The Eight Dimensions of Wellness

Dimensions of public health

If there’s one word to describe the approach to wellness at the School of Public Health–Bloomington, it’s “comprehensive.” Every aspect of wellbeing, from physical to financial health, fits into the school’s activities and mission. Inspired by our community’s well-balanced approach to wellness, we offer a “cheat sheet” to getting top marks in every wellness category.


Often the first dimension to come to mind when considering one’s personal health, this realm is strongly influenced by dietary choices, physical activity, and sleep. Small changes like drinking more water, adding a daily walk, and waking up at the same time every day can make a big difference in physical health, but don’t be afraid to get a bit more ambitious (with your doctor’s approval). Have you ever wondered what would happen if you stopped drinking soda? Or turned off all electronics at night so you could truly unwind? When it comes to exercise habits, changes require caution to avoid injury, so be sure to get guidance from a fitness professional. Unless your doctor recommends against it, however, replacing processed foods with whole foods and shifting your schedule to ensure sound sleep are major changes worth making.


This dimension emphasizes the importance of feeling connected to other people, maintaining meaningful relationships, and communicating your feelings. Studies have demonstrated that the happiest people on earth, without exception, maintain close personal relationships with friends and family. Whether you find that connection through family, colleagues, volunteer work, a religious community, or purely recreational events, making time to enjoy the company of others can have a profound effect on your overall wellbeing.


It’s a basic human need to experience a sense of purpose and meaning. For some, this is best fulfilled through connection to a religious tradition, while others find spiritual satisfaction in volunteer work, meditation, or exploration of different faiths. Devoting time to your spiritual health, whether by attending services or performing a service, is a key component of wellness that can mitigate stress, anxiety, and depression.


How do your surroundings support or detract from your wellbeing? Do you feel uplifted by your home and workspace? How is your air quality and your access to green space and local produce? While you may not be able to subsidize sidewalks in your neighborhood or persuade your employer to provide fresh fruit in the break room, a quick audit of the ways in which your environment affects your health may inspire proactive measures like packing your lunch, installing air filters, or decluttering your home to provide a more conducive setting for relaxation.


Financial wellbeing comes not only from feeling stable in the present but also secure with respect to the future. This dimension of wellness can only be achieved through comprehensive knowledge of your own financial circumstances. If you haven’t already done so, it’s time to take a thorough inventory of your assets, debt, income, and expenses. Even if you don’t like what you see, you’ll have taken the first step toward putting yourself on better footing. A financial advisor can provide a great deal of insight and guidance for those seeking to improve their financial health. “Fiduciaries” are advisors who commit to act in your best interest, rather than those of the investment firm, so be sure to look into whether your advisor makes a fiduciary commitment.


When your work supports the other dimensions of wellness, you are occupationally healthy. Consider not only the ergonomics of your workstation but also whether the social and emotional aspects of the job contribute to your wellbeing. Do you feel connected to your work’s purpose? Does the work environment support healthy behavior like taking breaks, getting up to stretch, and working reasonable hours? Are your responsibilities challenging without feeling insurmountable? Do you enjoy (or at least tolerate) your commute? If you are in between jobs or considering a move, be sure to give weight to these types of questions in addition to evaluating the compensation package. While a high salary can support your financial health, an unhealthy work environment will often cost more in wellness than money can buy.


Feeling at peace with one’s self and one’s circumstances are the hallmarks of emotional health. This dimension has many facets, from stress to self-image to the ability to accept change. Activities associated with improved emotional health include walking, meditating, writing in a journal, and cultivating feelings of gratitude. As with all other dimensions of wellness, other people can be a terrific resource for improving emotional health. Reaching out to friends, loved ones, or a counselor is often the first step toward emotional healing.


This dimension relates to your mental stimulation and engagement. The intellect thrives on novelty, so keep it healthy with new experiences and challenges. These can come in the form of recipes, hobbies, travel, or work projects outside your usual realm. Spark new thoughts by checking out the immense array of podcasts available, or browse your local library for a smorgasbord for your intellect. Finally, consider continuing education courses to tap into intellectual nirvana: studenthood.