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Wellness and Mental Health by Carla Cook, MSW, LCSW, Clinical


May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Mental Health Awareness Month was

established in 1949 to increase awareness of the importance of mental

health and wellness in Americans’ lives and to celebrate recovery from

mental illness.

In honor of Mental Health Awareness Month, we will begin exploring practices

that support the concept that balance is the key to wellbeing. Each month

we will be examining specific aspects of the wellness wheel and how we can

enhance and optimize each category to facilitate mental and physical health.

The wellness wheel is a self-exploration tool designed to support the wellness

journey. It provides a visual representation of the seven dimensions of

wellness to assess progress in each category and to thoughtfully consider

how each dimension impacts your life. By examining each area of the

wellness wheel, you can identify ways to enhance your overall quality of life,

improve your health, focus on a well-rounded, healthy lifestyle, achieving a

life of meaning and purpose and reaching your full potential.

Dr. William Hettler, co-founder of the National Wellness Institute developed

the seven dimensions of wellness in 1976 as an integrated approach to

wellness. The dimensions of the wellness wheel include physical,

emotional, intellectual, spiritual, environmental, social, and

occupational wellness. These dimensions are interconnected categories

that individually contribute to achieving a balanced life.

The physical dimension of the wellness wheel pertains to your physical

health. It involves all aspects of physical activity, balanced nutrition, sleep

hygiene, self-care, and tending to your physical health with appropriate

medical attention when necessary.

Emotional Wellness refers to your feelings and emotions. What are your

emotional responses? Can you effectively identify, understand, and express

your feelings? By cultivating a foundation in emotional health, you are better

equipped to adapt to any transitional life events and more effectively

moderate stress. Take care of your emotional wellness by sleeping enough,

speaking to a therapist, or asking for help when you are in need, and

regularly evaluating your stress management techniques.

Intellectual wellness focuses on lifelong learning, broadening your

knowledge, and skill building. It encourages you to maintain an open mind,

cultivate curiosity, learn, and engage in creative activities to ensure your

mind stays healthy and active. Reading for pleasure, staying updated on

social and political issues, or mentoring others fall under the intellectual

wellness category.

Spiritual wellness concerns the core values, beliefs and ethics that inform

your actions and guide you through life. Spiritual wellness supports self-

examination and exploration of your purpose and meaning in life while

providing an opportunity to engage with a higher power. Spiritual wellness

supports the establishment of community bonds, whether through a religious

system, communing with nature, or practicing mindfulness and meditation.

Environmental wellness refers to the role your surroundings play in your

overall well-being. From a micro level within your own home environment to

a global scale, our physical environment impacts our mental health. It has a

massive impact on our mood and how we live our lives. Environmental

wellness focuses on the way you interact with your environment such as your

home, school, or workspace.

Organizing, decluttering, recycling, and completing household tasks are all

ways we can contribute to promoting a cleaner, more organized, and more

peaceful living space. Staying environmentally aware by educating yourself

and creating spaces that contribute to constructive emotions are other ways

to focus on your environmental wellness.

Social wellness examines the quality of your relationships with others.

Keeping a strong social support structure helps you feel connected and is

significant to your social wellness while moderating feelings of stress,

isolation, loneliness, or even depression.

Participating in group activities with family or friends, joining organizations,

remaining open to new connections, and nourishing respectful and

meaningful relationships is fundamental to maintaining healthy social


Occupational wellness is the dimension that focuses on the fulfillment you

experience in your work and how financial stability impacts your life.

Investigating job satisfaction, finances, and career ambitions can support

your occupational wellness. Planning, maintaining financial health, and

finding a fulfilling profession all fall under this category.

When establishing wellness goals, it is helpful to consider all seven

dimensions of wellness and reflect on how each one impacts your life. Is

there a certain area you are struggling with more than others? Do you feel

any imbalances in your wellness wheel? This will help you gain more clarity

into the wellness aspects to prioritize and identify areas that might benefit

from more attention

The goal of the wellness wheel is to examine yourself, evaluate progress, and

identify any barriers to living a more fulfilling life. Working with a professional

to gain additional guidance is a huge benefit when it comes to our personal

wellness journey and can help you with goal setting, life adjustments, and

taking the necessary steps to accomplish any lifestyle changes you set out to


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