Dimensions of an Inside-Out Wellbeing Journey

I have written a lot about what I call an “inside-out wellbeing journey”. It’s a mouth full, and I wonder if readers are grasping my meaning. I think it’s time to add some context and provide some practical information as a takeaway. I choose to use the word “wellbeing” because I like that it incorporates the word “being” as opposed to using the term “wellness”. Although, I would suggest the modern uses of the two terms can be interchangeable.

We no longer think of wellness in terms of just physical health. We have gone through the transition of adding the word “holistic” to indicate that wellness is truly dependent upon many more dimensions of life that fuel the body, engage the mind, and nurture the spirit. Physical health will be achieved best by paying attention to all dimensions of life. This will allow one to live most fully.

The National Wellness Institute outlines six mutually interdependent dimensions of wellness: spiritual, emotional, physical, intellectual, social, and occupational.

Spiritual Dimension

  • Spiritual wellness is being connected to something greater than yourself and having a set of values, principles, morals, and beliefs that provide a sense of purpose and meaning to life

Emotional Dimension

  • Emotional Wellness refers to an awareness, understanding, and acceptance of your emotions, and your ability to manage effectively through challenges and change.

Intellectual Dimension

  • Intellectual Wellness refers to active participation in scholastic, cultural, and community activities. It is important to gain and maintain intellectual wellness because it expands knowledge and skills in order to live a stimulating and successful life.

Physical Dimension

  • Physical Wellness means caring for your body to stay healthy now and in the future. The physical benefits of looking good and feeling terrific most often lead to the psychological benefits of enhanced self-esteem, self-control, determination, and a sense of direction.

Social Dimension

  • Social Wellness involves building healthy, nurturing, and supportive relationships as well as fostering a genuine connection with those around you.

Occupational Dimension

  • Occupational Wellness recognizes personal satisfaction and enrichment in one’s life through work. It contributes your unique gifts, skills, and talents to work that is both personally meaningful and rewarding.

Other organizations and universities focus on eight, seven, or nine dimensions, but I have decided to focus on these core six for now because they are included across the board. The two dimensions that are primarily added to other models are financial and environmental. I certainly do not want to diminish the importance of these areas, but I would suggest that these dimensions can be effects of wellness in the other six dimensions. For example, if you aim after holistic wellness in your occupation, financial wellness would be one of the effects. The same goes with the environment if you’re focused on your physical and social wellness.

The interdependence of all six dimensions is integral to overall wellness. The above is an actual photo of a “Wheel of Life” exercise I did at an event with a famous self-help guru in 2014. The exercise was to rate areas of your wellness and shade in each pie piece of the wheel with the rating — shading from a low score in the center of the pie outward toward a higher score. If any area was less shaded, you could quickly see how your “wheel of life” wouldn’t roll effectively. Most participants’ wheels were a lopsided mess. The valuable takeaway was that attention must be given to all the dimensions, as neglect of any one over time will adversely affect the others. Ultimately, ignoring any dimension of wellness will sacrifice your health, well-being, and quality of life.

However, I deviate from the balanced wheel analogy because I do not believe the focus must be equal at all times in order to achieve overall wellness. Our journeys are full of different focuses at different times because let’s face it, life throws us curve balls. I think 2020 deserves a gold medal for disrupting our norms — the good, the bad, and everything in between.

Along the journey, sometimes our physical wellness requires a higher priority, other times it may be social or occupational. For example, when a woman is pregnant physical wellness shifts into high gear, losing a job will put a priority on occupational wellness, or a challenged relationship can make social wellness an area of intense focus. The goal should be to find a personal harmony where all are being paid attention and nothing is on the sacrifice block for extended periods of time. Everyone has their own view of priorities across different time periods of life, and we can’t judge one another’s vision of what it means to be well.

Thinking Questions:

  1. Which dimensions of your life tend to compete for the most attention?
  2. Which dimension is currently your top priority as far as time and attention?

As I detailed in Inner and Outer Life Balance, true wellness is dependent upon a foundational inner life that can support a robust outer life. When you look at the six dimensions you can basically divide them in half where three represent your inner life (spiritual, emotional, intellectual), and three represent your outer life (physical, social, occupational). I’ve represented these with warm (inner life) and cool (outer life) colors to convey the distinction and the dependence of the inner life as the engine for overall wellness. If you don’t have the foundation of spiritual, emotional, and intellectual wellness, your physical, social and occupational wellness will weigh you down. I firmly believe that wellness in outer life dimensions is not sustainable without strong inner dimensions.

Ask yourself how many times you’ve made your spiritual, emotional, or intellectual wellness a priority. These dimensions tend to be shelved and forgotten as a result of the fast-paced outside-in world we live in where the demands of on our physical, social, and occupational dimensions dominate. The fruit of the outer life pressure without a robust inner life is stress, burnout, identity crisis, anxiety, inflammation, and so on. This is why I have made the inside-out approach the core of my messaging to truly transform a wellbeing journey and to bring some deep introspection.

Perhaps this is a better visual to represent the foundation of the inner life dimensions supporting the outer life dimensions. I would add financial and environmental dimensions to the outer life category as well, so you can see how the “balance” weighs heavily on the side of external influences. The foundation that exists in your spiritual, emotional, and intellectual wellness will either be able to carry the pressure or life will feel like one long balancing act between competing dimensions in the outer life.

Wellness is also not exclusive to ourselves. Wellness necessitates good self-stewardship, for ourselves and for those we care about and who care about us. After many years of trying to make sense of the “golden rule”, I believe a strong aspect of truly loving your neighbor is to want their overall wellness sincerely and equally to your own. If I fully grasp the importance of the dimensions of my own personal wellness, I must want the same for my neighbor. By neighbor, I mean EVERYONE.

So, when I say that the inner life dimensions are integral and foundational to my own holistic wellbeing, I must have the same passion and motivation for others to be able to build the same from their inner life to their outer life. This is my “why” and my current tool or method is this blog and the work I do to share this message with clients. My journey toward wellness (or wellbeing) is not my own, it is FOR everyone I can also influence, inspire, help, carry, and share with along the way.

I look forward to diving into each dimension with subsequent articles and relating my future content back to these dimensions of wellness!

Originally published at https://www.alexismaida.com on August 3, 2020.

Alexis is an experienced executive with 15+ years of expertise in strategy, communications, branding, marketing and wellness.