What happens to your body when you switch from working on only your physical health to also addressing all 8 pillars of holistic wellness? Learn how to address your health from every angle for life-changing results.
Introduction to the 8 Pillars of Holistic Wellness
In July of 2016 I woke up with severe, stabbing stomach pain, nausea, and difficulty breathing. My belly was distended to such an uncomfortable amount that I could barely button my size 4 shorts and I looked pregnant (even though I wasn’t). I was a young 29-year-old who was a fitness coach, Physical therapist, and could squat nearly twice my body weight. From the outside looking in, I appeared to be a fit and healthy female. But this distinct morning, I was far from feeling fit and healthy.
After several hours of trying to walk it off, I succumbed to checking myself into the hospital for testing. My stay included three days of not eating, getting my stomach pumped, and having test upon test done. I walked out of there feeling weaker than ever. I had no answers as to what caused my intestines to be so inflamed and I was confused. How could I go from feeling strong and healthy to weak and unhealthy in just days? The truth was, I wasn’t “healthy”. Deep down I knew it and I could feel it, too. It was at that moment walking out of the hospital that I was hit with the hard truth that health is more than physical health and I had been ignoring some of the other pillars of holistic wellness all my life. It was time to change. It was time to become the total package and improve my bloating & gut health, among other things. And this wake-up call led me down a beautiful path of self-discovery and improved wellness including becoming a nutrition coach, a Human Design spiritual guide, and an expert in injury prevention.
We’ve all been there - young and feeling invincible in our twenties. Maybe it was in our teens that we fell in love with sports and working out or perhaps later in our twenties. Whenever it was, there was one point in your life in which you prioritized working out and that’s all that mattered for your health, right? If you work out a few days a week consistently, you consider yourself “healthy”. But were you really healthy?
There comes a point in everyone's lives when we get more curious. We discover who we are on a deeper level and begin to understand that with each day that passes, our body isn’t getting younger. The older we get, the more important our health becomes to us and the clearer it becomes that health means more than working out regularly. Being healthy is no longer the appearance of looking fit and strong. Being healthy encompasses much more than looks, how fast we can run, or how much we can bench press. Being healthy means truly being healthy in all aspects of wellness. That’s what will be covered in this blog - the 8 pillars of holistic wellness. Think of these as 8 pieces to a puzzle and when one piece is missing, you’re not living your best life. Learn how to stay on top of all eight of these areas in order to continuously live a more healthy and thriving life!
Pillar #1: Physical
This pillar of physical wellness encompasses physical activity as well as nutrition. Are you getting in intentional daily movement to improve your mobility, flexibility, strength, stability, balance, or stamina? What type of physical exercise you choose to do is up to you. But the most important type of exercise for everyone is strength training. Science shows strength training is the most beneficial form of exercise and great at complementing other exercises and sports also.
I suggest you incorporate strength training into your weekly routine 3-6 days per week and then feel free to add in other forms of exercise you enjoy, too! Maybe this is walking, hiking, biking, playing tennis, or my new favorite which is pickleball! Whatever it is, be sure you enjoy it and practice consistently. A consistent workout routine you can stick to a year from now is going to be more beneficial than an unrealistic workout routine you don’t enjoy and give up on. Want some guidance with writing a weekly exercise schedule? Book a consult with me here.
The other aspect of physical wellness is nutritional wellness. This comes down to making food decisions that respect your body. There are hundreds (if not thousands) of diets out there. The best diet? One you can enjoy and sustain. Maintaining nutritional wellness means you choose wholesome and nutritious foods the majority of the time, practice mindfulness while eating, and fuel your body with enough food for how active you are. When you aren’t nutritionally well, you may experience symptoms like I did back in 2016. Perhaps you feel dizzy, lightheaded, fatigued, constipated, bloated, overly full, have diarrhea, etc... Are you properly fueling your body? I surely wasn’t as I discovered during my bloating journey - I was eating aged cheese that was aggravating my mold allergy - lesson learned!
Pillar #2: Occupational
The remainder of the pillars may seem less directly related to your health, but remember your health is more than your physical body. It’s also your mind and soul. So when any one of these pillars is lacking, it can directly impact your thoughts, emotions, mood, beliefs, and actions.
This second pillar is occupational wellness and it relates to whether you’re content with the work you do. The work you wake up every day to do, does it fulfill you? Does it make you feel like you’re making a difference? Does it light you up? If you feel deep satisfaction in what you do, then those hours of work every day won’t feel like work. They likely won’t cause you stress, anxiety, or put you in a bad mood. Instead, they will fill your cup and make you thirsty for more out of life! So if you’re unhappy with what you do - do something about it. Maybe start a side hustle and begin building the business of your dreams. That’s what I did actually! I started my side hustle online business while working full-time as a PT and then in 2018 was able to make my side hustle my full job! Every day I wake up excited to help my clients get healthier and happier!
