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Dimensions of Wellness

The experience of being human is a dynamic process that is unique to every individual, a personal journey that evolves over a lifetime. Optimum wellness results from the intentional integration of eight fundamental dimensions of wellbeing. They all require personal health choices relative to your own goals and values. Personal wellness is not a 'destination,' but instead involves ongoing conscious attention to the harmony of one's life as it relates to your holistic health and well being goals.  

By considering the following eight dimensions - which are going well and which need additional attention - we are more likely to come closer to balance and optimal wellbeing.  Begin the practice of asking yourself regularly - how am I doing in these various areas of my life? Adjustments are often best achieved in small increments, not 'all or none' approaches.  Going from 0 to 60 on any life change is too often met with stumbles and frustration, however, making change one or two steps at a time, and evaluating from there is usually a process that works best for most of us.  Try to remember the mantra, "progress, not perfection, is what I am striving for."

Become familiar with the wellness dimensions below and try to take a mindful moment daily, weekly or monthly to consider whether you are taking the necessary small actions to keep life and your overall well being in good balance. 


Career Wellness is defined as a person who engages in work to gain personal satisfaction and enrichment, consistent with values, goals, and lifestyle. 


Social wellness is the ability to successfully interact with people in our world, participating in and feeling connected to your community. Social well-being is enhanced by establishing supportive social networks through meaningful relationships with family, friends, and colleagues. Social wellness includes making friends, and having fun in a safe and healthy way while using social skills like active listening, relating to others, expressing compassion and empathy, community engagement, and experiencing genuine interactions with others. Social Wellness helps make ourselves and others feel safe, included, and supported.

We all have different personalities, previous life experiences, and preferences that inform how, when, and where we prefer to interact with others.  Some people are more introverted. They get tired in large crowds and prefer one-on-one conversations and interactions.   Some are more extroverted. They derive joy and energy from being with larger groups of people. It is important to take some time to reflect on your unique social preferences and to appreciate and value those. It is healthy and helpful for us to stretch our social comfort zones. However, we will benefit most from being our authentic selves and refraining from judging ourselves harshly for not being like our sibling, roommate, friend, or peer.  Discovery who you are and honor that part of yourself.

We encourage students to explore trainings, seminars, and classes and to engage in dialogues to better understand and appreciate the differences in people. In recent years there has been a steady shift in values to a society that is more tolerant of social differences, gender differences, multicultural diversity differences, and ability differences. Enhance your social wellness by taking advantage of resources offered by Student Wellness and around campus in an effort to better understand and appreciate both yourself and others that may be different than you.

At Student Wellness

On Campus

In the Community


A person practicing intellectual wellness values lifelong learning and seeks to foster critical thinking, develop moral reasoning, expand worldviews, and pursue knowledge.  

Intellectual Wellness involves having a growth mindset. This includes learning in and out of the classroom and using knowledge gains to inform future decision-making around personal, social, civic and occupational choices. Intellectual wellness acknowledges that you are at Carolina to develop your mind for both a solid experience now as well as for optimal future opportunities. All of the dimensions feed into your success as a Carolina student and beyond.

At Student Wellness, we believe that helping students reach their long-term and short-term academic, occupational and life-long learning goals enhances their overall wellness. To stretch this part of ourselves, we strive to ensure that students feel both challenged yet supported in their learning and critical thinking endeavors.

Enhance your intellectual wellness by taking advantage of resources offered around campus.

On Campus


Environmental wellness is achieved by gaining an understanding of the dynamic relationship between humans and their environment. Every person has the capacity to have a positive impact on the quality of their environment, whether it's their immediate environment, i.e. their home, classroom or their community.

There are different environmental circumstances that impact our health and wellness which include: 

Social environment – This is the fluid arena in which people interact with individuals, groups, and institutions through personal interaction or online via social media. These interactions are filtered through a lens of social norms.

Health and wellness can be impacted in a negative way, a positive way, or both. One example is peer pressure. Bullying, character assassination, body shaming, and other personal attacks can have a significant negative effect on wellness, while praise, compliments, and empathy – and Tar Heel school spirit – all will have a positive impact.  It's amazing how contagious a smile can be - give it a try and see!

