The Many Dimensions of Well-Being
Do you feel like you watch the years go by, and your wellness goals remain just that: goals? Do you think you can’t seem to turn your dreams into active work in progress or, better yet, proud accomplishments? Maybe you have dabbled in working out or eating healthy, especially as the new year starts but can’t seem to stay on track to see lasting results, or maybe you feel like something is missing in your life even if you are doing things “right.”
The truth is that being a ‘wellbeing’ is more than just the acts we usually associate with it, like exercising, eating mindfully, and the ability to cope with everyday stresses in life. We are multi-faceted human beings, and, as such, our approach to achieving fulfillment consists of conquering our different dimensions. If we take the time to examine each extent and plan to curate how success looks to us, we can start creating the life we desire and deserve.
To quickly think of the different sizes to focus on, remember the word Spine: Social, Physical, Investment, Nonmaterial, and Emotional. The spine, after all, is our body’s central support structure helping to keep up upright, so what better way to remember these dimensions, which are the backbone to become a wellbeing:
Social isolation and loneliness can have serious health effects, especially in older adults. A 2020 study found that social isolation significantly increased a person’s risk of premature death from all causes, a stake that may rival those of smoking, obesity, and physical inactivity. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated loneliness, which has dramatically impacted older adults who are likely to face factors such as living alone, losing family or friends, and chronic illness. Cultivating high-quality social relationships can be great for your health and can also make a world of difference to the other person. This is not to say you need to be a social butterfly because we are all unique individuals and have different social situations tolerance. Also, some people may like to be alone, and that is ok. However, if you are feeling lonely or would like to do some random acts of kindness, here are some suggestions:
- Text, call, or video chat with a friend you haven’t spoken to in a while
- Make plans to do something outdoors, which can be as simple as taking a walk in a park
- Make cards for nursing home residents.
We all know we need to move more, but establishing a workout routine can be complicated, and sticking to it can feel even more complex. Try to find a workout you love (or at least don’t hate). Don’t like weightlifting? Try kickboxing or HIIT. There are many other options such as dancing, swimming, hiking, and bicycling. Introduce your significant other, friend, or family member to the activity, and they may like it too. It also helps to figure out what time of the day is best for you to work out. Working out in the morning and getting it out of the way may work best for some, but for others working out later in the day feels best when they may have more energy. Find what works well with your schedule and what feels good for your body. When you have a plan, prepare the night before. If working out at home, put out your mat, pick out your workout video, etc. If going to a gym or class, have your gym bag prepared.
You can even sleep in your clean workout clothes so that there are no excuses the next day (hey, it works!). Remember that the best workout is the one you will do, so set yourself up for success.
Financial health and personal health are more connected than you may think. According to the American Psychological Association, money is the top stressor for most Americans (72%), and it has been for nearly a decade. People can experience loss of sleep, anxiety, and the feeling of being overwhelmed. There is a lot to think about in terms of finances, whether it’s everyday expenses, saving for retirement and healthcare costs, unexpected fees, and wanting to save for a vacation or a new house. The amount of stress to deal with can reach a dangerous level. Since mental and physical health can directly benefit from healthy finances, it’s advantageous to incorporate steps to improve financial wellness. The following can be a good start:
- Ask for help. See if your employer has resources for financial coaching or financial education materials
- Track all your expenses for a month. This will help you to identify spending patterns and see where you can cut back on certain expenses
- Use a free budgeting tool like Mint to get the big picture on your spending, investments, and credit score
Spirituality is an essential part of wellbeing and is the most personal dimension. Being spiritual doesn’t necessarily involve being religious, but rather it involves anything that helps you develop a more profound sense of meaning, understanding, or connection with the universe. Do you want to be involved in something bigger than yourself? What is your purpose in life, what do you value, what brings you fulfillment? Thinking about the answers to these questions can help you carve out the path to developing your moral compass and what spirituality means for you. Your journey to spiritual wellness may consist of volunteering, spending time in nature, and appreciating music and the arts.
Emotional wellness is the ability to handle life’s stresses and adapt to change successfully and challenging times. Experts say that people who emotionally well have fewer negative emotions and can bounce back from difficulties faster. This trait is called resilience. Fortunately, emotional resilience is a trait that can be further developed. Since stress and change are a part of life, taking the opportunity to build your resilience can have a significant payoff. Some of the main characteristics of emotional resilience to build upon are:
- Learn to understand what you are feeling and why, as well as understand others’ feelings better. This allows you to respond appropriately to other and better cope with difficult emotions such as anger or fear.
- Create goals and stay action-oriented. Resilient people don’t feel hopeless when facing a challenge but are more likely to keep working toward a goal when faced with a roadblock.
- Keep things in perspective. You may not be able to change a highly stressful event, but you can change how you interpret and respond to it.
Being a wellbeing involves more than physical and mental wellness. It consists of exploring social, financial, and spiritual health as well. Your wellness journey will need to be customized to your unique needs. Assess which dimensions of your life need more attention. Reassess this balance often as life brings changes, and hence your wellness goals will likely need to shift too. Taking the time to balance these different wellness dimensions will help you operate more effectively and efficiently and bring you closer to achieving your wellness goals.