What does health and wellness mean?  What does it entail?  Why is it considered important and necessary?   Many of us now are turning to better eating habits, and that even includes the youth of the world.   It doesn’t happen overnight, but I feel that eating more healthy combined with an exercise program goes a long way in improving our overall wellness.

Each individual needs a dynamic balance of multidimensional health and methods to move us closer to wellness amidst any myriad of life situations, goals, uncertainty, struggles and hardships.

Health is not about looking slimmer and attractive only. There are many things to think and consider. Proper knowledge about health and wellness is important.   Wellness can be as an “active process of becoming aware of and making choices toward a more successful existence.”    Some of the  dimensions of wellness may include mental,  physical, spiritual, social, occupational and environmental , health conditions; with wellness being the result of personal initiative, seeking a more optimal, holistic and balanced state of health and  well-being across multiple dimensions.

The difference between health and wellness is that health refers to absence of disease and the state of being of sound mind while wellness refers to the state of living a healthy lifestyle. While health is a state of being, wellness seeks to strike a balance between physical, mental, intellectual, social, spiritual; and environmental health. Positive attitude taken with regard to life may also contribute to wellness.

The term “health and wellness” has become a powerful tool for marketers in various industries. As people decide to change their habits and pursue healthier lifestyles, many different companies stand to benefit. Health food retailers, manufacturers of exercise equipment, and companies that produce vitamins or nutritional supplements could all see increased demand for their products as a result of the health and wellness trend. On the other hand, companies whose products or services are generally associated with poor health would be negatively impacted by an increased public concern about health and wellness.

Health and wellness are often used interchangeably, but they have slightly different meanings. Health is more of a medical term and describes the physical and mental state of a person. It usually denotes a lack of disease or abnormality. Wellness, on the other hand, is defined as the overall process of maintaining a general state of good health. Wellness involves conscious decisions on the part of the individual, whereas health simply describes a person’s condition. In modern usage, however, the combined phrase “health and wellness” has come to mean the pursuit of overall physical, mental, and emotional health. This term is used frequently in various contexts, all aimed at promoting a better lifestyle.

Wellness suggests awareness of our current and potential state of health in multiple dimensions (physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, environmental, social and occupational) is important to each of us. Wellness implies the careful maintenance; ability to impact, balance and measure our health in each of these dimensions is valuable to us holistically. Achievement of health, happiness and success that we have defined as ideal for ourselves could also be considered as achieving wellness.

Wellness begins with a conscious decision to seek multidimensional health and the willingness to live more healthfully. Everything we do, feel, think and believe has a holistic and direct impact on our state of health. Every person is different. For example, an atheist may value their relationships as the most important things in their lives, but they may feel they have no need for spirituality. This person may not feel the need to achieve spiritual wellness, and instead focuses their time and energy on achieving social and physical wellness. Their quality of life may not be affected because their belief system simply does not include a quest for spiritual wellness.

Many factors have contributed to the increased public awareness of health and wellness. Higher rates of heart disease, increases in the incidence of cancer, record numbers of clinically over-weight people, and various other health scares have all drawn attention to the need for healthy lifestyle choices. Additionally, as modern medicine has progressed, doctors and scientists have greatly expanded their knowledge of the human body, exposing many health risks that were previously unknown. One-hundred years ago, doctors touted excessive sun exposure as beneficial, and heroin/cocaine combo sets, complete with syringes and needles, were sold in department stores. It is now common knowledge that too much sun can cause skin cancer, smoking can bring on any number of painful deaths, and eating a bit too much ice cream can pack on the pounds, increasing the risk of diabetes and heart disease.

Though the definitions range from the strictly physical to the deeply spiritual, most agree that health and wellness involves making conscious decisions to improve a person’s overall state of health. Common components of the pursuit of health and wellness are:

Healthier food consumption: This is considered to be a crucial part of achieving good health. The health and wellness trend hinges on the belief that food intake is directly related to physical health. As such, maintaining a sensible diet of healthy foods has become a keystone in the health and wellness philosophy.

