People often find it difficult to balance their mental, emotional, and physical needs and prioritize them appropriately. A helpful way to understand various needs and their relative importance is found in a system called whole-person wellness. Whole-person wellness is a scientifically-backed approach to improving a person’s life in all areas.
About Whole-Person Wellness
Developed by Dr. Bill Hettler in the 1970s, whole-person wellness is a holistic model of wellness. Since he created the model in 1976, whole-person wellness has been adopted by many fields, including psychology, elder care, and more. The model has proven to be a simple, effective way to talk about and address wellness.
Whole-person wellness is sometimes referred to as the “six-dimensional wellness model” or the “six dimensions of wellness,” as standard models define six distinct dimensions of wellness.
6 Dimensions of Wellness
Whole-person wellness is generally categorized into these six dimensions: occupational, spiritual, intellectual, physical, emotional, and social. By understanding and tending to each category in oneself and others, a person can lead a more fulfilling life.
#1. Emotional Wellness
In traditional psychological care models, emotional wellness is prioritized – often to the point of forgetting the other dimensions of wellness. However, even within more holistic models of wellness, emotional wellness is often misunderstood or underappreciated. Effective emotional wellness must be thoughtful, based on nuance, and person-centered.
Our model of emotional wellness includes the following:
- Robust emotional support from friends and family
- Effective emotional modeling from others
- Ability to recognize and name one’s emotional state
- Acceptance of one’s own emotions and emotional states
- Strategies and tools for addressing an emotional crisis
Emotional wellness is a whole package. As one element of emotional wellness is strengthened, the other elements strengthen as well. It’s a chain reaction – an individual who has learned to recognize their emotions becomes better at accepting them, then better at addressing them, and so on. Social support is often at the core of emotional wellness, especially for younger people or those who did not have support at young ages.
#2. Social Wellness
Social wellness is vital, underlying all other forms of wellness. It’s difficult to understand one’s emotions, take care of one’s health, and nurture one’s intellect without support. Humans are a social species, and our communities provide a foundation for wellness.
Common aspects of social wellness include:
- Access to supportive, caring family members, whether genetic or chosen
- Regular, positive time with friends or family
- Strong mentors and guides, especially during transitional periods
- Interdependence — balancing independence with mutual care
- Meaningful involvement in one’s community, both in giving and taking
- Effective communication skills
#3. Physical Wellness
Physical health and safety are vital to recovery and wellness. While traditional models of whole-person wellness define physical wellness as primarily based on diet and exercise, true physical wellness requires complete safety in one’s body and the environment. Elements of physical wellness include:
- Regular, body-appropriate exercise
- Access to healthy, filling foods, clean water, and dietary support
- Access to a safe, clean living environment
- Freedom from danger, harm, and threats
Without physical wellness, it is difficult for individuals to be healthy, safe, and supported. Like all six dimensions, physical wellness is a cornerstone of health and happiness and intertwines with other forms of wellness.
#4. Intellectual Wellness
Intellectual wellness is one of the lesser-discussed elements of wellness. Despite this, it is of equal importance. Intellectual wellness deals with elements of learning, creativity, and growth in individuals. When intellectual wellness is cared for, an individual can go beyond simple survival and move toward growth and thriving. Elements of intellectual wellness include:
- Access to safe, appropriate, and effective education
- Opportunities to share one’s knowledge with others
- Access to challenging, novel stimuli, especially for younger and older individuals
- Access to accurate, accessible information in areas of interest
Intellectual wellness is often sidelined in mental healthcare. For instance, t is common for those with mental health disorders to lack vital information about their condition, its symptoms, and its treatment. Intellectual wellness is vital, and effective treatment must consider it.
#5. Spiritual Wellness
Spiritual wellness, sometimes called philosophical wellness, is another often underappreciated element of wellness. Spiritual well-being is crucial – everyone deserves a safe, accepting, and fulfilling spiritual environment. Elements of spiritual wellness include:
- The ability to perform or engage with one’s religion or religious beliefs
- Access to appropriate food, drink, dress, and customs of one’s religion
- A safe, non-coercive religious environment
- Appropriate knowledge of the beliefs and history of one’s religion and other religions
- Respect for religious beliefs
- The ability to not engage with religion if one chooses
#6. Occupational Wellness
Occupational wellness, also known as vocational wellness, is the final dimension of wellness. It concerns itself with access to safe, well-paying, and appropriate work. Elements of occupational wellness include:
- Work relevant to one’s skills and abilities
- A safe, welcoming job environment
- Access to a living wage
- Regular breaks, including health and vacation breaks
- The ability to leave or switch one’s job
- The potential for upwards mobility
- Accommodations for disability or mental health concerns
Alter San Diego Crisis Intervention and Wellness
Alter San Diego Crisis Stabilization, located in the College Area of San Diego, California, offers a variety of mental health crisis treatments for those in need. We believe that effective treatment is holistic, evidence-based, and based on the whole-person approach. As such, our programs prioritize implementing and ensuring the six dimensions of whole-person wellness.
As part of our treatment program, we provide several services aimed at ensuring wellness. Our medication management and nutrition services ensure physical wellness. Our clients are important to us, and we leave no stone unturned in our mission to provide the best whole-person treatment possible.