What does "wellness" mean to you? For many, wellness is defined by physical health.
Definition of wellness:
"the quality or state of being in good health especially as an actively sought goal".
Wellness is a sought-after, yet often illusive, state of being that many hope to achieve. "Wellness" programs have sprung up in health clubs, yoga studios, and even in the workplace. Most of these programs focus on physical healing and prevention of illness, yet many other factors contribute to a state of wellness.
The National Wellness Institute bases it's program on the Six Dimensions of Wellness, a model developed by Dr. Bill Hettler. This model incorporates physical, social, intellectual, spiritual, emotional, occupational components as interrelated and interdependent components of wellness.
Consistent with the above model and with research in the area of wellness, NWI defines wellness as "an active process through which people become aware of, and make choices toward, a more successful existence". http://www.nationalwellness.org/?page=Six_Dimensions Other models have been developed that include even more factors, such as a financial component. This model incorporates many elements into six, easy-to-remember dimensions.
Put simply, all of these factors contribute to wellness, and each is dependent on and related to the other. For example, unmanaged, chronic stress can negatively impact physical health, leading to serious health consequences such as high blood pressure and a weakened immune system.
Wellness doesn't just happen. You can HOPE to achieve it all you want, but wellness requires action. Choosing to make positive changes and following through on those changes provide the foundation of overall well-being and an improved quality of life. And, after all, isn't that what most of us are searching for - An improved quality of life?
An improved quality of life means different things to each of us, and often depends on our current situation.
Achieving balance within the six dimensions does not mean giving equal time and attention to each dimension simultaneously. For instance, the individual suffering from a long-term illness or chronic disease focuses on improving and recovering physical health while the occupational health component becomes less important at that time. The person who is struggling with financial debt must put more attention toward improving his/her financial situation.
Unfortunately, what often happens in such situations is that we completely give up on the other dimensions as we focus on improving one. As we fight to get our finances under control, we let stress overwhelm us, and find it nearly impossible to get off the couch and head to the gym or eat a wholesome salad rather than relying on the drive-thru.
Wellness is an ongoing process, not a state of perfection. And, as a process, wellness requires the individual to change, adapt, and proceed with a positive attitude and an openness to new options. Sure, this is often easier said than done, but if we as individuals take charge of our lives and choose those things that add to, rather than subtract from, our lives, we will be moving along the path to wellness.
If wellness is a process, can it ever be truly achieved? I think so. As I stated, wellness is not perfection. Instead, it is an awareness and an acceptance of how things are right now and the belief that you have the power to positively change those things that are negatively impacting you. Acceptance does not mean mindlessly tolerating what is happening, but clearly recognizing all of the things that are impacting your life and dealing with them as necessary. Acceptance, here, is the opposite of denial or suppression.
Sure, this may seem oversimplified if you are buried in debt or suffering from a terminal illness. The person suffering from a terminal illness may never discover the cure, yet he/she can choose to live out the rest of his/her life with gusto, or can let the illness control the remaining days and just succumb to the inevitable. And though knowing your days are limited is certainly not what most of us want to hear, wouldn't you rather enjoy those final days as best as possible rather than just throw in the towel? (Remember, all of our days are limited, just most of us have no clue how many are left.)
Wellness is a choice - it is about understanding and accepting what is here and now and determining the best action. Maybe you are one of those fortunate people who clearly live with a positive sense of well-being on a daily basis - terrific. Share your positive energy with others - maybe act on the social dimension and help a friend learn a new skill or invite a stressed-out friend to dinner. Or mentor a co-worker to help him/her better his/her position in the company.
For the rest of us, recognize where you are, make positive choices, celebrate all that is good, and continue on your path to wellness. Who knows, our paths just might cross some day!
We cannot always control what life throws at us, but we can choose how we will react.