Not so many years ago, wellness was a word that would have rung strangely in our ears. But wellness is now not only a part of our vocabulary, it is more and more becoming somehow foundational to how we live, and what we expect from life.
And yet, despite the universality of this word -- it applies, it seems to everything and is used it seems by everyone -- trying to wring out an actual definition of wellness is nearly impossible.
Ever googled wellness? You'll find sites that have to do with physical health, mental health, spiritual health, complementary and alternative medicines. But a definition? Not so much.
And perhaps that is just as well. A concept as majestic as wellness perhaps should not be contain-able. Soundness and wholeness in an individual, in a family, in a society, in a world ... maybe it shouldn't be possible to sum it all up in 25 words or less.
Wellness is where we all want to live. It's how we all want to feel. It's the window to the world we want to be gazing through. It's the purity of the air wafting in that window.
Charles B. Corbin of Arizona State University gave it a shot, and did fairly well at defining what we mean by wellness:
"Wellness is an active process of becoming aware of and making choices toward a more successful existence."
Wellness is a relatively new concept to North American society, particularly in regards to health care. The goal used to be when you get sick, go to the doctor. In other parts of the world, attacking disease was not the paradigm of choice. Traditional Chinese medicine and Ayurveda, which is the traditional medicine of India, are two examples of health care which seeks to keep the individual healthy consistently, so they aren't so likely to get sick.
Again differing from our traditional North American mindset, the eastern philosophies tend to view an individual in its triune form, inclusive of the body the mind and the spirit. Body, mind, and spirit must all be considered in the achievement and maintenance of wellness.
The word wellness packs quite a wallop. At first blush, we might think it's talking about the state of feeling well. That would also entail the absence of illness, maybe even the absence of discomfort or unease. From there, we consider that it has something to do with well-being.
But the meaning of wellness has built itself, layer upon layer, into not only a lifestyle, but a system of health care that embraces physical, mental and emotional well-being.
Jody Smith is a freelance writer for EmpowHER.com.
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