7 Wellness Dimensions All Dietitians Should Know

7 Wellness Dimensions All Dietitians Should Know

When I was a baby RD, I was lucky enough to go to the National Wellness Institute (NWI) conference at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point. It was there I was introduced to the 7 Wellness Dimensions.

I remember feeling a huge shift in my understanding. Wellness was more than just nutrition and exercise. Wellness was about the WHOLE SELF.

I could not wait to share this info with EVERYONE! Friends, family, patients, and co-workers quickly heard about what I learned, and I started using wellness within my practice.

A few years later, the organization I worked for adopted a similar model, and I was thrilled! I wanted everyone to know about the 7 Wellness Dimensions because it is life changing. I still feel this way.

If you already know about the 7 Wellness Dimensions, GREAT!

If this is new to you, please read on. Perhaps this will be helpful for you and your patients.

What is Wellness?

The NWI defines Wellness as, “an active process through which people become aware of, and make choices toward, a more successful existence.” Because wellness is a personal practice, they also agree that wellness is:

  • a conscious, self-directed, and evolving process of achieving full potential
  • multidimensional and holistic, encompassing lifestyle, mental and spiritual well-being, and the environment
  • positive and affirming (1).

The History of the 7 Wellness Dimensions

Bill Hettler, one of the co-founders of NWI, created a hexagonal shaped model of the 6 Dimensions of Wellness in 1976 (2). The original dimensions of wellness included 1) occupational, 2) social, 3) physical, 4) emotional, 5) spiritual, and 6) intellectual.

Bill encouraged finding balance between all these dimensions. Focusing too much or too little on one dimension could impact wellness as a whole.

Some years later, a 7th Dimension (environmental) was added to the model.

Image of a flat tire and a full tire showing how each dimension of wellness impacts the others

The 7 Wellness Dimensions

The 7 Wellness Dimensions are connected, like spokes on a bike tire. If one area of wellness is deflated it can impact the comfort of your ride.

The 7 Wellness Dimensions can help us (and our patients) identify areas of wellness that need our attention. We can learn to fill up areas that need a boost and reduce the bumpy ride.

To help with remembering these 7 Dimensions, I use the following acronym: P.O.S.S.I.E.E.

  • Physical
  • Occupation
  • Social
  • Spiritual
  • Intellectual
  • Emotional
  • Environmental
Physical Wellness - image of various items contributing to physical wellness
Physical Wellness

Physical Wellness

Our physical wellness is more than eating healthy and exercising.

Ways to improve physical wellness include:

  1. Eat a variety of healthy foods everyday
  2. Include regular physical activity
  3. Get adequate sleep
  4. Stay hydrated
  5. See your doctor annually (prevent disease)
  6. Protect yourself (seat belts, helmets, birth control)
  7. Limit tobacco and alcohol
  8. Practice good hygiene (body, teeth, clothes, bedding).
Image of woman using post-it notes to set goals
Occupational Wellness

Occupational Wellness

The dimension of occupational, or career, wellness focuses on health within your chosen profession.

To support this area of wellness:

  1. Research career options
  2. Increase clarity (personal vision and mission statements)
  3. Be open to learning new skills
  4. Taking on new challenges when ready
  5. Learn to say “no” to maintain work/life balance
  6. Find a career that highlights your skills, talents, interests, and personality.
Image of a group of people around a table enjoying each other's company
Social Wellness

Social Wellness

Our social wellness includes healthy relationship development. Ways to enhance social wellness involves:

  1. Joining groups or clubs of interest to you
  2. Taking classes to expand your social network
  3. Recognizing helpful relationships and nurture them
  4. Exploring resources for social anxiety (as needed)
  5. Volunteering
  6. Connecting with friends (old and new)
  7. Sharing your talents
  8. Learning to communicate (ideas, thoughts, feelings, etc.)
Image of a person standing on a hill top in prayer as the sun rises behind
Spiritual Wellness

Spiritual Wellness

Spirituality is a very personal journey. Exploring your own beliefs while allowing others to practice theirs is one way to grow your spiritual wellness dimension.

Ideas to develop spiritual wellness include:

  1. Practice meditation and deep breathing
  2. Pray or visit church
  3. Read books to add to your spiritual beliefs
  4. Visit nature
  5. Develop a viewpoint you want to live by
  6. Volunteer for a cause you believe in
  7. Ask questions
  8. Be mindful and present
  9. Allow others to live as they choose
Image of a stack of books with a hat, eye glasses, and a tie
Intellectual Wellness

Intellectual Wellness

Challenging the mind and continuing to learn throughout the life cycle is a fantastic way to build intellectual wellness.

