Please note: I encourage you to check out the original article, The 7 Dimensions of Wellness, before going further on this article. You may also want to check out the Measuring the 7 Dimensions of Wellness article where we determine which dimensions of wellness we need to devote more time or attention to.
It’s important to remember that each aspect of ourselves is intimately entwined with all the other aspects. What affects one dimension, will likely affect the others. As we go through this exercise, allow yourself to be okay with not having the answers to everything or knowing where to even start making changes. Continue being gentle with yourself and we’ll figure this out together.
To improve our physical health, we need to look at several different factors, such as our current physical conditions or limitations, our diet, how often we exercise, how much sleep we get, our sexual health practices, and alcohol & drug usage. It’s really about the patterns we find ourselves in and how well those patterns are benefitting our life. Let’s take a deeper look.
Assessing Your Current Physical State
Let’s begin by asking ourselves some questions to take a deeper look at how well our body is functioning.
- Does your doctor have suggestions for how to manage your current condition or state of being?
- Are there dietary or physical limitations to be mindful of?
- Are you getting regular check-ups at the doctor’s and dentist’s offices?
- Have you ever had blood work done?
- How is your body feeling? Pay close attention to aches and pains in your body, as they are signals that your body is trying to tell you something.
- Are you digesting your food well?
- How much does your body and its current state play into your overall wellness?
Be mindful that allergies, genetic predispositions, and medications can play a big role if you’re looking to change your current lifestyle. If you’re unsure about making changes to your current routine, ask your doctor for a professional opinion.
For a relaxing, grounding experience to build body awareness, try this guided meditation:
Healthy Diet Choices
Although we all have different preferences to what kinds of foods we eat, there are some general rules that apply to how much and how often we should eat certain things. The best way to know what works for your body is to practice intuitive eating.
Have you been craving any foods lately? Usually, that’s a sign that your body has a deficiency in some vitamin or mineral and looking to fill that need. If you also pay attention to when your body is hungry and when it is close to being full, you know when to eat or when to stop. It can take practice learning how to read your body’s language, but it can make a huge difference in how you care for yourself.
You don’t need to overwhelm yourself; big changes come from small changes over time. If you want to make changes to this dimension, I encourage you to view it as an act of self-love to help your body get all the nutrients and minerals it needs to stay balanced. If you don’t feel you need or want to change your eating patterns or food choices, honor that choice and do what feels right for you.
If you know you have struggled with obsessing about your weight or body image in the past, be particularly mindful of triggers so that you don’t repeat those patterns. Improving your physical wellness does not have to be synonymous with punishing yourself. Your body is beautiful and wonderful as it is; any changes you make should add to your quality of life.
Let’s ask some more questions to get to the bottom of our eating habits.
- What are some small changes you can make to your diet to start adding healthier choices?
- Am I getting the vitamins and minerals I need from my food, or should I be taking vitamins, too?
- When I finish a meal, how does my body feel? Fatigued? Light? Energized? Heavy?
- How would I describe my relationship to food?
There are a lot of online resources to help you find the best way to eat for your body and for your specific goals. Remember that changing your diet to incorporate healthier choices will take time and is really a lifestyle change, not just a trendy diet that gets exhausting to maintain. If you’d like to learn more about healthy eating check out our articles Eating Well & Feeling Healthy and Diets, Losing Weight, and Finding Peace in Your Body.
Moving Your Body
It’s pretty wide spread that exercise is good for you, but why is that really? Some benefits include:
- Improving your strength, fitness, and confidence which can help you to achieve your goals in life
- Enabling you to become involved in fun, new activities
- Increasing your energy, flexibility and mobility
- Helping you to manage stress and anger
- Increasing your self-esteem
- Helping you sleep better at night
- Improving metabolic rate which prevents weight gain and allows you to manage a healthy weight
- Preventing or managing certain illnesses or conditions, such as depression, anxiety, arthritis, type 2 diabetes, etc.
- Exercising can be a good way to clear your head if you have a lot on your mind
- Playing a team sport or joining an exercise center can introduce you to new people
Be mindful of your body’s limitations. If you’re going to try a new workout routine, try looking up safety practices so that you don’t accidentally injure yourself. If something is painful, don’t push yourself. That being said, it’s normal to feel muscle soreness after working out (especially when you first start), but that soreness should decrease the more active you are. This is also why it’s important to have rest periods. It’s always a good idea to talk to a medical professional before starting a workout routine if you’re unsure it’s right for you.
Let’s be clear about one thing. Exercise shouldn’t be about punishing yourself. If that’s your mindset, you’re going to have a very hard time sticking to it because it’s not about enjoyment, it’s about punishment. Try to reframe physical activities into the mindset that you are loving and building a better relationship with yourself. It should be about having fun, feeling great and doing something for yourself. Forget motivation. It’s about dedication!
Some questions to ponder:
- How do you incorporate movement into your day?
- Do you have any fitness goals?
- Are you satisfied with where your activity levels are right now? What would need to change for you to feel more satisfied?
- What is your relationship to exercise and moving your body? Do your thoughts and beliefs support your long-term goals?
What is your favorite way to get your body moving? Focus on movements that make you feel empowered and good! If it feels like a chore, you won’t find yourself able to be consistent with that movement, and consistency is key! Check out our article on the Benefits of Activity & Exercise to learn more.
Some types of movement you may resonate with:
- Dance. You can do this in the comfort of your room or out with friends. Explore different styles of dance and see what feels best for you.
