual wellness is recognizing your creative abilities and finding ways to expand your knowledge and skills. Puzzles, friendly debate, learning to play a musical instrument, or learning a new skill or language are all ways to maintain or improve your intellectual wellness. You must challenge yourself and expand your mind. This will give you confidence, pride, better concentration, and improved memory. Keeping your brain stimulated and engaged in purposeful activities will help keep you away from activities or situations where you might face temptation to relapse.
  5. Occupational. Occupational wellness is finding personal satisfaction and enrichment from one’s work. This includes finding work that is meaningful and fits with your values and interests, as well as balancing work and leisure time. Working at a job that fits with your skill set can improve your confidence and self-worth. It is very mentally rewarding to complete tasks and complete them well. Occupational wellness also involves building meaningful relationships with coworkers. Whether you have a day job, go to school full time, or volunteer, finding work that you are passionate about will give meaning to your life.
  6. Physical. Physical wellness is recognizing the need for physical activity, eating healthy foods, and getting enough sleep. It doesn’t matter what kind of physical activity you choose, light intensity or heavy intensity. Yoga, bike riding, walking, hiking, dancing, sports, or even something like gardening, all improve your physical wellness. Sleep and nutrition can improve your mood, increase energy levels, expand brain function, and help you resist the temptation to return to your addictive behaviors. Smoking is something that people often turn to as a coping mechanism for dealing with stress, but it can lead to numerous physical health problems, and turn into another addiction.
  7. Social. Social wellness is developing a sense of connection, belonging, and finding a well-developed support system. Having healthy relationships is a fundamental human need. It gives you a sense of belonging, importance, and connectedness with others. Social wellness involves cultivating good communication skills, healthy boundaries, and having a healthy support network and surrounding yourself with people who support you, encourage you, and will help you through your challenges. They can help keep you accountable and committed to sobriety. You can develop your social wellness by joining a club or organization, being authentic and genuine in your relationships, and treating others with respect.
  8. Spiritual. Spiritual wellness involves finding a sense of purpose and meaning in life. It doesn’t have to involve organized religion if you don’t find that it’s for you. Spiritual wellness can come through prayer, self-reflection, meditation, or spending time with nature. Take time each day to contemplate your challenges and victories, find experiences that offer hope and give meaning to your life. Finding a purpose will help you feel more connected to yourself, to others, and to the world around you.

Each dimension of wellness has overlap with the others. No dimension is ever perfect or complete, and each can always be improved or changed depending on life circumstances. At various stages in life, you will focus more attention on specific dimensions, while being more in control of others.

Finding a way to balance each dimension and work on them daily will increase your overall well-being and help you be successful on your path towards recovery and finding more fulfillment in life.

It may be a dynamic process, but healthy habits can be built incrementally until they are a part of everyday life. It is an ongoing process but the human existence finds better resilience with a sense of meaning cultivated through daily habits that enforce optimal wellness. Over time, a newfound positive attitude and outlook on life can become the feedback loop that replaces the cycle of addiction. Accepting and taking on life challenges becomes easier with more life experiences that open you up to lifelong learning and a wellness approach that serves your overall holistic wellness multidimensionally. An appreciation for life then comes naturally through the cultivation of the 8 interconnected dimensions of wellness.

Remember, wellness is not the absence of disease, sadness or hardship; it is having mental and physical fortitude to cope with challenges and stay on the path to recovery.
Wellness is a deliberate process. But you don’t have to go it alone. At New Choices, our certified counselors can help you master multiple dimensions of your wellness, while our medical staff keeps your physical health in check. Our approach is multifaceted and taylored towards your individual needs.