Wellness as a Whole Person

JMKass_thumbby Jennifer Miller Kass, MSW, LCSW

When we think of wellness, we too often think only about physical wellness, diet and exercise. In reality, there are eight dimensions of wellness: physical, social, financial, emotional, spiritual, intellectual, occupational and environmental.

Each dimension of wellness is related to the others. While pursuing optimum health and over all well-being, it’s important to recognize that no one dimension has greater value than another. We can reach our highest level of wellness by understanding how to maintain and improve each individual dimension of wellness.

Often we do well in one area but not so well in another. Maybe it’s time to check in and evaluate what changes you might be able to make to bring yourself to improved wellness.


Physical wellness includes recognizing the need for physical activity, diet, sleep, and nutrition.  Physical health is accomplished through exercise, eating a well-balanced diet, getting enough sleep, paying attention to the signs of illness, and getting help when needed.

Boost this dimension by exploring new exercise routines with a friend, or talk to your doctor about how to bring balance to your diet. It is helpful to encourage family members to participate in these changes with you. In addition, the National Sleep Foundation recommends adults get on average 7-9 hours of sleep a night.


Developing a sense of connection and a strong support system is beneficial to everyone. This dimension of wellness allows you to grow encouraging and positive relationships with others by connecting and interacting with family, friends, and community.

One way to enhance this dimension is to join a local club, organization, or hobby group that you share common interests with. Your local public library, chamber of commerce, and city officials will maintain lists of groups.


We all strive for satisfaction with current and future financial situations. Money plays an important role in our lives and not having enough can impact your health. Financial strain is repeatedly found to be a common source of overall stress and anxiety.

If you’re struggling with financial wellness, explore your local bank or credit union’s programs. Many times they offer professional classes or free consultations to help you find ways to manage your money more effectively.


Developing skills and strategies to cope with stress is a key part of achieving emotional wellness. It is important to pay attention to good self-care, relaxation, stress reduction, and the development of positive coping skills.

Mental health professionals are a valuable resource in helping you find new positive ways to cope. It’s okay to seek this help if you feel you aren’t coping well. Call Southwest Behavioral Services at 348-3656.


Spiritual wellness comes from the search for meaning and purpose in the human experience. Often we think of spirituality as religion, yet it’s highly individual and can be represented in many ways, such as through relaxation or connection with nature. Being spiritually well is knowing which resources you can use to cope with issues that come up in everyday life.


Recognizing your creative abilities and finding ways to expand your current knowledge and skills will all enhance your intellectual wellness picture. This dimension encourages being a lifelong learner as well as participation in cultural and community activities. Don’t be afraid to stimulate your mind and mental capacity.

Many local organizations offer opportunities to learn new things. Try contacting UW Platteville’s Continuing Education program, your local senior center, the City Recreation Department, or Southwest Health’s Young At Heart club for information on upcoming classes and educational opportunities.


Personal satisfaction and enrichment derived from one’s job creates occupational wellness. This dimension encourages personal satisfaction and development in one’s life through work – from an employer or a volunteer opportunity.

Volunteerism can be a great way to stay connected with others and feel fulfilled. Consider contacting your local hospital, church or social service agency to explore opportunities.


Living in pleasant, stimulating surroundings is what supports environmental well-being. It is important to be respectful of others in our lives as well as to respecting and honor the environment around us.

Ways to increase your environmental wellness are all around us!  Reducing your carbon footprint or going out of your way to compliment someone each day are just a couple ideas. Being more mindful of what you are using, doing, saying, at all times will help your become more aware of ways to enhance this dimension.

Wellness Matters

Maintaining our wellness creates for us a quality life. Wellness matters. Wellness matters because everything we do and every emotion we feel stems from our over-all well-being. Likewise, our well-being directly affects our actions and emotions. It’s an ongoing circle. When we reach higher levels of wellness, we decrease stress, reduce the risk of illness, and have more positive interactions. Remember – wellness matters, and so do you!

Jennifer Miller Kass is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, she is the mental health therapist for the Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) at Southwest Behavioral Services, an outpatient clinic of Southwest Health. IOP is group psychotherapy for patients 55 and older. She also provides individual therapy.



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