Built environment - This aspect involves how we set up the area where we live, study, and socialize.  Our home - whether an on-campus residence hall room or an off-campus house or apartment - is ideally our retreat and respite place. In that respect, it is important for us to make our living environment as comfortable and conducive to our level of desired rest and enjoyment as possible. 

Natural environment – We are surrounded by living and inanimate elements including air, earth, plant and wildlife. These elements interact organically to form a series of ecosystems that impact the health and wellness of all species on Earth.  Research continues to show us that getting outside and experiencing nature in various ways is often an essential component of our wellbeing, especially as it relates to our physical and emotional health.  

So take a walk across campus or a hike in one of the nearby trails, or spend 15 minutes a day sitting outside getting a small dose of daily vitamin D from the sun, or even something inside as simple as sitting and watching the fish swim in the fish tank on the second floor of the union - very peaceful! 

At Student Wellness, we strive to create spaces where students feel safe, supported, and included. In addition, we also recognize our own responsibility for the quality of our air, our water, and the land that surrounds us.  Please join us in thinking about the conservation of energy and water, and the commitment to reduce, reuse and recycle whenever possible.

Enhance your environmental wellness by taking advantage of resources offered around campus, joining a student organization, and in the community.


Emotional wellness involves understanding one's self and adequately facing the challenges life brings. For college students, those challenges may include managing emotional reactions such as anxiety, depression, and their frequent companion, stress. These are all perfectly   normal human emotions that can provide motivation and help build character.

 It's only when they begin to limit one's ability to function with confidence that they can become an issue. In Spring 2017, a national survey* revealed that 20.6% of college students reported being diagnosed or treated for anxiety within the previous 12 months, while 16.7% were diagnosed or treated for depression in that period.The 24/7 influence of social media has undoubtedly contributed to this increase due to its ever-more prominent influence on the way individuals judge themselves and others.

Learning to manage our emotional reactions to stress is critical in attaining emotional balance and well-being.  Beginning to better understand ourselves (our patterns and responses to stress) while keeping things in perspective (acknowledgment that 'it is what it is'), and being willing to get help when we need it, is a large component of emotional wellness. This mental resourcefulness of identifying the area of concern, and employing coping and resilience skills is important in maintaining good overall wellbeing both independently and interpersonally.  Remember that wellness is a journey, which requires practice.  We strive for progress, not perfection, along the way.  Practicing radical self-acceptance and loving self-compassion can go a long way in helping each of us find the emotional intelligence and well-being necessary for a more fulfilling and peaceful life. 

At Student Wellness, we believe that every individual can find unique and healthy ways of coping with stressors. Most importantly, we strongly believe in de-stigmatizing emotional and mental health issues. Everyone struggles at various points in life.  You are not alone. Campus has numerous resources to support you - so utilize friends, resident assistants, faculty, staff, parents, or even anonymous online/phone resources if needed. 

* Source: American College Health Association (ACHA) Spring 2017 National College Health Assessment

Mental Health America's Wellness Circle

The "Mind Your Health" campaign from Mental Health America of the Triangle's campaign encourages people to examine the state of their own emotional well-being. The standards-based Wellness Circle is a valuable tool in helping students achieve their full potential, free from stigma and prejudice. (Image adapted below.)

Steps to determining your own Emotional Wellness status

Screening: A screening test is one of the quickest and easiest ways to determine if you are experiencing symptoms of a mental health condition.

Getting Help: There is a wide range of treatments and supports for children, families, and adults. Unfortunately, they can be hard to find or pay for. We're here to help.

Sticking to Your Plan: Treating your mental health or substance use condition is about more than therapy and medication. You can get help with everything from housing to relationships, too.

Promote Well-being in Your Life: Regardless of whether you have a mental health or substance use condition, you can live your life well.

Financial Wellness

The concept of financial wellness requires that we acknowledge that everyone's financial circumstances are different and depend on variables including the level of personal or family wealth, ability to earn additional income or not, differing personal needs, spending habits, debt levels, lifestyle preferences, personal initiative and more.  However, financial wellness involves setting and achieving short and long-term personal financial goals within the context of resources available to us.

Whether we have relatively unlimited resources from family or are trying to live modestly off of student loans and scholarships, we benefit from thinking critically about what are our actual needs, versus wants, versus extras.  Beginning this approach in college, regardless of current resources, sets us up to be more financially well and balanced throughout later life.  

