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Finding Balance in Life: The Six Dimensions

Social media is riddled with numerous hashtags such as #allaboutbalance and #balancedlife. What do those statements really mean, and why does it matter to you? Primarily, you’ll enjoy better whole-person health—emotionally, mentally, physically, and even spiritually—if you’re able to settle comfortably between the extremes in life. But what does it take to find balance in life? 

Be More Mindful of Wellness

In the mid-1970s, University of Wisconsin Stevens-Point faculty members Dennis Elsenrath, Bill Hettler, and Fred Leafgren had an idea: humans could live better if they incorporated principles of balance and wellness in various areas of life. They created the Institute for Lifestyle Improvement at the university. 

In 1976, Hettler refined the movement’s philosophy into the “Six Dimensions of Wellness,” and the organization evolved into the National Wellness Institute (NWI). “By balancing these six dimensions and actively seeking to improve them, the organization’s founders believed individuals could improve their overall well-being,” it states. This whole-person wellness philosophy—similar to Fair Oaks’ approach to comprehensive addiction and co-occurring disorders treatment—is the foundation of having balance in your life. 

Before we outline the dimensions, NWI offers this definition of wellness, which we provide verbatim: 

  • Wellness is a conscious, self-directed, and evolving process of achieving one’s full potential.
  • Wellness encompasses lifestyle, mental and spiritual well-being, and the environment.
  • Wellness is positive, affirming, and contributes to living a long and healthy life.
  • Wellness is multicultural and holistic, involving multiple dimensions.

The six dimensions (sometimes seven, as some approaches include an environmental component) are the backbone of thousands of wellness initiatives throughout various institutions, from universities and hospitals to corporations and social services. Some studies indicate that the tool’s intent is simple: be the best person you can be. 

How Focusing on the Six Dimensions Helps Balance

It’s important to note that wanting balance in your life isn’t—and shouldn’t be—about total perfection. The University of Texas at Austin’s Counseling and Mental Health Center (UT) notes that “those who strive for excellence in a healthy way take genuine pleasure in trying to meet high standards. Perfectionism, on the other hand, results in struggles with self-doubt and fears of disapproval and rejection.” UT details the difference between the two approaches.

So as you consider how the six dimensions apply to your goals, keep in mind that no matter how tired the cliché might be, it’s still true: the journey shapes the destination, and the key is to find meaningful value along the way.

Here are the six dimensions to help improve wellness and balance in your life. 

  1. Emotional
    This is your ability to not only recognize and properly express your feelings, but also be able to healthfully manage them. This may include relying on trusted sources for support and holistic therapies when necessary.

  2. Intellectual
    This is a conscious choice to expand your capabilities through lifelong learning. Strengthen your skillset, entertain new concepts, and consider different approaches for problem-solving when faced with challenges.

  3. Occupational
    The typical “work/life balance” aspect. It’s essential to your wellbeing to recognize growth and opportunity in your employment while establishing valuable aspects of your life outside of work.

  4. Physical
    You probably know the value of exercise and whole-foods nutrition already. This area includes other factors that support overall health as well, such as regular checkups.

  5. Social
    This dimension focuses on acknowledging the value of healthful relationships, not only with family and friends, but also within the community.

  6. Spiritual
    Whether you pray, meditate, enjoy the wonder of nature, or some other pursuit, the point of expanding your spiritual life is to recognize your connection to something greater. This helps keep you both grounded and uplifted.

As mentioned previously, some approaches also include an environmental dimension, which includes a focus on your relationship with the natural world, how you conserve resources, and other actions. 

In a 2022 interview, Hettler said, “The wellness assessments that I developed over the years had to do with personal choices that people made; it’s not what you say you’d like to do; or how many friends you’ve got; or; how many likes you got on Facebook or Instagram or something like that. It’s what you do with the hours you have each day. [This] tool’s purpose was to create a teachable moment to get people to pay attention to the most important thing: their own life.”

Fair Oaks: Your Source for Whole-Person Care

With dedication to wellness, you continue to become your best self in recovery—and deserve nothing less. The board-certified addiction treatment professionals at Fair Oaks in Sacramento strive to support your individual journey with whole-person care that’s balanced in evidence-based approaches and complementary holistic services. Learn more about our programs.  

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