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One of the keywords of our time is 'wellness' but what does wellness mean to you?
A recent concept is the dimensions of wellness1.
These dimensions, sometimes called pillars, can be a useful tool that can help us to bring balance to our lives. The number of these dimensions can vary from as few as 5 up to 12 but 8 seems to be the most popular. The dimensions are:
What can we do to positively impact these dimensions and improve our sense of wellness? Let’s look in more detail at the research into each dimension and provide a key tip for how to focus on each one.
Our emotional state can have a huge influence on how we feel and our approach to life. If we can start our day with a positive outlook, it can really change our day and how we perceive any obstacles that may arise. We have all had those days where it feels like nothing is going right but how often do we acknowledge the days when everything goes well? When our encounters with others are rewarding and make us feel good? Often just making small changes to our daily routines can reduce stress and help us to start our day feeling more positive - check out our tips for a great Family Morning Routine.
The practice of gratitude is well acknowledged as having a positive impact on our sense of wellness2. Acknowledging the things that we are grateful for daily, whether this is in a journal, around the dinner table or before bed is great tool that makes us focus on the positive aspects of our lives. It’s a great one for all the family to be involved in, even from a young age. Daily gratitude can be a great thing to do at dinner time and remember these can be simple things, including your children can really ground us as adults because they may be happy because they enjoyed eating an ice cream. It can really help us to focus on the small things that make life rewarding. You may want to read Dr Aisling’s 7 Top tips on how to manage stress.
Tip – Practice gratitude daily.
Eating delicious, nutritious foods which nourish our body not only helps to makes us physically strong but also mentally strong. Anxiety can be hard even in its most mild forms and one of the first areas it can affect is sleep3. Research shows a strong link between sleep deprivation and declining levels of satisfaction with life which is something I’m sure we can all relate to. Problems seem harder to overcome and patience a little more elusive to find when we have had a poor night’s sleep.
As mentioned, many people find it helpful to have a daily routine to make their lives run more smoothly, but having a routine can also help us to stay motivated and stick to our health goals. This can include an exercise programme, daily meditation, or a daily supplement regime.
Make sure you choose supplements designed for daily use - you can read more about taking live cultures daily in this article on the Learning Lab: Is it OK to take friendly bacteria every day?
Exercise is also included in this pillar. We all love the endorphins that are released when we exercise but sometimes it can be so hard to get those trainers on or yoga mats out even though we know we will feel great afterwards. Joining a class or exercising with a friend can be a great way to stick to your commitment. For more on sports and energy read some helpful tips from Sam, our Sports Nutritionist.
Tip – book an exercise class with a friend.
We all need mental stimulation in our lives and studies have linked mental stimulation with a decrease in the risk of developing dementia4. Does mental stimulation just mean studying or training for a new job? How can we achieve this in our everyday life?
The answer is it is easy! It can be as simple as taking part in a weekly quiz, doing the crossword or even having a good debate with someone. How great does it feel to win a quiz or finally complete a crossword?
Tip – schedule in either a weekly quiz or to complete a crossword or Sudoku.
Humans are a social species, and we thrive when having people around us, whether this is family, friends, work colleagues, neighbours or a combination of all of them. There are those lifelong friends that we don’t see for months but when we do it feels like no time has passed. Those family members who we share in-jokes with, as well as those who might be a little more frustrating! Research shows that social isolation can have a negative impact on health physically as well as mentally with loneliness being found to affect the functioning of our immune system5. There is more useful information contained in How to Take Care of your Immune System.
It is important to socialise and we need to schedule this on a regular basis. Some great tips for being able to do this are to use a family calendar app on our phones so we can plan a lunch out with our friends. It makes it simple to see what every family member is doing for planning. Alternatively set up a WhatsApp group with friends and take it in turns to arrange a meet up once a month.
Tip – plan in regular time with friends using apps.
We may not follow an organised religion, but we all have values that are important to us. Sometimes we do not know what these are until something challenges them but they provide us with a sense of self and can be a source of inner strength. They can provide balance in our lives on many dimensions.
Just take a moment to think about something that is important to you. This could be your family, career or a hobby. Did you notice how passionate it can make you feel and the sense of determination you get from that. Having values and core beliefs is part of what makes us unique and gives us a purpose and research shows that spirituality and religion have a positive impact on emotional responses and wellbeing6. If you are not actively religious identify what your values are and find like minded individuals to spend time with, this could be an environmental group, Mum’s group or anything you choose.
Tip – identify your values and seek out like minded people.
This can be on a personal scale such as making your home a calming, welcoming environment to step back in to after a busy day or taking a daily walk in nature. This can help to provide us with a sense of peace and tranquillity and a sense of perspective, especially if we are feeling stressed. Research shows that ‘forest bathing’7 which is being out in Nature and embracing it lowers our levels of cortisol which is a stress hormone.
We don’t all have access to a forest on a daily basis but we can walk in our local park or fields. At weekends it can be great to plan a trip to a National Park, local woodland or historical house with extensive grounds for walking. Whilst it is the summer holidays it is great to encourage our children to spend time outdoors, not only does it limit their screentime, research also shows the positive impacts can last in to September. Read more details about the research in 'Health Experts' Tips for a Happy Summer'.
Bringing the outside in can also be calming and houseplants can be a welcome addition to our home.
Tip – immerse yourself in nature as often as possible.
This can be one of the dimensions which can have a huge impact on our sense of wellness especially if we feel that we don’t have control of it. It is no surprise to find that research links debt and a negative impact on mood and wellbeing which in turn influences decision making8.
Learning how to manage money is not often something we are taught in school but there are great tools out there to help us as adults to cultivate a healthy relationship with money. Try using a budget planner from your Bank or an online app to track your finances. Save a set amount monthly if you are able to. Ask for help if you are experiencing financial hardship.
Tip – using a budget planner to manage your finances.
If we work full time we will spend more time at work than we do with our families and friends during the week. It is key to our sense of wellbeing that we get satisfaction from our work and research has shown that work related stress can be linked to the development of depression9.
It is important to identify what the cause of work related stress is so that it can be addressed. It may be that the stress is caused by the length of our commute or not being home to pick our children up from school. Speak to your employer to see if there are any changes that can be made.
When we return to our offices and workplaces this year a simple change we can make is to prepare a nutritious breakfast so that we are fueled and ready to start the day. It would be great if these can also give our immune system a boost. For inspiration try some of our 'Immune Boosting Breakfast Recipes'.
Tip – Identify the cause of work related stress and address any issues.
The 8 dimensions of wellness is a useful concept to remind us that our wellbeing is multifaceted and not linked to physical health alone. When wellness is broken down in to dimensions we can use the simple tips to ensure that we give each dimension the focus it deserves. This will help us to become more balanced and self aware.