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What does wellness mean to you? For millions of Americans, the definition of wellness likely means a sense of overall well-being. But for those who suffer from substance use and mental health conditions, wellness does not mean an absence of disease, illness or stress, but rather feeling a sense of purpose in life, being actively involved in work or play that is satisfying, finding happiness, having joyful relationships, and having a healthy body and living environment.


Module 4 Reflection Activity: What is your picture of health and wellness?

  1. My picture of health and wellness is… (Think about something that represents health and wellness to you.)
  2. A change I would like to make, related to my own health and wellness is… (Think about change you know would be good for you, but you haven’t taken action on or have tried but not been able to stick with.)

Note: This activity is for reflection only and does not need to be submitted along with your workbook. 


Why Wellness Matters

Focusing on health and wellness is particularly important for people with, or at risk for, behavioral health conditions. People with mental and/or substance use conditions typically die years earlier than the general population, mostly due to preventable medical conditions such as diabetes or cardiovascular, respiratory, or infectious diseases (including HIV).

People who suffer from addiction often have one or more accompanying medical issues. Imaging scans, chest X-rays, and blood tests show the damaging effects of long-term drug abuse throughout the body. For example, research has shown that

  • tobacco smoke causes cancer of the mouth, throat, larynx, blood, lungs, stomach, pancreas, kidney, bladder, and cervix.
  • some drugs of abuse, such as inhalants, are toxic to nerve cells and may damage or destroy them either in the brain or the peripheral nervous system.
  • individuals with substance use conditions are often at higher risk for HIV and AIDS as well as hepatitis C due to intravenous drug use.
  • heavy and binge drinking is associated with numerous health problems, including: damage to liver cells, inflammation of the pancreas, various cancers, high blood pressure, and psychological disorders.

Dimensions of Wellness

Wellness means overall well-being. Each aspect of wellness can affect overall quality of life, so it is important to consider all aspects of health.

Wellness is a conscious, deliberate process whereby a person is aware of and makes choices for a more satisfying lifestyle. A wellness lifestyle includes a self-defined balance of health habits, such as adequate sleep and rest, physical activity and exercise, participation in meaningful activities, eating well, and connecting with supportive people, places, and spaces. Being well in recovery requires active engagement, making the choices that support wellness. Wellness is unique to each individual and involves a dynamic process that changes with every new experience.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has a Wellness Initiative underway that encourages everyone to incorporate the Eight Dimensions of Wellness in their lives:

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Emotional Wellness involves awareness of emotions as they occur, expressing and processing emotions in a productive and positive way, using the insight provided by emotions to guide actions, approaching life with optimism, creating interdependent relationships that involve trust and respect, and engaging in healthy coping mechanisms.

Environmental Wellness involves living and working in environments that are safe and healthy and facilitate our sense of well-being. Since our environments have a big impact on how we feel, it is important for our environment to be pleasing to us, free from exposure to toxins and in balance with the broader natural environment.

Financial Wellness involves being able to access financial resources and have enough knowledge to direct financial decisions and planning. It means knowing how our investments are distributed and whether this is in alignment with our personal values and desires.

Intellectual Wellness involves engaging in mentally stimulating activities, creativity, and expanding our personal and professional knowledge and skills. Intellectual wellness also encompasses involvement in the exploration of new ideas and information.

Occupational Wellness involves finding personal satisfaction and fulfillment through work. It entails using our talents and skills to their fullest extent through our career as well as understanding the need for and creating a balance between work and personal time.

Physical Wellness includes being aware of and taking care of our body, including engaging in pleasurable physical activity and eating food that is nutritious. Physical wellness also involves obtaining regular medical check-ups, sleeping well, and living tobacco-free.

Social Wellness involves creating meaningful interpersonal relationships that feel supportive and satisfying. Social wellness also involves contributing positively to one’s community.

Spiritual Wellness involves having a belief system that is meaningful and matches our values, establishing a life that feels purposeful, and being compassionate towards others. Spiritual wellness does not necessarily mean having a religion; rather, it focuses on our ability to attribute meaning to life and the day-to-day interactions you experience.


Module 4 Activity: Dimensions of Wellness

Instructions: Click the box below to complete Module 4 Activity: Dimensions of Wellness.