When you think of wellness, what comes to mind?
Many people immediately think of physical health. I am well if I am in good physical shape and suffer no debilitating illnesses. That is true, but that would make you physically fit, not necessarily well.
Webster’s dictionary defines wellness as ” The quality or state of being in good health, especially as an actively sought goal.” That definition is a bit ambiguous. It reflects the influence of Western medicine on the current widely held belief that wellness is only about physical health. After all, that is what our health care system has been telling us for years, so it has to be true, right?
The truth is that wellness is a surprisingly simple state of being. It is one that combines the most important aspects of human existence–the physical, the mental, and the spiritual. When each of these aspects is given adequate consideration, a state of wellness can be achieved and maintained. It sounds very simple, but as we all know, maintaining any kind of balance in life for any extended period of time can be a very daunting task.
This concept of wellness as a blend of human elements is nothing new. It dates back to Greek and Roman times not to mention most other ancient civilizations as well. The Roman spa was not just a place to bathe. It was also a center for social interaction, physical exercise, and relaxation of both body and mind. The ancient concept of the spa addressed all aspects of human well-being. In essence, you could say that these spas were actually some of the first wellness centers.
With our population living longer, we are seeing a shift in the concept of personal healthcare. People no longer accept reactive health management as the only option. More and more, individuals are looking to have a hand in their own health choices. Boomers are no longer content to pop a pill at the first sign of an ache or pain. They are more interested in how to prevent those aches and pains so they can participate fully in an active and meaningful existence without downtime.
The interest in overall wellness is supported by the growing number of people exploring activities such as yoga and tai chi—activities that benefit both the body and the mind. Boot camps now include yoga postures that help members achieve a more robust sense of health and well-being. Articles on meditation practices are finding their way in to mainstream media. These are just a few examples of how people are finding ways to take responsibility for their own well-being.
With the mind and the body are working in harmony, wellness becomes a much more achievable goal. Acting mindfully with compassion and gratitude increases the body’s ability to function at an optimal level. This can trigger a cascade of beneficial side effects such as reduced stress levels and increased energy levels, to name just a few.
When people hear I am a wellness coach, one of the first reactions I get is, “Oh, so you are a fitness trainer!” That seems to be a much more familiar and comfortable concept for people to grasp. It is always easier to associate wellness with physical fitness and not muddy the waters with more esoteric notions such as emotional and spiritual well-being. However, when you pay attention to these three aspects and nurture each one as needed, you will find a much deeper sense of vitality and satisfaction. Overall wellness becomes much more than just how long your cardio sessions are or how much you can press.
Wellness is really about how vibrant your life is. About how much you enjoy it. It’s about nurturing all the elements that make us who we are. We all have issues to work through—that is a given in this world. But we also have the benefit of living longer than any other generation in history. It’s up to each of us to take advantage of that longevity and create a life that is the most joyful and satisfying existence that we can envision. To me, that is the ultimate meaning of wellness.
So how do you define wellness? Do you take an active role in your physical and mental well-being? I would love to hear what idea of being well means to you.