What Lies Between Health and Wellness?

December 29, 2012 § 1 Comment

I began to ponder this question weeks – maybe even a full month before I finally returned to sort it out here, and surprisingly enough I find that my answer is pretty much the same as it was then, “a series of choices.”  But I’ve gone too far, let me start from the beginning.

Today the words “health” and “wellness” seem inextricably linked as if by some logical force but as I awaited news on my Father’s hip surgery that took place in October I began to ponder whether the relationship between these two words was more socially constructed than naturally indicative.  The word health means, “The state of being free from illness or injury” and usually refers to a persons mental or physical condition.  The word wellness means “The state or condition of being in good physical and mental health”  with the additional warning that “stress affects every aspect of wellness.”  On one hand these words appear to have very similar meanings, even utilizing some of the same words to convey their meanings such as “condition” and “state of being,” however a closer reading of the two definitions belies one major distinction between health and wellness, which is frequency.  I may fall in and out of periods of good health depending on which viruses I catch, how much stress I absorb, or what I decide to put my body through .  But inevitably, maintaining good  health over a longer period, is essential to attaining  physical, emotional and spiritual wellness.   I searched high and low in the depths of google and found that I liked the way Wiki Answers stated it best (although as instructors we never recommend students quote Wikipedia or any other wiki in their papers).

“Health and wellness are not synonyms. Health refers simply to a physical body being free from diseases, but wellness is an overall balance of your physical, social, spiritual, emotional, intellectual, environmental, and occupational well-being. Wellness is a lifestyle and is not an end to be achieved. Wellness means that one strives for balance throughout his whole life. On the other hand, health would be that a person wants to lose weight and lower blood pressure. Once he does this, he is considered healthy. Health is a goal one can achieve while wellness is a dynamic concept that continues for a lifetime.”

So ultimately what lies between health and wellness for me is a series of decisions made every day about what I will do, what I will eat, how much joy I will have, where I will live, and how I will balance out the various strands of my life, some of which become unbalanced on purpose and by happenstance.  Likewise I must assess what I will not do, and what I will not eat, and through this exercise of constant deliberate decision-making I am hoping to carve out a life of both health and wellness.

But even this process of making conscientious decisions every day about one’s mind and body is one of the most underutilized tools we have.  Yes we begin in the New Year to make resolutions, that soon turn into distant memories.  Or we are decisive and aware for a week or two and then throw everything out the window on holidays, special occasions, the (in)convenient Friday.  We stay up too late and wake too early, we settle for the stress around us as opposed to change, and we create clutter instead of clearing it.  And in some cases we carry on with relationships, jobs and habits that are not working for us rather than try something new.  Still, there is no cause to be discouraged because if what lies between health and wellness is a series of decisions, then I predict that we shall have a million more times to ponder this throughout the coming year.

What do you think?



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§ One Response to What Lies Between Health and Wellness?

  • Teresa says:

    I never really gave it much thought to health versus wellness, but thanks to your “eye opening” definition of wellness, I cleary see the difference and I see the benefit of stiving more for wellness throghout my lifetime, which will automatically produce good health. Thanks

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