Addressing the Eight Dimensions of Wellness in Recovery

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Chronic alcohol and drug use is inevitably harmful, not only to an individual's physical health but also to all other aspects of wellness. Fortunately, focusing on the different aspects of wellness in recovery can help people heal from the effects of substance use disorder (SUD).

Understanding Wellness in Recovery

A publication by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) proposes eight dimensions of wellness. These eight dimensions are:

  1. Physical
  2. Emotional
  3. Intellectual
  4. Spiritual
  5. Social
  6. Occupational
  7. Financial
  8. Environmental

By focusing on each dimension of wellness in recovery, individuals can heal and achieve lasting sobriety.

Strategizing for Wellness in Recovery

Some people believe that achieving sobriety merely involves ceasing substance abuse. The truth is that detoxing and establishing abstinence is only the first step in a lifelong recovery journey.

It is no secret that addiction wreaks havoc on all aspects of life. Therefore, to achieve effective recovery, you must address all areas of your life that have been impacted by substance abuse.

In this way, you can improve your overall well-being so that you have the strength and motivation to continue your sobriety.  Finding wellness in recovery reduces the risk of relapse. It also offers an opportunity for individuals to discover deeper meaning and purpose in their lives.

Of course, it can be challenging to pinpoint problem areas in each dimension of wellness. However, doing so is a necessary first step. This can help you strategize how to improve your wellness in recovery.

Defining Wellness in Recovery

Wellness has many definitions. The definition provided by The Canadian Veterinary Journal highlights the importance of wellness, especially for those in recovery:

[A]ccording to the National Wellness Institute, wellness is considered “an active process through which people become aware of, and make choices toward, a more successful existence.” This definition is based on 3 tenets:

  1. Wellness is considered a conscious, self-directed and evolving process of achieving full potential.
  2. Wellness is multidimensional and holistic, encompassing lifestyle, mental and spiritual well-being, and the environment.
  3. Wellness is positive and affirming.

Keep this definition in mind as you consider each dimension of wellness.

Addressing the Eight Dimensions of Wellness in Recovery

Each dimension of wellness is negatively impacted by addiction. Fortunately, with thoughtful planning and consistent action, you can improve each dimension of wellness in recovery.

#1. Physical Wellness

The brain and body are physically impacted by addiction. Chronic drug and alcohol use can impair brain structure and associated functioning. Additionally, addiction can suppress or interfere with an individual's appetite, leading to malnutrition.

To improve your physical wellness in recovery, engage in regular self-care routines. Utilize daily exercise, incorporate a healthy diet, increase hydration, and take time to rest.

#2. Emotional Wellness

As a result of impaired brain functioning, an individual's emotional wellness is negatively impacted. Often, people will turn to alcohol and other drugs to self-medicate difficult thoughts and feelings. Unfortunately, this increases emotional dysregulation.

To work on your emotional wellness in recovery, learn how to heal your emotional wounds and improve your coping skills in therapy. Additionally, engage in expressive outlets, practice mindfulness, and spend time in nature.

#3. Intellectual Wellness

Substance use interferes with important brain areas for effectively taking in, processing, and communicating information. Engaging in substance use can also distract you from learning.

To exercise your intellectual wellness, begin a new hobby, take a new class, and work on skill-building in treatment. You might also consider attending any lectures, artistic performances, or cultural events in your local area.

#4. Spiritual Wellness

Addiction is often considered a disease of the spirit because it creates the illusion of separateness. As a result, individuals often feel lonely and isolated as a result of their substance abuse.

To heal your spiritual wellness in recovery, practice meditation, keep a journal, connect with a faith community, or volunteer with a cause you find meaningful. Growing in self-love can also be a way to achieve greater spiritual wellness.

#5. Social Wellness

Addiction also commonly interferes with interpersonal relationships. Individuals may experience relationship distress or dissatisfaction as a result of their loved one's chronic substance abuse. Additionally, individuals with addiction may shut out their loved ones and spend an increasing amount of time with others who partake in substance use.

To strengthen your social wellness, spend time with loved ones. This may be a good time to make reparations with your family. You can also get involved with your community, invest in sober friendships, and share your feelings honestly.

#6. Occupational Wellness

Individuals with addiction may experience occupational issues as a result of their substance abuse. Due to potential inattentiveness or lack of concern as a result of alcohol and drug addiction, many may lose their jobs or struggle to be hired in the first place.

To increase your occupational wellness in recovery, you can practice interviewing, increase your knowledge, and avoid overworking.

#7. Financial Wellness

Addiction is an expensive disorder. Individuals may experience a decline in their financial wellness as a result of spending all of their time and money obtaining, using, and recovering from substance use.

To improve your financial wellness, make a budget and stick to it. Set achievable financial goals, and make a plan to increase your income if necessary. You can also expand your career network, pay off debt, and build savings.

#8. Environmental Wellness

It is common for individuals with addiction to place themselves in increasingly dangerous environments to obtain or use substances. Additionally, as mentioned previously, individuals with addiction tend to surround themselves with others who engage in substance use. This is why an individual's environmental wellness is inevitably affected by addiction.

To address your environmental wellness, first remove all substance use paraphernalia from the home. You can also limit your screen time and make your living space beautiful and clean so that you won't want to escape it by using substances or dissociating with technology. Declutter, decorate, and keep your living space clean.

Finding wellness in recovery involves addressing problem areas and setting goals to achieve stable and lasting healing. The eight dimensions of wellness that must be addressed in recovery are: physical, emotional, intellectual, spiritual, social, occupational, financial, and environmental. At Pathways Recovery Center, we recognize that healing from substance abuse and addiction requires more than just establishing sobriety. Rather, effective recovery calls for finding wellness in each of these dimensions. We are a client-centered residential treatment facility that individualizes our treatment. If you are seeking recovery, we can walk with you as you establish sobriety and lasting healing in your life. To learn more about our program, call us at (888) 771-0966 today.

Clinically reviewed by 

Moses Nasser
Dr. Moses Nasser, a double board-certified physician in Family Medicine and Addiction Medicine, with expertise in holistic healing, addiction medicine, and psychiatric care, holds an X-waiver to prescribe buprenorphine and has extensive experience in mindfulness-based customer service and medication-assisted treatment.

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