There are two shifts that changed the self-care game for me.
The first was adopting Inner Workout's definition of self-care: listening within and responding in the most loving way possible. I stopped viewing self-care as a product to buy or an item at the bottom of my to-do list and started seeing self-care as an ongoing conversation with myself.
The second shift that transformed my self-care experience was the shift from one dimensional well-being to multi-dimensional well-being.
As I shared in the Inner Workout book, “The mainstream conversation around self-care kept falling flat for me because it was flat. It was mostly one-dimensional…. [T]hese surface-level conversations cannot reach the depths of who you are…Multidimensional well-being helps us cultivate care-filled lives rather than Instagrammable #selfcare moments."
The Five Dimensions of Well-being gave me the vocabulary I needed to have a richer conversation with myself, and I hope they'll do the same for you.
The Five Dimensions are inspired by a yogic concept called the koshas, which can be translated as sheaths or layers. I remember leaning forward in yoga teacher training when I first heard about the koshas. Something clicked for me. We are more than our physical bodies. And yet, our societal tendency is to focus our self-care efforts on our physical bodies.
Suddenly I understood how I could do something self-care related, like get a massage, and still not feel cared for. It's because I wasn't tending to the part of myself that needed care.
The Five Dimensions of Well-being share the names of the koshas which inspired them: Physical, Energetic, Mental + Emotional, Wisdom, and Bliss.
Though the Five Dimensions draw inspiration from the koshas, they are not the same. This article is a good place to start if you'd like to study the koshas further.
The Five Dimensions are the foundation for all of our work at Inner Workout. Each of the dimensions also has two or three sub-dimensions, which we'll explore further below.
This dimension explores your relationship to your body. It’s about being present in your body, knowing your body’s nuances, and accepting your body as it is.
I love Dr. Ann Saffi Biasetti's definition of embodiment.
Embodiment can be simply defined as living life informed through the sense experience of the body.
The embodiment sub-dimension invites you to be present in your physical body.
The body awareness sub-dimension is about being attuned to and honoring your body's specific needs and preferences.
Body acceptance doesn't mean you have to be head over heels in love with your body every moment of the day. It does ask you to respect it as a partner who helps you move through the world.
This dimension looks at your ability to monitor and regulate your energy in every aspect of your life through the breath and energy zones.
We need to breathe to live, and we need to breathe well to live well. The breath quality sub-dimension explores whether your breathing habits are helping or harming your well-being
Energy is never lost. It's transferred. The energy zones help us understand how energy moves throughout our own lives in interactions, activities, relationships, and conversations we have with ourselves.
This dimension examines what you’re putting into your mind and what’s flowing out of it as thoughts and feelings—all supported by the foundation of sleep.
Our brains thrive when they're fed nourishing content and stretched just beyond our comfort zone. Is your brain thriving?
A good night's sleep looks different for everyone. How aware are you of what a good night's rest looks like for you? And how often are you creating the conditions for you to be well-rested?
The emotions sub-dimension explores your ability to access and healthfully express your emotions.
This dimension invites you to listen to, and act on, your inner knowing in the present moment.
Trust is the foundation of any enduring relationship, including the relationship you have with yourself. This sub-dimension takes an honest look at the level of trust you've built with yourself.
Life happens in the present moment, but, too often, we're living in the past and the future. The focus sub-dimension explores your capacity to stay grounded in the present moment.
It's one thing to hear from your inner wisdom. It's quite another to take aligned action based on that wisdom. That's what the aligned action sub-dimension is all about.
This dimension is rooted in transcendent connection to yourself, your communities, and something bigger than you.
Being connected to yourself means showing up as the fullest expression of yourself rather than contorting to be who you think you "should" be.
As we say often at Inner Workout: Self-care doesn't mean solo care.
We need to be a part of communities where we can both give and receive care in order to thrive.
This sub-dimension reminds you that you play a small yet important part in an incredibly large universe. Being in nature, spiritual practices, and connecting to your values are all pathways to get in touch with something bigger than yourself.
So you've been introduced to the Five Dimensions and their sub-dimensions. This is where your journey begins—not where it ends. At Inner Workout, we believe knowledge is most powerful when it's applied to your daily life.
Here are a few starting points for using the Five Dimensions of Well-Being to practice multi-dimensional self-care.
Do a self-care audit. Are you caring for yourself across all the dimensions, or is your care more concentrated in certain areas? You can scroll back to the top of this post and jot down what you are—or aren't—doing for each dimension. Remember: The goal of this practice is awareness, not judgment. You're simply gathering information. Another way to check-in is to complete our free Take Care assessment. This free, 75 question assessment measures your well-being across the Five Dimensions. Then you get a personalized PDF report, which includes three recommended practices based on your results.
Get to the root of your care needs. Cultivate the habit of asking yourself which part of you needs care. Is going to bed early what you need today, or would you be better served by spending time on the task you've been avoiding? Would it be helpful to go to a workout class to move your body, or is that another way to run from the emotion you've been avoiding? Your self-care instantly becomes more effective when you're able to listen within and respond directly to the dimensions that need care the most.
Build skills in a different dimension. In a moment when you need care, it's easy to fall back on your go-to practices. Self-care is a skill, and sometimes skill-building requires you to intentionally focus on areas that are outside of your comfort zone. The areas we ignore or resist are often the areas that most need our attention. When we designed the Inner Workout app, we wanted to make it as easy as possible to build skills across all Five Dimensions of Well-being. The app has mini-courses called Journeys, which guide you in developing skills for specific dimensions of well-being. Each module takes less than 10 minutes to complete. We also categorized our library of over 100 guided practices by dimension so that you can focus your care on a dimension without much thought.
Acknowledge and celebrate the multi-dimensionality of your care. Many of your practices will span several Dimensions of Well-being. For example, a dance class obviously taps into the Physical Dimension of Well-being. That class might also help you stay in the present moment (Wisdom Dimension of Well-being) and also feel connected to your fellow dancers (Bliss Dimension of Well-being.) Celebrate your ability to care for your whole being, whether that care happens through one activity or through many, intentionally selected activities.
Let's close out this overview with a Public Self-Care Announcement. The goal of this framework is to help you practice self-care as we define it, listening within and responding in the most loving way possible.
Your inner wisdom always takes precedence. So there's no need to get overly rigid about defining everything by dimension or sub-dimension. Yes, perfectionists, I'm talking to you. Even though there are many dimensions and sub-dimensions, remember that these concepts only matter because they come together to create an integrated whole within you.
Use this framework as an internal conversation starter to deepen your self-care and strengthen your inner work. It's time for your whole being to get the attention it deserves.
We'll be here for you every step of the way! And if you're looking for a more specific first step, try our Take Care assessment—it's free!