Pillar #3: Emotional
Emotional wellness is having the ability to cope with the challenges life brings your way. It’s being able to think clearly when life throws you curveballs. Just like when your body isn’t trained, it weakens, and so do your emotions. When your emotional wellness isn’t trained it weakens more and more over time. How do you train your emotions? By actively building relationships and experiences in life that satisfy you. This may mean removing relationships that don’t serve you. This may mean making more time for the people that lift you up and inspire you! The way we feel impacts the way we act, so it’s important we make time for healthy thoughts. For guidance with this, check out some emotional wellness consults here.
Pillar #4: Social
Ever heard that saying that you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with? Think about that and decide if you’re truly happy with who you are. If not, it’s time to change who you spend time with and prioritize building stronger connections with the people who make a positive impact on your life. If the pandemic has caused you to be more of a homebody, actively schedule in once a week to get out and spend time with people you care for. That social component of your wellbeing is crucial for you to feel supported and loved and it also teaches you many good lessons on conflict resolution.
Pillar #5: Spiritual
Spirituality does not mean religion; it can mean different things to everyone, but for me, it’s finding a sense of meaning in life. It’s connecting to your soul and believing in a divine power bigger than yourself. Being spiritual impacts your health because a healthy mind and soul supports a healthy body. If you desire to connect to your soul deeper, try taking five minutes a day to meditate, journal, read, or spend time in nature. It’s amazing what your soul can teach you when you take the time to sit back, turn off your mind, and just be present. Personally, I’ve found Human Design to be an excellent way for me to get to know who I was born to be on a deeper level - it’s a self-awareness tool that can shift the way you connect with yourself.
Pillar #6: Intellectual
Intellectual wellness is actively expanding your knowledge in some way. Maybe you prefer to learn while listening so you listen to a podcast or Audible book to learn. Maybe you prefer to learn visually so you watch a documentary or lecture about a topic you’re interested in. Or perhaps you really enjoy reading on your own. Whatever the case is, be sure you remain a student for life. There’s no ceiling to how much you can learn. Not only will you learn and experience more in life now, but you’ll also better defend yourself against age-related memory and mental decline. Even the strongest, the fittest person in the world will admit that a sound mind is crucial to enjoying life later in life.
Pillar #7: Financial
Financial wellness directly impacts your physical and mental health because it gives you the ability to invest in experiences that will better your life. Without appropriate finances, you can’t invest in a gym membership, books, courses, meals out with friends, or your favorite hobbies. Without appropriate finances saved up for your future, you can’t retire without worrying about how you’ll make it through the next day. If you’re not satisfied with your current finances, set intentions and take aligned action that will help you build a life you love!
Pillar #8: Environmental
The final pillar is environmental wellness and this one may be confusing but it essentially means, are your surroundings aligned with you? Do your surroundings support you and make you happy? In Human Design, this is one area of wellness I teach that you can quickly change to improve your life. If the room, space, city, house, or workplace you’re in is causing you to feel uninspired, uncreative, anxious, stressed, or disconnected then change it up - it’s that simple. Put yourself in places that lift you up, inspire you, and are positive!
Now that you’re aware of all 8 pillars of holistic wellness, you may feel called to make a bunch of big changes right away. I encourage you to take things slow. Lasting, sustainable changes are made up of small habits built over time. Set a goal to work on one new pillar of wellness this week by building 1-2 habits. Take time to work on them consistently and once you’ve got those established, then work on another pillar. Living a holistically healthy life takes time, patience, and most of all love for yourself. Give yourself some grace and know that if you need any guidance with building a healthier you, you know where to find it - right here on WellMeRight. Stay healthy, my friends!
About The Author
Dr. Steph Dorworth (PT, DPT, MTC, CSCS, CNC, CertPilates, StickMobility) is a doctor of Physical therapy, Certified Strength & Conditioning Coach, Certified Pilates instructor, Certified Stick Mobility, and Certified Nutrition Coach. She is passionate about helping others build sustainable healthy habits for long-term results. She practiced as a Physical therapist for seven years before moving to practice solely online. Now she helps women pursue their physique goals while also improving their mindsets, building an organized healthy habit schedule, gaining mobility & strength, and building their confidence from within. She enjoys customizing programs 100% to an individual and making them sustainable and realistic to follow long-term. Browse Wellness Expert sessions offered by Steph and book with her today on Well Me Right.