Wellness has become a hot topic in the media and in the workplace. There is a renewed interest in becoming the best versions of ourselves, and a big part of that is dedicating our energy to support eight categories of wellness, which are known as pillars. These pillars include: physical, nutritional, emotional, social, spiritual, intellectual, financial, and environmental.
Working toward developing each of these pillars, even through small steps — such as taking care of your teeth — will help you become a healthier and happier version of yourself. It’s also important to spend as close to an equal amount of time developing each of these pillars, not just the most obvious ones, to help you build up those portions of inner wellness that you can’t see in the mirror.
We dive into each of the eight pillars of wellness and give you tips on incorporating them into your life with our guide and infographic below.
What Are the 8 Pillars of Wellness?
The idea of incorporating eight pillars into your routine might sound daunting as you begin your wellness journey. But chances are, you’re already using at least a few of these pillars already. We’ll break down each pillar and give you actionable steps to develop them in your life.
Physical wellness includes much more than just exercise. Regular physical activity is certainly a component of this pillar, but there are several other aspects that make up holistic physical wellness, including healthy hygiene and sleep habits.
The National Sleep Foundation recommends that adults ages 18 to 64 get between seven and nine hours of sleep per night and that adults over 65 get seven to eight hours per night. You can help yourself get a better night’s sleep by turning off your devices 30 minutes before bedtime and using blackout curtains and white-noise machines to block light and sound as you try to fall asleep.
When it comes to hygiene, establishing proper habits will not only make you healthier but also more confident. Bathing regularly, trimming and cleaning underneath your nails, and washing your hands are all important when it comes to building up this physical pillar of wellness.
Try: Brushing your teeth twice a day, every day, for two minutes each brushing. We’ve all heard the importance of brushing your teeth from our parents growing up and dentists later in life, but a quick brush isn’t doing your teeth any favors. Buy a two-minute timer for your bathroom and set it each time you brush to ensure you’re getting the most out of this important hygiene routine.
Though nutrition also falls under physical wellness, it’s such an important component of overall health that it’s represented in its own pillar. Ensuring you’re eating a balanced diet is essential to building this pillar in your life. The CDC recommends adults emphasize a diet mixed with fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fat-free or low-fat milk products. It’s also recommended that adults steer away from foods high in saturated fats, trans fats, cholesterol, sodium, and added sugars.
Everyone’s dietary needs are a little different depending on their age, sex, activity level, and body chemistry. Check with your doctor to find a diet plan that works for you. This might include altering the types of foods you eat or adding in some supplements.
Eating and nutrition are closely linked with your mouth and the health of your teeth. There are certain foods that aren’t great for your teeth health and can even stain them. Foods that are acidic (like cranberry juice and tomato sauce), dark or bright-colored vegetables (like pomegranates and beets), drinks filled with tannins (like wine and coffee), and foods high in sugar all have the ability to stain your teeth. Regulating your intake of these foods and drinks will help to keep your mouth healthy as you begin to build this pillar.
Try: Replacing refined grains with their whole counterparts to make sure you get enough fiber. Making sure your diet has enough fiber can help with weight loss and maintenance and can also lower your cholesterol.
The emotional wellness pillar covers your feelings, as well as how easily you can understand and navigate your emotions and also communicate them with others. We’re all likely to experience hardships and the emotions that come with them, but our ability to take a step back and evaluate how these emotions impact our behaviors is an important part of overall wellness.
Being in control of your emotions or at least aware of how they can impact your relationships is a crucial part of your overall holistic wellness. If you’re ever feeling out of control when it comes to regulating your emotions or communicating them with others, it might be a good idea to talk with your doctor about seeking professional help you build this pillar in your life.
Try: Journaling as part of your daily routine. Even for the times that everything is going right, journaling can help you reflect on the parts of your life that bring you happiness and parts that don’t. It can also be a way to work through feelings you might not feel comfortable talking about with others.
Social wellness encompasses our connections and relationships with others. Humans are social creatures by nature and through daily interactions, we’re able to see ourselves through the eyes of others and learn who we are and how we fit in the world. Beyond building positive relationships with others, this pillar of wellness also includes the ability to resolve any conflict that might arise in a healthy and respectful manner.
Healthy friendships and relationships create a strong support system to reach out to when stresses rise and hardships happen. Building and maintaining these relationships takes dedication but they will continue to serve you throughout your life.
Try: Scheduling monthly check-in calls with friends you don’t get to see that often. This will help hold you accountable and remind you of the importance of checking in with friends regardless of what’s happening in your life — good or bad.
The spiritual pillar of wellness is unique to each person and their spirituality. Spirituality is defined as the traditions and values by which people live. This helps to give people a sense of purpose and meaning to life, which, in turn, helps guide actions.
Many people develop this pillar through meditation, prayer, or other means of fostering a connection with a higher power. Similar to social wellness, spiritual wellness is an important component that helps us work through tough times and develop resiliency and grace when we face obstacles in life.
Try: Practicing meditation. You can do this by sitting or lying in a comfortable spot, closing your eyes, and letting yourself breathe naturally. Pay attention to your breath and notice the movement of your body as you breathe. If your mind wanders, return your attention back to your breath. Try this for two to three minutes and repeat daily, working yourself up to longer intervals.
Intellectual wellness is built by opening yourself up to experiences that inform and challenge your thinking. Developing a healthy thirst for knowledge long after formal education has ended is a great way to form new skills and interests throughout your life. This can be as simple as having deep, intellectual conversations with friends and family or setting aside time each day to play brain puzzles like crosswords or Sudoku.
Try: Joining a book club. Being a part of a reading group will help hold you accountable and inspire stimulating conversations about insights and learnings from the book.
Financial wellness is the pillar devoted to living within your means and planning for your future appropriately. It can be tough to start developing this pillar, but you’ll be glad you did. Being financially well trickles over into several other pillars, such as physical and emotional wellness, as money troubles can take a toll on a person’s mind and body.
Try: Setting aside a fixed amount of money each month for the things you value most in life, whether that’s money for your hobbies, dining out, or saving toward a vacation.
Environmental wellness deals with your immediate surroundings and the community where you live and work. This involves respecting the environment you live in by doing your best to support it however you can. This might include recycling or volunteering to clean up a city park that you frequent.
Try: Cutting back on your time in the car by opting for a bike ride or a walk if your destination is close. If it’s farther away, consider taking public transportation or carpooling with friends.
Building Up Your Pillars of Holistic Health and Wellness
To be fully well, there are several aspects of your life that need your focus. Establishing healthy habits will help you strengthen these pillars and increase your overall health. By focusing on small tasks, such as improving your oral health, you’ll be able to improve multiple pillars at once, including physical, nutritional, and even social. When you’re happy with your teeth, you’ll smile more — which has its benefits!
But wellness encompasses much more than what we can see in the mirror. By prioritizing all eight pillars of wellness that we’ve outlined above, you’ll be well on your way to becoming a healthier and happier you. We've also created a helpful infographic with additional tips below.
As you begin your wellness journey, it’s helpful to pinpoint which of the eight pillars of wellness need your attention the most. We’ve created this wellness check-up worksheet to discover the pillars in your life that you’re happy with and the ones that need some work.