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The Seven Dimensions of Wellness

January 03, 2022

By BETTY DUNCAN, LPN
Geriatric Care Manager
Hartford HealthCare

The International Council on Active Aging’s wellness model identifies seven dimensions of individual health and wellbeing.

They are:

  • Intellectual.
  • Physical.
  • Social.
  • Spiritual.
  • Vocational.
  • Emotional.
  • Environmental.

Hartford HealthCare’s Center for Healthy Aging believes this model makes sense, and it speaks to our mission and values, too. ICAA’s mission is to promote Active Aging as a solution to improving the quality of life for older adults. ​​The Center for Healthy Aging was developed in 2004 as a free resource and assessment center designed to make it easier for seniors, their loved ones and caregivers to access essential information and services to attain the optimal quality of life.

Let’s look at each dimension. After you read through them, reflect on what dimensions you feel are your strongest.

What areas would you like to work on? If you have areas you would like to improve, seeking out support can be helpful, whether it’s from a friend, family member or counselor.

What would life be like if you optimized all seven dimensions? Setting goals for yourself in each area can help you feel more fulfilled and optimize your health.

Intellectual Wellness

People who pay attention to their intellectual wellness often find that they have better concentration, improved memory and better critical-thinking skills. You can do this by engaging in creative pursuits and intellectually stimulating activities, and by recognizing your unique talents and seeking out ways to use your knowledge and skills.

Strategies:
  • Read (something out of your ordinary interest or genre).
  • Learn a new skill: Build new neural pathways in your brain.
  • Do challenging puzzles such as a crosswords or Sudoku (letters person, challenge yourself to do numbers puzzle and vice versa).
  • Engage in conversation and explore opposing viewpoints (spirited conversations!).
  • Try a new hobby (using hands and their many nerve sensations: needlework, for example, or tinkering with a car).
  • Teach or tutor others.

Emotional Wellness

People with healthy emotional wellness feel confident, in control of their feelings and behaviors, and are able to handle life challenges. Emotional wellness is characterized by an ability to be hopeful about the future and to exhibit resilience when challenges arise.

Strategies:
  • Listen to music.
  • Journal or write to a friend.
  • Play with your pet.
  • Watch your favorite movie or the sunset.
  • Laugh with friends.
  • Engage in an activity that allows you to savor the experience (utilizing your sense of smell, taste, touch, sight, hearing).

Physical Wellness

Taking care of your body so that you can participate in activities that you enjoy and so that you can remain as independent as possible. It’s important to make lifestyle choices that can maintain or improve health and functional ability.

A good goal is being active at least three days a week for a total of about 150 minutes (2½ hours). We also recommend functional fitness: Improve daily life by strengthening muscles needed for everyday tasks and activities, like reaching up high in a cupboard, carrying a laundry basket or groceries, getting in and out of the car and driving.

Strategies:
  • Engage in appropriate exercise to boost cardiac endurance, overall strength and balance.
  • Try a balance training or a fall prevention program.
  • Get adequate sleep.
  • Keep scheduled visits to medical providers and follow prevention guidelines (such as. immunizations).
Eat healthy:
  • Eat a healthy diet: ChooseMyPlate.gov.
  • Add flavor to foods with spices and herbs instead of salt and look for low-sodium packaged foods.
  • Drink 3 cups of fat-free or low-fat milk throughout the day. If you cannot tolerate milk, try small amounts of yogurt, buttermilk, hard cheese or lactose-free foods.
  • Drink water throughout the day.
  • Limit alcohol intake.

Social Wellness

It’s important for older adults to have a sense of connectedness and belonging in their community, and maintain a healthy support network.

Strategies:
  • Visit with friends and family.
  • Engage in intergenerational experiences.
  • Join a club or organization.
  • Travel.
  • Use good communication skills that are assertive rather than passive or aggressive.
  • Be genuine and authentic with others and treat them with respect.

Vocational Wellness

This can be challenging for retirees because it involves work that utilizes a person’s skills while providing personal satisfaction and is valuable for society as well as the individual. But it is far from impossible!

Strategies:
  • Volunteer.
  • Mentor.
  • Engage in hobbies and interests that help you maintain existing skills.

Environmental Wellness

Your environment, both your social and natural surroundings, can greatly impact how you feel.

Strategies:
  • Minimize the clutter in your house.
  • Create a safe environment: lighting, pathways, safety alert systems.
  • If feasible, design a walking path, meditation space, flower or vegetable garden on your property.
  • Participate in a neighborhood watch.
  • Volunteer at a community garden. If there isn’t one, help start one!

Spiritual Wellness

Spiritual wellness is related to your personal values and beliefs that help you find meaning and purpose in your life. It involves not only a sense of connectedness to the larger world but also a  sense of inner peace.

Strategies:
  • Participate in or become a member of a faith-based community.
  • Make time to self-reflect.
  • Meditate.
  • Pray.
  • Spend time in nature.