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As I reach my thirty-somethings, it seems natural to reevaluate where I am—and where I want to be. From mini freak-outs about my “not so robust” 401K, to fertility conversations with my best friends, to finding what truly gives me fulfillment (guess what, it’s ok to be selfish sometimes), I am learning this thing called life looks different for every one of us. But no matter my age, my mood, or my daily highs and lows, there is one thing (well, seven, actually) that remains constant: the seven dimensions of wellness.
I used to believe “wellness” was working out, eating right, monthly massages, and diffusing essential oils. But the seven dimensions of wellness are so much more than the material things. They incorporate the growth and pursuit of balance in every part of our being. Hell ya! Wellness isn’t cookie-cutter; it’s multidimensional—changing and evolving just like us and the world we live in.
So, as I take a step back to reevaluate and self-reflect on my seven dimensions of wellness, especially during this time of uncertainty, I am rediscovering what these dimensions mean to me, my relationships, and my overall well-being.
THE PHYSICAL DIMENSION
Badass and body positive.
Real talk: confidence isn’t my forte. The struggle has always been real when it comes to accepting my body, especially when I’ve been called “big-boned” for most of my life. This isn’t a pity party; I’m just tapping into my emotional dimension right now. I read a blog before turning 30 that talked about when you turn this age, “something” happens to your perspective—and it has to do with inherently becoming more confident. You know your style, you know your friends, you know what you want (career, love life, etc.) and, drumroll, please, you know your body. Oh, and you know crop tops only go with high waisted pants.
I’ve always tried to take care of myself, but now, a few years later, post-blog, I am rediscovering that my body is capable of amazing things. Self-doubt is a worthless side piece, and self-esteem can (and will) be my new best friend. I am rediscovering that yes, my body is a temple, I’ve got only one, and I deserve to love every inch of my being—and take care of it. From being proud I made it through that mega-hot barre class to trying to eat cleaner with every meal, realizing I need to prioritize what feels right for my body is a win-win. My well-being (and optimal physical wellness) is going to be number one.
THE EMOTIONAL DIMENSION
All. The. Feels.
I am a glass half full type of gal, the person who always has a smile on her face, even when things suck. Bad day at work? Trust me; I will find a workout to de-stress. There are pros to always being positive, but there are also cons, because I tend to mask how I feel deep inside. I need to be a “strong” friend/sister/daughter/wife. I can’t let them see me mad or sad. The fact of the matter is, feeling is part of being human, and how we choose to express ourselves is a lesson we (or at least I) am continuing to understand.
Whether it’s a belly laugh or a bowl full of tears, I am discovering new ways to take an emotional timeout—and find time for myself. Understanding how to decompress, disconnect, and get in-touch with my emotions is a personal choice, and a heavy one at that. I am facing my feeling fears, and I need to be honest about that with those who are closest to me. By acknowledging the way I feel, I am creating a safe space in my mind, body, and soul for my emotions and rediscovering who I am at my very core. Our emotions are a rollercoaster—when we learn where to put our hands up and scream in happiness or hold onto the handlebar tightly in fear, we genuinely enjoy the ride.
THE INTELLECTUAL DIMENSION
Putting the 'mind' in mindful.
We’ve all heard the saying, “when you stop learning, you stop growing,” right? To me, something feels stagnant when my intellectual side (yea, she compliments my social side) isn’t absorbing new stuff. Recently, I have felt uninspired to expanding my mindset, and I’ve let my ambitions get pushed to the side. This has become even more apparent as I work from my couch, multi-tasking with the dog. It’s easy to become lazy with learnings, no matter where you are in your life. For me, when I let my curiosity spark get snuffed out, then I invite self-doubt and boredom in. Come on; I am a fire sign—I can’t let that happen!
It’s time to turn off the Netflix and tune into my creative side. From learning a new skillset (like coding) to discovering a new podcast, it feels like there are a million different ways to expand my intellectual dimension. Thank you, technology. So, what am I waiting for? I am ready to rediscover what powers my mental passions, even if it’s making greeting cards, baking a cake, or burying myself under the covers with a new book. What expands our minds supports our worth and purpose. We all know life can throw us some curveballs (that’s why I was never a catcher in softball), so why not focus on what makes us excel?
THE SPIRITUAL DIMENSION
Give me a higher love.
The word “spiritual” has a million different meanings to billions of people—and that, my friend, is the beauty of this fourth dimension. Spiritual wellness is what works for your belief system. The human quest for spiritual fulfillment is one that can last a lifetime, and believe me, my views on spirituality have pivoted a plethora of times. I tend to gravitate to my spiritual side when things get profoundly emotional, and I am feeling lost (or just experienced a loss). With an open mind and open heart, I often find myself reaching for a deeper meaning, a higher purpose. But often, I ask myself, why is it only in the bad times I feel the need to tap into this dimension? It’s because I need to better understand who I am.
