How do you define wellness? Why does it matter?

A Google search for “wellness” brings up 21,400,00 results; everything from employee wellness programs to dog food.  A very broad and watered down meaning of this word has certainly taken foothold in our language. This NY times article provides an interesting history, dating back to 1650, the word was invented to describe the opposite of illness.

In 1948 Halbert L. Dunn, chief of the National Office of Vital Statistics, was looking for new terminology to convey the positive aspects of health that people could achieve, beyond simply avoiding sickness. In a series of papers and lectures in the late ’50s, Dunn sketched out his concept of “high-level wellness,” defined as “an integrated method of functioning, which is oriented toward maximizing the potential of which the individual is capable.”

Dunn expanded wellness beyond the opposite of illness.  Wellness components now include our relationships, finances, careers, spirituality, environment, mental or emotional state.  Each of these can be be in a state of illness or wellness.  One can have a disease and still be well, or free of disease yet not truly well.

My husband and I finally made our Will last year .  Not something we were excited to invest our time and money on but so glad to have it done.   Besides the greater peace of mind, it is filed away and does not impact our daily lives.

It made me think of how little time we take to plan our living well.

Investing time clarifying our personal definition of wellness on the other hand has powerful payoffs.  It creates a blueprint for daily well-being.  With this blueprint we have the “ability to respond”, empowering us to find wellness through a gazillion momentary choices each day.   (Ability to respond = responsibility – in the most positive and empowering sense of the word).

We may be tempted to put a new piece of fitness equipment on the credit card – in an effort to find physical wellness but sacrificing our financial well-being.  With a clear vision of our wellness, our decisions consider a balance of all that contributes to our well-being.  There is great peace to be found in this kind of awareness.

thThis image displays the common components of wellness, portraying how they are all interconnected.

What would happen if you created your own plan for living well?  Here are some steps to get started:

  • First, simply notice each area in your life.  Observe your social, physical, occupational, intellectual, spiritual, environmental, emotional, and  financial wellness.
  • When you are ready, start to craft a description that describes you at optimal wellness for each component.   For example, Financial Wellness= I have a balanced budget that guides my financial decisions and supports all other areas of my wellness.
  • Next, create an image that represents all of the ingredients for your own true well being.  A simple pie graph may be the start.  As you ponder these components a different image may evolve.imagine

This is a process that will unfold over time with greater awareness.  A key and powerful ingredient is giving yourself the permission to dream.

If I had the technological know-how I would make the circles fluid and moving constantly, each one getting bigger or smaller, overlapping more or less with the dynamic properties of our life.  Unexpected car repairs, illness, snow storms  –  twist and turns in our day and lives calls for us to be grounded in a clear vision of what we really want.  So, as you ponder your wellness definition, keep the image fluid and acknowledge the complex interconnectedness of each part.

I believe it is time we take back the power for our own true wellness – instead of seeking wellness from latest power food, cleansing diet, fitness fad, or “health expert”.

It is time we seek the wisdom each of us have within.  We are the expert of our own well-being, CEO of our own health.    Beyond an intellectual definition of wellness filled with “should’s and shouldn’ts”, we can move to a “knowing” sense of wellness.  With that intrinsic clarity we can seek professionals in certain areas that help us enhance in each of these components.

Beyond the physical wellness, moving our body in healthy ways has a positive impact on all other components.  Movement connects our mind and body, it feeds our cells, removes the wastes that builds up from daily stress, bathes our mind with chemicals that give us a sense of calm, boosts energy, sharpens our focus, balances emotions, energizes our creativity for work and play, enhances our social well-being, and connects us with our spirit.

photo 4On an amazing hike with friends in New Hampshire this past Saturday, in the beauty of snow-covered trees and ice formations on the river, we had chats about life, great laughter, and moments of silence.  I experienced that balance, peace and true wellness.

I wish that for each of you this week. Lets take time to find wellness within. Its there – let’s all nourish it!

One thought on “How do you define wellness? Why does it matter?

  1. Pingback: Who is Your #1 Support? | Motivate Move Be Well

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