Last updated: 12 Jan 2011 at 17:35
What is Wellness
Wellness is not just the absence of disease – its something much stronger; the more wellness you have, the less you will be affected by illness. Wellness is an alternative to dependency on doctors and drugs.
Wellness is a mindset, a predisposition to adopt a series of key principles in many areas in your life that lead to high levels of well-being and life satisfaction. Moving towards high-level wellness will involve the three steps of awareness, education, and growth.
There are many definitions of the word wellness; one of the original pioneers in the field of wellness, John Travis, MD shares six definitions of wellness:
- Wellness is a choice – a decision you make to move towards optimal health
- Wellness is a way of life – a lifestyle you design to achieve your highest potential for wellbeing
- Wellness is a process -a developing awareness that there is no end point, but that health and happiness are possible in each moment, here and now
- Wellness is a balanced channelling of energy – energy received from the environment, transformed within you, and returned to affect the world around you
- Wellness is the integration of body, mind and spirit – the appreciation that everything you do, and think, and feel, and believe has an impact on your state of health and the health of the world
- Wellness is the loving acceptance of yourself
©1972, 1981, 2004 John W. Travis. From Wellness Workbook by John W. Travis, MD, and Regina Sara
Key Concept 1 – Wellness is a process, never a static state.
This model shows the relationship of the Wellness and Treatment Paradigms. Moving from the centre to the left shows a progressively worsening state of health. Moving to the right of centre indicates increasing levels of health and well-being.
The Treatment Paradigm can only take you to the neutral point, where the symptoms of disease have been alleviated. The Wellness Paradigm, utilised at any point on the continuum, moves one towards ever-higher levels of wellbeing.
During a period of change, you may not have obvious physical symptoms. You may however be unhappy with what is going on and feel anxious about your future. It is this anxiety that can have an impact on your mental state and subsequently your physical state.
Continually feeling negative about the changes taking place may trigger you to abuse your body by over-eating, smoking or drinking more alcohol than normal. All of these activities will lead you towards a worsening state of health. To counteract this you must have in place strategies that move you towards wellness.
Iceberg Model of Health
Key Concept 2 – Illness and Health are only the tip of an iceberg. To understand their causes youmust look below the surface.
Icebergs reveal only about one-tenth of their mass above the water. Your current state of health, be it one of disease or vitality, is just like the tip of the iceberg. This is the apparent part – what shows. If you don’t like it you can attempt to change it, do things to it, chisel away at an unwanted condition. But, whenever you knock some off, more of the same comes up to take its place. To understand what creates and supports your current state of health, you have to look underwater.
The first level encountered below the waterline is the lifestyle/behavioural level – what you eat, how to use and exercise your body, how you relax and let go of stress, and how you safeguard yourself from the hazards around you. Many people follow lifestyles that they know are destructive to their own well-being, to the people around them and to the planet. Yet many feel powerless to change the way they live.
To understand, it is necessary to look still deeper, to the next cultural / psychological / motivational level. Here we find what moves us to lead the lifestyle we’ve chosen. We learn how our cultural norms and our families influence us in subtle yet powerful ways from a very early age. Investigating this level, we also can become conscious of any ongoing psychological payoffs we have that are based on early life experiences and, ultimately what their cost is to our physical and mental wellbeing.
Exploring down below the above level, there is the deepest spiritual / being / meaning level. It includes the mystical, mysterious, metaphysical, and everything else in the subconscious mind and concerns such issues as your reason for being, the meaning of life, and your place in the universe. The realm ultimately determines whether the tip of the iceberg, representing your state of health, will be one of disease or wellness.