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Health Is the Whole…Body, Mind, and Soul

You count grams of fat and fiber, eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, drink green tea, and jog four times a week. However, you spend most of your time at a high stress job, have few close relationships, and feel that your life lacks meaning. The good things that you do for your body may help increase your resistance to stress and illness, but they only reflect part of a much larger picture.

Health is more than having a body that works properly. It includes physical, emotional, social, spiritual, intellectual, and even occupational/vocational dimensions. When these dimensions are working in harmony, they contribute to a sense of well-being and satisfaction.

The Six Dimensional Model of Wellness

How do you take care of your whole self? The National Wellness Institute embraces the Six Dimensional Model of Wellness developed in 1979 by Dr. Bill Hettler. The chart below, based on Hettler’s model, can provide you with some guidance.


Physical —Achieving personal fitness and health goals through nutrition, physical activity, safety, and self-care

  • Engage in regular aerobic exercise . For health benefits, aim for at least 30 minutes of exercise on most days.
  • Eat a healthy diet .
  • If you smoke, quit .
  • Learn to recognize early signs of illness.
  • Get adequate rest and sleep.
  • Use alcohol in moderation , if at all.
    • Moderate is two or fewer drinks per day for men and one or fewer drinks per day for women and older adults.
  • Use safety precautions whenever possible. For example:
  • See your doctor regularly.

Emotional —Maintaining good mental health, a positive attitude, and high self-esteem; responding with resiliency to emotional states and everyday life

  • Spend time with friends and family discussing important personal concerns and providing mutual support.
  • Participate in personal growth activities, self-esteem workshops, or support group .
  • Read a self-help book that interests you.
  • Practice positive thinking.

Spiritual —Getting in touch with your deeper self and the spiritual dimension of your life, developing faith in something larger than yourself, finding meaning and purpose

  • Explore your spiritual core by asking yourself questions, such as:
    • Who am I?
    • What is the purpose of my life?
  • Look for inspiration from uplifting books, movies, TV, spiritual gatherings, soothing music, nature, beauty, meditation, or prayer.
  • Spend quiet time alone on a regular basis.
  • Practice being fully present in the moment.
  • Practice acceptance of self, others, life, and detachment from outcomes.
  • Look for deeper meanings to patterns and problems in your life.
  • Allow yourself to deeply feel grief and pain.
  • Practice appreciating the depth and expanse of life and the universe.
  • Identify your values and beliefs.

Intellectual —Having curiosity and a strong desire to learn; solving problems; thinking independently, creatively, and critically

  • Take a class or workshop on a subject that interests you.
  • Seek new experiences on a regular basis. Try new foods, travel to new places, learn about new cultures.
  • Read informative literature and watch educational TV.
  • Get involved in a creative project or use your creativity to solve problems.
  • In your spare time, work on puzzles and intellectually challenging games, such as Scrabble and chess.

Occupational/vocational —Engaging in or preparing for work in which you will find personal satisfaction and enrichment

  • Identify your strengths and weaknesses, likes and dislikes.
  • Develop a personal mission and goals.
  • Find ways to learn new skills.
  • Develop new occupational or vocational interests.
  • Find ways to use your strengths in work or hobbies that contribute to your enjoyment and need for meaning.
Finding Balance in an Unbalanced World

Who has the time to address all these dimensions? Many wellness experts suggest numerous opportunities to find more balance. Strategies may include:

Finding Activities That Meet Multiple Wellness Needs

For example, taking a daily walk with your spouse and children can fulfill needs for physical activity and emotional bonding. If you use the time to discuss ideas and career aspirations, your family walk could also contribute to intellectual and occupational needs.

Clarifying Your Values and Priorities

Take time to know the deepest purposes for which you live, and use them to set goals and make decisions. For example, you may find that you would prefer more time with your family rather than a bigger paycheck. Do not wait for a crisis to show what really matters to you.

Identifying Areas Where You Want More Balance

Using your values and the Six Dimensional Model of Wellness, identify your current wellness deficits and develop goals that will help you find more balance.

Being Realistic and Flexible

Perfect balance in all dimensions is not possible in an ever-changing world. There will be times when you are overextended, lonely, angry, and tired. Over the years, you will need to make adjustments until you find a balance that enhances your quality of life.


Mental Health America

National Wellness Institute


Canadian Mental Health Association

Mental Health Canada


Physical activity guidelines for Americans. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: Updated January 9, 2013. Accessed February 4, 2014.

Seaward BL. Stand Like Mountain, Flow Like Water. Deerfield Beach, FL: Health Communications, Inc; 1997.

Six dimensions of wellness. National Wellness Institute website. Available at: Accessed February 4, 2014.

Last reviewed February 2014 by Michael Woods, MD

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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