Most 20 or 30-something-year-olds have muttered, “I need to have a better work-life balance,” “I’ll start exercising again when things slow down,” or “We’ll start saving money next paycheck.” We often make excuses for ourselves, because complacency is easier than changing our behavior.
Even the best behavior analysts will tell you that changing behavior can be difficult. It is an ongoing battle between learned behaviors; habits that have been formed and potentially practiced for years, and introducing a different way of doing things.
However, when you can identify behaviors that need to be changed and give yourself replacement behaviors, change can happen. Changes will not happen overnight, and small setbacks are bound to happen. However, when you break down the areas of wellness by utilizing a tool such as the Wellness Wheel, change is definitely possible.
The Eight Dimensions of Wellness
The Wellness Wheel is a visual aid that illustrates, defines, and helps us navigate the eight dimensions of wellness. The Wellness Wheel has evolved since its publication in the early ‘90s, but the current eight dimensions include: physical, intellectual, emotional, spiritual, social, financial, occupational, and environmental.
These categories help us evaluate the parts of our lives that need work. It also allows us to identify the parts of our lives where we are excelling. Most people have aspects of their lives where they feel like they are killin’ it (at least most of the time).
Perhaps you’re excelling in your career, are financially stable, and exercise regularly. Nevertheless, if the emotional and social aspects of your life aren’t being tended to, your overall wellness will be unbalanced. This happens because all eight of the dimensions are interconnected. This unbalance may leave you feeling unhappy and stressed.
We will break each dimension of wellness down one by one. Hopefully, you’ll be able to identify problem areas, make goals for behavior change that are attainable, and thereby increase the quality of your life.
We all know that eating a well-balanced diet and moving our bodies regularly are important aspects of our physical health. Most of us probably even go to the walk-in clinic or doctor when we are feeling ill. However, taking preventative measures is as important. Going to the doctor for regular physicals, making (and keeping) that dentist appointment, and getting our eyes checked regularly can help ensure that our physical wellness is being taken care of properly.
Breaking down goals into smaller steps can help you reach your ultimate goal and keep you from feeling overwhelmed. If your ultimate goal is to jog a 5K, but you’re currently only able to jog down the road before feeling winded, break it down. Couch to 5K is a free app that does a great job of using interval training to help you reach a bigger goal. Of course, speak to your doctor before starting any training.
The following are simplistic examples of goals for maintaining your physical wellness. Modify goals according to your level of physical health.
- Set an alarm every hour to get up, take a break from screens, and walk around
- Four times a week take a 15-minute walk
- Maintain a set sleep schedule, even on the weekends
- Make an appointment for a physical
Has intellect somehow become a bad word in the past few years? With the outgoing administration’s current use of the oxymoronic phrase, “alternative facts,” it may seem so. However, taking care of your intellectual health is as important as taking care of your physical health. Carving out time to learn something new every day can help you expand your knowledge of the world, in turn helping you become more open-minded to new ideas and experiences.
Varying how you learn can help you take care of your intellectual wellness. Reading and watching the news from different (reliable) sources instead of depending on one potentially biased news source will keep you from developing dangerous misconceptions and possibly keep you from spreading false news. Learning something new from podcasts like Hidden Brain, or Invisibilia, and exploring different environments will help you in your quest for intellectual wellness.
Broad examples of goals for maintaining your intellectual wellness include:
- Attend a play (when we can!)
- Learn to play a musical instrument
- Study a new language
- Read one chapter for pleasure each day
Our collective emotional wellbeing has taken a hit during the pandemic. Data show that more people are dealing with various mental health issues due to stress and anxiety about the pandemic. Finding ways to cope effectively will aid us in keeping our emotional wellbeing in check.
Learning how to cultivate healthy relationships, building strong support systems, managing stress, and effectively expressing our emotions are all keys to having strong emotional wellbeing. Emotional wellness doesn’t necessarily mean a person is annoyingly happy all of the time. It just means that they can regulate their emotions and behaviors well, and are typically resilient when faced with difficulties.
Taking time to de-stress, reading books that help you deal with being vulnerable, learning how to express your emotions, spending (virtual) time with friends, and speaking with mental health professionals can help you strengthen your emotional wellbeing.
- Keep a gratitude journal
- Meet up with a friend virtually once a week for a vent session
- Practice yoga or mindful meditation once a day
- Marie Kondo your space with The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up
Having a purpose in your life that is guided by your values, principles, and beliefs will help you in your goal of improving your spiritual wellness. While spirituality is a part of most religions, being a spiritual person doesn’t necessarily mean you sit on a pew every Sunday morning.
Sometimes, just spending time in nature can be a spiritual experience. Taking a hike, kayaking, or gardening and being mindful of your surroundings are a few ways in which you can become a more spiritual person. Here are a few ways to increase your spiritual wellness:
- Listen to Oprah’s Super Soul Podcast with guest Dr. Maya Angelou
- Reflect on your beliefs and make a vision board
- Take walks or hike in a state park
Social wellness is so important during this extraordinary time. Positive relationships with our families, friends, co-workers, and community are integral to helping our social wellness. Having relationships that offer you support and love, will increase your self-confidence and help you create healthy boundaries.
Relationships take work, and shame and blame have no place in a healthy relationship. Taking responsibility for your part of the conflict and attempting to work through disagreements respectfully can strengthen your relationship. However, letting go of unhealthy relationships and getting help out of potentially abusive relationships is sometimes necessary for your social well being.
- Go out of your way to help out a neighbor: i.e. rake their leaves, shovel snow out of their driveway
- Set aside a date night with your significant other
- Contact an old friend and catch up
- Bond over a shared activity with your kiddo, partner, or friend
Environmental wellness doesn’t just refer to the natural environment, but to the environment where we live. When a new baby is born, we baby-proof all the dangerous things in our homes. We could probably all take some small steps to have a healthier environment for ourselves, too.
Using natural products in cleaning, health, and beauty supplies, reducing allergens in your home, and ensuring safety from toxic gases through investing in a carbon monoxide detector, and changing the batteries in your smoke detectors are techniques to improve your environmental wellness (and possibly save your life).
- Check for mold or other allergens in your home and get them removed ASAP
- Set your thermostat to 68* or higher during the winter months
- Switch out chemical-heavy cleaners for safer alternatives
- Check batteries in your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors
Financial wellness is tricky. There are so many factors and complexities that go into financial wellness and the opposite, poverty. For many the cycle of poverty is generational and breaking these cycles is possible but incredibly difficult.
In a pre-covid world, financial wellness meant being financially stable and having enough money to live, save, and most likely invest. During this time, when so many people are unemployed or furloughed, thinking past the next bill sometimes seems impossible. However, there are several steps for those who need it to get back on track.
Making and sticking to a budget, managing debt, and researching options for assistance and hardship adjustments can all help in your financial wellness.
- Protect your credit score
- Pay bills on time
- Build up a savings
- Track your spending
Everyone wants to feel good about the work that they do. Having a good work-life balance is important, and feeling like the leadership within your company promotes a collaborative and uplifting work environment can make all of the difference. Having a sense of pride in your work, feeling as though the work you do is meaningful, and creating connections with coworkers will all aid in occupational wellness.
Topping the list for job satisfaction are several tech jobs like software engineer and data scientist, with other human services jobs like physical therapy and speech pathology making the list too.
- Research careers that interest you and take steps to attain that ultimate goal
- Decompress from the workday by doing something you enjoy
- If working remotely, have set work hours
- Complete this Workplace Wellness checklist