journaling using the eight dimensions of wellness

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I’m very drawn to the idea of the #100dayproject, where you commit to doing something every single day for 100 days, and share it with the world. It’s a long enough time to create an impressive body of work, but with defined boundaries, which I find essential for the creative process. Last year, as a personal #100dayproject, I started the @artful_agony Instagram account. It was a way of expressing all the emotions I had surrounding a sudden onset of a pain that consumed both my body and my mind. It helped me to explore ideas, put them out to a greater audience, and find support and community in the process. It has stretched on a lot longer than 100 days. It was, and continues to be, a hugely cathartic exercise.

This year, I am participating in the project again, with one exception: I’m keeping the results to myself. I’ve started a structured journal as a place to really explore both the reasons and redemptions for my ill health. Being sick and in pain has turned my life into a seemingly endless quest for answers. Over the last year, I’ve found out a lot, but I’ve forgotten even more. I am hoping that a daily journal will allow me to reflect with more clarity and learn my lessons a little more succinctly. Or at least return me to a daily writing practice. And it is a hell of a lot cheaper than therapy.

The key to the project is the structure. Like I said, I think boundaries are essential to any creative pursuit. So for my journaling I’ve chosen the 8 dimensions of wellness, originally laid out by SAMHSA, to guide me. I like this framework because it’s a reminder that wellness is a hell of a lot more complex than sipping celery juice in downward dog. The self is multidimensional and interconnected. Wellness is found, not necessarily in the absence of illness or disability, but rather in striking a very personal balance between all of one’s dimensions.

I’ve broken down the eight dimensions and what I believe they constitute, in the images below.

use the arrow keys to scroll through

To get started on my journal, first I looked at each dimension and determined my strengths in that area. I started with this because I have a really hard time identifying personal strengths, especially when it comes to physical and occupational wellness, areas where I tend to feel like a colossal failure. Acknowledging strengths is really just a fancy way of identifying possible solutions. So, for example, my nutrition needs a lot of work, but my strengths are that I love to cook, have a ton of cookbooks, and enjoy learning about food — all strengths I can apply to finding more nutritious things to eat.

Next, I wrote lists of things I’d like to work on in each dimension. Some of the dimensions had a lot of to dos (my physical health list is gargantuan), others not as long (I feel pretty satisfied with my intellectual wellness).

My daily journal task is to reflect on each dimension, and ensure I am doing something to support it every day. I am satisfied with my intellectual wellness at present, but I have a habit of getting overly concerned with my physical wellness and focusing the majority of my time and energy on trying to ‘fix’ myself. In the process, I lose ground in other areas of my health. I isolate myself socially or I stop devoting time to creativity and no amount of chia seeds and physiotherapy can fill the gap.

It’s basically a forceful way of cultivating balance, but I’ve always needed a bit of a heavy touch. I’m a fan of deep pressure. It keeps me grounded. I’m only 2 weeks into the project, but already I can feel a major shift in how I view my personal well-being. I find myself getting less fixated on individual details and more concerned with the big picture of myself.

Honestly, what’s the use in attaining perfect blood panel results if you can’t bore your friends by talking about them and make art about them, use them to wallpaper your house, and put them on your resume underneath the section about your hobbies?

If you would like to explore the dimensions further, or at least get another take on them, check out this fantastic resource.