Consider these other options too:

  1. Read topics of interest
  2. Visit art exhibits, concerts, plays, and museums
  3. Befriend individuals who challenge your mind
  4. Take classes
  5. Learn a new language
Image of a head filled with beautiful flowers
Emotional Wellness

Emotional Wellness

Recognizing how we feel and effectively communicating with others are all great ways to develop your emotional wellness.

Other ways to build emotional wellness include:

  1. Recognize your emotions, thoughts, and feelings
  2. Use journaling, photography, music, counseling, and/or humor as tools to express yourself
  3. Ask for and offer support
  4. Improve time management skills
  5. Explore resources on stress management and anxiety (as needed)
  6. Learn how to relieve stress in a variety of ways
  7. Show yourself grace by loving and accepting yourself
Image of a boy picking up trash
Environmental Wellness

Environmental Wellness

Your environment has a significant impact on how you feel. Your home and the world are all factors in your environmental wellness.

Ways to build environmental wellness include:

  1. Reduce noise and air pollution
  2. Create a warm environment in your home, office, etc.
  3. Conserve resources (water, electricity, fuel)
  4. Pick up trash
  5. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle when possible
  6. Limit chemical use

Where the 7 Wellness Dimensions are going

Today, several organizations and universities have adopted and modified this model (using 5-8 wellness dimensions) to promote, support, and encourage a more wholistic approach to health and wellness.

Here are a few organizations and universities who have implemented the wellness dimensions into their model:

  • National Wellness Institute (1)
  • Simon Fraser University (3)
  • University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point (4)
  • Laurier University  (5)
  • Veterans Affairs – Whole Health (6)
  • Whole Health Institute (7).

Why Should Dietitians Care About the 7 Wellness Dimensions?

Using the 7 Wellness Dimension can help patients identify areas of wellness where they could make significant changes. At the same time, this model can help with boosting confidence by seeing what they are already doing well.

Nutrition may not always be the top priority for our patients. There may be difficulties going on in other areas of their life (relationships, financial, work). Dietitians can work magic if we only know what is most important to our patients.

By starting with understanding our patient’s priorities, we can greatly reduce frustrations (for both the RD and your patients). We can support our patients in pursuing top priorities, assist in goal setting, and refer out as needed.

Image of the 7 Wellness Dimension Circle

Final Thoughts on the 7 Wellness Dimensions

Several organizations have adopted, modified, and implemented the 7 Wellness Dimensions. Some use a 5 Dimension model, while others use 8 Dimensions. Which model is best? The one that works best for you and your patients!

For more information about The Dietitian Resource, visit our site or check out the blog.  Thanks for visiting!

References

1. The 6 Dimensions of Wellness. National Wellness Institute. [Online] [Cited: September 21, 2022.] https://nationalwellness.org/resources/six-dimensions-of-wellness/.

2. Origins of the 6 Dimensional Model of Wellness created in 1976 by Bill Hettler. Hettler.com. [Online] [Cited: September 21, 2022.] https://www.hettler.com/Origins.htm.

3. Make SPACE for Well-being. Simon Fraser University – Student Services – Health and Counseling. [Online] [Cited: September 21, 2022.] http://www.sfu.ca/students/health/resources/online-tools/well-being.html.html.

4. Seven Dimensions of Wellness at UW-Stevens Point: SPECIES. School of Health Sciences and Wellness – College of Professional Studies. [Online] [Cited: September 21, 2022.] https://www3.uwsp.edu/health/Pages/about/7DimensionsWellness.aspx#:~:text=Wellness%20is%20multidimensional%20including%3A%20Spiritual,these%20seven%20dimensions%20of%20wellness..

5. Seven Dimensions of Wellness. Laurier – Inspiring Lives. [Online] [Cited: September 2022, 2022.] https://students.wlu.ca/wellness-and-recreation/health-and-wellness/wellness-education/dimensions.html#:~:text=Wellness%20is%20commonly%20viewed%20as,the%20other%20dimensions%20are%20affected..

6. Whole Health. U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. [Online] [Cited: September 21, 2022.] https://www.va.gov/wholehealth/.

7. An Institute for Health Transformation. Whole Health Institute. [Online] [Cited: September 21, 2022.] https://www.wholehealth.org/.

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More About Rochelle

Rochelle Inwood MS, RDN, ACSM EP-C

Hello there! I’m Rochelle Inwood, a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) and Exercise Physiologist (ACSM EP-C). With over 14 years of experience, I have sharpened my expertise through diverse roles, including weight management program co-coordinator, patient/employee gym supervisor, outpatient dietitian, program manager, dietetic internship preceptor, and more. I am passionate about learning, creating, teaching, and supporting personal growth and development.