Definition of Wellness: Meaning, Dimensions, and Examples
What is wellness? Discover what wellness means, the multiple dimensions of wellness, and examples of how to increase your wellness. Finally, wellness defined!
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The terms "health" and "wellness" are often used interchangeably. The World Health Organization (WHO) has defined health as, “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity." Although wellness can be defined similarly, some suggest that wellness is more active and process oriented whereas health is more of a state of being. For example, the national wellness institute defines wellness as, "an active process through which people become aware of, and make choices toward, a more successful existence."
What does wellness mean?
Although we've just defined wellness, what people mean when they say wellness is slightly different. Within the wellness field, we tend to think of wellness as somewhere between physical health and mental well-being. Usually when people are referring to "health", they mean physical health, and when people say "well-being", they are referring to mental health. Wellness is a somewhat broader term that generally includes both physical health and mental well-being as well as other dimensions like spirituality.
Want to learn a bit more about your wellness? Take our well-being quiz to get your personalized report and tips to improve areas of wellness that you personally struggle with.
Video: The Eight Dimensions of Wellness
What are the dimensions of wellness?
Although there are differing beliefs on the definition of wellness and the number of wellness dimensions, we'll talk here about 8 dimensions. These cover a range of things that contribute to wellness.
Emotional wellness (or emotional well-being) is what we cover the most on this website. It includes a range of emotional skills like positive thinking, resiliency, and using our strengths. By developing these skills, we can better manage emotions, cope with stress, and live satisfying, meaningful lives.
Environmental wellness means that we live in balance, connection, and synergy with our surroundings. This means that where we live is calm, safe, non-toxic, and supportive of our health and well-being. It's important to remember that our environment contributes to our wellness, but we also have some control over our environment.
To improve our environmental wellness, we might opt to get an air filter or water filter to lessen the impact pollution has on us. We might opt to move away from the city to be in nature more often. Or we might strive to move to a neighborhood with less crime.
Physical wellness usually includes diet, exercise, and sleep. Nutrition is perhaps one of the most talked about areas of wellness. Indeed, it's important to learn about which foods to eat for greater wellness and which foods contribute to ill-health.
Exercise is another big topic. Exercise is not only good for physical wellness, it contributes to better emotional wellness as well. So try to get at least a bit of exercise every day.
Video: On nutrition and wellness
Intellectual wellness is all about learning and growing. When we make an effort to be curious, creative, and inquisitive, we get to experience more things that can fuel wellness. For example, we could go to a gallery and be inspired by beautiful art. We can have conversations with people who are different than us and learn new things that might help us re-think our challenges and world view. Or we might do something creative like photography, making music, or cooking that makes us feel more alive and well.
Occupational wellness can be found by contributing something meaningful to the world. (We can get this type of wellness from school or volunteering as well). When we feel purposeful about our work and are appreciated for a job well done, we feel more meaning. Even if we can't throw caution to the wind and quit our jobs, we can grow our occupational wellness in small ways, for example by helping out a coworker, joining a project we're interested in, or building new skills to move into a career that is more fulfilling.
Social wellness is all about relationships with friends, family, coworkers, and communities. We can improve our social wellness by building skills like gratitude, kindness, and communication. These skills can help improve our social interactions and decrease feelings of loneliness. These things are all crucial for wellness.
Although money doesn't exactly buy happiness, not having enough money can contribute to reduced health and happiness. That's why it's important to learn about money, create a budget, and use money strategically to enhance wellness. For example, research shows that spending money on experiences and on other people makes us happier than buying things for ourselves. By understanding the role money has in wellness, we can make decisions that improve our lives.
Video: How to increase financial wellness
Our spiritual wellness comes from connection to something greater than ourselves. Our wellness could come from a connection to god, but spiritual wellness can also come from connection to the planet, other people, and ourselves. We can increase spiritual wellness with strategies like mindfulness and living our values. By making these efforts, our lives feel more purposeful and impactful.
What to do now that you know what wellness is
Now that you know the definition of wellness, what do you do? The great thing about wellness is that we actually have a lot of control over it. There are so many things we can do to improve our wellness. We can do wellness activities and build good wellness habits. A good goal is to try to do one thing for our wellness each day, and it doesn't have to be anything big. You could think of 3 things you're grateful for, or go for a walk, or eat a salad. As you continue to build wellness habits, they'll get easier until they eventually become automatic and become part of your daily life.
Want some ideas for how to boost wellness? Here are a few activities to help you boost various aspects of wellness:
Activity: What does happiness feel like?
In this activity, you'll do a visualization exercise to help you explore what overall wellness might feel like.
Activity: Mindfulness meditation
To grow your spiritual wellness, try out this mindfulness exercise.
Activity: Imagine your best self
In this activity, you imagine being the best version of yourself and can grow your intellectual and emotional wellness.
If we want to increase our wellness it can be really helpful to have a guide or course to support us and help us develop the right aspects of wellness—the aspects of wellness that we struggle with most. Luckily, there are now lots of great wellness courses online. Here are few that can help you with different aspects of wellness:
The Berkeley Happiness Program: Discover how to build positivity, resilience, and mindfulness
The Stress Detox Program: How to undo the effects stress has had on your body and stop the stress cycle.
The Longevity Blueprint: Learn and Apply Easy Biohacks To Rapidly Elevate Your Fitness, Health, Longevity & Beauty
The 7-Day Full Body Reboot: Get Strong, Fit & Lean
The Elimination Diet: A 60-Day Protocol To Uncover Food Intolerances, Heal The Gut, & Regain Your Health
Be Extraordinary: Discover How Your Level of Consciousness Could be Silently Holding You Back – And Get The Right Tools To Instantly Amplify Your Performance, Impact & Self Mastery.
Mastering Authentic Networking: Transform Your Career & Life With The Power Of Authentic Relationships
Purpose-Driven Business Program: Build a business that balances profit with purpose
The Feng Shui Home Makeover: Transform your home into a space that supports and nourishes your dreams
The Japanese Art of Healing Your Money Wounds: How To Rise Above Your Negative Beliefs, Build The Wealth You Desire And Finally Make Peace With Your Money.
Communication in Relationships: Learn How To Create Lasting Passion In Your Relationship
Duality by Jeffrey Allen: Tune into your spiritual energy
The M Word: Mindfulness meditation masterclass
Remember that wellness takes time to develop. So just take the time to grow it and watch it blossom.
About Dr. Tchiki Davis
Dr. Davis is founder of The Berkeley Well-Being Institute. After getting her PhD in psychology at Berkeley, she started creating online content & programs to boost well-being—some of these have reached more than a million people. As author of Outsmart Your Smartphone, and contributor to Psychology Today, The Greater Good Science Center, and Shine Text, Dr. Davis aims to share her insights on happiness & health with people all across the world. Learn more about Dr. Davis.