This may particularly be relevant regarding student loans.  It is very easy to take out the maximum amount that is offered each semester/year without thinking fully about the later implications of loan debt and our ability to access other essential credit needs such as apartment rent and car purchases.   Consider using a conservative model for estimating your basic living needs in college and only borrow what you think you will need at the beginning of each semester.   If you have qualified for more, you can always go back to Financial Aid and request the additional loan amount if your later circumstances require it. 

Another financial endeavor to critically consider is the use of credit cards.  It is also easy to get caught up in what initially seems like "free money" when you can purchase something on a credit card and walk away without having to pay anything at that transaction.  However, ultimately the monthly bill arrives and we can often be shocked at how much we actually purchased over the past several weeks and how quickly the total added up.  Add to this the growing interest in that amount and suddenly we can be in over our heads.   Again, think about whether and where a credit card fits into your overall financial needs and wellbeing. 

It's also never too early to begin a good savings process - whether that includes a set amount of $25 a month or a standard 10% or so of each paycheck.  It is much easier to set up an ongoing contribution to our savings account that comes out automatically than to rely on ourselves to either remember to contribute regularly or decide if we 'can' save as an afterthought once everything else has been paid.

This includes the benefit of beginning a retirement savings account (IRA or other) as early as possible and committing to regular contributions.  This can be hard to consider while still in college, but we cannot underestimate the benefits of compounded interest over the years.  Again, even if just adding $10 to $25 a month. You will appreciate the power of this early investment when you reach the point in your career where you are ready to step back and consider full or partial retirement.

At Student Wellness, we encourage students to explore resources that help them develop a healthy relationship with finances. We work with students to weigh their options within their own personal financial and economic context. This may be as simple as advising of the most practical and affordable way to take advantage of Carolina Dining Services' dining halls, a recommendation to enroll in a money management class, or providing guidance about financial aid options.


Physical wellness is the wellness dimension to most likely be confused as a one size fits all approach when considering what physical health, activity levels, and even body type and size mean to each individual.  Generally speaking, physical wellness involves maintaining a healthy quality of life that allows us to get through our daily activities without undue fatigue or physical stress. Physical wellness is living a thriving, active life - whatever that activity level is for each person. Adopting healthful habits (i.e., routine medical exams, immunizations, a balanced diet, daily exercise of some type, sufficient rest and managing stress, etc.) while avoiding or minimizing higher risk choices and behaviors (i.e. tobacco, drugs, alcohol, etc.) are also included in this dimension.

Sometimes there may be limitations and factors beyond our control (like access to resources, physical ability, comfort level, financial state, and perceptions of healthcare) that impact the ability of individuals to participate in healthy habits. It is important to advocate for equitable access to wellness resources within our communities so that we can all better our physical well-being.

At Student Wellness, we understand that current systems that address physical fitness prioritize certain kinds of bodies, and we want to help students reach their own, individual physical wellness goals by avoiding stereotypes or commercial ideas of fitness and instead embracing a balanced life of nutrition, activity and rest that works most optimally for you.

Enhance your physical health by taking advantage of resources offered by Student Wellness and around campus.

At Student Wellness

On Campus


The Spiritual dimension recognizes our search for purpose in human existence. It involves cultivating meaning in life and finding connections to the world. Spiritual wellness works to align actions, beliefs, and values. Spiritual wellness follows these tenets:

  • It is better to ponder the meaning of life for ourselves and to be tolerant of the beliefs of others than to close our minds and become intolerant.
  • Remaining open to the mysteries and magic in life often allows us to experience a sense of wonder and spirituality that may otherwise eclipse us if not practicing such awareness.
  • It is better to live each day in a way that is consistent with our values and beliefs than to do otherwise and feel untrue to ourselves.

Religion may play a part in some students’ spirituality, but there are also many different ways to explore and express spirituality depending on individuals' personal beliefs, cultural contexts, and upbringings.

At Student Wellness, we hope students can explore spirituality in ways that satisfy their own perception of what it means to them, and work to connect students to opportunities where they can explore what this dimension means to them.

Enhance your spiritual wellness by taking advantage of resources offered around campus.

On Campus

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