The 7 Dimensions of Wellness: Improving Physical Wellness

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.

Physical Wellness

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.

Let’s first ask ourselves, “What does physical wellness mean to me and what would that be like if I were physically well to the best of my ability?” This will be the road map to understanding your needs and what has to change so those needs can be met.  

If you don’t know where to start, we can begin by looking at 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 my doctor have suggestions for how to manage my current condition or state of being?
  • Are there dietary or physical limitations to be mindful of?
  • Am I getting regular check-ups at the doctor’s and dentist’s offices? If not, how can I access these services in my community?
  • Am I taking my medications as prescribed?
  • How could I improve my body’s hygiene?
  • Have I ever gotten my blood work done?
  • How is my 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.
  • Am I digesting my food well?
  • How much do I sleep and what is the quality of sleep I’m getting?
  • How much does my body and its current state play into my overall wellness?

Be mindful that allergies, genetic predispositions, how able-bodied you are, sensitivities to food/chemicals, and medications you’re taking can all play a big role if you’re looking to change your current lifestyle. Also remember that other aspects of us can greatly impact our physical wellness, such as stress, depression, insomnia, our environment, or finances. If you’re unsure about making changes to your current routine, ask your doctor for a professional opinion.

It’s also important to name that physical wellness comes with privilege. Some of us are unable to access services in our community to get the help we need to stay healthy, whether that’s due to finances, discrimination, or having no way of even getting to the clinic you need to go to. If that’s the case for you, see if there’s anything you can do to be put on government assistance programs to help you access the care you need or if there are credible rideshare/transportation avenues you can take to get where you need to go. If you are queer or gender diverse and have anxiety about accessing healthcare, join local trans groups or forums and ask where others get their care. 

For a relaxing, grounding experience to build body awareness, try this guided meditation: 

Healthy Diet Choices

Have you ever heard someone say, “you are what you eat”? As odd as it sounds, it’s true! Everything we consume is broken down and integrated into our biology, helping all our body’s systems function to the best of their ability.

Not only does food give us the nutrients we need to survive and thrive physically, but it can affect us emotionally as well. Did you know that nearly 90% of the serotonin and 50% of the dopamine found in our body is created in our gut? In case you didn’t know, serotonin and dopamine are chemical messengers in your body that give you a feeling of happiness & wellbeing, and satisfaction & pleasure, respectively. Understandably so, these chemical messengers can play a huge role in our bodies overall health, which gives us more reason to learn how to make healthy diet choices that are sustainable for our wellbeing.

Intuitive Eating

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 (and listening to it), but it can make a huge difference in how you care for yourself.

Seeing Food as Medicine

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.

If you struggle with disordered eating and body image issues, check out our articles on Eating Habits & Disorders for clarity and support in those realms.

Time to Get Curious

Let’s ask some more questions to get to the bottom of our eating habits.

  • What are some small changes I can make to my 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?
  • Do I drink enough water? 
  • When I finish a meal, how does my body feel? Fatigued? Light? Energized? Heavy?
  • How would I describe my relationship to food? Has this relationship changed recently?
  • What self talk do I use when eating or thinking of eating? 
  • How often am I eating and is it sustainable for my health?
  • What feelings do I associate with food/eating and does that impact my eating choices?

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. Trendy diets are often out of alignment with your bodies natural tendencies and can be 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

Being Mindful of Our 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. 

As you begin moving your body more and learning what feels right for you, pay attention to what feels good and what doesn’t. Sometimes low-impact exercises are more appropriate if you have issues with your joints. If you have back issues, lying on your back to do exercises may not be the best. Be curious in finding other ways to move your body that feels right for you. It’s okay if it’s challenging, but if it’s painful…try something else! 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. 

Reframing Exercise & Movement

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. What we focus on becomes more pronounced in our life. So, if we are looking at all the ways we will fail, how hard it is, or how we’re not good enough, we will find ways to affirm that belief. We will be blind to seeing how we are progressing and getting better. Keep your focus on where you want to be and you will get there.

Try to reframe physical activities into the mindset that you are loving and building a better relationship with yourself. Moving your body should be about having fun, feeling great and doing something for yourself. If you are concerned with wanting to see progress, find ways to track it so that you can see how you’re improving. If you put your focus there, you will see it!  Forget motivation. It’s about dedication!

Some questions to ponder:

  • How do you incorporate movement into your day?
  • What are your favorite ways to move your body?
  • 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 exercising and moving your body? Do your thoughts and beliefs support your long-term goals?

Ways to Move Your Body

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. You can find lots of dance tutorials on Youtube and TikTok if you like choreographed dance. Dancing in front of a mirror is a great way of improving your dancing style if that interests you, and dancing without a mirror can allow you to be present in your body as you interpret the music with movement.
  • 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. 
  • Running/Walking. There’s something about accomplishing a run that feels incredibly satisfactory. Running is a great way of increasing your stamina and endurance, as well as your cardiovascular health. Plus, its something you can do almost anywhere, whether you prefer to run on a track, treadmill, sidewalk or trail. The same applies for walking! If you have a hard time running, walking is a great alternative and can be a wonderful way to clear your mind, as well. 

Sexual 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?
  • Are you satisfied with the amount of time you make to be sexual?
  • Do you feel comfortable talking about sex or your needs with partners?
  • How much is your sexuality affecting your overall wellness? Does it influence other dimensions?
  • What are your current beliefs and thoughts on sex and what a sexual relationship looks like with yourself and/or others?

Let's Talk About It

Talking about your sexual history, other sexual partners you have (or had), 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 to stay safe. Check out Planned Parenthood’s resources on safer sex and birth control methods to learn more! 

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 are allowed to have boundaries in all aspects of your life. Boundaries allow us to honor our limits and respect ourselves, while also letting others know what our needs are and how we want to be treated. You have the right to share them openly and your partner needs to be informed and educated on those boundaries so they have the opportunity to respect your needs. Just as we need to be open to hearing our partner’s boundaries. When boundaries are respected, it creates a space of safety and security.

In regards to boundaries and sex, 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.

Using Substances

Every substance we consume will affect us differently. Substance abuse can affect us in many dimensions of our life and often time they overlap. When it comes to our physical wellness and substances, we need to consider what we are using and how often. This will inform us the role it plays in our health.

Food for thought:

  • How are you using substances and what kind of role does it play in your life?
  • 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, coke, xanax, molly, etc. This also means caffeine (energy drinks, soda, and coffee) and sugar. 

Drugs and Our Chemistry

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. 

It’s also important to recognise that abusing drugs and alcohol can put a burden on our body’s systems, which in turn can suppress our immune system as our body uses its resources to heal itself or replenish depleted hormones. If you find yourself getting sick a lot and you’re using substances regularly, you may want to pay attention to this.

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, implement harm reduction methods, and to practice boundary setting and communication in case you’re feeling pressured by others

What Purpose Is Served?

Ask yourself why you’re using the substances you do. Is it a habit, a numbing agent, for fun, for spiritual purposes, 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. 

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 that makes you feel good—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. 

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