- Martial Arts. Not only are you going to feel confident in knowing how to defend yourself (if need be), you can become stronger, improve cardiovascular health, have more stamina and endurance, and become more empowered through focused training.
- Bicycling. If you live in the inner city, having a bike is a great way to explore independence and improve your cardiovascular health by riding around town or following a bike path. Even living in a rural area, you can greatly benefit from long bike rides. Being in nature can greatly improve your mental health, too.
- Resistance Training. Having gone through gym class, you probably know what this is. It’s a type of exercise where you contract your muscles due to some type of outer resistance to improve strength, endurance, mass, or tone. This might look like lifting weights, using bands to increase resistance, bodyweight exercises (calisthenics), or using machines in the gym. Tracking your progress with weights, reps and sets can improve your self-confidence, as well as improve your self-esteem, body image, and mental health.
This topic can either be really intriguing and fascinating or low-key embarrassing…and that’s okay! We’ll get through it together. Not everyone wants to have sex, or is ready to, but it’s still good to know how to keep yourself safe sexually in case you decide later on that’s something you’d like to do.
If you are sexually active, knowing how to have proper boundaries, honest communication, and be able to advocate for yourself are extremely valuable skills to have. Note: I said skills. This is not something most people are born knowing how to do, and learning how to use your voice will empower you in making sound decisions for yourself.
Things to consider:
- How educated are you on safe sex practices?
- What measures are you taking to make sure you’re safe in your sexual encounters?
- What does healthy intimacy mean to you?
- Do you feel comfortable talking about sex or your needs?
- How much is your sexuality affecting your overall wellness?
- What are your current beliefs and thoughts on sex and what a sexual relationship looks like with yourself or others?
Let’s talk about it! Talking about your sexual history, other sexual partners you have, your current status on sexually transmitted infections (STIs), when you were last tested and what forms of protection you’re using with your partner(s) is essential to keeping everyone safe. It’s important to talk about these things before any type of sexual contact happens because it’s much harder to talk about when you’re in the moment. It’s also relatively easy to transmit some infections and diseases through sexual contact alone, so you need to know what barriers you should be using to reduce the risk of it spreading. Do your research about how to practice safe sex for your lifestyle and what form of birth control or barriers you need.
Your health is important! If your partner says they’re on birth control and therefore you don’t need a condom, know that you can still transmit STIs and there may still be a chance of pregnancy. If your partner says they don’t like condoms and don’t want to use them, be mindful that the “pull out” method is not 100% effective for birth control, either. A smart habit of getting into is getting tested regularly and when you have a new partner so that you can make adjustments to your safe sex practices as necessary.
Communicate your boundaries! You have a right to them and your partner needs to be informed and educated on those. It’s okay to say no if you’re not feeling it, and your partner needs to respect your decisions about your body. Same goes for them, too. Being rejected can sting, but you wouldn’t want to push their boundaries and make them feel unsafe or like they can’t trust you anymore. Communicate clearly and effectively and don’t be afraid to state your needs. You have every right to share those.
Food for thought:
- How are you using substances?
- How are substances affecting your physical health?
- What changes to the way you use substances, if any, would make your body happier?
The definition of a drug is any substance that alters your brain chemistry or affects your body after being introduced to your system. Under that definition, we aren’t just talking about weed, alcohol, meth, xanax or molly. This also means caffeine (energy drinks, soda, and coffee) and sugar.
Have you ever noticed how sugar and caffeine can get your heart racing? Limiting your consumption or taking a break from them can help you feel more clear-headed, grounded, and lighter. Stimulants can also play a role in your mental health; if you’re prone to having racing thoughts or anxiety, this might be something to stay away from.
Ask yourself why you’re using the substances you do. Is it a habit, numbing agent, for fun, or some other reason? Knowing the motivation behind it can help you decide whether it’s aiding or hindering your life. If drugs or alcohol are having a negative impact on your life (socially, academically, legally, etc), think about changing how and when you’re using the substance, find support from those that have been where you are or are removed from that scene, or talk to a counselor or therapist with experience in addiction.
Recognize that anything you put in your body will have some type of effect on you physically. Our body works hard to break down and process the chemicals we introduce to our bodily systems. Somewhere down the line, it will play a role into our health. It is your decision as to what you put into your body, so it might be beneficial to become informed about the drugs you want to consume and to practice boundary setting and communication in case you’re feeling pressured by others.
Treat Your Body Right
Remember to express gratitude to your body. Everyday our body is carrying us through life; it deserves the love. Often times, it can be easy to get wrapped up in how we are presenting to the world and what our body looks like, yet we forget how much it does to keep us alive and how much it’s capable of doing for us. It might not reflect us perfectly or be able to handle everything we put it through, but it’s the only body we have and that’s special.
Here are some ideas to give it some extra love:
- Give yourself a massage (or pay someone else to do it)
- Take a bath using a bath bomb, salts, or moisturizer
- Add oil or lotion to your skin after a shower or bath
- Spend some time stretching throughout the day, and especially after working out
- Keep the body hair if it makes you comfortable, society shouldn’t have a say in what you do with it
- Look in the mirror and tell your body something kind, or simply say “I love you”
- Have that sweet treat or smoothie bowl you’ve been eyeing as a little reward
- Get dressed in something cute—just because!
All of our bodies are different and none are better than others. Embrace the stretch marks and scars, the hair you grow, the soft and firm bits, and every part in between. Celebrate the skin you’re in with radical self-love. You deserve it.