What is Wellness?
Wellness is often confused with health, for good reason. The dictionary considers the words “well” and “healthy” synonymous. My 1976 American Heritage Dictionary doesn’t even include an entry or sub entry for this word that is bandied about so freely these days. Are we all talking about the same thing when we talk about wellness?
The medical world utilizes a number of metrics such as body mass, blood work and the general absence of chronic or infectious diseases to determine wellness. And yet, we can be healthy and not be well.
Here’s an example. Yesterday I was neither sick nor well. My temperature was normal. I wasn’t experiencing any pain. I was not emotionally responding to any particular circumstance in my life. And yet, I wasn’t well. My thoughts moved like cold molasses, my body felt dull and heavy. I had no sense of well-being. Since it was a quiet Sunday here at Acocote Eco Inn, I slowed down, napped, drank extra fluids and applied some Jin Shin Jyutsu self-help.
Today, I felt strong cleaning the beach. My appetite is robust (hmmm) My mind feels clear, my emotions are fluid. I feel well.
Conversely, there can be profound wellness even when there is no health. A friend recently entered hospice, his emotions weren’t stirred up with regrets or sadness or fear. His pain was managed. His mind was not struggling with problems or unfinished business. Medically he was not well but he had wellness in the presence of dying. He had what the Buddhist would call, ease of well-being as he was making his transition.
There are circumstances in life where no wellness is possible. I have known women physically and emotionally terrorized by their partners, even partially imprisoned by a lack of access to funds, transportation for whom no wellness was possible even though they didn’t have any manifest symptoms of illness.
Wellness it seems is possible in every stage in life and in more circumstances than we imagine. Wellness recognizes, the physical, emotional, mental, spiritual, and particular circumstances of an individual life.
This brief inquiry into the possibilities of wellness prompted a quick google which yielded a definition provided by the World Health Organization.
Wellness is an active process of becoming aware of and making choices toward a healthy and fulfilling life. “…a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”
So, are you well today?