By rediscovering my connection to my spiritual side, I am rediscovering an element of self-love, self-worth, and self-acknowledgment. Whether I am stargazing for guidance (dear galaxy, you’re gorgeous), praying to a higher being, gravitating to tarot cards, or finding peace in meditation, I am learning that it is ok to find our connection to ourselves (and something bigger) through practicing what feels right at the right moment. Spiritual wellness is a deeply personal experience, but with an open mind (and heart), I am welcoming a new element that embodies a continual ebb and flow into my well-being.
THE ENVIRONMENTAL DIMENSION
Channeling a green goddess.
Climate change, plant-based protein shakes, everything organic—our world is continually evolving. And how we treat Mother Earth can define our generation. This dimension is just what it sounds like, bettering the impact we have on our planet. But what does environmental wellness look like to you? Maybe it’s using reusable bags, buying an electric car, vowing to eat vegan. The best part about this type of wellness, is that every little (or big) thing we do with the earth in mind can positively impact the greater good. Loving Mother Earth looks different for every family, every person.
How I give back to our globe is everchanging, just like how I am reinventing ways to take care of our natural resources. My well-being is impacted by the state of our farms, oceans, planet, and I must make small changes to my routine to take care of our natural resources. I am making environmental wellness part of a continual conversation among friends, and by bringing this topic to the top of our gossip chain, I am rediscovering ways (and supporting brands) to make a difference—one straw, one bike ride, one all-natural yoga mat at a time. Rediscovering my impact is changing the way I take care of our only home.
THE SOCIAL DIMENSION
The human connection is the foundation of our existence. From dating apps, to meeting new friends through co-workers, to partying with strangers at Coachella (sorry, mom!), how we engage with others more fully defines what social wellness means to every one of us. While I’m a social butterfly, my best friend is an introvert. But guess what? It just works. It could be the opposites attract phenomenon, or it could be that we are just yin and yang and balance each other out. Cosmic powers or authentic connections, there’s a world of reasons of why we are drawn to or dissuaded by certain people and personas. But when does our social dimension impede on our individual wellness?
To be honest, my social wellness has always been a double-edged sword. I have a large friend group, and I am a people pleaser, but in turn, I often unknowingly push those closest to me away. As I rediscover this dimension, I need to reevaluate my relationships and my ability to set boundaries. I need to learn to be ok with (politely) saying “no”—and I need to acknowledge it’s ok to put me first sometimes. We blossom when we surround ourselves with healthy relationships, and we wilt when we bend too far for those who drain us. This flower needs to bloom big, baby! By eliminating negative social forces, I can find what makes me genuinely happy—and that might not be Sunday brunch, but rather journaling in bed.
THE OCCUPATIONAL DIMENSION
I’m the boss, not bossy.
Work from home. Work from office. Work from Zoom meeting. Whatever your workplace culture, our society values success based on occupational performance. Early mornings, late nights, and deadlines don’t define this final dimension of wellness, but rather your ability to strike that oh-so-delicate balance between work life and personal life. It’s a thin tightrope to walk, trust me. The ability to step away from work is not my strong suit, though the benefits of disconnecting greatly outweigh answering emails from the couch at 10 pm. That’s when burnout happens. It doesn’t pave a gold road to success—it’s detrimental to the six other dimensions of wellness.
My success at work is one of my greatest achievements, but as I take a more in-depth look at this dimension, I realize that this doesn’t just define who I am. It is a piece of me. I am rediscovering that I need to allow myself permission to turn the open sign off and that my hours outside of work should be spent disconnected and reconnecting with myself. I need to allow myself the ability to press the reset button, whether it’s a weekend getaway or a mid-day Pilates class. My work will benefit more from a fresh mind and a fresh perspective.
As I revaluate my seven dimensions of wellness, I am learning to connect with my well-being on a deeper level—and I invite you to do the same with Mindbody. While I may never achieve perfect harmony in every dimension (social, you’re always going to be a struggle), working on myself makes me realize, yes I am human, and, in my opinion, becoming better is pretty positively powerful.
Have you been feeling it? The big emotion floating around the last few weeks is the Big Anxiety. Coupled with the stress of what the COVID-19 pandemic has bought for millions of people, disturbed wellness routines, and worry, we have a recipe to create massive damage to ourselves.
Adjusting to the new normal, with social distancing practices in place and adapting to precautions and routines, may be the root of even more anxiousness for many as we’re navigating uncharted territories.
