When most people hear the term “wellness,” they tend to think in terms of physical or mental health, but wellness can actually refer to many different aspects of a person’s life, aspects that contribute to their overall wellbeing. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has outlined eight important dimensions of wellness that play a role in successful recovery.
In other words, someone recovering from addiction is more likely to keep their recovery progress on track (and prevent relapse) by maintaining each of these wellness dimensions. So much of recovery is about changing old, unhealthy patterns of living and exchanging them with new and healthy habits. Embracing habits that support these essential areas of whole-person wellness can help you prevent relapse and achieve your long-term recovery goals. First, though, how is wellness important to recovery?
The Importance of Wellness
Overall wellness lends a person a robust defense against the triggers of relapse. Just consider how much more vulnerable a person feels when they’re dealing with serious relationship stress. If they’re experiencing depression or symptoms of anxiety, they’re likely to be more vulnerable to relapse. A job loss, financial stress, or even something as seemingly benign as a few nights of poor sleep can erode a person’s sense of wellbeing and, potentially, impact their continued recovery process. Being mindful about each dimension of wellness can help people more easily manage triggers to use alcohol or drugs.
SAMHSA and the 8 Dimensions of Wellness
SAMHSA created an outline of what it calls the “8 Dimensions of Wellness.” Each of these dimensions contributes to whole-person wellness. When one or more of these dimensions is out of whack, the individual is apt to feel significant stress— stress that may threaten to derail their recovery progress. By devoting time and care to each of these important aspects of whole-person wellness, individuals can more effectively safeguard their recovery and, of course, enjoy the benefits of feeling well about the important elements of their life.
The Dimensions of Wellness
The following are the individual Dimensions of Wellness, according to SAMHSA.
Emotional wellness isn’t a state of feeling perpetually happy or even content; it’s knowing that you are managing your emotions in a healthy way. For instance, positive coping might involve attending a yoga session when you feel sad or stressed. An inability to cope with negative emotions in a healthy way can pave the way to relapse. Emotional wellbeing is essential for people in recovery.
Feeling financially unstable can cause tremendous stress in a person’s life. Getting a handle on one’s finances can provide the basis for financial wellbeing. One doesn’t have to be wealthy to be financially stable. Living within one’s means is often all it takes to maintain one’s financial health. A person who is struggling to buy food or pay their monthly expenses is going to feel stress, and a high degree of stress can be a trigger for relapse.
Healthy relationships can provide terrific support for people whether they’re recovering from an addiction or not. Maintaining healthy connections and avoiding toxic relationships is important for maintaining recovery progress. When a person can turn to a family member or friend for support, they’re less likely to feel inclined to drink or use a drug.
In some cases, people in recovery have had to cut ties with people who continue to abuse drugs. This can leave a void in their life. By attending support group meetings and meeting new people, individuals in recovery can begin to build new, healthy relationships that can fill that void in time.
Spirituality means something different to different people. For some, it’s associated with religion. For others, it’s a feeling of purpose and a life filled with personal meaning. Feeling in tune with one’s spiritual self can enhance overall wellness. To maintain spiritual wellbeing, some people attend their place of worship; others attend yoga classes or go for a hike in the woods. Feeling as if life holds purpose and meaning can contribute substantially to lasting recovery.
Not everyone has a job they feel passionate about, but feeling as if one’s work is meaningful is an important aspect of overall wellness. Volunteering or obtaining training for a new occupation can also support this dimension of wellness. When a person despises their job, the stress and negativity can impact their overall wellness and continued recovery. It may not be possible to leave a stressful job, but it is possible to begin the search/training for a new one. Making goals and achieving them can support one’s healthy recovery journey.
Eating nutritional meals, getting good sleep, exercising, and taking care of your body can substantially enhance recovery and even undo many of the negative effects that drugs and alcohol had on the body. Taking care of one’s body is one of the most essential responsibilities a person has. Engaging in activities that support a healthy body can keep stress at bay and promote everyday feelings of wellness. Consider fitness activities that are to your liking. and be mindful about meal planning. These steps can help you keep your physical health on track.
The brain needs positive stimulation and engagement to thrive. Passive activities like watching television may not be giving the brain the healthy stimulation it needs to fend off boredom. Maintaining intellectual health could be as formal as taking a class or as simple as picking up a new hobby or reading a book. Just as the body needs exercise, so does the brain.
Place and location can impact a person’s wellbeing. Living in a chaotic household or in a dangerous place can erode one’s sense of overall wellness. While it may be challenging to transform one’s environment or move to a new location, simple steps like avoiding toxic places (i.e. bars) or seeking out safe and comfortable places can support feelings of wellness. The more you can create a tranquil atmosphere at home, the easier it may be to maintain this dimension of health.
It’s Okay to Ask for Help
Anyone can struggle with these dimensions of wellness, and everyone does from time to time. It’s important for people in recovery to know that they can ask for help if they’re struggling. Struggling isn’t a sign of failure. It’s part of life. But asking for help is a healthy way to cope with struggles. Ignoring them or choosing unhealthy coping methods can pave a path to relapse.
FHE Health offers mental health and substance abuse treatment programs. If you’ve already completed addiction treatment but are finding that maintaining recovery is becoming difficult, one of our counselors may be able to help.