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  • Gilli

What "wellness" means to me

If you follow my Instagram feed you might remember a post I made a few days ago on the theme of “wellness” and what it means to me. As it’s one of those words that seems to be everywhere at the moment, with its emphasis on ways to stay healthy to avoid developing chronic disease, it’s is something that I often feel excluded from and so I usually switch off as soon as I hear or see that word.

However I decided to explore this more deeply and see if I could find a more inclusive way of interpreting it.

I decided to best place to start is with some definitions so that I could clarify myself what exactly the word means.

The first definition that came up was this

the state of being in good health, especially as an actively pursued goal.

"measures of a patient's progress toward wellness"

And the second

  1. the quality or state of being healthy in body and mind, especially as the result of deliberate effort.

  2. an approach to healthcare that emphasizes preventing illness and prolonging life, as opposed to emphasizing treating diseases.

Neither of these feels particularly helpful to me, and the second definition makes me feel that I am responsible for the chronic diseases I now suffer with.Taking these at face value it feels as though wellness is something for those who would consider themselves healthy and who want to remain so, something for those who don’t depend on prescribed drugs to treat their chronic diseases.

The term wellness seems to be attached to every new superfood that comes along as well as to all sorts of holistic, alternative and complementary therapies, many of which lack any strong scientific evidence of their effectiveness. It also feels limited to the idea of “a healthy mind in a healthy body” without really defining what that means.

Despite being classed as disabled, being physically restricted in terms of everyday activities, and depending on several medications to help me manage the conditions I live with I don’t consider myself to be unhealthy. This may come as a surprise considering what I said in the previous sentence but while, if I’m perfectly honest, I’d rather be without them, by learning to manage them I’ve managed to take back a certain degree of control over my life and adapted to my new “normal” and thus achieve what for me is “wellness”

For me wellness is far more holistic and less simplistic than those two definitions suggest. Yes it’s about what I eat and my daily physio prescribed exercises and the various medications I take each day. It’s also about learning to relax and rest, mindfulness and reading, family and friends and being creative and learning new skills.

I decided to look a little deeper into this and came across an American website

Which had this definition of wellness

"Wellness is an active process through which people become aware of, and make choices toward, a more successful existence."

This holistic model explains:

  • How a person contributes to their environment and community, and how to build better living spaces and social networks

  • The enrichment of life through work, and its interconnectedness to living and playing

  • The development of belief systems, values, and creating a world-view

  • The benefits of regular physical activity, healthy eating habits, strength and vitality as well as personal responsibility, self-care and when to seek medical attention

  • Self-esteem, self-control, and determination as a sense of direction

  • Creative and stimulating mental activities, and sharing your gifts with others

This is so different from those simplistic definitions I started off with and is far more inclusive. It acknowledges that there are times when wellness means seeking medical attention and that we are multifaceted beings.

Wellness is about how we live our whole lives not just the food we eat or how we exercise. It is about our morals and ethics, the standards we hold ourselves to and our responsibility for the choices we make. In a sense there’s nothing new about this definition of wellness other than the name. Elements of it are found in the major world religions, and philosophers have discussed them over the years. Architects are aware of the importance of design in building a community. It includes the aims of parents as well as those of teachers and other educationalists.

So does wellness apply to me? I think so.

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