During times of high stress, our bodies experience a physiological strain, where essentially everything from our heart, muscles, blood, and energy have to work harder than needed in order to keep functioning at a minimum. Our body’s natural processes, like breathing, can get compromised, lessening the healing functions of the nervous system, and overworking our adrenal system. Stress management is almost non-existent. This overtaxing of the body disrupts the natural flow of energy and resources, and puts us in something known as the “fight or flight” mode. In this mode, we are constantly deciding if there is some kind of real danger and how to survive it. We feel these signals when our heart rate and blood pressure rise, our stress responses like sweating and either constricted or super fast breathing occur, and our feel-good hormones become compromised.
As we process anxiety, not only do we mentally and emotionally feel the repercussions, we also physically confuse our systems that are doing their best to naturally heal us. Staying in a state of continued anxiety with an overactive sympathetic nervous system can be incredibly damaging to your health, even if it is a small amount of stress that collects over time. Stress suppresses our immunity, digestion, deep breathing, disrupts sleep, and eating patterns, impacts mood, energy levels, and much more.
Studies show that over 50% of adults are essentially holding their breaths. They do a shallow type of breathing known as thoracic breathing, where you breathe lightly into your chest instead of into your diaphragm. For example, notice how you’re breathing right now. You’re likely holding your breath to some extent and you’re probably not breathing much at all. If you’re asked to partake in a deep breathing exercise now, you’ll puff up your chest and shoulders, and empty out your stomach. Guilty?
If you’ve ever seen a baby breathe or the breathing technique of someone in deep sleep, you’ll notice that their bellies rise and fall; the oxygen goes directly into a natural deep belly breath. Adults, however, have become acclimated to holding our breaths without meaning to. When we can slow down and practice deep breathing, we send physical and neurological signals through our entire body that asks us to rest.
The great news is that there are easy breathing exercises we can do at home that do not take a lot of time or effort. An incredible tool that anyone can use in times of high stress is remembering to inhale and exhale. Yes, breathing. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention also recommended breathwork not simply as an immunity building tool, but as a way to balance emotional and mental wellbeing. Deep breathing and other breathwork improves the body’s overall functions; improves the respiratory system, builds protective mucus in the nose, oxygenates and blood and brain, improves digestion, alkalizes the full body, and much more. Each style of breathwork sends special physiological signals—some ask us our bodies to slow down and chill, to get out of fight mode, and bring us back to equilibrium where our body’s natural healing systems can be activated; some styles of breathwork ask to pump up and energize.
It’s common to find yourself rushing through breathing practices or feel like you need to set aside special time for it. But that’s the point. We get to slow down, and we get to implement these practices even if there are distractions, business, and no perfect zen meditation corners in our homes. We can do these anytime, anywhere.
If you’ve been feeling any small symptoms of anxiousness or stress, now is the perfect time to incorporate some incredibly easy and effective breathwork techniques into your day-to-day.
This breathing technique can be done at any time of the day, for as long as you want. It’s recommended to practice this for at least 30 seconds to start and several times throughout the day. It’s a breath technique to practice before going to sleep as well. As you’re doing this breath, imagine your stomach like a big pump. As you breathe in, you’re expanding; as you breathe out, you’re emptying out.
1. Put your hands on your belly/abdomen area.
2. Take a big breath through the nose and PUSH your hands away from the belly as you breathe in. Expand your stomach as much as possible and try not to puff up your chest.
3. Slowly exhale through the mouth and constrict your belly inwards. Feel free to make a sound with the mouth when you do this.
4. Repeat for a minimum of 30 seconds.
The 6-7-8 breath can be done at any time of the day to calm anxiousness and stress, especially before doing to sleep. It’s a self-soothing technique that helps relax and calm the nervous system. You can do this practice sitting up or laying down.
1. Close down your eyes.
2. Relax your mouth.
3. Take a deep breath in through your nose for 6 full seconds. Count in your head and maintain an even pace.
4. Hold this breath for 7 seconds.
5. Pucker your mouth and exhale out through the mouth with a “whoooooossh” sound for 8 seconds.
6. Repeat this 6-7-8 breath for at least 5 rounds, or as long as you wish.
You can adjust the 6-7-8 counts to accommodate your pace. You can try a 4-5-6 sequence, or an 8-9-10 sequence. Play around with the length of time that feels good for your body. Some people love to sit by an analog clock for the ticking sound to help keep pace; some love to incorporate music.
This is another easy technique that can be done at any time of the day.
1. Breathe in for 4 seconds through the nose.
2. Hold for 4 seconds.
3. Exhale for 4 seconds through the nose.
4. Hold for 4 seconds.
5. Repeat at least 5 times.
You can play around with the timing for 6 seconds, 8 seconds, and so on to see what works best for your body.
These are the top three breathwork techniques to manage anxiety and stress. Plenty of other techniques work on sleep, inner healing, subconscious programming, altered states of consciousness, and more. Play with the three techniques above and see what feels great for you. It’s common to find a sense of calm almost immediately, some gentle tingling, and relaxation! As we’re adjusting to the new normal, let’s all contribute to creating peace both inside and out.