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The Eight Dimensions of Health and Wellness

With the increasing popularity of fad diets, over-priced workout programmes, cosmetic treatments, and other “health” trends, the term “wellness” has grown to encompass many different aspects of our lives. Originally, health and wellness were understood as the absence of sickness or disease, but recent research has concluded that they should be assessed on a much broader spectrum. Holistic health can be categorized into eight main dimensions, each related to another, and all sustaining our overall well-being. The more awareness we have of the different circumstances and decisions that promote our health, the more efficiently and beneficially we can take care of ourselves. 

Physical Wellness

Exercise and physical activity are perhaps most often associated with the concept of wellness.  Although regular exercise is a vital component of a healthy lifestyle, decreasing risk of major illnesses and early death by up to 30%, it is not the only factor that contributes to being a physically healthy person. Other aspects such as hygiene and sufficient sleep are also incredibly important for physical well-being, so establishing regular habits around them is crucial. 

Nutritional Wellness

Although very related to physical health, nutrition is so fundamental to our overall wellness that it must be represented by its own category. A “balanced diet” means something different for everyone, depending on age, sex, and body chemistry, but eating everything in moderation and stocking up on fruits and vegetables really is crucial for our longterm health (it’s called Five a Day for a reason!). Paying attention to what you put in your body and how it makes you feel is imperative for making sure you’re fuelling yourself in the most efficient way.

Emotional Wellness

Your mental state is almost always directly correlated to your physical state. It doesn’t do any good to focus solely on your exercise or diet if you completely disregard any emotional or mental circumstances which might be negatively affecting your health. Emotional wellness encompasses the ability to recognise, identify, process, and communicate your feelings so that they can be released from your body just like any other harmful toxin. Being in control of your emotions or aware of how they affect you plays a vital role in maintaining overall well-being. 

Social Wellness

Humans need social interactions to survive. Social wellness is about connecting with others to form positive and meaningful relationships, and learning how to cope when conflicts arise. Longitudinal studies demonstrate how interactions with others are related to higher levels of general happiness in comparison to those who spend more time alone. That is not to diminish the fact that sometimes a little bit of alone time is essential for maintaining balance and clarity, but there is an abundance of scientific evidence which suggests that social interaction strengthens our overall mental and physical states. 

Spiritual Wellness

Spirituality means something completely different to everyone. It is commonly understood as a sense of purpose, direction, or meaning that helps guide our actions and dictates the traditions in which we live. Some people develop spiritual connection through meditation, prayer, or other means of connecting with nature or a higher power. Maintaining spiritual wellness is a very individual process and resonates with some people more than others, but everyone can benefit from checking in with themselves every once in a while. 

Intellectual Wellness 

Just as it’s important to exercise other parts of your body, the brain needs constant activation in order to control your thoughts, emotions, perception, and memories as it should. Seeking  experiences that inform and challenge your thinking is crucial. Whether it’s a deep conversation with friends, a crossword, or a book you’ve been putting off reading, engaging in stimulating intellectual opportunities can only benefit your mental and, therefore, physical well-being. 

Financial Wellness

Since money dictates so much of our daily lives, staying on top of finances and planning ahead is so important that it, too, deserves its own pillar. Being “financially well” affects most of the categories of wellness, especially as money troubles are one of the most common stressors. Pursuing financial wellness by organising your expenses can have a huge impact on staying grounded and healthy. 

Environmental Wellness 

Your immediate personal surroundings and community where you live and work have a massive effect on well-being. Environmental wellness is determined by the reciprocal relationship between an individual and their environment. Knowing the situations that help you work, sleep, socialise, and live best is so important for maintaining balance and supporting overall health. The more we care for and respect our natural and built environments, the better they can support us.

Although being “healthy” is a very individualised concept, there are a variety of components that contribute to a physically and mentally healthy body. We seldom realise how many of the daily decisions we make affect our physical and mental well-being. Each of these eight dimensions of wellness are extremely intertwined and require individual attention in order to maintain a healthy state. Wellness encompasses so much more than we often realise, especially when influences from media and pop culture alter our notions of what it means to be healthy. Nevertheless, the more we are aware of how our habits affect our health, the more we can care for ourselves holistically, and thus pursue our goals and intentions with ease. 

Peyton is a fourth-year Psychology and Art History student at the University of St Andrews. She grew up between London and San Francisco, and speaks like Peppa Pig despite being 100% American. As a proud foodie, she loves creating recipes out of ingredients that really shouldn't go together, and will never be caught dead without a tasty snack in hand.
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