Physical fitness:  Though it is possible to be both healthy and well without running marathons daily, some physical exercise is generally recognized as an important part of a healthy lifestyle.

Avoid potentially harmful products or behaviors:    Cutting down on things that can cause illness or other unhealthy consequences is also key to the health and wellness trend. Avoiding smoking, wearing sunblock and obeying the speed limit are all examples of steps that people take to keep themselves healthy.

Another example could be those who devote their lives to God and the practice of their religion. These individuals may strive their entire lives to achieve spiritual wellness, to become one with a higher power. This quest alone may entirely fulfill them, and the other pillars may fall by the wayside or hold less importance.    This also includes meditation and spirituality, it does help.

There are various dimensions of wellness that all contribute towards this successful existence including physical, spiritual, financial, mental, emotional, social, occupational, and environmental. It’s not one thing; it can be all of these things connected.

Each of us defines our own wellness and is in control of the decisions we make. The essentials of “good” health such as proper weight control, nutrition, physical activity, and exercise also play a role in wellness. Wellness was once thought of an absence of disease, but today wellness can be defined as the pursuit of a healthy, balanced lifestyle.   Each one of us is ultimately responsible for our own health and to proactively seek and manage states of good health in each dimension physically, spiritually, financially, emotionally, mentally, socially, occupational and environmental aspects in an optimal state and balance.

Getting a perfect balance may prove to be difficult in certain dimensions that are not accustomed to being cared for.   Far more people spend their time “watching” their health deteriorate without taking measures to improve it within their control. Many individuals believe that both a healthy mind and body are essential to healthy living.  One potential way to achieve this goal would be the use of meditation.  Meditation works on so many levels, and is something that should not be dismissed.  It truly works in our physical, spiritual and emotional lives.  Anyone can use wellness strategies to improve their life.   By using and adopting wellness-oriented philosophies, individuals can reasonably expect to achieve a higher state of awareness and increased control over the quality of their life.  Before developing a personal wellness plan, it is essential to become familiar with the dimensions of wellness and the daily life choices that can bring us closer to or move us further away from health and wellness in each dimension.

Achieving or maintaining wellness could be determined by individual awareness and ability to measure states of health including mental health, physical activity, nutritional intake, fiscal responsibility, as well as emergency preparedness and avoiding common pitfalls. Wellness can also be described as a state that combines health and happiness. Thus, those factors that contribute to being healthy and happy will also likely contribute to being well. Factors that contribute to health and happiness have long been recognized, at least since the time of Ancient Greeks. To achieve a state of wellness, one has to work on its determinants. The determinants of wellness are often considered to be: awareness and the initiative to improve one’s state of physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, environmental, social and/or occupational health.

Supporters of wellness programs may claim there are many factors that contribute to wellness: living in a clean environment, eating healthy food, regular physical exercise, balance in career; family, relationships, spiritual awareness and some programs include faith-based worship. Faith-based wellness programs may suggest a spiritual component in their models, however, it would be opposition to most secular wellness programs which tend to be inclusive any individual’s spiritual beliefs or practices.

The aging population participates in wellness programs in order to feel better and have more energy. Wellness programs allow individuals to take increased responsibility for their health behaviors. People often enroll in a private wellness program to improve physical fitness, stop smoking, or to learn how to manage their weight.

Workplace wellness programs are recognized by more and more companies for their value in improving health and well-being of their employees. They are part of a company’s health and safety program. These wellness programs are designed to improve employee morale, loyalty, and productivity. They could consist of as little as a gym full of exercise equipment that is available to their employees on company property during the workday. But they may also cover smoking cessation programs, nutrition; weight loss; or stress management training, nature and outdoors activities, health risk assessments, and health screenings.

Religious organizations often provide food, shelter, clothing, childcare and senior services in the community. Faith-based wellness ministries are simply wellness programs sponsored by the faith-based community, which are similar to those offered by others, but generally also focus on the spiritual, New Age and religious aspects of wellness from the perspective of a particular faith. Here, wellness is viewed as a quest for spiritual wholeness.

kathy Kiefer

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