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What is Wellness: The Core Five Dimensions

Wellness is the modern term for a concept as old as time. It’s one of those words we’ve heard a lot on various occasions and in different contexts. Many use it as a synonym for a healthy or active lifestyle, others in the sense of psychological balance and harmony, and some – only in combination with spa retreats. Although all these are correct, there is a lot more to wellness than simply one or the other. 

Dictionary.com defines wellness as

“the quality or state of being healthy in body and mind,
especially as the result of deliberate effort.”

Wellness is a personal choice and statement, an ongoing everyday hard work for a better life in many aspects.

This article aims at defining what wellness is and what are the differences between it and general health, fitness, and wellbeing.

Dimensions of Wellness

The philosophy of wellness is a holistic approach towards living with the sole goal of preventing illness, prolonging life, and generally becoming the best version of yourself. Although striving for health is a core principle of wellness, there is more to it. It’s about living life fully, consciously, and with self-awareness about body, mind, and soul. Finding harmony and balance in all areas of existence is crucial. 

Different classifications list a different number of dimensions but in their essence, they’re five.

1. Physical Wellness


Speaking of wellness, the first thing to come to mind is living an active lifestyle with regular exercise and a healthy diet. Physical wellness means living with responsibility and care for the body, knowing that daily habits and behaviors have a great impact on health and overall quality of life.

According to The National Institute of Health, positive physical health habits can result in lowering the risk of many diseases, decreasing the level of stress, and increasing energy. To achieve that they advise: regular movement on an everyday basis, a healthy diet, keeping the body at a healthy weight, pursuing a sleeping routine, etc.

2. Emotional Wellness


This is the second most popular dimension of wellness as most people associate it with internal psychological balance and peace with oneself. That is part of what wellness strives for – being aware of, accepting, and able to express one’s feelings, as well as being able to recognize and be respectful to those of others.

Emotional wellness is the ability to successfully navigate through life, confidently manage the experience of stress, and quickly and easily adapt to changes. 

3. Social Wellness


As social beings, it’s not much of a surprise the fact that our relationships with others play a major role in how well we feel about ourselves. Maintaining strong and trustful connections to others can offer support in difficult times.

Positive social habits help stay healthier mentally and physically. It’s a two-way street, and caring for others generates positive emotions and a warm feeling of being needed. 

4. Intellectual Wellness


Another core characteristic of being human is the intellectual potential, reasoning, and thirst for expanding knowledge and skills.

Princeton University defines intellectual wellness as engagement in creative and mentally stimulating activities, acquiring new information, and imparting knowledge to others. Intellectual wellness can be developed by academic pursuits but also through cultural, artistic, or skill-based learning. 

5. Spiritual Wellness


Last but not least, in terms of importance, is the inner connection we build with ourselves. Knowing our true nature, our values, our goals, our desires, and aspirations, hopes, and fears draw the path we need to follow to be in alignment with who we are. This requires looking deep within ourselves to discover our true sense of self.

The special ingredient for feeling whole and fulfilled is purpose and direction in life. And as the University of Pittsburgh rightfully notes: 

the practice of spirituality is to produce a meaningful connection to life.”

Wellness and Health

Health and wellness share some common traits, yet the first is the goal, and the latter is the means.

Those two words are used as equivalents quite often. Indeed they share some common traits however they are different concepts, and it’s incorrect to use them interchangeably.

The most notable difference between the two is the fact that one is the goal, and the other is the process of achieving it. MedicineNet shows the interaction between the two by stating that:

Wellness has a direct influence on overall health,
which is essential for living a robust, happy, and fulfilled life.

Wellness and Fitness

Fitness refers to physical health and is part of wellness, but does not fully represent it.

The difference between wellness and fitness is similar to the one between wellness and health. We could say that one is a part of the other, but they are not the same.

As mentioned in the section above, the wheel of wellness consists of five (or more as per other classifications) dimensions, each of which represents a major area of life. Fitness refers to physical health, while wellness integrates the physical dimension with the emotional, spiritual, social, and intellectual ones. 

Wellness vs. Wellbeing

Well-being is subjective experience about satisfaction and happiness about one's life

Wellness and wellbeing are confused very often, mainly due to the fact they sound similar. Many believe those two words are just different ways of saying the same. That is not correct, though. 

Well-being is the subjective experience about one’s life, satisfaction, happiness, fulfillment, and positive functioning. It’s measured through self-reports. The emphasis here is on the general feeling about different areas of one’s life. 

Wellness, on the other hand, is mostly related to health – both physical and mental, and the whole process of improvement and growth – both personally and professionally. 


As shown in the paragraphs above, wellness is a big topic. It consists of a lot of smaller building blocks. 

Speaking of wellness, we need to keep in mind not only the physical health and wellbeing of a person but also his emotional balance, social status, relationships, his sense of direction and purpose, as well as intellectual aspirations. 

Wellness is often confused with other concepts which are related to and a part of it, such as health, fitness, and well-being. Although they share common grounds, they are not equivalent or interchangeable. 

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